His Eminence Ngor Ewam Phende Rinpoche

A Short Biography
(A translation from the French original by R.M.L. Samuel)

His Eminence Phende Rinpoche was born early in the year of the Water bird, 1934 into a family of tantric practitioners (ngakpas) in the Tharlam district of the Gaba region of Kham, Eastern Tibet.

Early on the great sage Jamgon Ngawang Lepa whose Tharlam Monastery lay close to the child's birthplace recognised in him the signs of a Tulku. But he was two or three years of age when officially recognised as the reincarnation of Ngor Phende Khenchen Jamyang Kunzang Thupden Chokyi Gyaltsen; this by the two respective head lamas of Sakya Monastery's Dolma (Kyabgon Kunga Rinchen) and Phuntsok (Dagchen Ngawang Thotup Wangchuk) palaces, who after praying at length to the powerful Sakya protectors had made very precise prophesies as to the family and (re) birth-place of this reincarnation lineage which goes back to the great Indian Siddha Birwapa.

At the time of his birth auspicious signs had manifested in the sky, and his body bore certain physical features of this line such as the markings of a tiger skin.

 

Thus recognised, the young Phende Rinpoche was given a careful education and a large number of profound teachings by his first root-guru Jamgon Ngawang Legpa who was renowned throughout Tibet for his wisdom and realisation. In this way he received at an early age the profound Lamdre Lobshey teachings (The Path and its Result).

Later he was to receive from him the Lam Dre Tsog Shey, and on a number of occasions the great initiations of Hevajra, the seven mandalas of the Ngor tradition, Naro Khachoma, Vajrabhairava, the Guardian-Protectors, the Protections of Birwapa, and others along with a large number of commentaries. With his uncle and teacher Ngawang Rinchen, head preceptor at Tharlam Monastery he studied and memorised all the ritual texts.

Hence by seven years of age he knew by heart the mandala rituals of Hevajra, the nine-deity Amitayus, Vairochana, Maitreya Buddha, Vajra-akshobya etc. At this age also he was enthroned and had to leave the family home. There then followed for him a period of study and intensive practice.

At nine years of age he received from his guru the vows of an accomplished lay disciple, and a few months later his novitiate vows; also a number of initiations from Phende Khen Rinpoche Ngawang Khedrup Gyamtso, a perfectly accomplished and very saintly Lama who thus became his second Root-Guru. There next ensued for the young Tulku a period of retreat lasting several years during which he accomplished the retreats of Bhutadamara, Kunrik Vairochana, Amitayus, White Tara, and the Lords of the Three Families.

He then received from Phende Khen Rinpoche the monunemtal teaching known as "The Collection of all the Tantras (Gyu De Kun tus): a comprehensive collection of all the great initiations with their mandalas and mandala rituals, a rare teachung of which very few possess the lineage.

This instruction lasted three years during which he nonetheless continued in the pursuit of his studies. He received from the Grand Abbot Ngaga of Jyekundo the eighteen great philosophical treatises of six different categories, studied according to Sakyapa custom and passed all the examinations brilliantly. He likewise received from this source teaching on many other tantric texts, such as "The General Catalogue of the Tantras", the Tag pa Nyi (The Two Examinations") etc. Later he completed his astrological studies, studying all of the principal texts and was finally able to compose the calendar of a full year which he posted on the door of the temple at Jyekundo for the benefit of all.

He also studied and mastered the different types of physical yoga and related activities. And he received partly from Lama Ngaga and partly from Phende Khen Rinpoche the complete collection of initiations and sadhanas known as the Drup Thab Kuntu compiled by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and completed by his student Loter Wangpo.

After this five year period of study and practice at Jyekundo monastery he began a new period of retreat with the retreat of Naro Khachoma, of whom he received numerous signs. He was also fully successful in accomplishing the Pho'wa practice of transference of consciousness. After this he accomplished the retreat of Mahakala whose manifest and certain protection accompanied him in all of the many dangers he would meet on the road, with the Chinese, and in many events of his life. On completion of this retreat, as the 21 Ngor monasteries of the Gaba region had long been asking him to do, he undertook to visit them all. All of these monasteries and the neighbouring country-side were under a rule and laws established by the great Palden Tcheu Tchiong, the first Tibetan of H.E. Phende Rinpoche's reincarnation lineage. Thus it naturally fell to him to check the respect in which these rules and laws were held. He began with the monastery of Tharlam where he was welcomed with great ceremony, then toured the other 20 monasteries giving numerous initiations and teachings.

It was only at the end of this long period of travelling that he at last undertook for the first time the lengthy journey to his monastery of Ngor Ewam Choden, situated in the Tsang region of Tibet itself, lying more than three month's journey from Kham. He was accompanied on this journey by the Venerable Khen Chen Nwawang Khedrup Gyamtso and a numerous following. He was welcomed on his arrival by the four "Ladrangs" (Houses of Ngor). Then began preparations for his occupancy of the throne of Ngor when his turn should come. The throne was occupied for three consecutive years by the head of one Ladrang, then came the turn of the head of another Ladrang, and so on for the four Ladrangs, each of their turns thus recurring every twelve years. During his three year occupation of the throne the Lama had to teach the Lam Dre annually and many other teachings besides. Equally he had to administer the monks of all the affiliated monasteries who could only receive ordination by going to the seat of Ngor Ewam Choden. And when the Lama had held the throne of Ngor in this way for three years he was given the title of Khenpo, signifying Abbot.

Thus the young Phende Rinpoche had to recite from memory before a great assembly of monks the four treatises as required by the rule. Then throughout a full year he had to preside over all the assemblies devoted to recitation of all the great mandala rituals in usage at Ngor, participating in the preparation of mandalas, establishing the measures, casting the coloured powders etc. During his stay at Ngor he received from the very holy and illustrious Khenchen Tampa Rinpoche of the Khangsar Ladrang a large number of initiations and teachings, such as the initiations of the seven mandalas of Ngor, the common and uncommon cycles of the three Reds, the initiation of White Mahakala, Vajrakilaya (Tele and Mele), Naro Khachoma, each of the protectors of the eight-fold Mahakala cycle, Hevajra, Vajrabhairava, etc.

These comprehensive teachings lasted several months and the great Tampa Rinpoche thus became his third Root Guru. Then, and from this time from Khenchen Ngawang Khedrup who had meanwhile become the throne-holder and thus seated on the red throne of the great Ngorchen Dorje Chang Kunga Zangpo, he received the Lam Dre Tsog Shey teachings, also the vows of a fully ordained monk (gelong), and further numerous initiations.

Afterwards he himself gave a great number of initiations at Ngor. At this time be began an eighteen month Hevajra retreat followed by a retreat of the three Reds, above all Kurukulle of whom he also obtained numerous signs. At the end of this first stay at Ngor, which lasted over four years, he left again for Kham where he remained for several years alternating studies at the monastery of Jyekundo with retreats at the Dzuphu Ladrang.

Then on the pressing invitation of the Ngor monasteries in several regions of Kham he undertook yet another long journey leading to the Nangchen region of Dema, then to Derge where at the monastery of Gonchen for approximately a month he conducted the great ritual of Hevajra and the Torma ritual of Vajrabhairava, reuniting seven branch monasteries into one.

As relations with the Chinese became ever more tense and the situation at Derge deteriorated dangerously, Rinpoche continued on his way to Konjo, then to Gaba. During the course of this lengthy circuit he had accepted invitations from more than sixty monasteries and given an incalculable number of initiations and teachings. Back in Gaba, the Chinese becoming menacing, he decided to flee from Kham making a wide detour through the extensive deserts of the Northern Plains (Chang Thang). Thus during 1957-58 he arrived at Ngor where, the situation only worsening, he decided to flee to India accompanied by his mother, his tutor uncle, and some twenty servants. By chance his party met up with that accompanying His Holiness Sakya Trizin who was likewise fleeing to India. In 1959 they simultaneously arrived in Sikhim. Here he met Kyentse Rinpoche Jamyang Chokyi Lodro and received from H.H. Sakya Trizin the great initiation of Chakrasamvara. He then went to Mussourie where he often met His Holiness the Dalai Lama who had recently arrived there.

During his ten year stay in India he succeeded in re-establishing at Kamrao the Jyekundo monastery with refugee monks, while a certain number of Ngor monasteries were likewise reconstituted with great difficulty.

During these ten years he repeatedly gave many initiations and teachings whilst continuing his own daily practice without interruption.

Taking note of the growing interest of Westerners in Buddhism and being invited to Great Britain by the Samye Ling Tibetan Centre in Scotland, he arrived there in 1969 and remained teaching there for several months. Then having decided on the support of a consort, the mudra possessed of the charactaristics and learned in the Tantras as the Path to Awakening , he thus repeatedly prayed to Mahakala.

Thus he met at Cambridge a young French woman who was to become his wife Jamyang Khandro, who possessed all the qualities of faith and respect for the Dharma and who was moreover already conversant with the Tibetan language and script. Settling in France with the idea of founding a centre there, he succeeded a few years later in 1974 in establishing Ngor Ewam Phende Ling in Normandy with the help of his disciples .

Here he has since given numerous profound teachings including the complete Lam Dre; numerous initiations such as those of Hevajra, Vajrayogini, Bhutadamara, the Protectors, the Wealth Deities, Avalokitesvara, Tara, Vajrasattva, Manjusri, and Sakya Pandita; and numerous explanations on practice, on the tantric root vows, the Noble Discourses of Sakya Pandita (Leg she), the lives of the Mahasiddhas, and others besides. Meanwhile three sons were born to him, Jamyang Nyima in 1972, Jigme Dorje in 1973, and Jampal Yeshe in 1981. All three have been recognised as Tulkus.

His Eminence Phende Rinpoche was later able with the help of his disciples to establish two additional centres in France: Ngor Ewam Kunzang Ling in Paris, and Ngor Ewam Cho Ling at Poitiers. He now travels regularly to India; and to Taiwan where he has established two centres, one in Taipei and the other in Tainan. He hopes, with the help of his disciples there and in France, to be in a position to provide regular help to all the Sakyapa monasteries in India. With the support of his disciples, principally those from Taiwan, he has already been able to establish his main seat of Phende Ladrang in the head monastery of Ngor Ewam Choden at Manduwala in North West India.

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