Birth, Education and Enthronement

The Fifth Padtselling Trulku, Pema Kunzang Tenzin Jamtsho was born on the 15th Day of the Fourth Month of the Iron Rat Year (1960) at Tang Namkhai Lhakhang, the seat of Tshampa Lama Namkha Samdrup, to Binzaibe Choje Thinlay, the direct descendant of Terchen Dorji Lingpa, and Jigme Lhamo. Soon after he began to speak, he uttered the name of his predecessor Kunzang Thinlay Namgyal and claimed to be his reincarnation. He also proclaimed Jangchub Pelri to be his seat and insisted on going there. The treasurer Sonam Dendup conducted a test to clear any doubt by mixing the articles used by the former master with those of similar-looking articles and presented before the child. The child picked up the articles belonging to the former master and refused to return them. The child was then referred to the Sixteenth Karmapa Rangjung Rigpai Dorji (1924-1981) to confirm whether the child was a genuine reincarnation of Padtselling Trulku. After the Karmapa’s confirmation, the child was accorded a formal recognition, and given the name Karma Choki Gyaltshen.

PadtsellingAt the age of five Jurme Thegchog Tenpai Gyaltshen, the tenth heart son of Pema Lingpa, enthroned him, and named him Pema Kunzang Tenzin Gyamtsho. The people shed tears of happiness, according to a 61-year-old lay monk Chokla who is able to name almost all the people who had gathered to welcome him. When the convoy arrived at Bathela, two farmers were seen presenting themselves before him. In the morning of the day the reincarnate child was to arrive at the monastery, footsteps of invisible beings entering and exiting the doors were heard, an indication of the protecting deities preparing to welcome the child. This story is nowhere clearly reflected as in the writings by Lopen Gonpo Tenzin:

With the dawn of the Rat Year and an indication therewith that we the sentient beings are not diminished in merits, a reincarnation was born. Not knowing whether he was of a higher being or an ordinary child, he remained in the lap of his mother for three years. Finally, when he was able to speak a little, the child expressed his desire to go the monastery. On meeting with his former treasurer, Sonam Dendup, the child, without having anybody to introduce him called the treasurer by name. On reaching the Bathela pass, the deities and other celestial beings welcomed him. Similarly, on reaching Padtselling, there was a sea of tea and drinks waiting for him. A little drop he took from them; a little drop he offered to his tutelary deities and yet another drop he offered to other protective deities ushering in an auspicious day for him to take care of the monastery thereafter. He learnt to read and write from his former treasurer Lopon Sonam Dendup, and subsequently from his former chant master, he went on to learn the ritual practice.

Joining the Central Monastic Body

In 1770 when Tenzin Gyamtsho was ten, Treasurer Sonam Dendup and Tamzhing Jagar, then the Home Minister, took him to the 67th Je Khenpo Nyinzer Trulku Thinlay Lhundup at Punakha Dzong, the seat of Palden Drukpa and abode of Rangjung Khasarpani, the self-created image of Avalokiteshvara, for his first haircut. The Je gave him the name Tenzin Gyamtsho, coincidently the same name given by Karmapa and Thugsay Rinpoche on separate occasions. This confirmed the oneness of the minds of all the three masters. Tenzin Gyamtsho was enrolled at the Central Monastic Body (Zhung Dratshang) where he learnt like any other ordinary novice of his time under strict monastic discipline.

When he was 15, he joined the Tango Buddhist College which was headed by Geshe Jaku, the reincarnation of the great treasure revealer Terton Sogyal of Tibet, who later became the Sixty-ninth Je Khenpo. During his seven years stay at Tango, he studied Dayig Sumtak, Zhungchen Chusum, Drukpa Kagyu tradition of ritual practices, and received many other teachings from Geshe Jaku. Around the same time, Tenzin Dendup popularly known as Shachung Kinley who later became the Sixty-eighth Je Khenpo conferred on him a lay vow (geynyen) followed by a nyendzog vow at the age of twenty-five in line with Pekar Domjun tradition. From Tenzin Dendup he also received initiations on Kagyue Gonmang, including Yidam Jigjed, Phurpa and Gurdak Mindrol teachings and initiations.

Back to Padtselling

At the age of 26, Tenzin Gyamtsho resigned from the central monastic body and returned to Padtselling. By that time, his former incarnation’s attendants had become old and the monastery had deteriorated because of the lack of attention by the lay monks and others who were engaged in the development activities. A huge task confronted him. However, the whole monastic complex was restored to its former glory through the generosity of the Fourth King. At the same time, he received all kinds of teachings: Nyingthig Yabzhi from Polo Khen Rinpoche Dorji; initiation on Thuje Chenpo Drodon Khachab Ma from the 16th Karmapa; Tshewang Gi Dzenang from Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche; and oral initiations on refuge, mani, and vajra guru from Lama Gyalwang Nima. At the same time, he studied astrology from Tshangkha Lopen Norbu Wangchuck, a highly accomplished Bhutanese Buddhist master.

Further, he received complete initiations on Kilchog Dorji Threngwa, and initiations and instruction on Drime Lingpa’s Nordrub Khamsum Wangdu from Drubwang Dampa Lama Sonam Zangpo. Later Khyentse Dorji Chang Jurme Thegchen Tenpai Gyaltshen became his Root Lama. Until his root lama’s death, he received teachings on Nyingma Kater Dagnang, Chime Longsal Dorji Sokdrub and initiation and instructions on Ratphur. His other learning includes instructions on Nyingthig Yabzhi, Kagyur Jaglung, Longchen Dzod Dun (Seven Treasuries of Longchen Rabjam), Nyingma Gyud Bum (The Hundred Thousand Tantras of the Nyingma School), practice of Tsalung Rigzin Thrulkhor, Khyentse Gongter, initiation and instructions on Dralha Gesar Tathub Karpo, commentary on Ngondro and gongter of Kyabje Rinpoche and all dam ngag (pit instruction).

He received initiations on Rinchen Terdzod (The Precious Treasury of Revealed Treasures) and Nyingthig Yabzhi (the Four-fold Heart Essence, a set of Dzongchen texts complied by Longchen Rabjam) from Jigme Thubten Pelzang, the Fourth Dodrubchen; initiations on Drime Lingpa’s Tshepagme and Nordrub Khamsum Wangdu; Khandroma Sengdong from Thrulzhig Rinpoche; oral instructions and commentaries on Damngag Tshigsum Nendeg from Nyoshu Khen Rinpoche; and oral instructions and commentaries on Karma Chagmed Dechen Zhingdrub from Khenpo Dazer.

From Kyabje Bebero Trulku, he received oral instructions on Mani, Vajra Guru, and Kathang Deupa, blessings on Longnying Rigdu; blessings of Mipham Chokhor, Dralhai Sok Tad, and complete seven chapters of Nyingthig Yabzhi from Drubwang Penor Rinpoche; oral instructions on Mipham Zungbum and Zhungchen Rig from Trulku Pema Namgyal; Rinchen Terdzod initiation from Taklung Tsitrul Rinpoche. He received blessings, oral instructions, and commentaries from many eminent luminaries. From Dilgo Khyentse Dorji Chang, he received the teachings and initiations on Yidam Lhakpi Lhachog Palchen Dorji Zhonu and Gonpo Tshepame, and Thuje Chenpo. Mandalas of each of these deities manifested themselves to him in later years to indicate his accomplishment in these fields. During the time of his predecessor, the traditions of offering meat during rituals by certain villages around the country were stopped. As time passed by, some households had resumed the practice. To stop the practice, he issued a letter to the concerned households. The recipients were moved by the contents of the letter.

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