Gyelse Zhenpen Taye Ozer

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Gyelse Zhenpen Taye Ozer b.1800 - d.1855/1869

Name Variants: Dzogchen Gyelse Zhenpen Taye ; Gemang Gyelse Zhenpen Taye; Getse Zhenpen Taye ; Gyelse Zhenpen Taye; Kagyurpa Gyelse Zhenpen Taye ; Kushok Gemang Zhenpen Taye Ozer

Gyelse Zhenpen Taye Ozer (rgyal sras gzhan phan mtha' yas 'od zer) was born at Gemang Kamchung in Dome (mdo med dge mang skam chung) in 1800, the iron-monkey year of the thirteenth sexagenary cycle. His father was called Tsewang Norbu (tshe dbang nor bu) and his mother was named Karma Chodron (karma chos sgron).

According to his hagiographies, the heads of many monasteries competed to identify the child as a reincarnation in their tradition, but his parents declined all. While still young the boy's father was killed when he confronted bandits who were attempting to steal some of his horses. As a result the child was inspired to pursue the religious life. At that point he encountered a lama from Dzogchen Monastery Orgyen Samten Choling (rdzogs chen o rgyan bsam gtan chos gling), named Dola Jigme Kelzang (rdo bla 'jigs med skal bzang, d.u.). Zhenpen Taye accompanied him back to Dzogchen and presented to the Fourth Dzogchen Drubwang, Mingyur Namkhai Dorje (rdzogs chen grub dbang 04 mi 'gyur nam mkha'i rdo rje, 1793-1870). At some point he was identified as a reincarnation of Terdak Lingpa Gyurme Dorje (gter bdag gling pa 'gyur med rdo rje, 1646-1717), the founder of Mindroling Monastery.

At Dzogchen Zhenpen Taye studied the traditional subjects including Kama (bka' ma) and treasure, and received empowerments, transmissions, and instructions in the Dzogchen tradition from a number of teachers, including Jigme Gyelwai Nyugu ('jigs med rgyal ba'i myu gu, 1765-1842); Jigme Ngotsar Gyatso ('jigs med ngo mtshar rgya mtsho, b. c.1730); Jewon Tendzin Norbu (rje dbon bstan 'dzin nor bu, d. 1851); Sengdruk Pema Tashi, the first abbot of Śrī Siṃha College (rdzogs chen mkhan rabs 01 seng phrug pad+ma bkra shis, b. c.1798); Minling Gyelse Rigdzin Zangpo (smin gling rgyal sras rig 'dzin bzang po, d.u.), Dza Patrul Orgyen Jigme Chokyi Wangpo ('dza dpal sprul o rgyan 'jigs med chos kyi dbang po, 1808-1887), the First Lingla, Sonam Jinpa (gling bla 01 bsod nams sbyin pa, d.u.); and Barla Tashi Gyatso ('bar bla bkra shis rgya mtsho, b. 1714).

In 1818, at the age of nineteen, he accompanied a few close friends to visit the First Dodrubchen, Jigme Trinle Ozer (rdo grub chen 01 'jigs med 'phrin las 'od zer, 1745-1821). He served and studied under him for about three years, focusing on the Zabsang Nyintik (zab gsang snying thig).

He then out on a pilgrimage-tour of Kham and lower Amdo, visiting places such as the Vairocana cave near Barkham in Gyelrong, and receiving teachings and transmissions from lamas across the region.

Gyelse Zhenpen Taye is credited with editing all available texts on the Nyingma Trinchok (phrin chog) ritual into one volume. This was requested by his students Pelri Tulku Pema Wangyel (dpal ri sprul sku pad+ma dbang rgyal, d.u.) and Minling Trichen Sanggye Kunga (smin gling khri chen sangs rgyas kun dga', d.u.). He carved blocks for the texts on the Dzogchen tradition of the Nine Vehicles (theg pa rim pa dgu) and introduced the empowerments and oral transmissions on it. He acquired many Nyingma texts including comprehensive commentaries on Guhyagarbha Tantra, and he brought from U-Tsang several collected teachings of lamas that were unavailable or incomplete in Kham.

He is said to have traveled across Tibet and meditated at sacred sites. According to his hagiography, he was fated to receive treasure, but declined to do so, and instead ordained late in life under Sengdruk Pema Tashi.

In 1842 a devastating earthquake destroyed Dzogchen monastery. The abbot of the monastery at the time, his teacher Mingyur Namkhai Dorje, was then residing in the palace of Derge King Damtsik Dorje (sde dge chos rgyal dam tshig rdo rje, b. 1811). The King sponsored the reconstruction, which was carried out under the supervision of Zhenpen Taye. Donations from disciples across the region also enabled Zhenpen Taye to establish, in 1848, the Śrī Siṃha College (shrI sing+ha bshad drwa), popularly known as Shri Sengge Ri (shrI seng ge ri chos grwa). Sengdruk Pema Tashi was enthroned as the first abbot.

Legend has it that Zhenpen Taye chose the spot on which to build the College based on a vision of the eighth-century Central Asian Dzogchen patriarch Śrī Siṁha sitting on a rock in the Rudam valley near Dzogchen Monastery. Later, when he organized the consecration, it is said that the great eighteenth century Nyingma practitioner Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (mdo mkhyen brtse ye shes rdo rje, 1800-1866) suddenly appeared and drove a dagger into the ground, sanctifying the place.

Following the tenure of Sengdruk Pema Tashi, Gyelse Zhenpen Taye was enthroned as the second abbot of the College. He taught and granted empowerments, instructions, and transmissions on Dzogchen topics, primarily the Guhyagarbha Tantra, the main tantra of Mahāyoga. He is also considered to have been the eighth abbot of Dzogchen monastery, having served at various times while the Fourth Dzogchen Drubwang was away.

Some of his prominent disciples included Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse'i dbang po, 1820-1892); Dza Patrul; the Eighth Peling Sungtrul Kunzang Dechen Dorje (pad gling gsung sprul 08 kun bzang bde chen rdo rje, 1843-1891); the eighth abbot of Śrī Siṃha, Pema Vajra (padma rdo rje, c.1807-1884); the seventh abbot of the College, Tubten Nyinje Gyeltsen (rdzogs chen mkhan rabs 07 thub bstan nyin byed rgyal mtshan, d.u.); the third abbot of the College, Rigdzin Zangpo (rdzogs chen mkhan rabs 03 rig 'dzin bzang po, d.u.); the fourth abbot of the College, Pema Sheja (rdzogs chen mkhan rabs 04 pad+ma shes bya, d.u.); the ninth abbot of the College, Kelden Gyatso (rdzogs chen mkhan rabs 09 skal ldan rgya mtsho, d.u.); the Fourth Dzogchen Ponlob, Jigme Choying Osel (dpon slob 04 'jigs med chos dbyings 'od gsal, d.u.); the Second Troshul Getrul Tsewang Pelgyi Dorje (khro shul dge sprul 02 tshe dbang dpal gyi rdo rje, d.u.); and the Third Mura, Pema Dechen Zangpo (mu ra 03 pad+ma bde chen bzang po, d.u.).

His composition included The General Meaning of Guhyagarbha Tantra (gsang snying spyi don); A Critical Commentary on the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities (zhi khro'i dka' 'grel); and commentaries on grammar and so forth. His works were collected in two volumes.

At some point in his life he founded the monastic center of Gemang (dge mang) in Dzachuka, and resided there intermittently. For this he is popularly known as Kushok Gemang Rinpoche (sku shogs dge mang rin po che), the first in a line of incarnations based at Gemang.

In 1855, the wood-hare year in the fourteenth sexagenary cycle, he passed into nirvana at the age of fifty-six.




Bstan 'dzin lung rtogs nyi ma. 2004. Snga ’gyur rdzogs chen chos ’byung chen mo. Beijing: Krong go’i bod rigs dpe skrun khang, pp. 355-359, 401-405

Khetsun Sangpo. 1973. Biographical Dictionary of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. Dharamsala: LTWA, vol. 4, p. 473. TBRC W1KG10294.

Nyoshul Khenpo. 2005. A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems. Richard Barron, trans. Junction City, California: Padma Publication, pp. 404-406.


Samten Chhosphel
December 2011