Here follows a brief account of former lives of Gyalse Pema Thinley, who is considered to be the activity emanation of Tertön Pema Lingpa. The refuge for the sentient beings of this degenerate times, the body emanation of Terton Pema Lingpa, Gyalse Pema Thinley’s incarnations can be considered at three levels; the outer, the inner and the secret levels.
Firstly, regarding the outer level manifestation, he was born as the venerable Chunda and was predicted by Lord Buddha just before he passed into nirvana that Chunda would become the Buddha Kuntu Nangwa or All Illuminating Buddha in the future. Then he was born as Namdrol Yeshey or Denma Tshemang in the land of snows, during which time, he received all the excellent empowerments and blessings directly from Guru Rinpoche as one of the twenty- five disciples (Gyal Bang Nyer Nga). Then during the crucial time in Tibet, he was born as the Lha Lama Yeshey Yoed, who was responsible for inviting Lord Atisha into Tibet, which he did even at the cost of his own life.
Then he was born as the famous Kunga Drakpa, the vastly learned and the great seat holder. Then, he was born as Drupthop Tendzin Yonten, the lineage-son of the mighty Nyangral Nyima Yoedzer.
Also, being born as Yeshey Dorji (Jnana Vajra), Dharma Dhaza, and Jnana Dewa, benefited numerous sentient beings on the path to liberation. Then he took birth as the Gyalse Legpa alias Wangchuk Pelbar, who was a great disciple of Tertön Laydrel Tsel, through whom he received secret dakini teachings of the Nyingthik lineage and helped in ripening and liberating the beings through this teaching.
Then he was born as the famous Khyapdel Lhundrup. Then he took birth into the royal lineage in Lhodrak and received complete teachings of the Kadampa tradition. Moreover, from Kunkhyen Longchenpa, he received complete Nyingthik teachings. In addition to subduing the spirits, he also showed signs of realization by walking about one foot above the ground and ultimately lived up to the ripe age of one hundred and eight years. Next, he was born as the Tertön Drimed Lingpa and discovered the profound mind treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche, and through practice mastered the method of consciousness transference (Phowa). It was during such time that while he was building a Lhakhang on the fringes of Kurje in Bumthang, the model of which was based on the tradition of Sangye Lingpa, he had some doubts over the scale and dimensions of the Lhakhang. He used his Phowa practice to transfer his consciousness to Zangdog Pelri and stayed there for fifteen days. In the meantime, his close attendants could not maintain the secret and later he was declared as dead and they cremated the body. On his return, he couldn’t find a body to transfer his consciousness. Finally, he had to transfer his consciousness into the dead body of a 15 year old girl in the Dangchu region. Thus according to the heart advice received from Ugyen Guru Rinpoche and the correct dimensions, the construction of the Lhakhang was completed with an elaborate consecration ceremony. Soon thereafter, realising that his time had come to an end, he manifested the act of passing into parinirvana.
Then, he was born as the famous Khenchen Chöki Gyalpo Tshultrim Peljor, which according to prophesy given in the Clear Mirror of Prophesies (Lungten Kunsel Melong) foretold:
The present Khenchen,
After seventeen lifetimes would take birth,
As the glorious title-holder from the copper coloured realm,
Who is predestined to disseminate the Dzogchen teachings.
Thus, accordingly, he was born as one amongst the seven mandala holders of Rigdzin Pema Lingpa. Having received complete teachings from Pema Lingpa himself and fulfilled all the auspicious conditions, Pema Lingpa said:
Equivalent to me is Tshultrim Peljor,
Who even flying is the king among flyers.
Also, as Guru Rinpoche predicted:
In earlier times, Lord Shakyamuni predicted,
The divine Lama called Yeshey Yoed,
Presently in the barbaric and dark country,
Would plant the banner of the Buddha Dharma,
As the noble son Pema Thinley.
Such were the words of praise conferred by Pema Lingpa, and ultimately he went on to become an authority on both Sarma and Nyingma teachings. Moreover, he used to recite the 8000 verses of the Prajnaparamita (Gyad Tongpa) scripture regularly and it is said that due to perfection of his discipline, the hopes and aspirations of numerous beings were fulfilled.
On the inner level, he is the combination of body and activity emanation of Tertön Pema Lingpa. Pema Lingpa himself remarked that the heart son Pema Thinley is not only his body emanation, but also his lineage holder.
Once while Pema Lingpa was looking upwards from the Phobjikha valley, he remarked saying that in the future, on the hilltop of the valley, his secret teachings will flourish, to which the chant master Drukpa Kuendhud asked if it would be during this lifetime or during future incarnations. To this, the great Tertön replied that the time is not appropriate for this lifetime, but it would materialize in the future when Pema Lingpa himself would reincarnate.
Even Lord Thuksé Dawa has said that the activity lineage holder of father Pema Lingpa is none other than Gyalse Pema Thinley.
Then, on the secret level, Guru Rinpoche has said:
The dharma name holder, Young Tshultrim,
Is my emanation
To whom must be given the secret sacred teachings in all its entirety.
Gyalse Tendzin Rabgye also, auspiciously, said that Tulku Pema Thinley was like Guru Rinpoche in person.
The 5 th Thuksé said about Tendzin Legd ön:
The boundless Great Master of Oddiyana,
While incarnating as the Dharma holder,
Manifests as an excellent teacher of the fortunate Kalpa,
Having fulfilled all wishes, may he live for countless eons.
The 10 th Je Khenpo, Penchen Tendzin Chogyel also said that Tulku Tendzin Legd ön was none other than Guru Rinpoche in person, and offered the following words of praise:
In the centre of the world,
In the pure land of Gangteng,
Guru Rinpoche in true form,
Tendzin Legpai D öndrup, to you I supplicate.
In short, Tulkus like Pema Thinley and Tendzin Legdön are the heart emanations of Guru Rinpoche himself.