A Brief Story from the History of the Yongdzin Incarnations
His Eminence Drukpa Yongdzin Rinpoche (also known as Decho Yongdzin Rinpoche), one of the principal reincarnate Lamas of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage, is regarded as an emanation of Tibet’s celebrated yogi, Milarepa. He is generally considered to be the Drukpa Kagyu Lineage’s second hierarch after His Holiness Gyalwang Drukchen Rinpoche and is one of the Four Pillars of the Drukpa Kagyu along with His Holiness Gyalwang Drukchen Rinpoche, Khamtrul Rinpoche and Choegon Rinpoche. In addition to being a lineage holder of the Drukpa Kagyu, the previous Drukpa Yongdzin Rinpoche, Ngagi Wangpo, was also a terton, or treasure revealer, who revealed treasures of Guru Padmasambhava. His special practice throughout this previous life was the Rigdzin Srogdrup revelations of the great Nyingma Master, Lhatsun Namkha Jigmé who was an incarnation of the great Dzogchen Master, Vimalamitra and also of the omniscient Longchenpa. Ngagi Wangpo, who recognized the present Soktse Rinpoche as Kunzang Tendzin Gyaltsen, the 6th Soktse Tulku reincarnation, was one of this Soktse Rinpoche’s root gurus.
The lives and reincarnations of Drukpa Yongdzin Rinpoche, Soktse Rinpoche and Chhoje Rinpoche have continuously intertwined. Soktse Rinpoche remembers the following story: when the 2nd Drukpa Yongdzin, Kunga Lhundrup went on pilgrimage to Samye Chimpu in Tibet, he met Lhatsun Namkha Jigmé who had just returned from India. Drukpa Yongdzin was a fully ordained monk, while Lhatsun Namkha Jigmé was a ngagpa (tantric practitioner).
As they were touring the sacred site together, Lhatsun Namkha Jigmé laid his multicolored shawl on the ground, invited Yongdzin Rinpoche to sit down and offered him a skull cup full of wine, saying “Today, this is a great auspicious coincidence for you. Please take it.”
As he was a disciplined monk, Yongdzin Rinpoche was initially unsure what to do but then realized that there must be some important meaning to this offer and drank the entire skull cup full of wine. Lhatsun Namkha Jigmé was delighted and said “Thank you! Now the interdependence is established.”
It was later said that this auspicious coincidence was the cause for Lhatsun Namkha Jigmé to enter the 7th incarnation of Yongdzin Rinpoche. Ngagi Wangpo had the naturally occurring signs of a conch and tiger skin lower garments on the back of his head. When Ngagi Wangpo was a young man living at Decho Monastery, he began to have memories of his previous incarnation as Lhatsun Namkha Jigmé. Spontaneous songs of realization which he could not keep himself from singing out loud arose in his mind due to the power of his previous karma. At times, he would withdraw to the outhouses located behind the monastery to sing through the rear windows in order to avoid disturbing the assembly of disciplined monks.
Minling Gaje Rinpoche, who was Ngagi Wangpo’s teacher and renowned for his clairvoyance, said that he always saw Drukpa Yongdzin Ngagi Wangpo as Lhatsun Namkha Jigmé in person. Although Gaje Rinpoche was Ngagi Wangpo’s teacher, he would never accept his prostrations, saying, “You are the incarnation of Lhatsun Namkha Jigmé. Don’t make prostrations to me!” So Yongdzin Rinpoche used to offer prostrations outside the door before he went in to see his teacher.
One of Guru Padmasambhava’s prophecies in the treasures of Lhatsun foretold Yongdzin Rinpoche’s construction of a monastery on the slopes of the great mountain, Jomo Kharak, in Tsang, which would be called Ogmin Namdroling and would be filled with sacred representations of the body, speech and mind of the Buddha. Just as the prophecy had predicted, after leaving Decho, Ngagi Wangpo built Namdröling Monastery which served for many years as a great boon to the teachings of the Buddha Dharma.
Another prophecy, this one in Chogyur Dechen Lingpa’s (1829-1870) treasure revelations, predicted that the 7th Yongdzin Rinpoche and the 16th Karmapa would meet in Samye in the temple “under the turquoise roof.” Before that meeting could occur, Yongdzin Rinpoche became so seriously ill that his disciples feared that his death was imminent. But Rinpoche was confident that he would not die and assured his disciples that because he had not yet met the 16th Karmapa as the prophecy had predicted, that he was sure that he would not die at that time. Subsequently, he recovered quickly.
The 15th Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje had been one of Ngagi Wangpo’s root teachers. Ngagi Wangpo did eventually meet the young 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpé Dorje, at Samye, exactly as the prophecy had predicted. Ngagi Wangpo offered an empowerment to his root teacher’s reincarnation and performed a Khandro Sun Dok to dispel obstacles to his life. In his book, Blazing Splendor, Tulku Orgyen Rinpoche recounts the enormous respect accorded to this great mahasiddha and terton, the previous Drukpa Yongdzin Rinpoche. His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche also held the previous Drukpa Yongdzin Rinpoche in high esteem as did many other great lamas. A terton, the previous Yongdzin Rinpoche revealed a treasure from Padmasambhava called “Samlhun Lha Chuksum,” a treasure teaching and practice on the Thirteen Manifestations of Padmasambhava which was authenticated by His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche and is widely practiced today.
During the latter years of his life, the previous Yongdzin Rinpoche left his monastery with Chhoje Rinpoche and travelled to western Tibet. From a vision of three sacred AH syllables displayed on a rocky cliff, the previous Yongdzin Rinpoche predicted that he would incarnate as a Nyingma practitioner for his next three lifetimes. Yongdzin Rinpoche is one of the great unconventional masters known as Mahasiddhas. The current incarnation lives in Colorado. Anyone who has spent time with Yongdzin Rinpoche has experienced his extraordinary spaciousness and openness.