Tamdrin Wangmo b.1836 - d.1896
Name Variants: Kelzang Chokyi Nyima; Sakya Jetsunma Drubpai Tamdrin Wangmo Kelzang Chokyi Nyima; Tamdrin Wangmo Kelzang Chokyi Nyima
Jetsunma Tamdrin Wangmo Kelzang Chokyi Nyima (rje btsun ma grub pa'i rta mgrin dbang mo skal bzang chos kyi nyi ma) was born in 1836, the fire-monkey year of the fourteenth sexagenary cycle. Her father was Ngawang Kunga Rinchen (ngag dbang kun dga' rin chen,1794-1856) who established the Phuntsok Palace (phun tshogs pho brang) in Sakya. Her mother was his second wife, Nyima Dawa Wangmo (nyi zla dbang mo) from the noble Samte (bsam lte) family. Tamdrin Wangmo was the eldest of three daughters and two sons. Her sisters were Jetsunma Kelzang Tendzin Wangmo (rje btsun ma skal bzang bstan 'dzin dbang mo, n.d.) and Jetsunma Tsultrim Wangmo (rje btsun ma tshul khrims dbang mo, n.d.). Her brothers were Ngawang Kunga Sonam (ngag dbang kun dga' bsod nams,1842-1882) who was the Thirty-sixth Sakya Tridzin from 1866 to 1882; and Chokyi Langpo (phyogs kyi glang po, c. 1842/1844-1864/1866).
Her paternal uncle, Pema Dudul Wangchuk (padma bdud 'dul dbang phyug, 1792-1853), the Thirty-third Sakya Tridzin, appointed the famous Lopon Loter Zangpo (blo dpon blo gter bzang po, d.u.) to be her first major teacher. Earlier Lopon Loter Zangpo also had taught her older half-brother, Ngawang Dorje Rinchen (ngag dbang rdo rje rin chen, 1819-1867) who later served as the Thirty-fourth Sakya Tridzin. It is said that he trained her and her brother with equal attention, teaching them to read and chant. She also received from him several major Sakya empowerments of Sarvavid Vairocana, the Nāropa lineage Vajrayoginī, Hevajra and Vajrakīlaya. He explained the history of each deity, the sādhāna, the construction of the maṇḍala, the making of torma (gtor ma), and the daily chanting and prayers.
Tamdrin Wangmo also received many teachings from her father, Kunga Rinchen, and her uncle, Pema Dudul Wangchuk. They gave her the empowerments and explanations of Vajrakīlaya, Kṛṣṇapāda Cakrasaṃvara and all the teachings of Vajrayoginī. Her brother Dorje Rinchen taught her Lamdre Tsokshe (lam 'bras tshogs bshad) and he gave her the empowerments, blessings and transmissions of Yamāntaka and Mahākāla. She also received from him the One Hundred Sādhāna (sgrub thabs brgya rtsa).
Tamdrin Wangmo received the three vows (prātimokṣa, bodhisattva and tantric) from the abbot of Sakya's Lhakhang Chenmo, Tashi Chopel (bkra shis chos 'phel). She is said to have maintained her commitments, performing the required daily practices known as four uninterrupted practices: Hevajra, guru yoga, Virūpa protection meditation, and Vajrayoginī. On the eighth, fourteenth, twenty-third and twenty-ninth days of each month, she did offering rituals for dharma protectors.
She was also widely read. Her biography records that she read the complete Kangyur twice; the genealogies of the Sakya Khon families; and the hagiographies of the Sakya masters and other spiritual adepts (rnam thar ngo mtshar rgya mtsho). She produced great faith and devotion in those who came before her. Her biographer also commented that she was humble despite her great learning, and that she was accurate in her divinations via the method of throwing dice (gdza' bdun 'khor spar mo).
Over the course of her life she engaged in many retreats on deities such as Hevajra, Vajrayoginī, Vajrakīlaya, Pañjaranata Mahākāla, Kurukulle and Vajrapāṇi Bhūtaḍāmara.
In the late 1850’s her younger brother, Ngawang Kunga Sonam asked her and their younger brother, Chokyi Langpo, to go to Kham. The reasons for going apparently included gathering donations and praying for the defeat of Nyarong Gonpo Namgyel (nyag rong mgon po nam rgyal, d. 1865), who was then conquering large sections of Kham and threatening Derge (sde dge), a traditional seat of the Sakya tradition in Kham.
Ngawang Kunga Sonam advised her that she should look for a lama who had the lineage of Lamdre Lobshe (lam 'bras slob bshad), Vajramāla and the three "red deities" (mar po skor gsum): Kurukulle, Gaṇapati, and Ṭakkirāja. He emphasized that these teachings were rare and could be lost for future generations. In Kham she met the Fifty-third Ngor Khenchen, Jampa Kunga Tenpai Lodro (byams pa kun dga' bstan pa'i blo gros, 1822-1884), who gave her the complete Lamdre Lobshe as well as the major empowerment of the forty-five deities in Vajramāla, Hevajra, Vajrayoginī of the Nāropa tradition, Vajrakīlaya, Mahākāla Daṇḍa, Vajrapāṇi Bhūtaḍāmara, and Kurukulle. The famous Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo ('jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse' dbang po, 1820-1892) gave her the empowerment and transmission of Siṁhamukha. Lopon Ngawang Rinchen (slob dpon ngag dbang rin chen, d.u.) gave her complete instructions and blessings on the three "red deities".
She and her brother visited many places in Kham, and stayed for several years at Lang Nak (glang nag) Monastery in Trehor, near Kandze (dkar mdzes), which had been established by Pakpa Lodro Gyeltsen ('phags pa blo gros rgyal mtshan, 1235-1280) on his return from his third trip to China, in 1276. There she gave empowerments of Ghaṇṭapa Cakrasaṃvara, Nāropa Vajrayoginī, Vairocana, Hevajra, and an Amitāyus and Hayagrīva long-life empowerment, to the Third Nyendrak, Tenpai Wangchuk (snyan grags bstan pa'i dbang phyug, 1854-1898). He also received teachings from Chokyi Langpo. The Third Nyendrak later went to Sakya, where he was well received by both Jetsunmas and was given secret teachings by Sakya Tridzin and Jetsunma Tamdrin Wangmo.
A story is told about her teaching in Kham that illustrates the extent to which people sought her out and her reputation as an incarnation of Vajravārahī. It seems that a Chinese official who had a reputation of being a womanizer heard that Tamdrin Wangmo was attracting many people because she was so beautiful. He decided that he must meet her and asked for an appointment. However, her attendants did not want to give an appointment, and they wanted leave in order to avoid a possible confrontation with the official. Jetsunma thought otherwise, and agreed to meet him. The official came and made the customary offerings, but fled quickly as if frightened. He later explained that when he entered Jetsunma’s room he had seen a human body with a terrifying head of a wild boar with fierce tusks.
In 1866, while they were still at Lang Nak, Trehor suffered a large earthquake, and Chokyi Langpo was among the dead. His and Tamdrin Wangmo's sister, Kelzang Tendzin Wangmo, went to Kham for the funeral and to supervise the construction of a reliquary stupa at Lang Nak. Details of the travels of the two sisters following the funeral are not known, but they apparently went to Jyekundo (skye dgu mdo), as there was a white throne near Tharlam Monastery that was said to have been built for Tamdrin Wangmo.
Upon her return to Sakya, Tamdrin Wangmo gave the teachings she had acquired in Kham to her brother, Ngawang Kunga Sonam, and to other disciples. These transmissions included Vajrakīlaya, Ra Lotsāwa’s (rwa lo tsa ba, 1016-c.1128) thirteen- deity Yamāntaka, four different lineages of Hevajra, four different lineages of Mahākāla, the ten-deity Pañjaranata Mahākāla, the complete teachings of the Six Yogas of Niguma, the five-deity Siṁhamukha ḍākinī, Bektse, three lineages of Cakrasaṃvara, three lineages of Guhyasamāja, the twelve-maṇḍalas of Vairocana, and others.
Drakshul Trinle Rinchen emphasized that Tamdrin Wangmo taught to all who requested, without distinction. She gave the Lamdre Tsokshe numerous times, the Lamdre Lobshe twice and Vajramāla three times. It is noteworthy that she twice gave Lamdre Lobshe to Drakshul Trinle Rinchen and other Khon family members. In 1882 Gongkar Tulku (gong dkar) requested the Vajramāla tradition of the Indian ācarya Abhayākaragupta, and Drakshul Trinle Rinchen and Kunga Nyingpo Sampel Norbu, the Thirty-seventh Sakya Tridzin ((kun dga' snying po bsam 'phel nor bu, 1850-1899) also attended. When the transmission was only half completed the Sakya family withdrew due to a contagious illness spreading among the disciples. Later in life Drakshul Trinle Rinchen also received from Tamdrin Wangmo the complete Vajramāla empowerments; the three Vajrayoginī lineages of Indrabhūti, Maitripa and Nāropa; the three "red deities"; and the Thirteen Golden Dharmas (gser chos bcu gsum).
It is said that when she gave a reading transmission of a text or commentary she read neither too fast nor too slow, and that her voice was exceptionally clear. She was nevertheless a fast reader who could complete an entire volume in one day. As a vajramaster, she was faithful to the instructions, giving everything in order and doing all required without adding or deleting anything; she personally gave the blessings of the objects, and performed all the necessary mudrā correctly.
Jetsunma Tamdrin Wangmo lived to the age of sixty-one, passing away in 1896, on the twentieth day of the first month in her residence, Pelgyi Labrang (dpal gyi bla brang) in Sakya. The Punstok Palace family performed the funeral ceremonies and she was accorded similar honors as the male lineage holders of the Khon family, as she had been in life. A life-size silver Nāropa Vajrayoginī with gilded gold and inlaid with precious gems was made as her reliquary. It was placed in the Orgyen Lhakhang. She is remembered by the Sakya tradition as an emanation of Vajra Nairātmyā and Vajravārahī. One of her great legacies was saving the lineage and transmission of important Sakya teachings for future generations.
Dge bshe thugs rje dbang phyug. N.d. Sa skya'i rje btsun ma rnams kyi skor phran bu bshugs so. Unpublished Manuscript
Drag shul 'phrin las rin chen. 1992. Sa skya'i gdung rabs ngo mtshar rin chen kun 'phel, pp. 413-417. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang. W27310.
Drag shul 'phrin las rin chen. 1974. Rdo rje 'chang drag shul phrin las rin chen gyi rtogs brjod. Dehra Dun: Sakya Center. W27318.
Tshe ring dbang rgyal and Ya ma mgon po. 2005. Glang nag dgon pa’i lo rgyus mthong gsal shel gyi me long. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang
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- Historical Period