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Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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The First Dorje Drak Rigdzin, Rigdzin Godemchen Ngodrub Gyeltsen
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Rigdzin Godemchen Ngodrub Gyeltsen (rig 'dzin rgod ldem chen dngos grub rgyal mtshan) was born in Nyenyul (gnyan yul), also known as Toyor Nakpo (tho yor nag po), to the east of Mount Trazang (bkra bzang) in Lato Jang (la stod byang).
Lobpon Dudul was a tantric yogin with expertise in the practice of the Purbu Zeumuk Gu (phur bu ze'u smug gu), an early cycle of the deity Vajrakīla, and the young Ngodrub Gyeltsen studied these doctrines together with those of the Māyājāla and Mātaraḥ and so on under his tutelage.
Following the death of his father he continued to be educated by his mother.
According to legend, when he was eleven years old three feathery growths appeared on the top of his head; by the time he was twenty-three there were five. Because these growths looked like the feathers of a vulture, he became famous as Godkyi Demtruchen (rgod kyi ldem 'phru can), ‘the one with vulture’s feathers’, which is generally shortened to Godemchen.
The following year he entrusted these to a Vinaya master named Tonpa Sonam Wangchuk (ston pa bsod nams dbang phyug, d.u.) and two companions with the precise instructions to pass them on to "a yogin carrying a statue or rosary in his hand" who they would encounter to the east of Mount Zangzang and who would begin to engage them in a conversation concerning the king of Gungtang (gung thang), the legitimate heir of the ancestral rulers of Tibet.
The story continues that a week or so later, as the three travellers were eating a meal on the bank of a stream near Draklung Monastery (brag lung dgon) in northern Yeru (g.yas-ru), Godemchen arrived there from Namolung carrying in his hands a brass image of Vajrakīla and a rosary. "Have you heard that lord Tashi De (bkra shis lde; the king of Gungtang) died today?" he asked.
"This is not good. Has the very essence of the earth gone bad?" As he spoke, the three travellers recognized the fulfillment of Manglam Zangpo Drakpa's prophecy and so handed over all the treasure scrolls and a sealed letter of good wishes.
Upon his return to Namolung, Rigdzin Godemchen interpreted the rising of the planet Jupiter in the eighth lunar mansion (the lunar calendar's commemoration of the birth of the Buddha) as a sign that the time had come to take out the key to the treasures.
At the first crack of dawn on the eighth day of the snake month in the year of the fire horse, 1366, there came from the east a beam of white light "like the trunk of the wish-fulfilling kalpalatā" that struck the summit of Mount Trazang and a spot beneath that was indicated by a light fall of snow.
Thus, from the vicinity of three stones markers (rdo ring) within a cavity of hard white rock beneath the summit, Godemchen unearthed the first of the Jangter (byang gter), or Northern Treasures, in the form of seven paper scrolls.
In order to compensate for the removal of these scrolls, Godemchen buried another treasure in their place and the resultant cavity, known as Lungseng (rlung gseng) is reported to be still in existence today.
A remarkably elaborate description of his next revelation describes how two months later, on the fourth day of the sheep month of 1366, Godemchen was engaged in bestowing the empowerment of Vajrakīla upon his disciples.
During the preliminary section of the rite, just as he was establishing the maṇḍala of deities within the bodies of his disciples, he interrupted the rite and led his followers up into the mountains that looked like "a heap of poisonous snakes" (dug sbrul spung 'dra) to reveal treasure.
The hagiographies describe the air as sweetly scented and filled with rainbows as Godemchen guided his disciples to the southwest face of the mountain where the atmosphere glowed with ruby-red light in the splendor of the setting sun.
They climbed up to a mountain cave and Godemchen went inside and began to pray, leaving two disciples, Lama Dopawa Sanggye Tenpa (bla ma do pa ba sangs rgyas bstan pa, d.u.) and Rigdzin Gonpo (rig 'dzin mgon po, d.u.) stationed beneath the entrance.
When Godemchen pressed beneath that mark with the symbolic key to the treasures, it opened like a door onto a triangular chamber within which they found a pale blue snake with a yellow belly, as thick as a man’s arm.
Resting upon the blue stone slab, concealed within the serpent’s coils, lay a maroon leather casket, the fivefold repository of the Jangter.
From within this section he also took out the teachings of Lama Rigdzin Dungdrub (bla ma rig 'dzin gdung sgrub) and other texts of tantric practice, together with the Dzogchen texts of Vajrakīla, three kīla daggers wrapped in maroon silk, thirty paper scrolls wrapped in blue silk, relics such as hair from the heads of Padmasambhava and his disciples, and other sacred articles.
The front (eastern) compartment of the box was fashioned of white conch shell and contained texts of the Gyudre Ladokpa (rgyu 'bras la ldog pa) cycle as well as teachings on the similarity of the awakened mind to the sky (dgongs pa nam mkha' dang mnyam pa'i chos) and the root tantra texts of the Kadak Rangjung Rangshar (ka dag rang byung rang shar) cycle concerning the natural presence and arising of primordial purity.
The golden southern chamber of the chest contained teachings on the fourfold practice of approach and attainment of the deity (snyen sgrub rnam pa bzhi'i chos) and the texts of the Sangdrub Guru Drakpo Tsel (gsang sgrub guru drag po rtsal) and Kagye Drakpo Rangjung Rangshar (bka' brgyad drag po rang byung rang shar).
From the western compartment of red copper, Godemchen took out the Tendrel Khyeparchen (rten 'brel khyad par can) and the Chidrub Drowa Kundrol (phyi sgrub 'gro ba kun grol) which form part of the Tendrel Chodun (rten 'brel chos bdun) cycle.
He also took out a volume in which were found the Tamdrin Drekpa Wangdu (rta mgrin dregs pa dbang sdud), the Khorde Wangdu ('khor 'das dbang sdud) and the Mahādeva (lha chen) teachings, as well as a further volume containing the Jangchub Sempai Chowang (byang chub sems dpa'i spyod dbang]]).
Within the black northern compartment of iron were found the most violent of all the wrathful ritual texts, including many Vajrakīla texts, together with other teachings concerning "grinding the enemies and obstructers to dust" ([[dgra bgegs] thal bar rlog pa'i chos]]), texts said to be as pernicious as the stem of a poisonous plant (dug gi sdong po lta bu).
He also found there eight treatises on the compounding of ritual medicine (sman gyi tshad byas pa), as well as further commentaries and instructions on ‘thread cross rituals’ (mdos) but it seems that not all of these texts were transcribed and disseminated.
Taking away the five treasuries of teachings, but leaving undisturbed, the sources state, the many jewels and precious substances meant as offerings to the guardian deities, Godemchen organized each of the sections into one hundred and one parts and rearranged the folios of yellow paper into pairs like mother and son, marked with the seed-syllables of the four guardian goddesses of the gates. He then taught the doctrines contained therein to his chosen pupils.
These teachings became known as the Jangter in order to distinguish them from the Lhoter (lho gter), or Southern Treasures that had been revealed in previous centuries by Nyangrel Nyima Ozer (nyang ral nyi ma 'od zer, 1136-1204) and Guru Chowang (gu ru chos dbang, 1212-1270). Tibetan historians group these three men together as the body, speech and mind emanations of Padmasambhava.
Dremoshong ('bras mo gshongs), Deden Kyimolung (bde ldan skyid mo lung), Bepa Pemetsel (sbas pa padma'i tshal), Rolpa Khandro Ling (rol pa mkha' 'gro gling), Gyelkyi Khenpolung (rgyal kyi mkhan po lung), Lhai Podrangding (lha'i pho brang sdings) and Dromokhu (gro mo khud).
In 1389, at the age of fifty-two, Godemchen was appointed the role of personal preceptor to the king of Gungtang, Trigyel Chokdrubde (khri rgyal mchog grub lde, d.u.), who gave him possession of the region of Riwo Pelbar (ri bo dpal 'bar) in Mangyul.
As an offering to the sovereign, Godemchen presented a kīla dagger called Sisum Dudul (srid gsum bdud 'dul), which he said had been used by Padmasambhava himself at Yangleshod cave in Nepal, together with other objects and teachings and empowerments.
His reincarnation, Ngakgi Wangpo (ngag gi dbang po, 1580-1639), established Dorje Drak Monastery (rdo rje brag dgon) as the seat of the Jangter tradition, and took the title of Third Dorje Drak Rigdzin; Godemchen and Lekden Dorje thus became the First and Second Dorje Drak Rigdzin, respectively.
Published May 2013