Who was Trijang Rinpoche?

The Third Trijang Rinpoche, Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (1901–1981) was the foremost Gelug Lama of his generation and a direct disciple of Je Pabongka. He was the root guru and junior tutor of the 14th Dalai Lama for forty years. He is also the root lama of many Gelug Lamas who teach in the West including Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Geshe Rabten, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa. A great number of present-day Tibetan Buddhist masters are his students.


(Zong Rinpoche) sometimes said that Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang was the “director of us all.” He was the guru of practically every Gelugpa lama of his generation.
~ Molk, David. Chod in the Ganden Tradition


Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has likened Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche to “a vast reservoir from which all Gelugpa practitioners of the present day received ‘waters’ of blessings and instructions.”
~ Belither, James. Modern Day Kadampas: The History and Development of the New Kadampa Tradition


He was the most outstanding Master in every field of Buddhist teachings as well as Tibetan culture. He was the very source of all the fields of knowledge and a consultant in all of them. It was a well-known fact that he had really been the very epitome of a Master who had attained the highest realizations of the Sutras and Tantras, as well as an unsurpassable propagator.

~ The Life of a Tibetan Monk – Autobiography of Geshe Rabten, page 250, Edition Rabten


Almost every Tibetan sought his guidance and blessings in almost all situations and activities, and that includes great masters, senior and junior rinpoches, Geshes, monks, nuns, ministers, business people, men, women, old and young, poor and rich, intellectuals or practitioners. Tibetans from practically every walk of life sought his help and advice in their good and bad times. He cared for everyone equally, without discrimination, with boundless compassion and patience.

~ The Life of a Tibetan Monk – Autobiography of Geshe Rabten, page 250, Edition Rabten


About Trijang Dorjechang

[Extracted from www.tbiusa.org]

Trijang Dorje Chang’s natural nobility and rare affability captivated his many visitors, each of whom, the humble or great of this world, knew he would be assured a warm welcome and an attentive ear. That kind reception was always a prelude to precious advice, as clear as it was sensible on matters both secular and religious, because nothing escaped his luminous intelligence and the humane wisdom which he put in the service of others with unfailing abnegation.

The Junior Tutor of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama was for his generation the repository of the Ganden Oral Tradition originating with the second Victorious One — the great Je Tsongkhapa Lobsang Drakpa. He was the guardian of the Extraordinary Volume derived from Mañjuśrī, that wonderful work that only beings of the highest spirituality can appreciate.

It was the dawn of a Tuesday in spring, the twelfth day of the third lunar month of the Female Iron Ox year (1901) when Trijang Rinpoche was born. He was the third with that name after two Ganden Tripas, the sixty-ninth and eighty-fifth supreme heads respectively, of the Gelugpa school. This time he chose for himself an unusual family who lived in one of the most spiritual places of Central Tibet, Tsel Gungthang. Tsering Döndrup, his father, had two reasons to be proud: he was descended from a maternal uncle of the Seventh Dalai Lama and was in charge of the well-known local monastery. With his first wife, who died too young, he had two girls and five boys, one of whom was Tati Khamlung Rinpoche, Lama of Sera Monastery’s Je college. Later on Tsering Döndrup had another son with a servant woman, a son recognized as a Lama, this time of Ganden Shartse, and known as Pukhang Khyenrab.

When Tsering Döndrup’s recently married fifth son died by being pulled by the current of the Kyichu River while on his way to Lhasa, he did not abandon his daughter-in-law Tsering Drölma. In fact, he took such good care of her that they had three children: Trijang Rinpoche, his sister Jampel Chötso and her younger brother Lelung Rinpoche. In short, three Lama sons were born from three different mothers. And this is not the whole story. The list grows longer when later on Tsering Drölma would build a new life for herself after years of misery. When their older son was only six or seven, Tsering Döndrup, thoroughly disgusted by the empty pleasures of the world, decided to devote himself to spiritual practice. He renounced his responsibilities at Tsel Gungthang and entrusted his family to his aunt Yangzoma and her husband, a Khampa by the name of Apo, who robbed Tsering Döndrup’s family continuously and drove them out of their own home. In his autobiography, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang tells of his grief when, at the age of eight, he learned of the problems his mother and sister had faced.

He himself knew what it was like to be poor when he was young. Very often he and his instructor did not have much to eat. Later, when the invitations flooded in and his relatives resurfaced, he recalled with a smile those days of starvation when he wished in vain to be asked to say prayers or perform rituals that would have provided him with a nourishing meal.

But let us go back to 1901. Trijang Rinpoche’s father was then fifty-nine, and his mother twenty-seven. Soon they would be visited by those in charge of finding the reincarnation of the Tutor of the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama whose name was Lobsang Tsultrim Pelden (1839–1900), and who insisted shortly before he died that they stop at Tsel Gungthang. The little boy showed so many confirming signs that the steward Ngag-rampa Lobsang Tendar’s doubts were quickly dispelled. In fact, the two state oracles, Gandong and Nechung, each singled him out from among the candidates whose names they had been given.

The little boy was not yet three when he was taken to Lhasa early in 1904. He was placed in Chusang Ritö, the hermitage of his illustrious predecessor Jangchub Chöpel (1756–1838), who had come from his home in Kham, the Chateng, to study at Ganden Monastery. At first the boy asked to be admitted to the Jangtse college, but the head of the regional khangtsen or monastic house contemptuously turned him away because he looked awful. Meanwhile, the local inhabitants, the Chatengpas, in no way would accept that this boy from Gungthang had been designated the reincarnation of “their” Lama. The people had their own local candidate and did not hesitate to threaten “the usurper.” It took until 1929 for them to recognize his legitimacy, but from then on they vowed to venerate him unconditionally, as they had done with his predecessor. The Chatengpas literally adore their Lama, to whom they offer their possessions and dedicate their life.

Although challenged thus, the young Lama started his education at Chusang Ritö, a place where monks have always been eager to do retreats as it is such an auspicious site. In particular, many Sera Lamas went there and exchanged traditions and instructions. Their young host loved to lend a hand with the fire rituals and other colorful ceremonies. And so it happened that one day the man who would be his principal Master and whose true spiritual heir he would become arrived. The man’s name was Kyabje Pabongka Dorje Chang (1878–1941). Kyabje Pabongka Dorje Chang would remain at the hermitage no less than seven years until 1912. Meanwhile, the very young Trijang Rinpoche considered him the ideal playmate. After the morning memorization sessions, Trijang Rinpoche loved to join the young Pabongka Rinpoche, so sweet and kind, who would put him on his lap, make him wonderful drawings, and perform all sorts of sacred dances for him. And if the boy caught him at rest, the monk would put the boy next to him and share with him his own food, a gesture which in the highly hierarchical Tibetan society was meant to emphasize their equality.

It goes without saying that the time was devoted mostly to studying, but that was easy for one who had an excellent memory and a good tutor like the steward Ngag-rampa. Early in the summer of 1907, Trijang Rinpoche’s assistants took him to Reting Monastery. There, in the monastery founded in 1056 by the Master Atiśa’s main disciple Dromtön Gyalwey Jung-ne himself, Trijang Rinpoche was ordained by the fourth Reting Rinpoche, Jetsun Ngawang Yeshe Tenpai Gyaltsen, who gave him the name Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso. Because at Chusang Ritö he had twice read the conversations between Atiśa and his disciples compiled in the Kadam Bu-chö — the Kadampa Teachings of the Son — Trijang Rinpoche was able to understand everything and to situate people and things perfectly in his mind as soon as the monks began to give him an explanation.

– Short Biography: Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (1901–1981)


[Source: http://dorjeshugden.info/2014/07/12/who-was-trijang-rinpoche/]

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  1. Thank you admin for sharing such a wonderful story with all of us here. It is just amazing to be reading about Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang’s background information.

    Through the article it had made me to wonder if it is a path that high lamas would take and endure in their younger days to be going through hardship so that they would be able to benefit more in the future as they age. It has made me begin to think that if this is so to eliminate the negative karma that they may have accumulated or is it so in order for the to understand and also remind them what is it like to be suffering, creating that compassion that is deep in them that makes them be caring for others when they teach in masses in the future.

  2. A short article about Trijang Rinpoche, but this short story is weaved so nicely and so much warmth in it. Well written to show that Trijang Rinpoche had difficulties when he was young, and these are probably caused by the karma of the people who will eventually be benefitted by Trijang Lama. And that Je Pabongka and Trijang Rinpoche established their spiritual relationship very early in their lives. Not much I would say but Rejoice!.

  3. When I read about the hardships which high Lamas have to go through, it inspires me. It makes me feel even more grateful to these high Lamas who have to manifest such difficult conditions to come back to us in samsara in order to help us be Enlightened. Those of us who have strong affinity with these Lamas will learn from their hardships and develop more faith and compassion to help others.
    Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang is definitely a very outstanding Lama who have taught and helped many beings. His legacy left behind is powerful and inspiring. May his current and all future reincarnations manifests similar results if not greater in order to help all sentient beings out of samsara.

  4. Thank you DS.com to give us the history of such a renown master it actually give us a more clearer picture about this elite master. May the current reincarnation of Trijang Rinpoche continue to turn the wheel of dharma and spread the dharma to ten direction.

  5. This is beautiful. This Trijang Rinpoche is beautiful and so is his protector Dojre Shugden.

  6. Thank you for the quick insight into the beginnings of a great master. And, also share with us what the great authors and teachers who had received teachings from Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche wrote and praised him.

    For those of us who do not have very much information, this is very precious.

    Thank you for this sharing.

  7. Dear Dalai Lama,

    Since you started the cruel ban against the 350 year Dorje Shugden practice, how has it benefit your Tibetan society and Buddhism in the world? Things have become worse and most educated Tibetans can see this. They don’t speak out not because they don’t see your ban as wrong, but you instill fear in them and not respect. It is like fear of a dictator. I am sorry to say so. Everyone is divided. There is no harmony. Before your ban there was more harmony and unity.

    By enacting the ban, you split the monasteries, split so many families, split regions in Tibet apart, split your disciples from you, split your own gurus from you, split Tibetan Buddhism apart. You have created so much disharmony.

    It is not democratic what you have done to ban a religion within your community. You always talk of tolerance and acceptance and democracy and yet you do not accept and tolerate something different from your beliefs. When people practice Dorje Shugden you ostracize them, ban them from seeing you, ban them from using Tibetan facilities. You know you have done that. There are videos that capture your speech and prove this point. You even had people expelled from monasteries just because they practice Dorje Shugden. Some of the monks you expelled have been in the monastery for over 40 years. Many older monks shed tears because of this.

    Many young educated Tibetans lost confidence in you as they saw the damage the Dorje Shugden ban created and they lose hope. Many have become free thinkers. They reject what you have done. So many people in the west left Buddhism because of the confusion you created with this ban against Dorje Shugden which is immoral.

    You could of had millions of people who practice Dorje Shugden to support, love and follow you, but you scared them away. They are hurt and very disappointed. They loved you and respected you deeply before the ban. It has been 60 years and you have failed to get Tibet back. Your biggest failure is not getting Tibet back after 57 years in exile. Now you are begging China to allow you to return to Tibet to the disappointment of thousands of people who fought for a free Tibet believing in you. So many self-immolated for a free Tibet and now you want Tibet to be a part of China with no referendum from Tibetans. Just like a dictator, you decide on your own. It was your government and you that lost Tibet in the first place. Your policies and style of doing things do not benefit Tibet and Buddhism. You have been the sole ruler of Tibet your whole life and you still have not gotten our country of Tibet back for us. Our families and us are separated. Yet you create more pain by creating a ban to further divide people. Please have compassion.

    No other Buddhist leader has banned or condemned any religion except for you. It looks very bad. You are a Nobel laureate and this is not fitting of a laureate. You should unite people and not separate them by religious differences.

    You said Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi did not do right to the Rohingya people in Myanmar due to religious differences, but you are doing the same thing to the Shugden Buddhists within your own society. There is a parallel in this. You separate the Shugden Buddhists from the others in Tibetan society.

    You have lost so many people who would have loved and supported you. You have lost so much support around the world. The Shugden Buddhists who love you number in the millions. When you are fast losing support from governments and private people, it will not do you well to lose more.

    After you are passed away in the future, the rift you created between the Dorje Shugden and non-Dorje Shugden people will remain for a while and that will be your legacy. Disharmony. You will be remembered for this. Not as a hero but a disharmony creator.

    Dorje Shugden will spread and further grow, but you will be no more as you are a human. No one wishes you bad and in fact we hope you have a long and healthy life, but we have lost so much hope and have so much despair because of you. All the hundreds of Dorje Shugden lamas, tulkus and geshes are maturing and there are hundreds of Dorje Shugden monasteries in Tibet who will not give up Dorje Shugden. You have made a mistake. These hundreds of teachers and teachers to be will spread Dorje Shugden further in the future.

    The gurus that gave us Dorje Shugden as a spiritual practice and you have called these holy gurus wrong and they are mistaken in giving us Dorje Shugden. How can you insult our gurus whom we respect so much? If they can be wrong, then you can be wrong. Then all gurus can be wrong. So no one needs to listen to any guru? You have created this trend. It is not healthy. Your own gurus practiced Dorje Shugden their whole lives. Your own gurus were exemplary and highly learned.

    Dalai Lama you have created so much pain with this ban against so many people due to religion. You are ageing fast. Are you going to do anything about it or stay stubborn, hard and un-moving. You show a smile and preach peace and harmony wherever you go. But will you do the same to your own people? Please rectify the wrong you have done. Please before it is too late. You can create harmony again or you can pass away in the future with this legacy of peace. May you live long and think carefully and admit what was a mistake in having this unethical ban against Dorje Shugden religion.

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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