Tropu Gyeltsa Rinchen Gon

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Tropu Gyeltsa Rinchen Gon b.1118 - d.1195

Name Variants: Rinchen Gon; Tropu Gyeltsa Rinchen Gonpo

Gyeltsa Rinchen Gonpo (rgyal tsha rin chen mgon po) was born in 1118 into a branch of the Nub (gnubs) clan, a family that claimed ancestory from the Eighth century master Nub Namkhai Nyingpo (gnubs nam mkha'i snying po), in the the Shab (shabs) Valley, not very far from Sakya Monastery in Tsang Province. His mother is simply called a ‘princess' (lha gcig). His nephew, Kunden Repa (kun ldan ras pa, 1148-1217), who was born thirty years after him, is in some sources said to be his brother.

When Gyeltsa was five, he learned reading and arithmetic. He is said to have began his education at the age of five, eventually training with a number of prominent masters, incuding Nur Nyima (gnur nyi ma, d.u.); Dropukpa (sgro phug pa, d.u.), the son of Zurchungpa (zur chung pa); and Belbo Paṇḍita Samantraśrī (bal po paNDi ta sa manta shrI, d.u.) and receiving instructions on the inner, outer, common and uncommon teachings.

When Gyeltsa was nineteen he relocated to U, where he furthered his studies. He trained with Purang Lotsāwa's (pu rangs lo tsA ba, d.u.) disciple Marchokyi Gyelpo (dmar chos kyi rgyal po, d.u.), Lotsāwa Chokyi Zangpo (lo tsA ba chos kyi bzang po, d.u.), Meton Kunga Nyingpo (mes ston kun dga' snying po, d.u.), and Ngok Dode (rngog mdo sde, d.u.). He returned to Shab at age twenty-five.

Although asked to take a wife, he gradually gained his father's permission to remain single.

Overall Rinchen Gon is said to have had eighty-two teachers. While his teachers were mainly of Kagyu lineages, among them were some prominent representatives of the Nyingma, two of the direct disciples of Padampa Sanggye (pa dam pa sangs rgyas, d. c.1117) in the Zhije lineage, as well as teachers of Cho. Rinchen Gon trained with Pakmodrupa Dorje Gyelpo (phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po, 1110-1170), receiving from him instruction in Mahāmudrā. At Densatil (gdan sa thil) he also trained with Dakpo Gomtsul Tsultrim Nyingpo (dwags sgom tshul khrims snying po, 1116-1169), Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje (gtsang pa rgya ras ye shes rdo rje, 1161-1211) and other disciples of Pakmodrupa. Rinchen Gon's nephew, Kunden Repa, was another important disciple of Pakmodrupa.

Pakmodrupa should without doubt be considered his primary teacher, since it was under his guidance that Gyeltsa achieved a practical understanding of Mahāmudrā.

Although Gyeltsa might have inherited some family wealth, it is said that he used to engage in trade and bartering of goods. In any case, his wealth enabled him to offer considerable patronage to the community at Pakmodru. It is not clear if he was a monk at the time, and it was only much later in life that he took complete monastic vows. Perhaps he took all the vows simultaneously, which sometimes happens, especially when older men join the order. At the age of fifty-four Rinchen Gon took complete ordination with Khenpo Shangshidze (shang shi mdzes, d.u.).

Soon afterwards he decided to form a small monastery where he could stay with only a few monks and suffer few distractions. He purchased a property in the area known as Tropu, and founded the monastery of Tropu Monastery (khro phu dgon) in the Shab Valley, in Tsang. Initially he built a temple with residences for monks, twenty in number. His nephew and disciple Tropu Lotsāwa Jampa Pel (khro phu lo tsA ba byams pa dpal, b.c.1172-1225/1236) was instrumental in establishing the Tropu Kagyu tradition.

At age sixty Gyeltsa Rinchen Gon became quite ill, bleeding through the nose until he nearly died, but he was healed by a vision of his teacher Pakmodrupa who descended through space riding on a lion. He died at age seventy-seven.




Grags pa 'byung gnas. 1992. Gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod. Lanzhou: Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun khang. Pp. 406-407.

Gtsug lag 'phreng ba. 1980. Chos 'byung mkhas pa'i dga' ston. New Delhi: Karmapae Chodhey Gyelwae Sungrab Partun Khang, vol. I, p. 857.6. ff.

Roerich, George, trans. 1996. The Blue Annals. 2nd ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, pp. 705-7.

Tshe dbang rgyal. 1994. Lho rong chos 'byung. Lhasa: Bod ljongs bod yig dpe rnying dpe skrun khang, pp. 328-9.


Dan Martin
August 2008