Sanggye Yarjon

ISSN 2332-077X

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Sanggye Yarjon b.1203 - d.1272

Name Variants: Sherab Lama; Taklung Tri 03 Sanggye Yarjon

Sanggye Yarjon Sherab Lama (sangs rgyas yar byon shes rab bla ma) was born in Dongna in Bongra Teng (bong ra stengs kyi gdong sna), or, alternately, Chupak (chu phag), in 1203. His father was named Yenchen Gongyel (yan chen mgon rgyal), and his mother was named Lhama Pel (lha ma dpal). He is said to have been a gentle and compassionate boy who intervened to prevent the cruelties of his peers.

He received preliminary ordination at the age of sixteen from Gaton Lama (ga ston bla ma, d.u.) and Lhakhang Lhakpa (lha khang lhag pa, d.u.), who gave him the name Sherab Lama and teachings on the Vinaya. He also received teachings from Lobpon Nakpawa (slob dpon nags pa ba, d.u.). He then practiced at Sapu Monastery (sa phu dgon).

At Taklung Tang (stag lung thang), at the age of nineteen, Sanggye Yarjon met Kuyelwa Rinchen Gonpo (sku yal ba rin chen mgon po, 1191-1236), the second abbot of Taklung Monastery, from whom he received extensive teachings. He also received full ordination from Khenpo Tsangpa (mkhan po gtsang pa, d.u.), Lobpon Khuton (slob dpon khu ston, d.u.) and Lobpon Donmo Ripa (slob dpon don mi ri pa, d.u.). 

For the next fourteen years Sanggye Yarjon sat in meditation, ending only when his teacher, Rinchen Gonpo, passed away, and he was elevated to the abbacy of Taklung, in 1236. During his tenure he significantly expanded the monastery and its treasures, commissioning gold and silver sacred images and building the Great Shrine Hall (mchod khang chen mo) and revising the monastic codes.

Sanggye Yarjon was known to have emphasized practice over study. The Blue Annals relates an episode in which Sanggye Yarjon's nephew and disciple Tashi Lama (bkra shis bla ma, 1231-1297), who was later the fourth abbot of Taklung, arrived at Taklung with many monks from Kham who had come to study. Sanggye Yarjon told the monks that if they wished to study they should go to Sangpu (gsang phu), a Kadam monastery known for its scholarship. Sanggye Yarjon then told his nephew to go into secluded retreat, explaining to him that "This lineage of ours in the practice lineage; meditation is more important than study."

He is credited with saving Taklung Monastery from the Mongol invasion of 1263 by means of lavish gifts. Ever after, on the fourteenth day of the fourth month he performed a large-scale ritual to avert Mongol invasions.

Sanggye Yarjon had a close relationship with the Sakya leaders of the day. As told in the Blue Annals, in 1270, when Pakpa Lodro Gyeltsen ('phags pa blo 'gros rgyal mtshan, 1235-1280) travelled through the region on his return to China, Tashi Lama invited the Sakya hierarch to his seat at Pongdo (phong mdo). Pakpa replied that he would gladly accept provided that Sanggye Yarjon also attend. When Tashi Lama then requested Sanggye Yarjon to come, the master stated that although he had intended to never again leave his monastery, he could not refuse a request from Pakpa. The two thus met, and Sanggye Yarjon asked Pakpa to protect Taklung and its branch monasteries. It was not an idle request; not long before, according to some Tibetan histories, Sanggye Yarjon narrowly saved Taklung from destruction by a Chinese army prodded on by the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (karma pa 02 karma pakshi, 1204-1283). 

Sanggye Yarjon passed away in 1272 at the age of seventy.




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Alexander Gardner
July 2011