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Drungchen Khachopa Namkha Gyeltsen

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Drungchen Khachopa Namkha Gyeltsen (drung chen mkha' spyod pa nam mkha' rgyal mtshan) was born in 1370 in Chamdo Ngomyul (chab mdo ngom yul). His father was Gyelwa Zangpo (rgyal ba bzang po) and his mother was Genja Zachodron (gan 'ja' za chos sgron).

When he was just a boy of four Namkha Gyeltsen went to the Taklung Kagyu Riwoche monastery (ri bo che dgon) where he studied reading, writing and ritual services. At the age of nine he received instructions on the Nigu Chodruk (nig u chos drug), the Six Dharmas of Niguma, from Lama Sanggye Gyeltsab (sangs rgyas rgyal mtshab, d.u.).

At the age of about twenty he took four wives and pursued both religious and householder activity. He then traveled the region around Markham (smar khams) via boat, touring regions that were under his control, with Sanggye Gyeltsab and Konchok Pel (dkon mchog dpal, d.u.), who taught him the Khandro Nyintik (mkha' 'gro snying thig) and other teachings, and writing out the Prajñāpāramitā in one hundred thousand, twenty-thousand, and eight-thousand verses in turquoise, gold and silver ink. Renouncing his throne, his grandson, Sanggye Zangpo (sangs rgyas bzang po) was appointed ruler

Namkha Gyeltsen was quite wealthy, and sent much of his treasure to monasteries before taking ordination with Khenpo Gyelwangpa (mkhan po rgyal dbang pa, d.u.). He relied on about one hundred and thirty teachers to train in sutra and tantra, including the Karma Kagyu lama Karma Konchok Zhonnu (ka+rma dkon mchog gzhon nu, d.u.), the Sakya masters Yakdrukpa Sanggye Pelwa (g.yag phrug pa sangs rgyas dpal ba, 1350- 1414), Sabzang Pakpa Zhonnu Lodro (sa bzang 'phags pa gzhon nu blo gros, 1358-1412/1424), and Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa (tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419).

Chief among his teachers, however, were Tokden Tsokarwa Jangchub Gyeltsen (rtogs ldan mtsho dkar ba byang chub rgyal mtshan, d.u.), Tokden Yonten Rinchen (rtogs ldan yon tan rin chen, d.u.), and the Fifth Karmapa, Deshin Shekpa (ka+rma pa 05 de bzhin gshegs pa, 1384-1415). He studied with many of these lamas while in Tibet, some time in his youth.

Namkha Gyeltsen returned to his homeland, up the Mekong River from Chamdo, to a valley called Drabyul ('grab yul), where he founded a monastery that later became known as Namgyel Gang (rnam rgyal sgang). He also built a bridge over the Mekong.

From there Namkha Gyeltsen went to China to have an audience with the Emperor, presumably the Yongle Emperor, who reigned from 1402 to 1424. He performed the funeral services for one of the Emperor's wives, and gave his son tantric initiations, and received considerable gifts for his work. He then returned to the Chamdo region, where he remained for some years.


During this time there was unrest between Riwoche, Darawa Monastery (da ra ba), and Ngepa (rngad pa), and Namgyel Gang was burned to the ground. The Khyungpo region (which includes Riwoche) then raised an army and established peace. Repairing Namgyel Gang, Namkha Gyeltsen also established a monastic college there.

At the age of sixty Namkha Gyeltsen went to U a second time. When he was sixty-three he went to Kampo Nenang (kam po gnas nang), a Karma Kagyu monastery near Litang founded by the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (karma pa 01 dus gsum mkhyen pa, 1110-1193) and entered a one-year retreat. When he completed his retreat, in 1433, he went to Emei Shan, a mountain in southern Sichuan that is sacred to the bodhisattva Samantabhadra and known as Gyanak Langchen Gyingri (rgya nag glang chen 'gying ri). He passed away there in 1433.


[[Grags pa ’byung [gnas]]. 1992. Gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod. Lanzhou: Kan su’u mi rigs dpe skrun khang, pp. 893-895.

Si tu paN chen chos kyi ’byung gnas, and ’Be lo tshe dbang kun khab. 1972. Sgrub brgyud karma kaM tshang brgyud pa rin po che’i rnam par thar pa rab byams nor bu zla ba chu shel gyi phreng ba. New Delhi: D. Gyeltsen & Kesang Legshay, vol. 1, pp. 501-508.

Alexander Gardner December 2009