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SAKYA DHARMA FAMILY
His Holiness Sakya Gongma Trichen
His Holiness the Sakya Gongma Trichen Rinpoche, the 41st supreme head of the Sakya School, belongs to the ancient and distinguished Khön family, whose history extends back to the early days of Tibet, before the arrival of Buddhism. His Khön ancestors descended from the ‘Heavenly Realm of Clear Light’. That is why the family is spoken of as a ‘Lha-Rig’, which means ‘the race of heavenly beings.’ After their triumph over the Rakshas, the family got its second supreme name – ‘Khön Gyi Dung’, which means the ‘Clan of the Victorious Ones’. In late eleventh century, they founded the glorious Sakya order and received their third supreme name – the ‘Sakyapa’.
The Sakya tradition has produced many great and distinguished Masters. The lineage continues to be unbroken to this day; among these Masters are also the Five Patriarchs of the Sakya Tradition.
Vajradhara Ngawang Kunga Rinchen, the Patriarch of the Sakya Drolma Phodrang, and Sonam Drolkar, the sister of a renowned minister of the Tibetan government, had four children.
Their first child was Jetsun Chime Thrinley (who now resides and teaches in Canada). Then she gave birth to a son and a daughter, both of whom died when they were still children. Their youngest son, the 41st Sakya Trizin, was born at the Sakya Tsedon palace during the XVI Rabjong (the 60 year cycle) on 7 September 1945, the first day of the eighth lunar month of the year of the Wood Bird.
Immediately after his birth, in accordance with age old traditions to increase his wisdom, the syllable DHIH was traced on his tongue and profound rituals were performed. Many signs traditionally associated with auspiciousness were observed on this day: a rainbow-like canopy appeared above the Palace, the milk collected from a 100 different dris (female yaks), and a statue of the Guru Padmasambhava were miraculously offered to the Palace. Initially given the Sanskrit name Ayu Vajra, His Holiness was only later given his actual name – Ngawang Kunga Thegchen Palbar Trinley Samphel Wangyi Gyalpo, when his father Vajradhara Ngawang Kunga Rinchen gave him his first major initiation, that of the Nine Deities of Amitayus. A year later, upon the family’s return to the main Sakya Monastery, great feast was organised to celebrate His Holiness’s birthday. His father conferred upon Him the Vajrakilaya and many other profound teachings.
His Holiness lost both his mother and father when he was very young. His maternal aunt, Thinley Paljor Sangmo, then dedicated herself to raising His Holiness. She appointed Jamphel Ponlop Kunga Gyaltsen as his first tutor with whom His Holiness learned to read, write, memorize, and recite basic prayers. He also learned chanting, music, ritual dancing, mudras, and so forth from his junior tutor Kunga Tsewang. At the conclusion of these studies, a great celebration was held, in which His Holiness officially entered the Mahayana and Vajrayana Monasteries to perform the traditional Sakya ceremonies. He continued his studies at the Ngor Ewam Monastery. There, His root Guru, the great Ngor abbot Vajradhara Ngawang Lödro Shenphen Nyingpo bestowed upon him the common and uncommon Lamdre, and other profound teachings.
In 1951, at the age of six, His Holiness made a pilgrimage to Lhasa, where he was designated the Throne Holder of the Sakya Order by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Accordingly, the following year, a preliminary enthronement ceremony was held in which he accepted the official Sakya seals. The following year, His Holiness received the initiation and reading transmission of the ‘Collection of Sadhanas’ from Ngawang Tenzin Nyingpo, the regent of Vajradhara Ngawang Lodro Shenphen Nyingpo. He also received the initiation and profound oral instructions of the Three Red Deities, three Vajarayoginis and the two main Protectors of the Sakya Order from Lama Ngawang Lodro Rinpoche. At the age of eleven, His Holiness made another pilgrimage to Lhasa, where he received religious instructions at the Potala from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Before a large audience, His Holiness the Sakya Trizin gave an extensive explanation of the Mandala Offering, which caused his wisdom to be proclaimed throughout Tibet. On a pilgrimage to India he received many initiations and teachings of the Sakya Tradition, as well as the Great Perfection and Dzogchen Teachings form Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. In 1957, His Holiness received the Lamdre Teachings again, this time from the great abbot Vajradhara Khenchen Jampal Sangpo according to the Khön lineage transmission.
In 1959, at the age of 14, after a seven-day Mahakala ritual, His Holiness was formally enthroned as the Throne Holder of Sakya in an elaborate three day ceremony with the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in attendance. Due to political situation in Tibet, His Holiness was forced to flee the homeland and escape to India.
A year later, he established the Sakya Ghoom monastery in Darjeeling and Sa-Ngor Chotsog in Gangtok, beginning in this way to reassemble the Sakya community.
In Tibet and in India, he received numerous philosophical teachings on the topic of Logic, Abhidharma, Prajnaparamita, and the Clarification of the Three Vows from great scholars such as Khenpo Dosep Thubten, Khenpo Serjong Appey, and Khenpo Rinchen. From Khenpo Serjong Appey, he received a thorough and detailed explanation of the Hevajra Root Tantra, and many other related teachings.
From H.E. Phende Khen Rinpoche, who was also one of His Holiness’s root Gurus, he received the initiation and explanation of Yamantaka in the Ra Lotsawa’s tradition, as well as the collected writings of Ngorchen Konchok Lhundub.
In 1964, he set about to re-establish the main seat of the Sakya Order in nearby Rajpur, Utarpadesh. In 1968, he established the Sakya settlement in Puruwala, Himachal Pradesh, for the lay members of the Sakya community.
During 1971 and 1972 Chogye Trichen Rinpoche Ngawang Khyenrab Leghsey Gyatso conferred upon him the ‘Collection of all Tantras’, the ‘Collection of Texts by Ngorchen Kunga Sangpo’, ‘Uncommon Lamdre according to the Tsarpa tradition’ and ‘One Hundred Teachings of the Jonang Traditon’.
In order to maintain the tradition of the Khön family lineage, His Holiness married Dagmo Kusho Tashi Lhakee, daughter of a minister of the king of Dege, in 1974. Within the year they celebrated the auspicious birth of their elder son Ratna Vajra. He received the transmission of the ‘Collection of all Works of the Five Jetsuns’, such as the tantric scriptures of the omniscient Master Gorampa. In 1979, his younger son Gyana Vajra was born. A year later, His Holiness inaugurated the Sakya Thubten Namgyal Ling monastery in Puruwala, Himachal Pradesh.
In order to promote higher education and extensive philosophical training, as well as to maintain the living transmission of the Sakya teachings, His Holiness requested his tutor, the great Khenpo Abbey Rinpoche to establish the Sakya College. Thanks to Rinpoche’s hard work and profound wisdom the Sakya College opened its doors in 1972.
Over the years, the Sakya College has produced many great scholars who arrived from different monasteries. Their studies comprise the profound teachings of Sutras, Tantras, and other common topics. Many of the Sakya College graduates return to their root monasteries, where they continue to work and transmit their knowledge according to the instructions and under the guidance of His Holiness. These graduates have been playing an important role in spreading the Sakya tradition. In this way, His Holiness revitalised the traditions of Sutra and Tantra, transmitting these traditions of learning to the next generations, thus training the Sakya teachers of the future.
His Holiness has performed numerous major and minor retreats on the twenty deities of the Sakya lineage. When still a child, he undertook many retreats and conferred various initiations, including the ‘Superior and Inferior Initiations of Vajrakilaya’. Since his escape from Tibet, he has been tirelessly bestowing the common and uncommon Lamdre and the Collection of Sadhanas in Asia and in the West, conferring numerous initiations from the Collection of Tantras.
For the benefit of those who wish to study the Buddha’s doctrine, His Holiness has been turning the wheel of Dharma all over the world. So far he has given teachings in America, Australia, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, England, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Thailand.
The works he has edited reveal the vastness of compassion and wisdom with which he guides disciples along the path. He has written two major works up to date. One is the list of all teachings received from different Masters. The other one is an account of all works ever written by the great Sakya Masters. He has also edited two volumes of an autobiography, as well as a shorter version of it. He has written a profound treatise on the Guru Yoga of Lama Virupa, as well as numerous other ritual texts, dedicational prayers and short poems. With the wish to preserve the uninterrupted transmission of the Khön lineage, he has overseen the education of his two sons, who have received an extensive and complete education in the field of Buddha-Dharma. Both of them have already been conferring initiations and teaching in Asia and in the West for several years.
Upon the request of the nuns who arrived from Tibet some years ago, His Holiness established a nunnery. Today, the nunnery is home to over 200 nuns who have dedicated their lives to the study and practice of Dharma. Furthermore, His Holiness has just recently inaugurated the Sakya Nuns’ College, which offers courses on advanced philosophical topics.
In this way, His Holiness has guaranteed the continuity of Buddhist doctrines in their integrity and their dissemination. He is an inexhaustible source of wisdom and compassion for all Dharma scholars and practitioners.
Among other important and numerous activities supported by His Holiness is also the Sakya Hospital located near the Sakya Centre in Rajpur, which offers medical care for poor Tibetans and Indians alike.
When he is not travelling and teaching around the globe, he resides at the Drolma Phodrang in Rajpur, Dehra Dun, sharing his limitless compassion and blessings with the countless persons who come to pay him a visit day after day.
His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trizin, saw with his vast vision that in the current time it would be beneficial to change the throne holder succession system. Even though this diverges from the established Sakya tradition, it should give an increased stability in the continuation of the teachings and administration of the Sakya. On 8th May 2014, the new throne holder succession system with a three-year rotation of the Sakya Trizin title was unanimously agreed by the Dolma Phodrang and the Phuntsok Phodrang.
On 9 March 2017 H. H. 41st Sakya Trizin passed the leadership of the Sakya school to his eldest son, H. E. Ratna Vajra Rinpoche, who thus became the 42nd Sakya Trizin.