Chokyi Dorje

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Chokyi Dorje b.1457?

Name Variants: Cho Dorje; Drubchen Chokyi Dorje; Wensa Nyomba

Chokyi Dorje (chos kyi rdo rje) was born near the Nyingma monastery Tanak Dorjeden (rta nag rdo rje ldan) in 1457 to two wandering ascetics from the Tsongkha (tsong kha) region of Amdo. His father was Kunga Gyelpo (kun dga' rgyal po) and his mother was Peldzom (dpal 'dzom). He spent his childhood on pilgrimage, ending at age eleven when his parents brought him to Ganden Namgyeling (dga' ldan rnam rgyal gling).

There Chokyi Dorje met his root teacher, Baso Chokyi Gyeltsen, who served as the Sixth Ganden Tripa (ba so chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1402-1473), the Sixth throne holder of Ganden (dga' ldan khri pa). Forewarned of the arrival of his future disciple, Chokyi Gyeltsen welcomed the boy and his parents warmly, supplying them with food and goods, and requesting of the parents that they give him their child. The boy soon took novice ordination and received the name Chokyi Dorje.

Under Chokyi Gyeltsen’s instruction Chokyi Dorje proved himself to be an exceptional scholar. He received teaching in the standard course of Geluk training, beginning with the  Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra and proceeding through the Lamrim (lam rim), or stages of the path. In due course, he received the lineages of the lamrim, the initiations of Guhyasamāja, Cakrasaṃvara, Vajrabhairava, and Kālacakra. In particular he received the transmission of the oral tradition of Tsongkhapa’s lineage of Ganden Mahāmudrā (dga' ldan phyag chen), which Tsongkhapa is said to have received from Mañjuśrī himself, together with the root text of the transmission, the Trulpai Legbam Chenmo (sprul pa'i glegs bam chen mo).

Following his time at Ganden, Chokyi Dorje continued his studies at Drepung Monastery ('bras spung), where he trained in Madhyamaka philosophy with Delek Tobden (bde legs stobs ldan) and took full ordination under Jepon Lobzang Nyima (je dpon blo bzang nyi ma, 1439-1492), the Ninth Ganden Tripa.

Chokyi Dorje then journeyed to the province of Tsang to deepen his understanding of the scriptures. He took teachings from Jamyang Monlam Pelwa (’jam dbyangs smon lam dpal ba, 1414-1491) and Lodro Bepa (blo gros sbas pa, 1400-1475). Finally, following the instructions of his heart teacher, Chokyi Dorje began to practice in solitary retreat in the wilderness of Tibet. At Pema Chan (padma can), a place important to the lineages lamas of the Ganden Mahāmudrā, he reportedly had a vision of Tsongkhapa, receiving from him the complete lineage of the secret oral tradition.

Towards the end of his life Chokyi Dorje took Wensapa Lobzang Dondrub (dben sa pa blo bzang don grub, 1505-1556) as his disciple. According to legend, Chokyi Dorje found Wensapa at home, stricken with smallpox. He sang a song outside his door, inspiring his future disciple with faith. Wensapa joined Chokyi Dorje at his hermitage, Garma Chodzong (mgar mo chos rdzong), near Wensapa monastery (dben sa pa) and received from him the complete transmission of the Ganden Mahāmudrā. He passed away after spending a number of years with his disciple, both at Garma Chodzong, Pema Chan, and visiting monasteries in U and Tsang.




Willis, Janice D. 1995. Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition. Boston: Wisdom Publications, pp. 48-55.

Willis, Janice D. 1985. “Preliminary Remarks on the Nature of rNam-thar: Early dGe-lugs-pa Siddha Biographies.” In Soundings in Tibetan Civilizations. Barbara Aziz and Matthew Kapstein, eds. Delhi: Manohar, pp. 304-319.


Miranda Adams
August 2007