Chhoje Tulku Rinpoche’s root lama was His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, one of the greatest, most respected and beloved Tibetan Buddhist lamas of the twentieth century. A fully enlightened Buddha, scholar, and meditation master, he was the regent and representative of Padmasambhava himself, indeed he was inseparable from the body, speech and mind of Padmasambhava. He was a great Tertön and a discoverer of concealed teachings, who continued the work of Guru Padmasambhava and Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal by revealing and restoring profound spiritual treasures suitable for the beings of this age. Incredibly prolific, his work served to maintain the living tradition of the Nyingma lineage, the ancient school, which included the publication of over two dozen volumes of sacred texts, historical and philosophic treatises and poetic songs of fearless realization. He served as supreme head of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism until his passing in 1987.
His vision, activity, and accomplishments were unparalleled. As noted in his biography on Rigpa Wiki: “A master of masters, he was acknowledged by the leading Tibetan teachers of his time as possessing the greatest power and blessing in communicating the nature of mind, and it was to him that they sent their students when prepared for this ‘mind-direct’ transmission. In fact, Dudjom Rinpoche was the root teacher of many of today’s most prominent masters.”
His son Shenpen Dawa Rinpoche notes in his forward to The Nyingpa School of Tibetan Buddhism, Its Fundamentals and History that His Holiness “…intentionally emanated for the sake of sentient beings through seventeen successive lifetimes.” His previous incarnations included Shariputra, Buddha Shakyamuni’s foremost disciple; Saraha, the greatest of the Great 84 Mahasiddhas, and Drogon Chogyal Phagpa, the teacher of Kubla Khan. According to Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, “In the terma teachings it is said that His Holiness was the body emanation of Drogben Khyeuchung Lotsawa (one of the twenty-five heart disciples of Guru Padmasambhava), the speech emanation of Yeshe Tsogyal and the mind emanation of Guru Padmasambhava.” His most recent incarnation was the great Dharma King and treasure revealer, Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904), who discovered the “New Treasures” which he predicted would spread throughout the world, especially to the West.
His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche incarnated in 1904 to a noble family in the Pemakö region of southern Tibet. In fact, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje was born while his predecessor was still alive. According to Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, the land of His Holiness’ birth, “Pemakö is considered to be one of the most powerful geomantic energy points on the earth… a land of medicine and healing. He was born on the tenth day of the six month, which is also the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava, just as the sun’s first rays were touching the village.” His Holiness was recognized and revered from the day he was born.
During his early education, he received instruction by many of the greatest lamas of the Nyingma tradition, including Khenpo Aten, Phungong Tulku Gyurme Ngedön Wangpo, Jedrung Trinlé Jampa Jungné, Khenchen Jampal Dewé Nyima and Minling Dordzin Namdrol Gyatso, among others. He attended some of the greatest monastic universities of Central and Eastern Tibet, mastering every tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Shenpen Dawa Rinpoche writes, “Astonishingly, at the age of thirteen, he gave the full empowerment and oral transmission of the Rinchen Terzod, the collected treasure texts of the Nyingma Tradition. From that time on, he gave major empowerments relating to the different treasure cycles, and at the same time composed many means for attainment and sadhanas, which elucidated the profound teachings of the Buddhadharma…When he was seventeen he composed his first celebrated treatise on the Great Perfection, Dzogpa Chenpo.”
At various stages during his life, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche took the treasure texts revealed by Dudjom Lingpa, put them in order, and added rituals, commentaries and texts to create a complete system. He wrote extensive commentaries on his own revelations. The Dudjom Tersar texts are now widely taught and practiced throughout the world. Shenpen Rinpoche writes, “Like many of his predecessors, His Holiness was also renowned as a great discoverer of concealed treasure teachings which are now widely taught and practiced. These are primarily the direct ‘treasures of intention’ or ‘mind treasures’ of the awareness-holders (vidyadhara) concerning the inner tantras of the secret mantra vehicle, which can bring about the unsurpassed enlightenment of rainbow body in one lifetime.”
During his years in Tibet, His Holiness oversaw the maintenance of the Mindrolling tradition, especially at Pema Chöling and his other seats in the Kongpo and Puwo regions of southeast Tibet. He was renowned throughout Tibet for the depth of his realization and spiritual accomplishment, as well as for his unsurpassed scholarship. After he left Tibet with his family in 1958, he established many communities of Buddhist practitioners in India, Nepal and Sikkim, particularly in Kalimpong, Orissa, Tso Pema (Rewalsar) and Bodhanath, Nepal. He continued to teach and publish many incredible literary works.
During the final phase of his life, His Holiness travelled and continued to give teachings throughout Asia, Europe and North America, guiding the practice of many devoted students. He established meditation and retreat centers in Hong Kong, France, and the United States. He passed into parinirvana – the pure space of the buddha-body of reality, the Dharmakaya – in 1987 in Dordogne, France.