detail from a thangka of Rang-rig Togden showing his face

Rang-rig Togden (1820 – 1902)

Detail from a thangka painting by Kumar Lama

Rang-rig Togden was a Tamdrin (rTa mGrin – Hayagriva) master who was considered by Jomo Pema ’ö-Zér, (and later A-Kyong Düd’dül Dorje) to be a body emanation of Thangtong Gyalpo – the famous Nyingma gTértön known in the West as ‘The Tibetan Leonardo DaVinci’. It was Thangtong Gyalpo who invented the suspension bridge and the famous ‘White Yogi’s Pill’ which is still available today from Tibetan pharmacies.

He was also an accomplished gÇodpa who spent his life travelling between charnel grounds until the time he met Jomo Pema ’ö-Zér (the mother of Khyungchen Aro Lingma). In his later life Rang-rig Togden was mainly a practitioner of Dzogchen long-dé – a transmission he received from Jomo Pema ’ö-Zér. From Rang-rig Togden, Jomo Pema ’ö-Zér adopted the style of using the gÇod drum to accompany many kinds of practice – including protector practice and yogic song. This tradition was passed on to Aro Lingma who incorporated it into the Aro tradition. Rang-rig Togden possessed a wonderful gÇod drum which he constructed from five male skulls and five female skulls which he shaped and riveted together to form an immense gCod drum which was three spans in diameter. Aro Lingma took this gÇod drum with her when she left her parents retreat cave and travelled north to meet her future sang-yab ’a-Shul Pema Legden. After meeting ’a-Shul Pema Legden, Aro Lingma presented him with her father’s gCod drum and he used it until the time of his death. The drum was then passed on to A-kyong Düd’dül Dorje. On Akyong Düd’dül Dorje’s death it was kept for the incarnation of Aro Yeshé, as Aro Yeshé never participated in outer form of practice.