11. Khedrup Orgyenpa 1230-1312
“You, the Lord of Mudra Messengers, Lord Mahasiddha, I supplicate you.” – “Supplication to the Kagyü Gurus”
In the midst of the many smaller and larger differences among the people living in Central and South-East Asia during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Tibetan Buddhist scholars and saints earned such an outstanding reputation for their advancement of knowledge and philosophy that leading Mongolian Khans and Chinese emperors sought their help and advice and in return protected “the land of Dharma, the country of snow” so that the people living on the Tibetan Plateau could enjoy approximately 700 years of relative peace and prosperity.
Orgyenpa, Khädrub Rinchenpäl, was born in Latö, North Tibet, to a family of tantric practitioners in the year of the earth-tiger. Naturally inclined to practice meditation, he mastered Vajrakilaya and other practices of his father’s lineage while still a young boy. When he was 7, he studied philosophy before continuing with deeper meditation practices. Ordained as a lay devotee by Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje, supreme head of the Drukpa Kagyü Lineage, Orgyenpa was already qualified at the age of 16 to engage in the higher Buddhist studies of Abhidharma, Madhyamika, Vinaya, and other fields of science at renowned monastic institutions in Tsang, the southern region of Central Tibet. Orgyenpa mastered the curriculum with ease. Golungpa Namkha Gyaltsen transmitted the full Kalachakra Tantra to him, and Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje explained the instructions to him in depth.
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche presented teachings at Thrangu House in Oxford and tells us that Gyalwa Gotsangpa (1189-1258), one of Orgyenpa’s most revered teachers, was an emanation of Jestün Milarepa. In that incarnation, he spread the Kagyü Drukpa Tradition in West Tibet (which was founded by Tsangpa Gyare, one of the Second Gyalwa Karmapa’s four main disciples) . A thirteenth century shrine was erected in the mountains behind Hemis Gompa in Ladakh where Gotsangpa meditated in a cave. His footprint and handprint can still be seen on a rock there. Khenpo said: “When Gyalwa Gotsangpa meditated in caves, he got sick a lot. There were no doctors in the mountains and no hospitals. He didn’t leave his cave to find help when he got sick but stayed where he was and meditated on the essential nature of his sickness. By doing so, he had wonderful support for his meditation – he attained realization, and when he attained realization, he got well.” Khenpo taught that Gyalwa Gotsangpa sang many songs about taking sickness on the path. Jetsün Milarepa, on the other hand, underwent austerities while he was serving his teacher; he had to build four towers that symbolize the four karmic activities of pacifying, enriching, magnetizing, and destroying. When the Lord of Yogis, Jetsün Milarepa, went off to practice, he didn’t get sick, so he didn’t sing many songs about taking sickness on the path. Khenpo tells us that when Gyalwa Gotsangpa was lying on his deathbed, he summoned his students, who cried. He opened his eyes, sang a song, laughed , and then passed away into nirvana. Khenpo added: “So, if we can go like that, it would be great. “
The Second Gyalwa Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, was Orgyenpa’s Root Guru. Orgyenpa met Karma Pakshi when he was 53, in the year 1283, and received the entire Kagyü Transmission Lineage from him. He practiced diligently, became inseparable with the Glorious Karmapa, and therefore Orgyenpa Rinchenpäl is known as the accomplished scholar and Mahasiddha – mKhäs-grub-pa.
Orgyenpa travelled to Nepal, India, Mt. Kailash, Jalandara, Tsari, and greater Mongolia in order to learn and practice at sacred sites. The Tibetan Buddhist Research Center wrote that he “travelled to the terrestrial pure land of Uddiyana where he met Vajravarahi, who transmitted to him special practices related to the ‘Six Branch Yoga of the Kalachakra’ system known as ‘Approach and Attainment of the Three Adamantine States.’”
The sacred Mahamudra teachings were the foundation of the Orgyen Nyendrub Lineage founded by Orgyenpa and that became one of the Eight Great Chariots of Tibetan Buddhism. The Eight Great Chariots are: (1) Nyingma – the teachings within the Nyingma School of ancient translations; (2) Kadam – the sacred teachings of the Old and New Kadam traditions, founded by Pälden Atisha; (3) Lamdrä/Sakya – the essential instructions of the path together with its result, the heart-essence of Mahasiddha Virupa, which came down to the Sakyapa founders and their heirs and were then passed on by the various lineages, including those of Sakya Nor and Tsar; (4) Marpa Kagyü – the four streams of teachings within the Kagyü tradition that stem from Marpa Lotsawa, Jetsün Milarepa, and Lha-je Gampopa and that branched into the four major and eight minor Kagyü Lineages; (5) Shangpa Kagyü – the golden doctrine of Dakini Niguma from the Shangpa Kagyü, which comes from the Mahasiddha Khyungpo Näljor; (6) Kalachakra/Six Branch Practice of Vajrayoga – the six-branched application, which emphasizes the Vajra Yoga of the perfection stage of Kalachakra; it came to Tibet from the Dharma kings of India in early, intermediate, and later phases and developed into seventeen traditions that were later brought together and passed on by Tukje Tsöndru and others; (7) Shije and Chöd – the noble teachings of the Pacifying of Suffering Tradition that came from Padampa Sanggye together with the profound teachings on severance, called “Chöd , ” which were passed on by Machik Lapdrön and others; ( 8) Orgyenpa – the approach and accomplishment of the Three Vajras, the teachings bestowed on the Mahasiddha Orgyenpa Päl by Vajravarahi, i.e., Vajrayogini herself.
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye described them as the eight major esoteric traditions in Tibet and wrote: “(1) The earlier translation ancients; (2) the precepts and instructions; (3) the path, together with its fruit; (4) the transmitted precepts of Marpa; (5) the transmitted precepts of Shang Valley; (6) the traditions of peace-making and cutting; (7) the adamantine yoga of the Kalachakra Tantra; and (8) the propitiation and actualisation of the three adamantine states associated with the Kalachakra Tantra.”
Orgyenpa Rinchenpäl had many pupils, the four supreme ones being two brothers from Nyendowa, Chöje Kharchuwa from Yazang, and Jamyang Sönam from Langkhor; furthermore eight close sons and many other scholars and yogis from India and Tibet. His heart-son and Lineage-holder was Rangjung Dorje. Orgyenpa recognized Rangchung Dorje as the reincarnation of his teacher, Karma Pakshi, and enthroned him as the Third Gyalwa Karmapa.
In “Jamgon Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual” it is written that “Orgyen Rinchenpäl had been a disciple of the second Karmapa. He is remembered particularly as the principal master of the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorjay, who initiated the spread of the Intensive Practice Instruction Lineage within the Oral Instruction Lineage of the Karmapas. As Kongtrul explains: ‘The second Buddha, the omniscient spontaneously appearing lord of spiritual life (Rangjung Dorjay), received all the meditation instructions from the great accomplished one (Orgyenpa). He unravelled the knots in the vajra words (of the instructions) and illuminated this excellent path which contains vital instructions superior to all others. The Karmapas in their successive incarnations (the fourth Karmapa, Rolpay Dorjay, and the rest) and their lineage of disciples spread these instructions far and wide.’”
“All you sentient beings I have a good or bad connection with, as soon as you have left this confused dimension, may you be born in the West, in Sukhavati, and once you’re born there, complete the bhumis and the paths.” – Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, “Jamgon Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual,” transl. & intr. by Ngawang Zangpo, Tsadra Foundation, N.Y. & Colorado, 1994,
“Timeless Rapture. Inspired Verse of the Shangpa Masters,” compiled by Jamgon Kongtrul, transl. & intr. by Ngawang Zangpo, Tsadra Foundation, N.Y. & Co., 2003.
Official Website of H.H. the 17 th Gyalwa Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, “The Golden Rosary” (2008).
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche, “Instructions on ‘The Ocean of Definitive Meaning of Mountain Dharma’ by Dolpo Sangye & on Singing,” presented at Thrangu House in Oxford in 2000, transl. by Ari Goldfield, in: Karma Lekshey Ling Institute, “Teachings in English,” Nepal, 2007.
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche, “Impermanence,” presented at Thrangu House in Oxford in 2000, transl. by Ari Goldfield, in: Karma Lekshey Ling Institute, “Teachings in English,” Nepal, 2007.
Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center , “Biographical Data: The Karmapas,” N.Y. (2008).
Matthew Kapstein, “gdams.ngag: Tibetan Technologies of the Self,” in: “ Tibetan Literature Studies in Genre,” ed. by Jose I. Cabezon & Roger R. Jackson, N.Y., 1996. Also in: “ Encyclopedia of Religions” (2006).
See David Snellgrove & Hugh Richardson, “A Cultural History of Tibet,” Colorado, 1968.
“In diving through the depths of Dharma, I share the blissful goodness here with all the beings on this earth and all living beings everywhere.” – from a friend
(Compiled & written for English speaking students & visitors of Karma Lekshey Ling Institute in Nepal by Gaby Hollmann, responsible for all mistakes, August 2008; copyright.)