The Legacy of Dudjom Rinpoche

“Lord of one hundred families of enlightenment,
illustrious holy spiritual master, at your feet I bow!
In the past you were Rigdzin Nuden Dorje Tsel,
In the future you will become the Buddha Infinite Aspiration,
At present you are Padmasambhava’s regent, Drogben incarnate:
Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje, to you I pray.”

His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje, was one of the seminal figures in Tibetan Buddhism in the twentieth century. Born to a royal family in 1904 in the hidden land of Pema Ko, he was recognized as the reincarnation of Trakt’hung Dudjom Lingpa.
As early as the eighth century, Padmasambhava made many predications and prophesies about the births of both Dudjom Lingpa and Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje. Heralded as among the one hundred great ‘tertons’ who would discover major cycles of spiritual practices and lineages, they were instrumental in the preservation and propagation of Guru Rinpoche’s legacy, particularly during a time of great political and cultural turmoil. Their collected works, known as the Dudjom Tersar lineage, is comprised of at least thirty-eight volumes of texts and include major terma practice cycles such as the Tsokyi Thugthig cycle for the practices of the Lama; the Putri Rekpung cycle for the practices of the Yidam; the Khandro Thugthig cycle for the practices on the Khandro, Tadring Yangtro Nagpo, and Vajrasattva from Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje; and the major cycles of the Troma Nagmo Chod, Dorje Drollo, and Namchak Putri lineage from Dudjom Lingpa.
Although His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche was the direct reincarnation of Dudjom Lingpa, his line of incarnations can be traced all the way back to the eon of Buddha Pranidhanaraja, when he was the yogin Nuden Dorje Chang, who vowed to appear as the last Buddha of this eaon.
Since that time, his previous incarnations include:

  • Shariputra – the close attendant and heart student of Sharkyamuni Buddha
  • Saraha – one the great siddhas and poets of ancient India
  • Krishnadhara – the minister to King Indrabodhi of Uddiyana
  • Humkara – one of the eight great Vidydharas of India, holder of the the Yang-dak lineage, and one of Padmasambhava’s principle Gurus
  • Drogben Lotsawa – one of Padmasambhava’s principle Tibetan disciples and great translator
  • Pandita Smrtijnana – Indian scholar who taught the Dharma to Tibet
  • Pandita Chokyi Zangpo – a scholar who expounded on the Nyingmapa literature
  • Dampa Desheg – founder of the Katog monastery in Kham, eastern Tibet
  • Palden Ling Je Repa – one of the founding patriarchs of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage
  • Chogyal Pakpa (1235-1280) – ruler of Tibet during the Yuan dynasty and priest to Kublai Khan
  • Drumkar Nagpopa – a yogi from eastern Tibet, who meditated in dark retreat for eighteen years and was renowned for his siddhis
  • Hepa Chojung – a siddha from eastern Tibet who subjugated enemies of the Dharma
  • Trak-t’hung Dudul Dorje (1615-1672) – the terton who revived the Katog lineage
  • Gyalse Sonam Detsen – restored and preserved the Katog monatery
  • Dudul Rolpa Tsal – one of Jigme Lingpa’s gurus
  • Dudjom Lingpa Garwang Pawo (1835-1904) –one of Tibet’s profound visionary adepts who began revealing the major terma cycle known as the Dudjom Tersar

Trakt’hung Dudjom Lingpa, the first Dudjom RinpocheIn 1835, in the lower Ser valley of Golok, eastern Tibet, the great yogi and terton, Dudjom Lingpa was born. Dudjom Lingpa possessed the gift of extraordinary wisdom and spiritual powers. It was said that his body was the manifestation of Drogben Lotsawa, his speech was the manifestation of Yeshe Tsogyal, and his mind the manifestation of Guru Rinpoche himself. He received teachings and transmission from many great masters of his time, including Patrul Rinpoche, but he also received mind-to-mind transmission directly from the Buddha fields. From the age of 25 until his parinirvana at the age of 69, he discovered many important treasures that were hidden by Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal. Dudjom Lingpa’s collected works total twenty-two volumes. These teachings are especially profound and appropriate for these times.There are numerous personal accounts of the great power and mastery that Dudjom Lingpa possessed. It was said that although he received only limited teachings from human teachers, he received continual transmission from pure visions of the Buddhas. Hosts of enlightened beings, dakis and dakinis constantly protected, cherished and nourished him spiritually as well as physically. His physical form emanated such power that when he looked straight ahead, his disciples dared not walk in front of him. The people of Golok prayed by saying, “Behold the body of Dudjom!”Of his countless disciples were thirteen famous students who attained rainbow body in their lifetime, and a thousand others who attained the level of rigdzin, or awareness holder. Dudjom Lingpa had eight sons who all became great, realized masters and lineage holders. Among his sons were Tersey Drimed Ozer, consort to the famous wisdom dakini, Sera Khandro; Jigme Tenpe Nyima, the third Dodrupchen Rinpoche; Patrul Namkhai Jigme, the reincarnation of Patrul Rinpoche, and Tersey Dorje Dradul, who became the successor of Dudjom Lingpa and Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje’s root guru.Before passing away, Dudjom Lingpa told his disciples, “Go to the secret land of Pema Ko. Whoever has faith in me, go in that direction! Before you young ones arrive, I will already be there.” Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje, the second Dudjom RinpocheIn the prophesies of Orgyen Dechen Lingpa, it is written, “In the future an incarnation of Drogben will be born to the east of the Nine-Peaked mountain, in the sacred Buddhafield of Vajravarahi. He will be born of royal lineage and his name shall be Jnana. As a youth he will demonstrate astonishing intelligence and his activities, although unconventional, will bring immense benefit. He will discover new terma and will preserve the old termas. Whomever makes connections with him will be reborn in Zangdok Palri, the Copper-colored mountain of Guru Rinpoche.”According to the prophesies Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje was born to a family whose lineage traced back to King Trisong Duetsen and Ratna Lingpa. When he was three years old, he was recognized as the reincarnation of Dudjom Lingpa and enthroned by Phuktrul Gyurme Ngeden Wangpo, a disciple and lineage holder of Dudjom Lingpa. Dudjom Lingpa’s disciples, who traveled a great distance to meet their Guru’s reincarnation, were astonished at how the child recognized and communicated with them in their local dialect of the Golok region, where he had spent his past life.
Rinpoche’s studies began with reading, writing and the five common sciences. Whatever he was taught, he could comprehend with just a mere indication. By the age of five, Dudjom Rinpoche was already discovering treasure texts and practices. For sixteen years he studied under P’huktrul Rinpoche as well as other great masters, such as Jamyang Khyenste Wangpo.Dudjom Rinpoche attended various monastic shedras such as Mindroling, Dorje Drak, Kathok and Dzogchen. He also became learned in the rituals of the Terton Terdak Lingpa. He received all the Dzogchen teachings from Jedrung Rinpoche and was considered his heart son. He meditated at many isolated places and signs of accomplishment occurred. In short, all of the tantras, as vast as the ocean, and all of their difficult points unfolded naturally.At the age of thirteen he met Guru Rinpoche in person and received the yellow scrolls of the dakinis. He began to write termas. In Paro Taksang, he rediscovered the Putri Repung, the Tsokye T’hug-t’hig and the Khandro T’hug-t’hig, for which he wrote down the root texts.His Holiness was not only a highly realized meditation master and terton, but also a scholar, doctor of Tibetan medicine, astrologer and poet. Rinpoche’s writings span over sixteen large volumes and his explanations of Dzogchen are very precise. He also wrote the “History of the Nyingma School,” one of the most authoritative texts today.In addition to discovering some of the most important terma of our times, he was instrumental in preserving, collecting and disseminating the entire canon of the Nyingmapa lineage. He completed the enormous task of creating the ‘Rinchen Terzod’ a collection of all the terma traditions that have been revealed over the course of the millennium. He made many corrections to ancient texts, replacing missing parts, and revitalizing lineages, which were on the verge of extinction.His Holiness established many new monasteries, rebuilt old ones, created settlements for Tibetan refugees, and colleges for monks and yogis, and reconstructed others. Following his own omniscience, he decided to leave Tibet in 1958, before the upheaval of the communist takeover of Tibet. He then dedicated his entire time and effort to teaching and empowering millions of his devotees all over the world.Dudjom Rinpoche’s activity was endless. He was considered Guru Rinpoche’s living representative and was the teacher to many lamas alive today. It was often the case that Lamas would send their students directly to Dudjom Rinpoche to receive the highest transmissions and pointing out instructions.Dudjom Rinpoche passed into parinirvana on the 17th of January, 1987 at his residence in France. Relics of his body were left as a sign of dissolving his Nirmanakaya body into the pure space of the Dharmakaya. His relative physical body had also shrunken by almost 85%. His remaining body – which he purposely left behind for devotees – was placed inside the stupa in one of his main seats near Boudhanath, Nepal.