The First Dodrubchen, Jigme Trinle Ozer

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The First Dodrubchen, Jigme Trinle Ozer b.1745 - d.1821

Name Variants: Dodrub Gan; Dola Kunzang Zhenpen; Dowa Drubchen Jigme Trinle Ozer; First Dodrubchen, Jigme Trinle Ozer; Kunzang Zhenpen Taye

The First Dodrubchen Jigme Trinle Ozer ('jigs med 'phrin las 'od zer) was born in the Do valley in Golok, into the Mukpo clan (smug po gdong). His father was Bochung Sonko (bo chung zon kho) and his mother was Sonam Tso (bsod nams 'tso). He took his refuge vow with the Second Zhechen Rabjam, Gyurme Kunzang Namgyel (zhe chen rab 'jams 02 'gyur med kun bzang rnam rgyal, 1713-1769), who gave him the name Kunzang Zhenpen (kun bzang gzhan phan). He joined Gochen (dgo chen) monastery, a branch of Pelyul (dpal yul), receiving the name Sonam Choden (bsod nams chos ldan) and studied with Sherab Rinchen (shes rab rin chen), a student of the second abbot of Pelyul, Pelyul Lhundrub Gyatso (dpal yul gdan rabs 02 lhun grub rgya mtsho), who was a student of Kunzang Sherab (kun bzang shes rab), the founder of Pelyul Monastery.

At twenty-one Jigme Trinle Ozer left for an extensive pilgrimage in U-Tsang, passing through Dege and receiving teachings from the Eighth Tai Situ Chokyi Jungne (si tu 08 chos kyi 'byung gnas) before he left. At Takla Gampo (dwags lha sgam po) he studied with the Fifth Gampopa Jampel Trinle Wangpo (sgam po pa 05 'jam dpal 'phrin las dbang po) and Damcho Wangchuk (dam chos dbang phyug), training in Cho in a local charnal ground. From there he went on pilgrimage to Tsari, Samye, and other holy sites in Tibet.

Returning to Kham Jigme Trinle Ozer studied with Zhechen Rabjam, the First Karma Kuchen Karma Gyurme (kar ma sku chen 01 kar ma 'gyur med) of Pelyul, and Dzogchen Jewon Pema Kundrol Namgyel (rje dbon padma kun grol rnam rgyal, 1706-1773). At the age of twenty-five, in order to return to fulfill family obligations, he resided in Golok for five years, until a powerful sense of renunciation of householder life drove him back to his masters.

At the age of thirty, at Dzogchen monastery, Jigme Trinle Ozer received the Khandro Nyingtik (mkha' 'gro snying thig) from the Second Dzogchen Ponlop Pema Sang-ngak Tendzin (rdzogs chen dpon slob 02 pad+ma gsang sngags bstan 'dzin), and set off for a second pilgrimage to Tibet. At Tsurpu he received the name Karma Wangtrak (karma dbang grags) from the Thirteenth Karmapa Dundul Dorje (kar+ma pa 13 bdud 'dul rdo rje).

Back at Dzogchen Jigme Trinle Ozer entered a four-year retreat at Kangtro Wokma (gangs khro 'og ma), in a cave known as Tsering Puk (tshe rin phug) practicing Jatson Nyingpo's ('ja' tshon snying po, 1585-1656) Konchok Chidu (kon mchog phyi 'dus) and other teachings; the cave earned its name due to a visitation by the goddess Tseringma (tshe ring ma), who brought him yogurt to sustain him. It was a retreat marked with terrifying visions and physical hardships, after which he moved to a cave known as Shinje Puk (gshin rje phug), where he practiced Ratna Lingpa's (rat+na gling pa, 1403-1479) Vajrakīlaya treasure cycles and Cakrasaṃvara in the Takpo tradition. This cave earned its name due to a vision Jigme Trinle Ozer had of Yama, and his drawing of the Yama mantra in the stone wall of the cave.

Following this second retreat the Third Dzogchen Drubwang, Ngedon Tendzin Zangpo (rdzogs chen 03 nges don bstan 'dzin bzang po, 1759-1792) gave Jigme Trinle Ozer the transmission of Terton Nyima Drakpa's (gter ston nyi ma grags pa, 1647-1710) Tsasum Sangwa Nyingtik (rtsa gsum gsang ba rnying thig), which he practiced in a short retreat. The master also gave him a copy of Jigme Lingpa's ('jigs med gling pa, c.1730-1798) exegesis of Nyingma theory and practice, Treasury of Enlightened Qualities (Yonten Dzod; yon tan mdzod). Inspired with devotion to its author, Trinle Ozer set off a third time to Tibet where, in 1786, at the age of forty-one, he met his guru.

Jigme Lingpa recognized in the new disciple his principle heir for his Longchen Nyingtik (klong chen snying thig) revelation. He bestowed upon him the name for which he became best known, Jigme Trinle Ozer and entrusted him with numerous other transmissions, such as the Lama Gongdu (bla ma dgongs 'dus) and his own compositions.

During this time Jigme Trinle Ozer also met Jigme Gyelwai Nyugu ('jigs med rgyal ba'i myu gu, 1765-1842) and encouraged him to study with Jigme Lingpa. The two disciples travelled with Jigme Lingpa to Tsang and back to Lhasa, a journey during which Trinle Ozer fell seriously ill. Returning to Kham after another visit to Jigme Lingpa, he began to transmit the Longchen Nyingtik there, giving them for the first time to the Third Dzogchen Negdon Tendzin Zangpo and Second Dzogchen Ponlob, Pema Sangngag Tendzin (rdzogs chen dpon slob 02 pad+ma gsang sngags bstan 'dzin, 1735-1810). At the request of the chieftess of Do, Akyongza Peldzom, he laid the foundation for a monastery at Shukden Tago, also known as Drodun Lhundrub, not far from the present Dodrubchen monastery.

On his fourth and last journey to Tibet Jigme Trinle Ozer traveled with another of Jigme Lingpa's close students, Jigme Ngotsar ('jigs med ngo mtshar), the first Kilung (ki lung). At Jigme Lingpa's residence Tsering Jong (tshe ring ljongs), Trinle Ozer received many more transmissions from his teacher, and together they made a pilgrimage to Samye Monastery. There they made offerings together, and Trinle Ozer renewed his bodhisattva vows with Jigme Lingpa.

This last journey might have been taken together with the Derge royal family. The young King Kundrub Dega Zangpo, (kun 'grub bde dga' bzang po), popularly known as Sawang Zangpo (sa dbang bzang po) and Queen Tsewang Lhamo (tshe dbang lha mo, d.c. 1712) went on pilgrimage to Tibet in 1788. When Jigme Lingpa learned of the royal party's intention to meet him at the retreat center of Chimpu, Jigme Lingpa arranged to meet the party at Samye instead, a better venue for such a large and prestigious group of visitors. Jigme Lingpa gave them condensed teachings and noted that the queen was “very intelligent, with good propensities”.

Following the death of Sawang Zangpo two years later his widow assumed power in Derge and ruled for eight years as regent for her son, Tsewang Dorje Rigdzin (tshe dbang rdo rje rig 'dzin), positioning Jigme Lingpa and Jigme Trinle Ozer as her close religious advisors. Scholars previously believed that the Queen's selection of Nyingma lamas created considerable tension in Dege, given the court's traditional embrace of the Sakya tradition. However, there is no evidence that Tsewang Lhamo or Jigme Trinle Ozer were ever forced out of the capital; the Queen continued to rule until her death in 1812 or 1813, and Jigme Trinle Ozer succesfully represented the court in several transactions across Kham.

Jigme Trinle Ozer also served the government of Tibet. In 1791, in the face of an immanent invasion by the Nepalese Gurkha, the Ganden Podrang requested that he perform rites to avert harm. Dodrubchen performed a smoke offering and a wrathful ritual on Hepori Hill at Samye. Although the Gurkhas had effectively been repelled by an army from Beijing, Trinle Ozer was credited for his work and hailed as the Mahasiddha from Do, Dodrubchen.

In Khams Jigme Trinle Ozer was often accompanied by Jigme Lingpa's other main disciple, Jigme Gyelwei Nyugu. In addition to his work in Derge he also served the chieftains in Amdo, including King Chingwang Ngawang Dargye (ching wang ngag dbang dar rgyas), a guru to Zhabkar Tsogdrog Rangdrol.

Jigme Trinle Ozer established three religious centers. The first was Drodun Lhundrub (shugs chen stag mgo ru phan bde 'gro don gling) in his birthplace in the Do valley. In 1810 he established his second, Pemako Tsasum Khandroi Ling (yar lung pad+ma bkod kyi sgrub sde) at Drakchen Yarlung in Serta (gser rta brag chen), where he lived out the later part of his life. The third was Arik Ragya Monastery, north of Tsasum Khandroi Ling on the banks of the Yellow River, which he restored. At Arik Ragya he established a Cho retreat center called Garlung, which was designed to subjugate the demon responsible for the monastery's previous decline.

Among the disciples of Jigme Trinle Ozer was the mind reincarnation of his own guru Jigme Lingpa. Trinle Ozer himself recognized the boy who would later be known as Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (do mkhyen rtse ye shes rdo rje, 1800-1866) Trinle Ozer also confirmed the recognition of the infant Dza Patrul Orgyen Jigme Chokyi Wangpo (rdza dpal sprul o rgyan 'jigs med chos kyi dbang po, 1808-1887).

Dodrubchen also revealed many teachings as mind treasures under the title of The Excellent Path of Supreme Joy, the Holy Teachings (dam chos bde chen lam mchog), and wrote commentaries and texts, including a concise commentary on Jigme Lingpa's Yonten Dzod.

At the age of seventy-seven, on the thirteenth day of the first Tibetan month, he left his body, while clearly describing to his students what he was experiencing. After his cremation there were numerous relics, which were kept in a golden stupa at Dodrubchen Monastery until its destruction in the 1950s.

Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje identified the reincarnation of Jigme Trinle Ozer, Jigme Puntsok Jungne ('jigs med phun tshogs 'byung gnas, c.1825-c.1860).




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Ron Garry
August 2007