The Play of Illusion
The Play of Illusion: An Autobiography
by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Incomparable gurus, protectors of beings,
most gracious ones, I bow down at your lotus feet,
as devotion fills my body, speech and mind.
Now I shall relate the false tale of my life.
The land where I, the wicked one, was born
is the area known as the four land knots.
There, in a region called Rekhé,
on the banks of a golden river,
is the place called Ajam.
My father was compassionate,
unparalleled in kindness, a vidyādhara
known as Gyurme Tsewang Gyatso.
His ancestors included Gyalse Pema Namgyal,
a descendent in the family line of Düdul.
Blessed by his secret body, speech and mind
was the great treasure-revealing vidyādhara,
Nüden Namkhai Naljor,
whose son became my father.
My mother, called Tsultrim Tso,
was born into the family of a siddha
known as the renunciant of Amdo’s Ser Valley,
in the lineage of Achak Dru.
I was born as their son in the female Water Snake year—
during the autumn months, I heard it said.
My parents had little concern for such things,
so they left no written record
of the planets and stars, or dreams and signs.
I was raised and trained in a gradual manner.
When I reached my sixth year or thereabouts,
my maternal uncle, Lama Gelek,
began teaching me to read.
I thus learnt the thirty basic consonants and affixed signs,
as well as the maṇḍala and seven branches from Embodiment of Realization.
On one occasion, I received
a longevity empowerment from Drakmar Yizhin Wangyal,
and thereby forged a dharmic connection.
In my seventh year, the great Situ Paṇḍita
sent a welcoming party
to invite me to Katok Monastery.
We arrived at Katok, the glorious and unsurpassable,
on a winter’s day just as snow was falling—
a positive sign of auspicious connection.
I stayed there in the residence of Longsal,
Dzong-ngo Tashi Khangsar.
On an auspicious day, the lord of refuge
performed the hair-cutting ceremony
before the statue of Buddha known as Lhachen Palbar—‘The Great Deity Blazing with Splendour’,
and gave me the name Jamyang Lodrö Gyatso.
Not longer afterwards, I began to study
with my gracious tutor Tupten Rigdzin Gyatso
at Bartrö Chöling.
As they remembered their guru,
the royal couple wept in devotion.
Ever since we have been connected
as benefactor and beneficiary,
with pure, unsullied samaya and great faith and affection.
Around this time my gracious tutor taught me to write
and instructed me in the preliminary practices (ngöndro).
He explained The Lamp of Speech, Thirty Verses and Application of Gender twice,
as well as the Introduction to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life and Treasury of Precious Qualities,
the Sārasvatavyākaraṇa commentary on Sanskrit grammar and instructions on the generation phase (bskyed rim).
He taught them all in a simple way that was easy to comprehend.
He also encouraged me to explain The Lamp of Speech to others,
bestowed the reading transmission for Getse Paṇchen’s writings,
and taught me various aspects of ritual in precise detail.
When I think back now on how he guided me in everything,
beginning with how to eat and dress
And all the various points of conduct—what to do and what not to do—
I'm moved to the point of tears.
Care for me with compassion until I attain awakening!
Whatever qualities I now possess
are due solely to this great being’s compassionate care.
At this time, I also received from the omniscient lord of refuge,
extensive empowerments and transmissions
for the Eight Deities (Kagyé), Gathering of Intentions Sūtra, Nyingma Kama,
Four-Part Heart-Essence, Peaceful and Wrathful Ones and more,
but since I was unable to keep a record,
the details are not entirely clear.
Together with Situ Paṇchen,
I received from Sherab, the previous Khyentse’s ritual master,
transmissions for the collected works of the Sakya patriarchs,
as well as the writings of Tsele, and more besides.
The all-seeing one acted as preceptor,
and together with the master of ceremony (karmācārya) Rigdzin Gyatso,
before a gathering of the saṅgha,
he graciously bestowed on me the novice vows
and the name Tsuklak Lungrik Nyima Mawé Sengé.
Ever since, I have avoided the four root downfalls and other transgressions,
and I will continue to avoid them until this physical support eventually transforms.
I received all the empowerments for the revelations of Longsal Nyingpo and Düdul Dorje
directly from the master,
while Zhingkyong Jewön gave the corresponding reading transmissions.
At around the same time, I also received from this same master [i.e., Zhingkyong Jewön],
the transmission for the two volumes of Khyentse’s miscellaneous writings,
a text authorization for the protector Gaṇapati,
the transmission of The Ocean of Dharma that Combines all Teachings and Maṇi Kabum,
and the empowerment of Cultivating the Pure Realm of Manifest Joy.
Through these and other transmissions, we made multiple dharmic connections.
This was a master who paid special attention to those of lower status
and cared for everyone with a parental kindness.
I participated in several major offering rituals
at Katok during this period, both in summer and winter.
In my tenth year, I participated in the rainy season retreat
and was examined before the assembly
on various aspects of what had been taught.
In my eleventh year, I studied drawing
and the Sārasvatavyākaraṇa commentary with my tutor.
Around this time, I went collecting grains in the area around the Nyakchu river,
and in early summer I went to Tromkhok and elsewhere to collect dairy products.
Then, in my twelfth year, for three months,
I studied the five collections of astronomical calculations traced in sand.
I repeated what the teacher said and learned to calculate using my fingers,
but didn’t understand [the underlying principles] in the slightest.
In the assembly hall at Katok I attended the Pure Land practice
and, to everyone’s apparent astonishment,
explained the Sukhāvatī aspiration.
When travelling to Tromkhok, at the Druk encampment,
I beheld the golden countenance of Natsok Rangdrol,
the great vidyādhara master of incomparable kindness.
He expressed praise based on his pure vision,
bestowed a longevity empowerment and gave me a generous offering.
I met him many times during this period
and received ripening empowerments and liberating instructions for Gongpa Zangtal and Longchen Nyingtik,
as well as the Lama Yangtik and the master’s own revelations.
He also gave me Dzogchen instructions related to Trekchö and Tögal,
pointing out instructions and brought about enhancement.
He was immensely kind in both dharmic and worldly terms.
In my thirteenth year, my gracious tutor passed to a pure realm,
and left me stranded like a child alone in the desert
or a blind person lost and without a guide.
For three years my noble tutor suffered continuously with phlegmatic sickness.
Throughout this time, I put aside my own concerns and served as his attendant.
tirelessly, I made tea, fetched water, nursed him and so on.
All of which, I believe, helped to purify some of my obscurations.
After the forty-nine days, when the Vajradhara went to Dralak Monastery
he brought me with him as his attendant.
In the breaks I memorized the Guhyagarbha,
and went around nomadic areas to collect supplies.
Having returned, I memorized the root text of the Ornament of Clear Realization (Abhisamayālaṃkāra).
That winter I acted as regent during the Gathered Great Assembly (tshogs chen ’dus pa),
and, entering the tantric college,
I received a vast number of teachings, including
the Ganggi Lodröma praise of Mañjuśrī, Praise of the Buddha’s Superiority, More Exalted than the Gods, Analysis of the Five Aggregates, Introduction to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life,
the Three Sets of Vows, Treasury of Precious Qualities, Wish-Fulfilling Treasury,
Introduction to Scholarship, Ornament of Clear Realization, the two Distinguishings, the Sublime Continuum, Ornament of Mahāyāna Sūtras (Sūtrālaṃkāra), Ornament of the Middle Way (Madhyamakālaṃkāra) and more,
from Situ Paṇchen, Khenpo Kunpal,
Tenzang, Aka and others.
The great khenpo Lama Kunzang Palden Chödrak was especially kind and caring
at this time, in explaining the difficult points of texts,
through which I developed a basic understanding of our inherited tradition.
Also in my fourteenth year I studied the textual tradition,
and on occasion joined the assembly to receive empowerments and transmissions,
observe the rainy season retreat, and so on.
During my fifteenth year, the incarnation from Dzongsar
departed for another realm,
and, according to the final testament of our predecessor’s ailing nephew,
as transmitted to Lord Situ,
I, a sack of squandered offerings, had to move to the main seat.
Everyone left me and, all alone,
I had to take charge independently.
As a result of past negative karma,
some were unfriendly and hostile toward me.
But through the discipline of avoiding arrogance,
I ensured that the seat was not lost.
By adopting an attitude of great loving kindness,
I pacified hostility and won people’s hearts.
In accordance with the Lord of Refuge’s instructions,
I exerted myself in studies with Khenpo Kalzang Wangchuk
on those texts of Maitreya that I had not yet received,
as well as Treasury of Abhidharma, Root Verses of the Middle Way, Introduction to the Middle Way,
and Verse Summary of the Perfection of Wisdom.
At this time, I taught around twenty monks of Dzongsar Monastery
Introduction to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, the three sets of vows, Verse Summary of the Perfection of Wisdom,
Sublime Continuum and The Prayer of Good Actions.
In the Earth Bird year, I went to visit Loter Wangpo,
the Vajradhara lord merely to think of whom dispels the heart’s anguish.
Delightedly, he invited me to sit upon a throne
bedecked with cushions of the finest brocade.
Through the force of past karmic connection,
I felt tremendous respect and ardent devotion toward him.
Before long, from both the Varjadhara himself
and Tashi of Drakra I began to receive
the major empowerments of the Compendium of Tantras.
The great lord of buddha families also bestowed a great many instructions
on Parting from the Four Attachments and The Seven Points [of Mind Training].
He began with the generation of bodhicitta according to the Middle Way tradition
and the general maṇḍala of the three families,
and, in all, I received many major empowerments.
I received the complete instruction of the Path with Its Fruit for Disciples
and an elaboration explanation of the Hevajra Tantra.
When explaining the view of the indivisibility of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa
according to the causal continuum of the universal ground, during the teachings for disciples
he spent seven days on the pointing out instructions based on searching for the mind.
I thus gained a partial understanding of the essence of mind.
The great Vajradhara also held the profound ultimate lineage
of experiential guidance, the heart instructions of Nyoshul Lungtok Tenpé Nyima.
I was asked to explain the Seven Points [of Mind Training] to a group of aspiring practitioners
when Khenchen Shenpen Rinpoche was doing a major recap of the tantra teachings.
I also took responsibility for going over the first half of The Tree of General Tantra Classifications.
That master scholar also explained the Fundamental Vinaya Summary.
Tartse Khenchen could not come,
so, once the yoga tantra section was complete,
I received the Hundred Transmissions of Mitra (Mitra Gyatsa) and Seven Ngor Maṇḍalas,
the major Bhairava empowerments of the Ra and Tsarpa traditions,
as well as a triple instruction based on Ngawang Chödrak’s guide to Path with Its Fruit from Tashi Gyatso.
The transmission of the Collection of Tantras was delayed and, all in all, lasted about seven months.
Although my noble father, the great vidyādhara,
had arrived to transmit the Treasury of Revelations,
I had been deliberating which was the more important.
Eventually, I excused myself with great concern that he had stayed at Dzongsar for so long,
and, missing the deities and guru, I returned to my place at Tashi Lhatse.
Beginning on an astrologically auspicious day
in the month of miracles in the Iron Dog year,
my father conferred the series of major empowerments,
including the Great Assembly, Emptying the Depths of Hell, and the whole of the New Treasures of Chokling.
For eight months in total, he bestowed empowerments and transmissions.
Noble guru whose kindness is beyond measure,
from now until I reach the essence of awakening,
O guru whose kindness is immeasurable,
to you I shall continually make offerings.
In the Iron Pig, I received all the ripening empowerments and liberating instructions
for the Compendium of Sādhanas from the king of Vajradharas,
Khenchen Samten Lodrö, as well as the reading transmission for Khecarī, and more.
That same year my noble father, the vidyādhara,
passed beyond and went to the realm of Lotus Light.
I made abundant cloud-like offerings to fulfil his intentions.
For more than four months in the Water Mouse year,
I received a great many empowerments from the Compendium of Tantras,
from the Highest Yoga section onwards,
from Tartse Zhabdrung Rinpoche Jampa Kunzang Tenpai Nyima of Wara Monastery.
This master was unrivalled in his qualities of learning, discipline and benevolence,
and the fact that he was unable to live long was deeply regrettable and a source of much distress.
From Kunzang Palden Chödrak, I received explanatory guidance on the Pramāṇavārttika,
a commentary on the Kālacakra Tantra and more.
The lord of scholars Tashi Chöpel demonstrated his incredible kindness many times,
by granting me the Golden Dharmas of the Shangpa, Kālacakra and so on.
When I reached my twenty-fifth year, I went to tame the valley of Gonjo.
As this demonstrates, although I had returned to my seat,
I still took many trips in summer and winter to collect income.
Not allowing the gifts of the faithful to go to waste,
I established centres of study and practice,
and arranged for the writings of my predecessor
to be published in more than thirteen volumes.
Together with the three volumes of the Khecarī collection,
the commentary on the Gathering of Intentions Sūtra and ṭikka for the Guhyagarbha,
more than two volumes of Mipham’s writing,
and other major texts and commentaries from sūtra and mantra,
I have sponsored the printing of many volumes over the years.
In the Earth Horse, when I was twenty-five,
I established the great dharma teaching centre
of Shedrup Dargye Ling,
and through the magnanimous aspirations of Khenchen Shenpen Jampé Gocha,
it has continued without decline until the present.
In this way, I was of some slight benefit to the teachings.
That same year, while there was a medicine consecration at Pukgön Monastery
I went to Rudam Samten Chöling [i.e., Dzogchen Monastery].
There, from Losal [i.e., Khenpo Jigme Pema Losal], who possesses the most excellent qualities of discipline and learning,
I received full ordination.
However, the auspicious conditions were only moderate.
It was during the Kagye medicine consecration at Pukgön Monastery
that I first beheld the golden visage of the Vajradhara Shechen Gyaltsab,
and received from him the Gathering of the Innermost Essence long-life initiation.
He was extraordinarily kind to me.
After that he came to Dzongsar, where he stayed for a long time
and bestowed many rare empowerments and transmissions
from the ancient terma tradition, including the Northern Treasures.
In the Fire Monkey year, Gyaltsab Rinpoche
gave several empowerments and transmissions from the Mindroling tradition. He fell sick and I offered prayers for his longevity.
I went to the Do encampment in the north,
and met the omniscient Tenpe Nyima.
He kindly bestowed the empowerments of Assembly of Vidyādharas (Rigdzin Düpa) and The Sealed Quintessence Guru Sādhana (Ladrup Tiklé Gyachen),
gave me instructions on Longchen Nyingtik,
and taught the overview of the Guhyagarbha.
He constantly offered guidance and advice.
He gave me permission to transmit his writings
even without having received the oral transmission,
and looked after me with immense kindness.
I met Lerab Lingpa and received ripening empowerments and liberating instructions
from the Vajrakīla cycle and the Essence of Liberation (grol thig).
In the Wood Mouse year, when I was thirty-one,
at Tashi Demchok Ling hermitage
at the great Dharma centre of Shechen,
the lord of the maṇḍala with the name of Padma[i.e., Shechen Gyaltsab.]
remained upon the lion throne
and in this excellent gathering of teacher and assembly
granted instructions for texts,
together with empowerments and supporting instructions,
related to the eight great chariots of the practice lineage
from Treasury of Precious Instructions (Damngak Dzö),
as well as ripening empowerment and liberating instructions
for the teachings with restriction seals from Treasury of Terma Revelations.
This lord of refuge, the wish-fulfilling jewel,
cared for me with great kindness on both a worldly and spiritual level.
He was an incomparable treasury of compassion.
From Pema Drimé Lodrö
I received the transmission for Kunzang Namgyal’s writings
and the two systems of Nyingtik as well as the empowerments for the Great Assembly,
and more besides—a vast number of teachings and empowerments in all.
The retreat centre of Dragang, established by the former Dharma-king of Derge,
had fallen into disrepair.
I provided the retreatants with a stipend
of more than a hundred dri and thirty pieces of silver each,
and rebuilt their retreat cells.
I also established retreat places for the aural lineage
focussing mainly on the practice of the Path with Its Fruit.
Then, in the region of Khyungpo,
I was invited by the government official Wangnor,
and forged a dharmic connection
through the empowerments of the Four-Part Heart-Essence and so on.
In the Wood Ox year I went on pilgrimage to Lhasa,
and prostrated myself and made offerings before the Jowo Śākyamuni.
I made prayers of aspiration to my satisfaction,
and beheld the signs and marks of the Gyalwang Tupten Gyatso.
As a dharmic connection, I received teachings on Lamp for the Path of Awakening,
and offered earnest prayers for his longevity.
In keeping with the biography of my predecessor,
I went to the great dharma centre of Mindrolling,
to take the vows of full ordination again
from Ngawang Tupten Norbu.
One month that year I travelled to Khyungpo.
On the way I met Neten Chokling and Tsikey Tulku Rinpoche,
from whom I received several empowerments and teachings
including the New Treasures of Chokling.
In the year of the Water Ox
I, the unfortunate one,
received the terrible news that the great omniscient Situ,
merely to think of whom dispels the miseries of existence and quiescence,
Had passed away.
I said prayers and made offerings for the fulfilment of his intentions.
for many years thereafter, I encountered him again in dreams.
Although you, my protector, have passed into the absolute sphere,
You continue, I am sure, to care for me with love.
And constantly I feel a sorrow that is tinged with joy.
On the orders of the minister Mentö,
I travelled to Jampa Ling in Chamdo
and there performed a rite for averting Yama,
as well as the practice of the sthaviras, and so on.
I also offered empowerment and ritual ablution to the minister
and an explanatory reading transmission of the Treasury of Dharmadhātu (Chöying Dzö).
Around this time, I received several major empowerments
from the lord of scholars, Geshe Jampal Rolwe Lodrö,
including the great empowerment of Guhyasamāja.
at the very top of the Yamāntaka temple.
He created the auspicious conditions for my long life
through the longevity practice of Cakrasaṃvara.
After returning to my own place,
I sent my regards and a greeting scarf
to Shechen, for Kyabje Gyaltsab Rinpoche.
In his handwritten response, he wrote:
“Now the mahāpaṇḍita Katok Situ has passed away,
and I too am an old man close to death.
The oil in the lamp of the Nyingma teachings is all but spent,
so it is right for you to summon your courage
and prepare yourself to serve the teachings.”
This was to be his final message.
He passed into the absolute sphere shortly afterwards.
I travelled to perform the fulfilment of his intentions,
and one night while staying in Pawok, I met the master in a dream.
Until the end of the third week I made cloud-like offerings
and prayed repeatedly for the fulfilment of his intentions.
I also performed the cremation and so on.
From the great khenpo Kunzang Palden,
I received instruction on generating bodhicitta according to the Introduction to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life.
Then, returning to my own place, I immediately went into retreat.
After the retreat, I went to glorious Katok.
and oversaw elaborate repairs to the study college,
where we added new sacred imagery.
Then, with my own resources and whatever was leftover,
we built a temple to house a great buddha statue,
both the external structure and sacred objects within.
The Fifth Dzogchen Rinpoche had passed away,
and when his tulku appeared, I officiated at the enthronement,
performing the offering of praise and so on,
without any agenda based on self-interest.
At around the time of my fifteenth year,
I went to be of service to the teachings at Katok.
In my free time during that period,
I performed many approach and accomplishment recitations,
including the major approach recitation for Hevajra.
At the feet of Gatön Lekpa,
sovereign of all holders of the aural lineage, Dharma Lord and Vajradhara,
I received an explanation of the profound private instructions
of the Path with Its Fruit according to the oral tradition, complete with the four valid criteria,
as well as Khecarī, Yamāntaka, Mahākāla and so on—
many profound ripening empowerments and liberating instructions from the oral lineage.
He was extremely kind and entrusted me with his wisdom intent.
The precious guru of incomparable kindness
established a new tradition elaborate Kīla practice at Dzongsar,
and erected many supports of enlightened body, speech and mind,
as well as establishing a little retreat centre at Taktsang.
At some point, I performed many great accomplishment (drupchen) practices,
and, in accordance with the vision of the all-seeing Situ,
helped to popularize the great ‘Hundred Million Maṇi Mantra’ practice
throughout the neighbouring regions,
where it became a basis for happiness and wellbeing.
I will now detail some other Dharma connections
I made at various times through the speech of great masters.
I received many empowerments and teachings
from the great khenpo Gyaltsen Özer.
From Tertön Drimé Özer,
I received the great empowerment of The Collected Realization of the Yidam Deities,
as well as the tertön’s own Yamāntaka collection and more.
With these empowerments and by eliminating obstacles,
he enveloped me in tremendous kindness.
From Raktrul Tupten Shedrup
I received all the empowerments and transmissions for the Sky Teachings (Namchö),
as well as Ratna Lingpa’s revelations, and much more.
The great khenpo Ngawang Palzang
granted me the empowerments and transmissions of Longsal Nyingpo and Dudül Dorje’s revelations,
as well as the great empowerment of the Eight Great Deities: The Complete Secret,
and empowerments and transmissions for the Innermost Essence of the Ḍākinī (Khandro Yangtik), and so on.
He thus cared for me with immense kindness.
From the lord of scholars Lekshe Jorden,
I received the transmissions for Jigme Lingpa’s writings and Jatsön Nyingpo’s treasures,
as well as the compiled rituals for the Kama tradition.
From Zurmang Trungpa Rinpoche,
I received instructions and empowerments from the aural lineage of Cakrasaṃvara,
the Vastly Expansive View of Dorje Lingpa,
and instruction on the six yogas and Mahāmudrā.
From the Chokling incarnation at Neten Monastery,
I received the two Heart Practice (Tukdrup) sādhanas from the New Treasures,
as well as the Three Sections of the Great Perfection.
From Kela Tulku Rinpoche
I received the major empowerment of the Heart Practice: Spontaneous Fulfilment of Wishes (Tukdrup Sampa Lhundrup),
the transmission of Life-Force Practice of the Vidyādharas (Rigdzin Sokdrup) and more.
I received several empowerments and transmissions from Dabzang Tulku Rinpoche,
including the empowerment of Vajravārāhī, the nine deities of Jinasāgara,
Khyentse’s Jinasāgara and so on.
From the incarnation of Terchen Rolpé Dorje,
I received all Rolpe Dorje’s treasure teachings.
From Palpung Jamgön Situ
I received the bodhisattva vow according to the lineage of vast conduct,
the major empowerment of Hevajra,
and many other teachings, including White Tārā.
From the reincarnation of Kongtrul at Tsadra,
I received the empowerments for Ratna Lingpa’s Vajrakīla,
the Yangdak terma revelation of Kongtrul the Great, and more.
From Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche,
I received the brief empowerment of Nyang’s Krodhikālī,
and many other empowerments including Yamāntaka: Vanquisher of Haughty Spirits.
From Katok Kunzang Tendzin,
I received an explanatory reading transmission for the General Essentialization of the Guru’s Realization and the Embodiment of the Guru’s Realization,
as well as teachings on the Trilogy of Finding Rest, Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle,
and many other texts.
I also made many dharma connections
with Sangye Nyenpa, Tralek Choktrul,
Tenzang, Khargo Tulku and others.
When I was young, I received
the major empowerment of The Heart Practice for the Spontaneous Fulfilment of Wishes
and a reading transmission for the Pema Kathang from Terse Tsewang Norbu.
From the supreme tulku Tashi Paljor,
I received many transmissions including the empowerment for the Tantra System Kīla (Gyüluk Purba),
and many empowerments and reading transmissions for the master’s own mind terma,
as well as the reading transmission for the Treasury of Kagyü Mantras
and the collected works of Jonangpa Tāranātha.
Drikung Tertön Ösel Dorje dispelled obstacles to my life,
and bestowed a Tārā empowerment from his own terma revelations,
as well as a long-life empowerment.
In such ways, we forged a dharmic connection over time.
Although he was an authentic treasure-revealer,
his beneficial activity was weak on account of his stubborn character.
From the great spiritual friend Jamgyal,
I received the Cause and Path Hevajra and Nairātmyā empowerments,
an explanatory reading transmission for The Path with Its Fruit: Private Explanation for Disciples,
and more besides—a vast array of nectar-like Dharma.
He extended great affection and kindness towards me.
Dezhung Choktrul Rinpoche,
the sole ornament of the Ngor tradition of Sakya teachings,
granted me authorization blessings for The Ocean of Sādhanas,
the body maṇḍala of Drilbupa’s Cakrasaṃvara, Khecarī Vajrayoginī,
and several other crucial ripening empowerments and liberating instructions.
From Zimwog Choktrul, I received the profound Cause and Path Hevajra empowerments,
and all the empowerments and instructions of the Four-Faced Mahākāla.
I did not meet Drubwang Śākya Śrījñāna in person,
but we communicated by letter.
He extended great compassion toward me,
and I felt the blessings of his realization, sparking the power of awareness.
From his heart-son Pakchok Dorje,
I received the empowerment for Guru Cakrasaṃvara and much else.
Although I barely had the fortune to meet the Fifteenth Gyalwang Karmapa,
I did encounter him in dreams.
Still, I beheld the radiant visage of his incarnation, the Sixteenth, Rigpé Dorje.
With great faith and devotion, I witnessed
the great liberation-upon-seeing hat ceremony,
and imbibed the nectar of his enlightened speech.
From the vajra-holder Bodhibhadra,
I received empowerments and instructions
for Akṣobhya, Hevajra and Khecarī Vajrayoginī.
From the hidden yogin Tenpel,
I received empowerments, authorization and profound instructions
for the Aural Lineage of Thangtong Gyalpo and Pañjaranātha,
Khecarī Vajrayoginī, and so on.
Ewam Thartse Khenchen,.
Granted me the Cause and Path empowerments for Hevajra,
and the blessings for the profound path.
Khenchen Dönpal granted me the empowerment for Amitāyus and Hayagrīva combined.
Luding Gyalse Rinpoche
gave me the authorization blessing for the Three White Deities.
and from Dordzin Palden Jamyang
I received the major empowerment of Cakrasaṃvara from the Luipa tradition,
and all the ripening empowerments and liberating instructions for Four-Faced Mahākāla.
From Jamyang Khyenrab Tayé,
I received the great empowerment of Kālacakra,
and reading transmissions for Vajrabhairava and Four-Faced Mahākāla.
From Tharlam Tulku Rinpoche
I received the reading transmission
of the writings of the Sakya Patriarchs, Ngorchen and Zhuchen.
From Tsangsar Tulku I received the major empowerments for the upper and lower rites of Kīla,
and the cycles of Mahākāla, Vaiśravana and so on.
From Namkha Kunzang Tenpe Gyaltsen,
I received empowerments and authorization blessings
for the nine-deity Amitāyus and the Tiger Rider.
From Shar Lama Könchok Tendzin I received
all the authorization blessings and detailed instructions for Pañjaranātha,
and the authorization blessing for White Tārā Radiating Six Rays of Light.
In short, by relying on more than eighty teachers,
I received a vast array of sacred Dharma.
Beginning in my forty-eighth year, I was afflicted
with a severe condition that lasted several years.
Through the compassion of the guru and Three Jewels
I managed to remain alive.
Due to my heavy obscurations from evil karma and misuse of funds,
I have not had any visions of the Three Root deities,
experiences of receiving teachings from them and the like,
so there is nothing whatsoever to write down.
My diligence is weak and my intelligence slight.
I retain only a little with mediocre understanding.
Had I been trained in the principles of logic,
I believe I might have become flawless in debate,
but there is little point in that.
I was able to memorize Chanting the Names of Mañjuśrī,
as well as the sādhanas of the Three Roots
and Magön Chamdral from Longchen Nyingtik,
in addition to several recitations for assembly practice in the Ngor tradition,
having chanted them only two or three times.
I believe this was due to positive habitual traces from past lives.
When memorizing the Vajravidāraṇa dhāraṇī
one evening, as I gazed at the moon,
I felt intense sadness and repeatedly recalled
the great dharma centre of glorious Sakya,
and how I had been born in the Khön family
In a previous life—
a fleeting memory based on habitual traces.
On occasion I have also had fragmentary recollections
of Ngari Paṇchen, the great Lhatsün,
Ngawang Lobzang Gyatso,
Tsangyang Gyatso, Palri Khyentse and others.
These were my own wild imaginings
based on excessive pride,
as it would clearly be unreasonable
for such sublime masters as these
to take birth as one so wicked as I.
When I was young I had a dream
in which I was cared for by the mantra protectress.
I reported this to the lord of the maṇḍala,
who said I should recite Longsal Nyingpo’s mantra protectress.
Thangtong Gyalpo introduced me to the nature of pure awareness
with the support of a crystal.
In dreams I met the noble elder Aṅgaja,
as well as Vimalamitra and Longchenpa.
I received long-life empowerment from Khyentse Wangpo
and an explanatory transmission of the Longchen Nyingtik preliminaries
from the great bodhisattva Patrul.
Nubchen Sangye Yeshe gave me the entrustments
for many tantric works.
I had dreams and experiences of receiving blessings
from several lamas from the Path with Its Fruit lineage,
as well as Milarepa, Sakya Paṇḍita, Tsongkhapa,
and Lhatsün Namkha Jigme,
who showed me the indications for mantra conduct.
I couldn’t tell whether these were real or false;
they were like confused blurs.
And because I did not cling to self,
I don’t recall them in precise detail.
Although I wished to practise approach and accomplishment
for the Three Root deities of the new and old schools and kama and terma traditions,
as desperately as someone afflicted with thirst would yearn for water,
still I have been overwhelmed by the eight worldly concerns.
I have managed the following, more or less:
While young, I practised the praise to Mañjuśrī,
and recited it for about a month,
but was mostly lost in distraction.
I accumulated 300,000 recitations of White Mañjuśrī
and 500,000 approach mantras for Sarasvatī,
but this involved a lot of thinking and very little application of the key points.
I did the daily recitation for Ratna Lingpa’s Secret Sādhana of Vajrakīla,
White Vajravārāhī from Koṅkadatta’s tradition,
and the mind treasure, Illuminating Wisdom (Prajñālokakṛtya).
I also completed the recitations for wrathful Takhyung Barwa, Siṃhamukhā,
the Sealed Quintessence (Tiklé Gyachen) guru practice and Vajrakīla.
I twice practised the Enhancer of Longevity Four-Faced Mahākāla.
I did the hundred thousand accumulations of the Longchen Nyingtik preliminaries,
but could not complete more than 40,000 prostrations.
I practised the major approach for Hevajra elaborately,
Bhūtaḍāmara, Mitra’s [White] Amitāyus according to both Kama and Terma,
the Secret-Essence (Sangtik) Kīla twice,
the Aural Transmission (Nyengyü) Kīla,
both Vajrakīla and Yamāntaka from the Clear Light Heart-Essence (Ösal Nyingtik),
the Chokling Kīla: The Wrathful King in Whom All Power is Gathered,
Longsal Nyingpo’s Vajrapāṇi and Yellow Jambhala,
Düdul Dorje’s Secret Practice of Kīla and Palchen Düpa,
the extensive recitation for the Tantra System Mañjuśrī,
Dorje Drolö from the Sangwa Gyachen,
Karma Guru, White Tārā,
and Extracting the Vital Essences,
Makzor, Long-life Practice General Maṇḍala of the Three Families,
Lama Sangdü and Könchok Chidü,
Barche Kunsel, Sampa Lhundrup, and Tārā who Dispels Obstacles,
Tārā, Vajrapāṇī and Ucchuṣma, Nyang’s Gathering of Sugatas, Gathering of Eight Deities (Kagyé),
and the Yamantaka from the Aural Transmission twice.
I have also practised the Vanquisher of Opponents (Parol Goljom) twice,
Vijaya from the Bari tradition,
the Heart-Essence of Deathless Ārya Tāra (Chimé Pakmé Nyingtik) three times,
the Vimalamitra guru sādhana Heart of Blessings,
and the Immaculate Sage twice.
I have practised the Red Amitāyus heart practice and Red Kiṃkara,
the ‘further averting’ practice from the Essence of Liberation, Nāgarakṣa,
White Tārā from Atiśa’s tradition and from Zhikpo Lingpa,
White Tārā from the Longchen Nyingtik and the Bari tradition twice,
the White Six-Armed protector,
Vajrasattva from the Mindrolling tradition, the Wrathful Red Deity (Drakmar),
Dorje Drolö from the Heart Practice,
Dorje Drakdzongma, guardian of Pañjaranātha, three times,
and I recited the seven syllables of Pañjaranātha
around eight million times.
I believe that this form of Mahākāla
has always looked upon me with compassion.
When restoring the protector temple at Dzing Namgyal monastery,
at the time of dispersing obstacles during the consecration,
through the force of sharpening the power of awareness
the statue of the deity actually shook,
as I and several others witnessed.
I accumulated two million recitations of Sakya Kīla,
and practised the Vidyādhara Heir of the Victorious Ones (Gyalwe Dungdzin) from the Heart Practice,
as well as Guru: Lion of Speech from Padampa’s tradition,
Lion of Speech, the daily practice for the entire maṇḍala
of Gathering of the Ḍākinīs’ Secrets (Khandro Sangdü),
and pacifying, enriching and magnetizing Vajravārāhī practices.
I also practised Pacifying Torment from the Essence of Liberation,
Kurukullā from the Sakya tradition, Khecarī,
the two systems of Thangtong Gyalpo’s long-life practice,
the guru yoga of Six-Armed Blue Mahākāla,
the secret practice of glorious Four-Faced Mahākāla,
and ten thousand recitations of Sitātapatrā.
Guru yoga based on the three long-life deities,
Kyergang’s Hayagrīva, Multi-Coloured Garuḍa, Black Mañjuśrī,
Vajrapāṇi in Utsarya and Blue-Clad (Nīlāmbaradhara) forms,
Sakya’s combined form of Mañjuśrī, 
Brahmin Kīla’s tradition of Sarasvatī,
Bhikṣaparama’s secret practice of Red Sarasvatī,
Ucchuṣma in Atiśa’s tradition,
Dispelling the Faults of Samaya Defilements (Damdrip Nyepa Kunsel) from the Essence of Liberation tradition,
White Acala, the main deity Green Tārā from Sūryagupta’s tradition,
Red Jambhala, the Seven-Gur long-life practice of Four-Faced Mahākāla,
the long-life practice of the Queen of Adepts,
and the long-life practice of Kurava.
I also practised Nyang’s Krodhikālī,
Khyentse’s Blazing Vajra Fire Vajrapāṇi,
the Hayagrīva practice of the aural transmission of Five Antidotal Deities,
the Heart-Essence of Supreme Hayagrīva's Play,
Hayagrīva who Liberates Haughty Spirits, Fire-Wheel of Meteoric Iron,
Pacifying Sitātapatrā, the Great Peacock (Mahāmāyūrī),
Nyang’s treasure White Four-Armed Protector Who Enhances Life,
Rongzom’s Lotus Ḍākinī,
Wrathful Guru with the Lower Part as a Dagger from the Sky Teachings (Namchö),
Guru Sādhana from the Quintessence of the Ḍākinīs,
and the long-life practice called The Iron Tree.
I practised the Ling treasure of the long-life consort (tseyum)
and Khyentse’s Caṇḍālī twice.
I also completed the approach and accomplishment recitations
for Chokling’s Siṃhamukhā of Vimalamitra,
Guru Chöwang’s White Tārā and so on.
All this was done as in the statement,
“With a mind that is distracted,
however much you recite, it will bear no fruit.”
I did not gain even so much as a sign of common accomplishment.
Still, as long as death does not catch up with me,
I shall practise a little more approach and accomplishment.
So that I might gain accomplishment in this way—
Lord of Oḍḍiyāna, grant me inspiration and blessings, I pray!
I do not possess the ten requisite qualities
of an outer or inner vajra master.
Nor have I practised the approach recitation
for the great tantra classes on a vast scale.
Still, with arrogant presumptuousness,
and in response to requests, I have taken on the burden of being a guru.
Thus, I have given the Treasury of Instructions (Damngak Dzö) three times, the Compendium of Sādhanas four times,
the empowerments and reading transmissions of the great Treasury of Terma Revelations,
and the private instructions for the Path with Its Fruit once,
the public instructions twice, teachings on the Hevajra Tantra three times,
explanatory transmission of the root tantras of Gur and Sampuṭa,
and with great effort, I twice received
the explanation as taught in Khyentse’s close lineage.
I taught the Seven Maṇḍalas of Ngor three times,
the maṇḍala of the Purification of All Evil Destinies (Sarvadurgatipariśodhana) three times,
I taught the Jonang and Zhalu intepretations of Kālacakra six times, and Mipham’s commentary on the tantra once.
I also transmitted the Cakrasaṃvara according to Luipa’s and Nagpopa’s traditions many times,
and the aural lineage of Cakrasaṃvara once.
I gave the empowerment and reading transmission for Khecarī Vajrayoginī many times
and the reading transmission for the collected rituals (be’u bum) twice.
I conferred the collected works of the Sakya patriarchs and Ngorchen once,
and the empowerments and reading transmission of Pañjaranātha and Four-Faced Mahākāla twice.
I gave the textual transmission of Bhairava once
and the empowerments several times.
I gave the reading transmission for the Great Stages of the Path (Lamrim Chenmo) once,
for the Nyingma Kama twice,
and for the Nyingma Tantra Collection once.
I gave the major texts from the Kama—
Guhyagarbha, the General Scripture,
and the Root Fragment tantra [of Vajrakīla]—
four times and the ripening empowerments
for the section with restriction seals from the Treasury of Precious Termas three times
and the reading transmission twice.
I transmitted the Four-Part Heart-Essence three times,
and the two Quintessences twice.
I gave the reading transmission for the Seven Treasuries twice,
and explained the Trilogy of Finding Rest many times.
I gave the major empowerment of Lama Gongdü twice,
and the major Kagyé empowerment the same number of times.
I transmitted Gongpa Zangthal twice,
and Thangtong Nyengyü three times.
I gave the Sealed pure visions [of the Fifth Dalai Lama]
and the Mindrolling Treasures three or four times each.
I have given the Excellent Wish-Granting Vase (Döjo Bumzang) twice,
and the reading transmission for the writings of Minling Terchen and Tsele Natsok Rangdrol once each.
I gave the empowerments and reading transmissions for the revelations of Düdul Dorje and Longsal Nyingpo twice and the ripening empowerments and liberating instructions
for the Longchen Nyingtik many times,
as well as teaching on the Treasury of Precious Qualities three times.
I bestowed the entire terma collection of Khyentse Wangpo
and the reading transmission for his writings twice.
And I transmitted the entire New Treasures of Chokling twice as well.
In short, in response to various requests,
and according to people’s wishes, I have offered an uninterrupted stream
of Dharma teachings, empowerments, authorizations, blessings and instructions.
My predecessor, the Jamgön Lama,
had a maternal care for all traditions,
and understood their own unique systems
of tantra, commentary and pith instruction, without ever conflating them.
He did not spoil traditions by combining them,
but taught all disciples according to their needs.
Thus, all schools—Sakya, Gelug, Kagyü and Nyingma—
cherished him as one of their own gurus.
Although I am not of similar calibre,
still I have cultivated pure perception extensively
towards all the eight great chariots of Tibet,
and remain untainted by the veil of false ideas,
while also avoiding disparagement and sectarian bias.
I pray that whatever traditions of empowerment, instruction and reading transmission remain,
I may, with great effort,
receive them all, now and in the future!
Whatever I have received with the noble intention
that the teachings may endure long into the future,
may I be able to pass on without sectarian prejudice,
and may I abandon all criticism and jealousy
and contempt for beings, irrespective of their status.
Thus, with the wish to benefit all,
an intention as pure as a white conch or lotus root,
I generated bodhicitta and made positive prayers of aspiration.
May all the connections I have made be meaningful.
This is the essence of my life of liberation.
Now that I have reached the age of fifty-six—
half-a-century plus the sense enjoyments and a rhino horn,
although I lack even the tiniest attribute
of a treasure-revealer or adept,
if, for the time being, I continue to survive,
it is possible that as I try to secure my own interest,
I might also be of some slight benefit to others.
Therefore, in accordance with indirect statements
from the all-seeing lord, my predecessor,
as well as the prophecies of great beings,
including some words of the great Jamgön Kongtrul,
and that which arose to my own mind,
circumstances came about whereby I took a consort for long-life practice.
I gave back my basic vehicle vows of individual liberation,
and now I may not gain the realization on which they depend.
Still, with bodhicitta I persist in virtuous action.
Although I cannot promise that this will prove beneficial,
as long as I do not fall prey to inner or outer conditions,
for a while at least, it is possible that I shall survive.
With the great burden of negativity I have accumulated,
the infallible laws of cause and effect prescribe
that I must experience suffering as a result.
Thus, I call out to the compassionate protectors:
Please look kindly upon this wretched one
And lead him out of misery’s mire!
Infractions of the major and minor rules
of the three sets of vows shower down like rain,
and I am stained by natural misdeeds as well.
With deep and heartfelt regret, I recall
and confess these faults: purify them all, I pray!
I lack the confidence to delight in death,
and however much of this human life remains,
may I devote it all to Dharma practice.
In particular, through the altruistic mind of bodhicitta,
as stable as the king of mountains,
may I fulfil the wishes of all beings
and secure their genuine welfare!
Whatever remains unfulfilled in the aspirations and activity
of the all-seeing protector Jamyang Khyentse,
that great and precious treasury of wisdom and love,
may I be the one to accomplish it all!
May I and all who are connected with me,
even those who have merely heard my name,
purify all karma, afflictions, misdeeds and obscurations,
and take birth miraculously in the heart of a lotus
in the western pureland of Sukhāvatī.
There, may we attain the prophecy of awakening,
traverse the five paths and ten stages,
and gain the four kāyas of omniscience!
Thus, I offer this rough summary
of my own past deeds,
in which I conceal my flaws
and exaggerate my qualities.
I wrote this brief account
as I could not turn down the request
of the all-seeing supreme tulku,
the precious Tashi Paljor,
with whom I have been connected in past lives
through the force of a common aspiration.
Thus, this old fool and wanderer, who has abandoned both kinds of pursuit,
the so-called Chökyi Lodrö—Dharmic Intelligence,
spontaneously wrote down whatever came to mind.
May the virtue of this be a cause of progress toward liberation
in all those who have a positive or negative connection!
(I made a few additions when devoted students were preparing to carve the woodblocks.)
May virtue abound! Sarva maṅgalam.
| Translated by Adam Pearcey 2019, with the generous support of the Khyentse Foundation and Terton Sogyal Trust and the kind assistance of Alak Zenkar Rinpoche and Dr Lodrö Puntsok.
Bkra shis dpal 'byor. "'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros kyi rnam thar yongs 'dud dga' tshal". In Dil mgo mkhyen brtse'i bka' 'bum, vol. 1, pp. 1–207. New Delhi: Shechen Publications, 1994.
'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros. "'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros kyi rtogs pa brjod pa sgyu ma'i rol rtsed" In 'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros kyi gsung 'bum. TBRC W1KG12986. 1: 1–33. Bir, H.P.: Khyentse Labrang, 2012.
_____ . "'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros kyi rtogs pa brjod pa sgyu ma'i rol rtsed" In 'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros kyi gsung 'bum. W21813. 1: 1–43. Gangtok: Dzongsar Khyentse Labrang, 1981–1985.
Akester, Matthew. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo's Guide to Central Tibet. Chicago: Serindia, 2016.
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, The Lamp that Enlightens Narrow Minds: The Life and Times of a Realized Tibetan Master, Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug. Ed. Enrico Dell’Angelo. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2012.
Dilgo Khyentse. The Life and Times of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö: The Great Biography by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Other Stories. Boulder: Shambhala Publications, 2017.
Ringu Tulku. The Ri-me Philosophy of Jamgön Kongtrul the Great. Boston: Shambhala, 2006.
Tulku Thondup. Masters of Meditation and Miracles. Boston: Shambhala, 1996.
i.e., Tertön Düdül Rolpa Tsal (bdud 'dul rol pa rtsal). ↩
A lama connected with Katok Monastery. ↩
i.e., Lingtsang, a kingdom near Derge in Kham. ↩
The most famous praise of Mañjuśrī, attributed to Vajrāyudha/Vajraśastra but often said to have been composed by 500 paṇḍitas simultaneously. ↩
i.e., Katok Situ. ↩
i.e., Adzom Drukpa (1842–1924). ↩
i.e., Jamyang Chökyi Wangpo (1893–1908). For details see Chögyal Namkha Norbu (2012), pp. 7-11. ↩
i.e., Kalzang Dorje, the nephew and treasurer of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. ↩
gdul ba. This is a euphemistic way of saying that he went there to gather offerings (AZR). ↩
The original edition of Khyentse Wangpo’s writings comprises thirteen volumes. The most recent edition, published in 2014, consists of twenty-five volumes. ↩
i.e., The Dzongsar Khamjé study college (bshad grwa). ↩
i.e., Khenpo Shenpen Nangwa, alias Shenga. ↩
i.e., Essence of Liberation: Self-Liberating Realization (grol thig dgongs pa rang grol) of Trengpo Tertön Sherab Özer (1518–1584). ↩
Both available editions have Water Mouse (chu byi) here, but if this corresponds to his thirty-second year, as the remainder of the line suggests, this must be an error for Wood Mouse (shing byi). See also Dilgo Khyentse 2017: 330 where these events are said to have taken place in the ‘Water Rooster’ year (1933), which is clearly an error—not least because Shechen Gyaltsab died in 1926. ↩
i.e., The Second Shechen Rabjam, Gyurme Kunzang Namgyal (1711–1769). ↩
i.e., the Vima Nyingtik and Khandro Nyingtik. ↩
Both editions of the text have Water Ox (1913) here, but following Tulku Thondup (1996: 375 n. 294) I have amended the text to Wood Ox (1925). ↩
i.e., the Thirteenth Dalai Lama 1876–1933. ↩
As noted in Dilgo Khyentse 2017 (551, n. 142) this appears to be an error for Wood Ox (1925), which is the year that Katok Situ died. ↩
Likely Mentö Dorje Namgyal (sman stod rdo rje rnam rgyal). ↩
Also known as Amdo Geshe (1888–1936). ↩
i.e., Khenpo Kunpal (c. 1862–1943). ↩
Gatön Ngawang Lekpa (1867–1941). ↩
Tubten Gyaltsen Özer, b. 1862 ↩
i.e., Rago Choktrul Tupten Shedrup Gyatso (1879–1972) ↩
Also known as Khenpo Ngakchung (1879–1941). ↩
i.e., Karma Chökyi Nyinjé (1879?–1939), the immediate predecessor of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. ↩
This was the fifth incarnation of Tertön Rolpe Dorje (d. 1719). ↩
Pema Wangchen ↩
The son of Drimé Ösel Lingpa and a prominent teacher in his own right, based at Katok Monastery. ↩
i.e., Zhitro Narak Dongtruk (Zhi khro na rak dong sprugs and Khorwa Dongtruk ('khor ba dong sprugs) (AZR). ↩
i.e., Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910–1991). ↩
i.e., Jamyang Gyaltsen (1870–1940). ↩
i.e., Ajam Kunga Tenpe Gyaltsen (1885–1952). ↩
Pakchok Dorje (1893–1943) was the son of Śākya Śrī and a mind emanation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. ↩
i.e., Jamyang Kunzang Tenpe Nyima ↩
Jampal Chökyi Nyima ↩
Shar Lama of Lhundrup Teng. ↩
i.e., Dezhung Rinpoche (1906–1987). ↩
Thartse Zhabdrung ↩
dpal mkhyen. Most likely a reference to Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje who was also known as Palri Khyentse. I am grateful to Dr. Lodrö Puntsok for his help with this particular line. ↩
A form of Vajravārāhī. ↩
Possibly by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. ↩
Reading sbags as sbrags. The precise reference here is unclear. ↩
This is a rather cryptic way of referring to the number 56 according to the art of numerical synonyms (grangs kyi mngon brjod), i.e., half a century (50) plus the number of sense enjoyments/objects (5) plus a rhino horn (1). ↩
i.e., worldly and dharmic (AZR). ↩