Mingyur Namkhai Dorje

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Mingyur Namkhai Dorje, the Fourth Dzogchen Drubwang (rdzogs chen grub dbang 04 mi ‘gyur nam mkha’i rdo rje) was the second son of a noble family called Rakho Pontsang (ra kho dpon tshang) that controlled Mingyur_Namkhe_Dorjethe Den Chokhor (‘dan chos ‘khor) region near Dzogchen Monastery in Kham, in 1793, the water-ox year of the thirteenth sexagenary cycle. His father was called Sonam Rabten (bsod nams rab brtan) and his mother was named Namkha Nordzin Wangmo (nam mkha’ nor ‘dzin dbang mo).

In 1799 when the child was seven he came to the attention of the party searching for the reincarnation of the Third Dzogchen Drubwang, Ngedon Tendzin Zangpo(rdzogs chen grub dbang 03 nges don bstan ‘dzin bzang po, 1759-1792). According to legend the child’s first words had been “Dzogchen! Dzogchen!” With the sponsorship of the sixth abbot of Dzogchen Monastery, Namkha Tsewang Chokdrub (rdzogs chen gdan rabs 06 nam mkha’ tshe dbang mchog grub, b. 1744) and the king of Derge, Tsewang Dorje Rigdzin (tshe dbang rdo rje rig ‘dzin, 1786-1847), thirty monks headed by Wontrul Tenpai Nyima (dbon sprul bstan pa’i nyi ma, d.u.), Orgyen Samdrub (o rgyan bsam grub, d.u.), and Rigdzin Zangpo, the third abbot of Dzogchen (rdzogs chen mkhan rabs 03 rig ‘dzin bzang po, d.u.) arrived at the family residence. They put him through a series of traditional tests and confirmed him. He was escorted to Dzogchen Rudam Orgyen Samten Choling (ru dam o rgyan bsam gtan chos gling) around the month of August in the same year.

Namkha Tsewang Chokdrub performed the tonsure ceremony and named him Jigme Khyentse Wangchuk Trinle Namgyel Dorje (‘jigs med mkhyen brtse’i dbang phyug ‘phrin las rnam rgyal rdo rje) and enthroned him to the seat of his incarnation in an elaborate three-day ceremony. According to the sources, the boy’s parents were compensated for the loss of their son with two hundredngulsang (dngul srang), the Tibetan currency at the time, and nearly three hundred valuable items.

He started his education in reading and writing, memorization of prayers texts and related topics under the tutorship of Chodrak Zangpo (chos grags bzang po, d. 1803) for about four years. After Chodrak Zangpo’s death, Tukje Tashi (thugs rje bkra shis, d.u.) was assigned as his tutor. He received teachings, empowerments, esoteric instructions, and transmissions on the complete treasure teachings of Rigdzin Nyima Drakpa (rig ‘dzin nyi ma grags pa, 1647-1710) from the Third Nyidrak, Mingyur Pende Gyatso (nyi grags 03 mi ‘gyur phan bde rgya mtsho, b. 1772) at Dzogchen Monastery in Gyelrong.

At the age of twelve in 1804, he began to lead the prayer gatherings from the Tibetan New Year and attended all the subsequent annual prayer festivals. In 1807 he was given teachings on Kagye Sangdzok (bka’ brgyad gsang rdzogs) andDzogchen Nyengyu (rdzogs chen snyan brgyud) by Lama Ngawang Lodros (dpon gur bla ma ngag dbang blo gros, d.u.). He also received commentarial teachings onKhadro Nyingtik (mkha’ ‘gro snying thig), Sangwa Nyingtik (gsang ba snying thig)and Dorsem Nyingtik (rdor sems snying thig) from Namkha Tsewang Chokdrub, for which he later received complete empowerments and transmissions.

He received teachings on Nyangter Kagye (nyang gter bka’ brgyad) from Khen Rigdzin Zangpo; empowerment on Dudo (‘dus mdo) and teachings on Nyingtik Kater (snying thig bka’ gter) from Getse Lama Sonam Tendzin (dge rtse bla ma bsod nams bstan ‘dzin, b. 1730) and extensive teachings, empowerments, and oral transmissions on multiple topics from Gyeltsab Tendzin Chogyel (rgyal tshab bstan ‘dzin chos rgyal, d.u.) and the Third Shechen Rabjam Rigdzin Peljor Gyatso (zhe chen rab byams 03 rig ‘dzin dpal ‘byor rgya mtsho, d.u.). Rigdzin Peljor Gyatso gave him novice vows when he turned fifteen, giving him the name Rigdzin Gyurme Kunzang Tekchok Tendzin (rig ‘dzin ‘gyur med kun bzang theg mchog bstan ‘dzin). He went on traditional alms tours, collecting funds for the monastery and festivals.

In 1812, he visited Pemako (pad+ma bkod) and received transmissions, empowerments, and commentaries from his predecessor’s disciple, the First Dodrubchen Jigme Trinle Ozer (rdo grub chen 01 ‘jigs med ‘phrin las ‘od zer, 1745-1821). These included the Dorje Zampa (rdo rje zam pa) teaching and the works of Longchenpa Drime Ozer (klong chen pa ‘dri med ‘od zer, 1308-1364) and Jigme Lingpa (‘jigs me gling pa, 1729/30-1798). He also received teachings from other teachers including Jigme Gyelwai Nyugu (‘jigs med rgyal ba’i myu gu, 1765-1842), Barchung Tashi Gyatso (bar chung bkra shis rgya mtsho, d.u.), Barchung Jigme Gocha (‘bar chung ‘jigs med go cha, b. 1763), the Second Drime Zhingkyong Jigme Rigdzin Gonpo (dri med zhing skyong 02 ‘jigs med rig ‘dzin mgon po, d.u.), and the Second Katok Moktsa Choying Dorje (kaH thog rmog rtsa 02 chos dbyings rdo rje, d.u.).

Mingyur Namkhai Dorje was enthroned as the seventh abbot of Dzogchen at a young age by Namkha Tsewang Chokdrub; the date of his enthronement is not known, but it was presumably around the end of the first decade of the nineteenth century.

In 1814 at the age of twenty-two he travelled to Lhasa for pilgrimage and for an audience with his relative, the Ninth Dalai Lama, Lungtok Gyatso (ta la’i bla ma 09 lung rtogs rgya mtsho, 1805-1815) at the Potala Palace. There he was honored by the regent, the Eighth Demo, Ngawang Tubten Jigme Gyatso (de mo 08 ngag dbang thub bstan ‘jigs med rgya mtsho, 1778-1819) and he was offered the official designation of Hutuktu (ho thog thu; a Mongolian translation of sprul sku). He then received teachings from Terchen Longsel Rolpa (gter chen klong gsal rol pa, d.u.) and Terchen Dawai Ozer (gter chen zla ba’i ‘od zer, d.u.) on their own revelations. He visited the important Nyingma monasteries of Dorjedrak (rdo rje brag) and Orgyen Mindroling (o rgyan smyin grol gling) where he received empowerments and transmissions from Trichen Pema Wangyel (khri chen pad+ma dbang rgyal, d.u.). He also received some teachings from Chakzam Tulku (lcags zam mchog sprul, d.u.). Back in Lhasa he received full ordination from Demo Ngawang Tubten Jigme Gyatso, which was presumably when he received the name by which he is most commonly known in historical sources, Mingyur Namkhai Dorje Tsewang Drubpa Tsel (mi ‘gyur nam mkha’i rdo rje tshe dbang grub pa rtsal). That year he sponsored a session of the Lhasa Monlam and then returned to Kham.

In 1817, the fire-ox year of the fourteenth sexagenary cycle, Mingyur Namkhai Dorje was invited to the Great Bumpa Festival of Changra (lcang ra’i bum srub chen mo) where he came to the attention of the Dege king, who had since come into his adulthood and taken control of the government. The king requested teachings and instructions, and sponsored his activities in the region. Subsequently he was invited to numerous places to give teachings and empowerments, further increasing his status as a Dzogchen master.

Mingyur Namkhai Dorje was known as a firm proponent of the Vinaya, and as he toured Kham he taught both sūtra and tantra, Vinaya and Dzogchen. He also continued to receive teachings from other lamas, amassing a considerable collection of teaching notes.

In 1842, in the morning of sixth of the ninth month of water-tiger year in the fourteenth sexagenary cycle, a devastating earthquake destroyed Dzogchen Monastery. At the time Mingyur Namkhai Dorje was at royal palace in Dege, with the king at the time, Damtsik Dorje (dam tshig rdo rje, b. 1811). The king pledged to fund the restoration, which began immediately. Reconstruction was carried out under Gyelse Zhenpen Taye (rgyal sras gzhan phan mtha’ yas, 1800-1855/1869) and later by Gyurme Tenpel (gto rub la ma ‘gyur med bstan ‘phel, d.u.). With the amount of donations received it is said that many of the buildings were rebuilt in a finer style than those that had been destroyed.

During the rebuilding, in 1848,  Zhenpen Taye constructed the temple and residence for the Śrī Siṃha College (ShrI sing+ha bshad drwa), which he established under the sponsorship of Mingyur Namkha Dorje and the First Dodrubchen.

Mingyur Namkhai Dorje’s fame appears to have earned him the reverence of the Nyarong warlord Nyake Amgon Gonpo Namgyel (nyag sked a mgon mgon po rnam rgyal, d. 1865), who conquered much of Kham during the middle of the nineteenth century. Despite this, according to some histories, during the conflict many high lamas from Dzogchen were tied up in sacks and thrown into the Dzachu (rdza chu) River. It is said that in the midst of the fighting Gonpo Namgyel visited with his commanders to Dzogchen Monastery and asked Mingyur Namkhai Dorje to foretell his next incarnation. Despite warnings from his attendants, Mingyur Namkhai Dorje gave him the bad news – he would be going straight to hell. He added that not only would the warlord never invade Lhasa, as he was said to be contemplating, but that he would never even see Chamdo. Gonpo Namgyel was impressed by the lama’s bravery and truthfulness, and, securing the lama’s promise to save him from hell for at least one subsequent lifetime, he made an offering and departed.

He was also known for opening the sacred place of Rudam Gangkyi Rawa (ru dam gangs kyi ra ba) in his later life.

Mingyur Namkhai Dorje had scores of disciples — one source lists over one hundred and fifty names. Among the more prominent students were Dza Patrul Orgyen Jigme Chokyi Wangpo (rdza dpal sprul o rgyan ‘jigs med chos kyi dbang po, 1808-1887); the Fourth Nyidrak Jigme Choying Dorje (nyi grags 04 ‘jigs med chos dbyings rdo rje, d.u.); Ju Mipam Gyatso (‘ju mi pham rgya mtsho, 1846-1912); Adzom Drukpa Drodul Pawo Dorje (a ‘dzom ‘brug pa ‘gro ‘dul dpa’ bo rdo rje, 1842-1924); Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (‘jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i dbang po, 1820-1892), Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (mdo mkhyen brtse ye shes rdo rje, 1800-1866), Jamgon Kongtrul (‘jam mgon kong sprul, 1811-1899) and Chokgyur Lingpa(mchog gyur gling pa, 1829-1870), to name only a few of the masters he taught.

Mingyur Namkha Dorje passed away in 1870, on the eighteenth day of the tenth month of the iron-horse year of the fifteenth sexagenary cycle, at the age of seventy-eight. He was succeeded in the abbacy of Dzogchen by Zhenpen Taye.Tubten Chokyi Dorje (thub bstan chos kyi rdo rje), born in the Riwoche region of Kham in 1872 was identified as his reincarnation.
Source: The Treasury of lives

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