Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje

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Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje b.1800 - d.1866

Name Variants: Do Khyentse; Jalu Dorje; Traktung Lekyi Pawo; Yeshe Dorje

Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (mdo mkhyen brtse ye shes rdo rje) was born in the Golok region of Amdo to nomadic parents. His father was Chokor Sonampel (chos skor bsod nams 'phal) of the Golok Akyong clan, and his mother was Tsewang Men (tshe dbang sman) of the Dawa clan. The First Dodrubchen, Jigme Trinle Ozer (rdo grub chen 01 'jigs med phrin las 'od zer, 1745-1821), who would become his main teacher, and the Second Dzogchen Ponlob, Pema Sangngak Tendzin (rdzogs chen dpon slob 02 padma gsang sngags bstan 'dzin, 1731-1805), both recognized him as the body emanation of Jigme Lingpa ('jigs med gling pa, 1729-1798). Soon after the recognition his parents moved him to Dodrubchen's encampment, later also following him to Dzogchen monastery and to the Dege court.

As a child, Yeshe Dorje was taken to U to be enthroned at Jigme Lingpa's seat, Tsering Jong (tshe ring ljongs). He received novice vows from the Fourth Drigung Chetsang Tendzin Pemai Gyeltsen ('bri gung che tshang 04 bstan 'dzin pad+ma'i rgyal mtshan, 1770-1826). After taking teachings and empowerments from other lamas of Tibet such as the Eighth Tsurpu Gyeltsab, Chopel Zangpo (mtshur phu rgyal tshab 08 chos dpal bzang po, 1766-1820), who gave him the Yutok Nyingtik and the collected works of the Karmapas and of Gampopa.

Yeshe Dorje then returned to Kham. At Katok he trained in tsalung (rtsa lung) and received empowerments from Getrul Mahapaṇḍita (dge sprul mahApaNDita) and the Second Drime Zhingkyong, Jigme Rigdzin Gonpo (dri med zhing skyong 02 'jigs med rig 'dzin mgon po, d.u.) in Guhyagarbha, Māyājāla, and the Rong tradition of Vajrakīlaya. It was Dodrubchen who served as his root guru, training in the full range of teachings in sutra and tantra of both the new and old translation lineages.

Dodrubchen instructed Yeshe Dorje to live the life of a lay tantrika, which he did. Although he would receive students in his encampment he would also wandering the region in the guise of a deer hunter, allegedly reviving the animals he struck down. In keeping with his status as a fully accomplished siddha he became known for other supernatural abilities as well, including flight, passing through solid objects, and the subjugation of non-human entities. He was also known to commune with a wide array of deities, including Padmasambhava, hosts of ḍākinī, and great saints of previous eras.

Stories of Yeshe Dorje's unconventional actions are widely known. On one occasion, it is said, after killing a wild blue sheep, Yeshe Dorje asked his companions to take the meat and roast it over a fire wood, but to carefully keep the bones and skin. One of his disciples could not help but think that such behavior was strange for a great teacher. Sensing his pupil's doubts, at the end of the feast, Yeshe Dorje asked him to bring the skin and bones. When these had been gathered in front of him, Yeshe Dorje entered in deep meditation and then snapped his finger. At that very moment the sheep got up, shook himself, and walked away. However, the animal was limping a little: someone has forgotten to bring back a piece of bone from one of its legs.

In another episode, two young shepherds wanted to test whether Yeshe Dorje really had clairvoyance. One of the shepherds pretended to be dead, and the other asked the lama for prayers for the dead. Yeshe Dorje smoked three pipes, putting the ashes on the shepherd's head. The boy then found that his friend actually was dead and prayed to Yeshe Dorje to revive him. Yeshe Dorje said dza! over the body and the boy regained consciousness, expressing his sorrow over being brought back, as he had been sent to a joyful pure land. Later he became a disciple of Yeshe Dorje and an accomplished meditator.

Yeshe Dorje served as religious instructor to several kingdoms in Kham. With Dodrubchen he served the Queen of Dege, who had been a disciple of Jigme Lingpa. He spent some time in Gyelrong with local lords there. In later life he was invited by the Chakla king to Dartsedo with his disciple, the Second Dodrubchen, where he remained for some years and earned his title Do Khyentse, the Khyentse of (Dartse) Do.

Do Khyentse engaged in treasure discovery, revealing several liturgies as mind treasure.

Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje had two sons: Sherab Mebar (shes rab me 'bar), who was a tulku of the First Dodrubchen; and Dechen Rigpai Reltri (rgyal sras rig pa'i ral gri) a khenpo at Dorje Den (rdo rje ldan) who gave Andzom Drukpa Pawo Dorje (a 'dzom brug pa dpa' bo rdo rje) the Changter (chang gter) transmission. Two lines of his incarnations were recognized: Doring Choktrul (rdo ring mchog sprul) in Minyak and Alak Zenkar Pema Ngodrub Rolpai Dorje (a lags gzan dkar pad+ma dngos grub rol pa'i rdo rje) in Amdo.




Nyoshul Khenpo. 2005. A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems. Richard Barron, trans. Junction City, California: Padma Publication.

Tulku Thondup. 1996. Masters of Meditation and Miracles: The Longchen Nyingthig Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Shambhala.

Mdo mkhyen brtse ye shes rdo rje. 1997. Rig ‘dzin ’jigs med gling pa’i yang srid sngags ’chang ’ja’ lus rdo rje’i rnam thar mkha’ ’gro’i zhal lung. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang.

Kornman, Robin. 1997. “A Tribal History” in Religions of Tibet in Practice. Donald S. Lopez, ed. Princeton University Press.


Alexander Gardner
December 2009