The Second Gangteng Tulku: H.E. Tenzin Legpai Dondrup

The second throne holder, Tendzin Legpai Döndrup was born to father Bönbi Chöje Thinley Wangchen and mother Wachen Zhelngo Buthri Lhamo, who had all the signs of a dakini and was a descendent of the Drukpa Kagyu master Phajo Drugom Zhigpo. It was on the auspicious 8th day of the 11th month of the Wood Bird Year, in 1645, that the Tulku was born coinciding with the emerging rays of the dawning sun and other auspicious signs.

As soon as the Tulku was able to speak, he could relate stories and identify the personal horse and details about Gangteng Gönpa. Since the Tulku could mention all his past disciples and attendants by name, he became the centre of veneration and deep devotion developed in their hearts.

Knowing that he was the unmistaken reincarnation of Gyalse Pema Thinley, Je Lama Kunkhyen Tshultrim Dorji enthroned the young Tulku as the second Gangteng Tulku at the Gangteng Gönpa.

In the course of time, the Tulku received instructions on philosophy, sciences, astrology and other subjects from renowned and learned teachers and gained mastery over these fields of study. Moreover, from the 4 th Thuksé Tendzin Gyurmed Dorji, he received the complete instructions, explanations and empowerments on the earlier and later Terma teachings, like a vase being filled.

Not before long, the Tulku realized that the enlightened beings in the past too had first listened to the vast philosophical teachings and then later for the sake of the beings, worked and practiced with discipline and austerity. As is popularly said:

Even if complete knowledge is accumulated,
If not complemented with the practice of meditation,
From the jewel of our mind,
The seed of Bodhicitta will not grow.

Therefore, the Tulku decided first to listen as much as possible and then to undergo deep undistracted meditation practice. He undertook outer, inner and secret practice of Lama Norbu Jamtsho, Vajrapani, Vajra Kilaya Lama Drakpo, Jangter Karma Guru and numerous other tutelary deities. Having meditated and practiced on Dzogchen Kunzang Gongdue Thruelkhor Lungbumchen with great determination and diligence, he achieved the signs of realization of the teachings. He could see visions of tutelary deities and spontaneously uttered numerous prophetic words, thus showing signs of his deep realization. Although, he wished to continue with a long and strict retreat, due to the invading Tibetan forces, the government requested the Tulku to perform antidote rituals in Punakha and Wangdi to obviate the invading forces.

While performing one such wrathful ritual at the Punakha Dzong, everyone saw a blazing fire emit from the ritual cakes and fly towards the direction of the enemies. Not long thereafter, the news reached that the enemy forces have retreated, at which the Deb Raja too rejoiced and offered the Lekhabi field as well as the horse-driven and water-driven mills as a gift and offering.

Then when the Tulku was around 37 years of age, Gyalse Tendzin Rabgye, realizing that the Tulku and his followers didn’t have a winter residence, asked the Tulku to choose any area from Sha (Wangdi) region. When the Tulku requested for Chitokha Gönpa (formerly offered by Chazam Chöje to Zhabdrung Pema Thinley) as the winter residence with Lekhabi as the landed property, it was promptly approved and granted with numerous other precious gifts.

At around 38 years of age, the Tulku started building the Chitokha Phuntshog Rabtenling Lhakhang and within a span of 3 years, the Lhakhang was completed in all respects both inside and outside. At that time, he also left his foot print on a corner stone and to this day it remains as an object of faith and devotion.

The inner main treasures include the eight manifestation of Guru Rinpoche, the Sixteen Arhats, Eight Wisdom-holders of India and other wall paintings including the eleven-faced Avalokiteśvara and numerous other treasures. Later there was a major earth quake in the Wood Horse Year and the Lhakhang had to be repaired when the Tulku was 82 years of age.

Then, when the Tulku was on pilgrimage to Paro Taktsang, he conducted a feast offering ceremony, at which time, he saw a vision of Guru Rinpoche, which was larger than average human size, fully adorned with a blue dress with large sleeves, holding a drum (Damaru) in the right hand and radiating a brilliant aura, while being surrounded by a large retinue of dakinis and making gesture of feast offerings. He dreamt that he was offered half a portion of a head of a corpse. When he ate it he could get the hundred different tastes and felt immense bliss. After uttering numerous words of prophecy, the image of Guru Rinpoche said that he is being invited by many in the east and hence he must leave. Saying thus, he disappeared into the sky.

The Tulku also saw many more visions of Lama, Yidam (deity) and dakinis and received numerous predictions, which due to lack of space is difficult to present in this volume.

Once while in Bae Langdrak, the various sounds of religious instruments could be heard and sacred water emerged from the sacred cliffs and in the clear winter sky there were rainbows and auspicious rain of flowers and within the rainbow circles, the image of Amitayus could be seen. The Tulku commented that this is a good sign of removal of obstacles from his life.

Once in Thimphu, the Tulku consecrated a statue of Guru Rinpoche sculpted by a Nepali sculptor. Later when the Tashi Ch ö Dzong was ravaged by fire, almost everything was burnt down except for this statue. It is said even the gold paint on the face of the statue was not affected. Thereafter, this statue of Guru Rinpoche came to be known as the “fire resistant Ugyen”, and it is still there in the Dzong for all to worship and make offerings.

Then, when Tulku Rinpoche was about 59 years of age, foreseeing that there would be numerous followers and disciples of the Pema Lingpa teachings, he initiated the task of expanding the existing Lhakhang with aesthetic designs. With Lam Shacha as the Task Master, Gelong Jamtsho as the Craft Master and other monks and lay devotees, the Lhakhang was completed in every respect including the inner treasures. It is said that the protecting deities offered the construction materials for the Lhakhang. The stones were offered by the local deity Drak Seng. In short, the Lhakhang was constructed both by humans and non-humans like the famous Samye Monastery in Tibet, which was inaugurated by Guru Rinpoche, Abbot Shantarakshita and Maha Pandita Vimalamitra. Similarly, Tulku Rinpoche performed the elaborate consecration ceremony for the Lhakhang.

Then, while Tulku Rinpoche was in Mebar Tsho ( Burning Lake) in Bumthang, all witnessed the sweet smell of incense and the sound of religious instruments pervading the entire valley. Sacred water emerged from the rock cliffs and he saw the image of Terdag (treasure care taker) in the lake, while receiving numerous prophecies.

Once while the Tulku was in Athang Rukha for the Drupchen, during one of the night halts, he dreamt that the demon king invited him and requesting for his blessings offered the vow to not take any life, thereafter.

Gyalse Tendzin Rabgye and Penlop Jingyel and his brothers received transmissions and empowerments on Lama Drakpo Marchen and Tsethri Dorji Threngwa from Tulku Rinpoche. The followers of the Tulku also include Khenchen Pekar Lhundrup, Koma Thrang Chöje Yeshey Ngedrup, Nayphu Tulku Sangngak Gyaltsen and numerous other followers of all levels from Bhutan.

Once in the presence of the chant master and the chamberlain, Rinpoche said that since it’s uncertain how long he would live, and also that since there is no difference between the Peling father and sons and Gyalse Tendzin Rabgye’s incarnate Tulku Jetsun Mipham Wangpo, an invitation should be extended to Jetsun Mipham Wangpo. Having welcomed him in a grand ceremony, the Tulku installed Jetsun Mipham Wangpo as his replacement on the lion’s throne. The Gangteng Tulku gave all the sacred and profound teachings of the Peling tradition to Jetsun Mipham Wangpo and also handed over the entire charge of the monastery to him.

Then, in the year 1727 AD, at 82 years of age, coinciding with the 15th day of the auspicious month of Lord Buddha’s Descent from Tushita Heaven, Tulku Rinpoche demonstrated the act of passing into nirvana. Following the instructions of Thuksé Rinpoche, the body was preserved for some years. Eventually, the 5th Thuksé Rinpoche presided over the last cremation rites. Later the relics were used as the inner sacred content for the construction of the one-storey stupa in the middle of the ground, which can still be seen today.

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