Autobiography of Longchen Rabjam
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Courtesy of David Christensen
Autobiography of Longchen Rabjam
from The Jewel Rosary History
I was born in the upper valley of Dra in Yoru as the son of Lobpön Tenpa Sung and Droza Sönam Gyen. From a young age, I had great faith, compassion and intelligence. There were signs that Namdru Remati offered extremely close protection; she was even seen in physical form. By my seventh year, I knew how to read and had learned the Kīlaya, Sugata Assembly and Guru Rinpoche sādhana practices. Through this, by the age of nine I had gained some understanding.
At twelve, I was ordained as a novice monk by Khenpo Samdrup Rinchen and Lobpön Künga Özer. I learned the Vinaya and explained it from the age of fourteen. At the age of sixteen, I received empowerments, guidance and instructions from Lobpön Tashi Rinchen on such topics as the Lamdré, Six Yogas, Six Dharmas of Vārāhī, Ghaṇṭāpāda’s tradition of Cakrasaṃvara, and Mahācakra Vajrapāṇi. From Lobpön Wang-yé, I received instruction on multiple categories of secret mantra sādhanas. From Zalung Rinpoche, I received the instructions of Zhang Tsalpa, Götsangpa’s instructions on the path, and many other teachings, including on Chöd and Zhijé.
At nineteen I went to Sangphu, where I studied the vehicle of characteristics, including the Treatises of Maitreya and valid cognition (pramāṇa). For six years, I studied thoroughly with the great teacher Labrangpa Chöpal Gyaltsen and the second Dharmakīrti and others. From the great teacher Tsengönpa, I received instruction on the Seven Treatises on Valid Cognition, the Heart Sūtra, numerous minor transmissions related to Tārā, and more. From Lotsāwa Lo-Ten, I received numerous minor transmissions, including those for the five profound sūtras, such as the King of Samādhi, and the extensive commentary on the Heart Sūtra.
On occasion, I undertook the practices of deities that enhance intelligence, such as Acala, Sarasvatī and Prajñālokakṛtya. As a result, I experienced some indications of accomplishment in dreams, and gained some spark of understanding related to scripture, reasoning, pith instructions and poetry. I then roamed through various places, receiving teachings on sūtras, tantras and the pith instructions from several teachers and refining my understanding through study and contemplation.
From Lobpön Zhönnu Döndrup, I received multiple teachings on the Gathering of Intentions Sūtra, Web of Magical Illusion, Mind Series, and more. I received the entire corpus of Ārya Nāgārjuna’s works, including The Root Verses on the Middle Way, Introduction to the Middle Way and so on, from Lobpön Zhönnu Gyalpo. From Lobpön Zhönnu Dorje, I received the Bodhicaryāvatāra, Compendium of Training (Śikṣāsamuccaya), and multiple aural transmissions, including the Sixfold Union and Six Yogas from Jowo Atiśa’s tradition. From a khenpo, I received many further instructions, such as Trophu’s teaching collection, Kharak’s teaching collection, the Ocean of Sādhanas, Hundred Minor Dharmas, and Vinaya scriptures. With the noble guru and dharma lord Karmapa, I studied the Six-Branch Yoga including the elimination of hindrances, the Six Yogas of Nāropa, Direct Introduction to the Three Kāyas, Great Compassionate One Jinasāgara, King’s Tradition of the Great Compassionate One, and more. In addition, I received many teachings on the Six-Branch Yoga, approach and accomplishment, and wind-energy (lung) from Lobpön Wangtsul, and practised them in no particular sequence.
When I spent five months in darkness in a rock cavern in Chokla, in a dream one morning I found myself in a low sandy valley with small hills and waterfalls. I heard the sound of cymbals accompanied by song and saw a horse caparisoned with bells. Its rider was a sixteen-year-old girl, wearing clothes of silk and adorned with gold and turquoise, her face concealed behind a golden veil. I grabbed the reins, and said, "Noble lady, hold me in your care!" At this, she removed her jewelled diadem and placed it on my head. She said, "From now on, I shall constantly grant you blessings and attainments." As soon as she said this, I become physically and mentally immersed in blissful, clear, non-conceptual samādhi. I did not wake for a long time. Even after I awoke at sunrise, the experience continued for three full days.
Then, at Samyé in the spring I met the noble guru [i.e., Kumārādza], who was staying in the uplands of Yartökyam. He said, "Last night I dreamt of a wondrous bird of divine origin, which was in reference to you. It seems a holder of this lineage of teachings has arrived. I must grant you the instructions in their entirety." He was overjoyed.
That spring we moved from one desolate valley to another nine times. The constant upheaval each time we established a base resulted in extreme hardship to body and speech. I sustained myself for two months with only three measures of flour and twenty-one mercury pills. Whenever snow fell, I placed myself inside the sack that served as both a coat and a seat. I made a vow to undergo such hardships for the sake of the Dharma for three years. I meditated at hermitages in such places as Chimphu, and occasionally went before the guru to clarify my understanding of the instructions and make an offering of my practice, which delighted him. I had no attachment to the appearances of this life and was free from the trap of retaining hope and fear about saṃsāra and nirvāṇa. I had at least set out on the path to liberation through the view of the fundamental nature of the Great Perfection and constant abiding in samādhi. Through the workings of past karma and aspirations in particular, I came to the retreat place of Self-Arisen Padma, Tibet’s own Five-Peaked Mountain, where, for some students with the requisite karma and fortune, I shed light on the excellent path of the Luminous Vajra Essence.
I have the positive aspiration to strive for others’ benefit day and night; I have made offerings, entirely uncorrupted by the three conceptual spheres, five times in the noble guru’s presence; and I maintain the tradition of offering to the vīras and ḍākinīs on the tenth and eighth days of each month, thus making meaningful whatever has been given out of faith. Whatever I do, the mere play of illusory phenomena and perception, is in accord with the noble Dharma. Thus, to ensure that the authentic instructions are not confused but easily understood and put into practice, I have set down the pith instructions in numerous texts. In particular, I have set out the instructions of the Quintessence of the Guru, Wish-Fulfilling Jewel (Lama Yangtik) in a series of thirty-five teachings and sealed them with an aspiration for the sake of future generations.
May those who follow me in future turn away from the affairs of this life, take responsibility for the future, follow a genuine spiritual teacher, receive the instructions of the Luminous Essence, and put the instructions of the Secret Heart-Essence into practice, by themselves in isolated places. In this way, may they transcend saṃsāra and nirvāṇa within the same lifetime, and, when prophetic indications arise, work as much as possible for others’ sake. Withstanding all forms of ingratitude and weariness, may they spread the instructions far and wide.
| Translated by Adam Pearcey with the generous support of the Tsadra Foundation, 2024.
klong chen rab 'byams pa dri med 'od zer. "lo rgyus rin po che’i phreng ba" In snying thig ya bzhi. 13 vols. Delhi: Sherab Gyaltsen Lama, 1975. Vol. 1: 127–133 (3.5 folios)
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Dorji Wangchuk. "Cross-Referential Clues for a Relative Chronology of Klong chen pa’s Works". In Orna Almogi (ed.), Contributions to Tibetan Buddhist Literature. Proceedings of the Eleventh Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Königswinter, 2006. Beiträge zur Zentralasienforschung. Halle: International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, 2008, pp. 195–244
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Tsumagari, Shinichi. Meaningful to Behold: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation of Longchenpa’s Biography. Create Space, 2016.
Tulku Thondup. Masters of Meditation and Miracles: The Longchen Nyingthig Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Shambhala, 1996.
This title has been added by the translator ↩
Short for Wangchuk Yeshe (dbang phyug ye shes). ↩
In other sources, the second Dharmakīrti is identified as Zhönnu Rinchen (gzhon nu rin chen). ↩
Short for Lodrö Tenpa (blo gros brtan pa). ↩
A form of Vajravārāhī. ↩
The place of Self-Arisen Padma is a reference to Samye Chimphu, which Longchenpa here compares to Wutai Shan, the mountain in China that is associated with Mañjuśrī and Vimalamitra. ↩