Minling Trichen Rinpoche

Kyabjé Minling Trichen Rinpoche

Head of the Nyingma Tradition

Ngak’chang Rinpoche visited Kyabjé Minling Trichen in 1979 and, on being granted an audience, requested information regarding his life. The following account has been edited from a lengthier transcription.

Before I became eight years old, I went to live in the heavily forested area of Kham Lumo-ra with my parents. I lived a free and happy life there, but when my father passed away, my family went back up to central Tibet – and that is when I began my formal studies at Mindröl Ling. I started with Tantric studies – reading from the Pema Kathang. Later I had to memorise the three sets of Mindröl Ling gTérma texts. I had to recite these texts by heart in front of the general assembly of Mindröl Ling. This was followed by the studies of ritual texts of the oral (bKha’ brGyud) tradition.

When Khen Rinpoche came from Kham, I studied the Rinchen Themké Ngöndro (Rin chen Them sKas sNgon ’gro) as well as chanting, gar’cham (sGar ’cham – Tantric dance), calligraphy, poetry, and grammar. When I was eighteen, I entered a four-year retreat, and during that retreat I completed the meditational practices of the Ka’gyüd (bKa’ brGyud), Phurba and Sang-thig (gSang thig) Secret Essence. My family line is called the Nyo (gNyos) lineage. It began with a being who descended from the sky to the summit of Kharag. He met a girl from the region around Kharag and together they had a son. There have been thirteen generations from gTérdag Lingpa (gTér gDag gLing pa – the incarnation of Vairochana) down to myself. There are two aspects of this line – the ‘bone line’ which is male and the ‘blood line’ which is female. The Bone Nyo Lineage continued up until Tri Yeshé Wangyal (Khrid Ye shes dBang rGyal). He had nine daughters but no sons, so the Bone Nyo Lineage died out. After Tri Yeshé Wangyal, Tri Déchen Chogdrup (Khrid bDe chen mChog grub) had one son, but he passed away when he was but young. Since then we have not had the Bone Lineage of Nyo Trichens (sNyo khri chen – Great Throne Holders). The next reincarnation of gTérdag Lingpa was called gTérchen Rangrig, and he was referred to as Kusum Sangdag Lingpa (sKu gSum gSang gDag gLing pa). At present there is no Bone Lineage of Nyo, but the Blood Lineage continues.

It is a lineage of gTértöns, and amongst their revelations are the divisions of Sa gTér (earth revelations), Gong gTér (mind revelations), and many others. From gTérdag Lingpa onwards, the lineage mainly consisted of those who revealed Sa gTér. Kusum Sangdag Lingpa for example revealed many Sa gTér, but there have not been many revealers of Gong gTér.

Today in Clementown—Dehra Dun—we practise mainly the La-dzog Thug-sum, which consists of the Lama’s Accomplishments (bLa sGrub), the La-drüp Rig’dzin Thugthig (bLa sGrub rig ’dzin thugs thig), and Guru Drakmar Drüpthab (gu ru drag dMar sGrub thabs). The La-dzog comprises of the three unique practices of gTérdag Lingpa: the Dorje Sempa (rDo rJe sems dPa) practices, the Thugjé Chenpo Désheg Kun’du (thugs rJe chen po bDe gShegs kun ’dus), and with regard to Dzogchen, we have Dzogchen Ati Zür-thig Nyingpo (rDzogs chen a ti zur thig sNying po).

The collected literature of Mindröl Ling is called the Four New Treasures of Mindröl Ling (sMin grol gLing gi gTér gSar bZhi). There is no Mindröl Ling tradition which is not included in these four treasures. The four texts are extensive – for example the Thugjé Chenpo Desheg Kundu comprises of three volumes. Dzogchen Ati Zuthig Nyingpo is also one entire volume.

There were maybe 111 gompas around the upper, lower and Gyé-ta regions – the largest being Pombo-ra, Bu-chö, and Déchen Lhundrüp. Mindröl Ling itself was a branch gompa. The original mother gompa was Dargyé Chöling, which was founded by the father of gTérdag Lingpa, Sangdag Thin-lé Lhundrüp. It was built by Kunkhyen rGan gog Ten’dzin. Shabdrung Rinpoche—my immediate younger brother—was head of Pombo-ra Gompa in Kham. It was the seat of Kusum Sangdag Lingpa but since no one was chosen, Shabdrung Rinpoche became the head Lama of Pombo-ra. Our father passed away, when I was very young. Chung Rinpoche—my elder brother—was the throne holder of Mindröl Ling until I reached adulthood. When Chung Rinpoche was out of the monastery Khen Rinpoche assumed the rôle as the head of Pombo-ra. My brother Pé-nang Rinpoche was a Siddha whose behaviour was like that of madman – and he could not be counted among ordinary practitioners.

In the Nyo Lineage there have been a number of notable women practitioners. Jétsunma Min’gyür Paldrön was a daughter of gTérdag Lingpa. She was the incarnation of Khandro Yeshé Tsogyel. Her next incarnation was Jétsunma Thrin-lé Chödrön. Her next incarnation was Jétsunma Thrin-lé Wangmo – and we called her ‘White-haired Great Aunt’. The great aunt we call ‘Black-haired Great Aunt’ was the mother of Khen Rinpoche and Chung Rinpoche. When Mindröl Ling was destroyed by the Dzungar Mongols, Jétsunma Min’gyür Paldrön repaired the buildings, and for this reason she is regarded as precious. Later Jétsunma Thrin-lé Chödrön restored it to its original purity. Jétsunma Thrin-lé Chödrön’s disciple, the first Khyentsé, also contributed greatly to restoring the Nyingma tradition.

The 16th Karmapa showed great kindness to my daughter Tséring. He gave her the name Karma Ögyen Tsomo, which was the name of the sangyum of the 15th Karmapa, and recognised her as the incarnation of that sangyum.