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Palyul Tradition

The Origin and Throne holders of the Palyul Tradition

In the highland called Drida Zalmo under Dokham of Lower Tibet there located an area known as Palyul. Not only does Palyul have all the qualities of a sacred place as described in the scriptures, but also many greatly accomplished masters visited and blessed it in the past. In 890, Tsugru Rinchen Shonu and Kyere Chogkyong jointly established a retreat centre there. Over time, many highly realized awareness holders came there to practise and propagate the Trilogy of Dho-Gyu and Sem. ("Dho" refers to the Sutra that Gathers All Intentions, an Anuyoga tantra; "Gyu" indicates the Magical Net Tantra, a Mahayoga tantra; and "Sem" refers to Tantras of the Mental Class, an Atiyoga tantra.)

In 1664, Fire Snake Year of the Eleventh Rabjung Cycle, according to the predictions of many noble beings, the great dharma King of Dege, Lachen Jampa Phuntsog and his Prime Minister Trichen Sangye Tenpa built a monastery completely with all the requirements. This monastery later became to be known as Palyul monastery. The King requested Serlo Tonpa Gyaltsen to remain as the monastery’s throne holder, but, being an aged he refused.
Rigzin Kunzang Sherab (1636-1698) was then appointed as the throne holder. Therefore, at the age of 30, in the Wood Snake year of the eleventh Rabjung Cycle, 1665, he shouldered the responsibility of a throne holder. He established the three precepts of the Vinaya tradition: Sojong, Yarney and Gagye, and also the practice of Kama and Terma teachings. He succeeded in propagating the Nyingma doctrine in this great monastery. Over time, there have been twelve throne holders:

  • Rigzin Kunzang Sherab (1636-1698)
  • Padma Lhundrub Gyatso (1660-1727)
  • Drubwang Padma Norbu I (1667-1774)
  • Karma Chophel Zangpo (1728-1790)
  • Drenchog Karma Lhawang (He lived for more than 103 years)
  • Gyurme Ngedon Tenzin (1794-1851)
  • Padma Dongag Tenzin (1830-1891)
  • Dongag Choekyi Nyima (1854-1906)
  • Rigzin Palchen Dupa, Drubwang Rinpoche II (1887-1932)
  • Karma Thegchog Nyingpo (1908-1960)
  • Jigmed Thubten Shedrub Choekyi Drayang, Drubwang Rinpoche III (1932-2009),
  • Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, the present throne holder

These great masters have transmitted and preserved all the sutra and tantra teachings, along with the traditional sciences, such as grammar, logic, poetry, etc. to this day.

The Transmission of Kama Teachings
The great teacher Dharmakaya Samantabhadra, in the form of Vajradhara, bestowed the teachings of Unsurpassed Tantra on the five Buddha families by the means of intention which is known as the intentional lineage of conquerors. Eventually, through symbolic transmission, the teachings were passed down to human and to non-human vidyadharas (awareness-holders) and subsequently to the great Dzogchen master Garab Dorje, and so forth. These teachings were later transmitted to Guru Padmasambhava, Pandita Vimalamitra and the great translator Vairocana by the means of aural transmission. The complete lineage of teachings, containing all the transmissions of these three different masters, was later received by Nyag Gyanakumara, and gradually to Nubchen Sangye Yeshe and Zurchen Choying Rangdrol, with complete four rivers (River of Empowerments, River of Instructions, River of Scriptural texts, and River of Activities and Accomplishments). Later, Rigzin Kunzang Sherab, the first throne holder of the Palyul Lineage, received these teachings and they have been passed down, to present day, through an unbroken lineage.

The Transmission of Terma and Profound Pure Appearance Teachings
Nyangrel Nyima Ozer’s (1124-1192) treasure teaching Kagye Desheg Dupa (Eight Pronouncement, the Gathering of All Sugatas) and Guru Chowang’s (1212-1270) Kagye Sangdzog (Eight Pronouncement as the Complete Secret) were transmitted to the second holder of the Kagye Teachings, Zhigpo Lingpa (1524-1583), and were gradually passed down to Rigzin Kunzang Sherab. He then established, for the first time, the Terma Drubchen (Great Accomplishment Practice of Terma teachings), Drubchod (Accomplishment Puja), Mendrub (Accomplishment Practice of Medicine) and many other religious ceremonies of great importance at Palyul Monastery in Tibet. Likewise, he received the transmissions of the three cycles of Gatherings; Thugchen Yang-Nying Dupa (The Practice of Great Compassionate One as the Gathering of All the Essences), Lama Sangdue (Guru as the Gathering of All Secrets), Lama Gongdue (Guru as the Gathering of All Intentions) and many other ripening and liberating aspects of the profound treasure teachings. He also established them through widespread practice.

In particular, Rigzin Kunzang Sherab received all the treasure teachings of Ratna Lingpa (1403-1479) which Terton Migyur Dorje (1645-1667) had received in a vision as pure appearance teachings, and personally received Namcho treasure teachings from Migyur Dorje. He also received Karma Lingpa and Rigzin Jatson Nyingpo’s (1585-1656) treasure teachings, and many others. These teachings were later preserved and spread by subsequent throne holders of the Palyul Lineage, thus benefiting many beings.

To this century, Late His Holiness Padma Norbu Rinpoche, the eleventh throne holder, had carried out the preservation and dissemination of these esoteric teachings in the mother and branch Palyul monasteries inside and outside of Tibet till his last breath, bringing great happiness and peace in the world. At present, the 12th throne holder H.H. Karma Kuchen Rinpoche is shouldering all these responsibilities.