Second Degyal Rinpoche Biography

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English | བོད་ཡིག

Pema Rigtsal Rinpoche

Second Degyal Rinpoche

Brief Biography of the Second Degyal Rinpoche

by Pema Rigtsal Rinpoche

Degyal Rinpoche’s reincarnation was born on the 20th day of the 1st month of the Fire Ox year (1937) and passed into parinirvāṇa on the 23rd day of the 3rd month of the Wood Ox year (1985).

This reincarnation, Degyal Rinpoche II, was named Pema Jikmé Chöying Rangdröl. His father was Serta Rinpoche and his mother was Sherab Zangmo. He was born amid many wonderful auspicious signs. At the age of two, he confirmed his identity to some of the main students of the previous Degyal Rinpoche by correctly identifying his predecessor’s possessions and practice articles. At this confirmation, everyone was overjoyed.

He learnt to read and write from Ajam Rinpoche, who also gave him empowerments and transmissions. His father, Serta Rinpoche granted him empowerments, transmissions, and pith instructions, and trained him thoroughly and unerringly in the practice tradition of his previous incarnation.

From a young age, he showed subtle signs of natural clairvoyance and spiritual accomplishment and so earned the reverence of all around him, both high and low. For example, when he was about five, one day the shepherds of Khyungdzong Monastery, wanting to eat some meat, secretly set about strangling one of the sheep. As the sheep was struggling to die, the shepherd called out, “Degyal Rinpoche, think of me!” and with that the sheep immediately died. A few days later, the same shepherd met the young Degyal Tulku who said to him, “The two of us were eventually able to kill that sheep, huh?” At this, the shepherd was filled with fear, and confessed.

Again, when Degyal Tulku was around six or seven, he rolled a small black stone back and forth between his thumb and fingers and left imprints of his fingermarks in the stone. There are many other stories about similarly amazing happenings. I personally heard these from the monk Pema Tashi, who served as Serta Rinpoche’s cook.

One day Degyal Tulku was traveling through Karmarong on horseback when he suddenly started weeping heavily. Taklha, the leader of their party, asked him what was the matter, and he replied, “Today a huge number of people have been killed in Lhasa, so many that the streets are flowing with blood!” Later, when the news arrived, they learnt that this had happened at the exact same time and on the exact same day that there had been heavy fighting in Lhasa between the People’s Liberation Army and the Tibetan Government Army, and they were astounded by Degyal Tulku’s clairvoyance.

Tsewang Rinpoche composed a biography of Degyal Rinpoche I, and in an appendix he recorded some of the visible signs of accomplishment demonstrated by his reincarnation, Degyal Tulku. There he describes how, on several occasions, Degyal Tulku travelled on horseback at incredible speed, traversing steep and treacherous mountain tracks and crossing precarious footbridges that can typically only hold the weight of a single person. For example, he once rode his steed straight over the small pedestrian footbridge that crosses the wide Dzumlang River. Lama Kunkhyab of Mugum still marvels at this amazing feat.

At one point, Degyal Tulku said he wanted to offer an elaborate sang (cleansing smoke offering) in a nearby cave, and so a sang hearth was built there for that purpose. His attendants started to gather embers from his kitchen fire, spadeful by spadeful. Degyal Tulku told Kholo, one of the attendants, to load the embers, to which he replied, “But I’ve nothing to load them into.” “Take off your shirt,” Degyal Tulku said, and so Kholo immediately took off his shirt and loaded it with three spadefuls of glowing embers, and carried them, wrapped in his shirt, up to the sang hearth. He poured the embers out of his shirt and onto the hearth, and yet his shirt was completely unburnt. It wasn’t even scorched. Such were the signs of accomplishment that he displayed.

In general, his sole joy was practice. He completed a three-year retreat, and in addition spent three months of almost every year in strict retreat. He always showed great compassion for the poor and needy, and was always extremely generous in giving and making offerings. He took absolutely no delight in high status and recognition, or in the eight worldly concerns.

From his lord guru of previous lives, the lord of the maṇḍala, Kyabjé Dudjom Jigdral Yeshé Dorjé, he received the transmissions of the entire Kama and Terma and the entire transmissions—empowerments, transmissions, and pith instructions—of the Dharma cycles of the previous great treasure-revealer, Dudjom Lingpa, and the Dharma cycles of Dudjom Rinpoche himself.

He revered his guru’s instructions, placing them on the crown of his head, and applied himself to their practice, and thereby had direct visions of the yidams Dorje Drolö and Tröma Nakmo. He became one of Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche’s heart disciples and was empowered as a teaching holder for Dorje Drolö. He had intense faith in Dudjom Rinpoche, such that he saw him as a living buddha. His confidence was such that he was prepared to give up his own life for him. That was the calibre of student that he was.

Degyal Tulku taught his own students according to the established tradition of Namkha Khyungdzong, beginning with the preliminary practices and progressing step by step to the main part. At least twice, in Zangrak and Muchu in Humla, he gave vast and profound teachings on the entire path, from the preliminaries up to the culmination of the main part. Some of his personal students are still alive and still practicing, having dedicated their entire lives to constant practice.

At the age of forty-nine, Degyal Tulku’s wisdom heart dissolved back into dharmadhātu and he passed into parinirvāṇa. The sky filled with rainbow clouds, and he stayed in tukdam, seated in the vajra posture, for three days.[1] White, yellow, red, and green relic pills sprung from his holy body, and the syllable ah () appeared on his skull, vivid for all to see. These are just some of the many amazing and auspicious signs that occurred.

Extracted from A Garland of White Lotuses: An Account of the Teaching and Teaching Holders of the Pal Drakmar Namkha Khyungdzong Tradition.

| Translated by Laura Swan, edited by Libby Hogg, 2021. First published on Lotsawa House, 2024.

Version: 1.0-20240228

  1. Tib. thugs dam. Tukdam, in this context, refers to the period following the death of an accomplished practitioner, during which time they are absorbed in luminosity. They may remain in this state for a number of days. Their body will remain soft and warm, and the usual signs of rigor mortis and so on will not occur, until the tukdam ends.  ↩

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