A Tribute to His Holiness Kyabje Ling Rinpoche

As one of two tutors, HH Ling Rinpoche (left) was responsible for educating HH the Dalai Lama (center) alongside HH Trijang Rinpoche (right)

In the tradition of Tibet’s great masters, His Holiness Kyabje Ling Rinpoche began turning the wheel of Dharma for sentient beings at a very young age. By 10 years old, Ling Rinpoche already joined one of the three great Gelug monasteries and henceforth spent the rest of his life dedicated to the cause of serving sentient beings.

As a young monk, Ling Rinpoche received a classical Gelug education, focused on the study of five main texts – the Prajnaparamita, Madhyamika, Pramana, Vinaya and Abhidharmakosa. A master debater and scholar, his studies were supplemented by texts from various Buddhist masters of the mind such as Panchen Sonam Dragpa. With such rigorous training, and already possessing an acute level of intelligence and wisdom, Ling Rinpoche completed his Geshe degree in just two years, before he entered Gyuto Monastery aged 22.

At Gyuto, Ling Rinpoche continued to excel, scoring top marks in his college’s tantric examinations before he became their disciplinarian at the age of 24. Ling Rinpoche then left Gyuto, going from strength to strength as he displayed more and more of his attainments through the power of his deeds.

With such a wealth of experience and knowledge, it is no wonder that Ling Rinpoche was later appointed to be His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s senior tutor.

It is not possible to be such a prolific scholar without a mass of previous life imprints propelling one’s study and practice, and Ling Rinpoche’s life is testament to existence of reincarnation and karma, and therefore the preciousness of one’s human life.

We are fortunate that the 7th Ling Rinpoche has returned to continue the work of his predecessor. So that you know just how much Ling Rinpoche will accomplish, and what immense respect we should accord him, we at DorjeShugden.com wish to share with you his biography. May this great being fulfil the promises made by his previous incarnations, and live long to turn the wheel of Dharma for sentient beings in all six realms.

For more information about this great master, check out these links:

Kyabje Ling Rinpoche (1903-1983)

Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and Dorje Shugden

Advice by His Holiness Kyabje Ling Rinpoche

The Line of Gaden Tripas

All of us at DorjeShugden.com make this virtual offering of a butterlamp to the incomparable master His Holiness Kyabje Ling Dorjechang, requesting him to remain for another 1,000 years to continue turning the wheel of Dharma and benefiting countless beings.


Source: The Autobiography of Kyabje Ling Rinpoche. The Tibet Journal, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 45-61.

Born in 1903, in his lifetime, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche became the 97th Gaden Tripa as well as the senior tutor of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. One of Tibet’s greatest masters would begin his holy life in Yabphu near Lhasa, a place known for its connection to Vajrayogini. Not only was Yabphu shaped like a double triangle believed to represent Vajrayogini and Heruka Chakrasamvara, but it was also home to a sacred image of Vajrayogini. Created in the tradition of Naropa, the Vajrayogini was known to have spoken many times.

Kyabje Ling Rinpoche wasted little time in rejoining the monastic institution. At a young age, his reincarnation was recognised by his previous life’s student, the 13th Dalai Lama and by 10 years old, he had already entered Drepung Loseling. Three years later, aged 13, Ling Rinpoche received his novice ordination vows from the 13th Dalai Lama.

It is notable that the Dalai Lama and Ling Rinpoche have long enjoyed a particularly close relationship, lifetime after lifetime. Two incarnations ago, Ling Rinpoche was the 13th Dalai Lama’s teacher; the immediate previous incarnation was a student of the 13th Dalai Lama and then later became the teacher of the 14th Dalai Lama. Now, the current incarnation has once again been recognised by the 14th Dalai Lama and remain very close.

As a young monk, Ling Rinpoche’s education followed the general monastic curriculum, beginning with the five major texts – the Prajnaparamita, Madhyamika, Pramana, Vinaya and Abhidharmakosa. Commenting on the five major texts and the expectations of monastic training, Ling Rinpoche wrote:

These basic texts of each of the five main texts, as well as the commentaries by Je Rinpoche, his son-like disciples, and Panchen Sonam Dagpa are memorized. We were expected to comprehend the meaning of both the root texts and their commentaries, to discuss all their difficult points, and to clearly analyze and understand the different points of view of the principal Indian and Tibetan masters. Thus I studied thoroughly, debated with wise and intelligent dharma friends and gained considerable knowledge.

However, despite the profundity of these texts, Ling Rinpoche showed signs very early on that he was no ordinary student. His clear, precise and quick understanding of these texts was such that at a young age, he was already debating with highly esteemed Geshes on profound works like Nagarjuna’s Six Logic Texts of Madhyamika philosophy at the regular debate sessions at Drepung.

Ling Rinpoche proved himself a highly adept scholar from a young age, with deep understanding of the most difficult texts. By his explanations, commentaries and teachings of such texts and philosophies, it was clear that this was someone teaching and speaking not merely out of academic prowess but from true realizations.

As he was a brilliant scholar, many of his studies remained particularly memorable for Kyabje Ling Rinpoche. He once wrote that during certain debate sessions held during the winter (particularly on the subjects of valid cognition), it was so cold that the skin on the monks’ hands would crack. However, because they were so engrossed in their debates, they would not notice the blood dripping from their hands!

He is remembered to this day for being able to write on and comprehend texts by both the Indian panditas such as Dharmakirti as well as the Tibetan lineage masters, Panchen Sonam Dragpa and Gyaltsab Dharma Rinchen. In fact, much of his most fundamental monastic study and practice would find its basis in the texts of Panchen Sonam Dragpa’s texts – this was central to monastic education at Drepung Loseling.

HH Ling Rinpoche (left) with HH the Dalai Lama

After nine years of study, in 1922, Ling Rinpoche received his full ordination vows from the 13th Dalai Lama. A year later, when he was just 20 years old, Ling Rinpoche began his Geshe degree examinations. It took him only two years to obtain his Geshe Lharampa, the highest degree in the monastic system which usually takes a total of 30 years to complete.

Upon completion of his Geshe degree, Ling Rinpoche joined Gyuto Tantric College where he began to master all four classes of Tantra, focusing especially on the Tantras of Heruka, Guhyasamaja and Yamantaka. In mastering Guhyasamaja, Ling Rinpoche relied heavily on the works of many masters including Panchen Sonam Dragpa, Chandrakirti and Lama Tsongkhapa.

HH Ling Rinpoche (left) with HH Trijang Rinpoche (center) and HH Zong Rinpoche (right)

A year after entering Gyuto, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche was awarded the highest marks in the college’s tantric examinations. A year after that, when he was just 24 years old, Ling Rinpoche was appointed as gekul (disciplinarian) for Gyuto for four months. His appointment is testament to just how well Ling Rinpoche held his vows – only those renowned for their pure Vinaya conduct can be appointed into a position that requires them to oversee that others keep their vows and commitments.

Ling Rinpoche received his classical Gelug education at a time when many great Gelug masters were still alive. Thus he had the fortune to receive direct teachings from the some of the most renowned Buddhist luminaries of our time. For example, from his previous life’s student the 13th Dalai Lama, Ling Rinpoche received the Lamrim Chenmo teachings. From Pabongka Dorje Chang who was none other that Heruka himself, Ling Rinpoche received initiations for Solitary Hero Yamantaka and Vajrayogini.

Having studied at the feet of such masters, Ling Rinpoche could not help but be inspired to immense faith by their depth of Dharma knowledge and attainments. After graduating from Gyuto, Ling Rinpoche wrote:

Among my teachers at this time was Je Pabong Khapa Dechen Nyingpo, manifestation of the glorious Chakrasamvara (Pal Khor Dompa). My other teachers were the great Kyabgon Yongzin Sikyong Tradag Dorje Chang, Kyabje Yongzin Trijang Dorje Chang, Kyabje Khangsar Dorje Chang, Chone Lama Rinpoche Losang Gyaltsen Palzangpo and others. In short, I studied with thirty scholars and practitioners. Their kindness cannot be repaid even by holding them on my head for infinite lifetimes.

In this lifetime, Ling Rinpoche studied under 30 illustrious teachers, including Trijang Dorje Chang (who he would also work together with as tutors to H.H. the Dalai Lama), Chone Lama Rinpoche Losang Gyaltsen Palzangpo, Kyabgon Yongzin Sikyong Tradag Dorje Chang and Kyabje Khangsar Dorje Chang, among many others. This relationship with his teachers affected him greatly, inspiring him to many levels of faith. Remembering them, he wrote, “Their kindness cannot be repaid even by holding them on my head for infinite lifetimes.”

Later, when His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama, one of his teachers and his ordination preceptor, passed away, Ling Rinpoche was personally involved in helping to create the golden stupa which would contain His Holiness’ relics. He had great devotion towards his teachers throughout his life, with that most special connection to the Dalai Lama.

10 years after he was appointed gekul of Gyuto, Ling Rinpoche was installed as the abbot of his alma mater. This was soon followed by his appointment as the tsenshab to the young 14th Dalai Lama, and later, in 1941, as junior yongdzin (tutor) to the Dalai Lama. In this new position, he was now one of a privileged few responsible for educating the six-year old Dalai Lama.

In 1949, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche became the Sharpa Choeje, the second highest position within the Gelugpa school of Buddhism, after the Gaden Tripa. Four years later, he was appointed senior yongdzin to the Dalai Lama together with Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche as the junior yongdzin. As the Dalai Lama’s tutor, Ling Rinpoche was remembered for having imparted to His Holiness teachings on the Lamrim, as well as tantric teachings on Heruka, Guhyasamaja and Yamantaka.

When Ling Rinpoche gave the Dalai Lama full ordination vows in 1954, he had already been holding his own monk vows for 32 years. These were the same vows that he had received from his student’s previous incarnation, the 13th Dalai Lama, who had been his teacher.

HH Ling Rinpoche (second from right) with HH the Dalai Lama (third from right) and HH Trijang Rinpoche (far right)

During his time as tutor to the Dalai Lama, Ling Rinpoche would often go on pilgrimages with His Holiness as well as to China. As well as teaching the Dalai Lama directly, Ling Rinpoche also continued to give many teachings on Tantra, including those on Vajrabhairava and Guhyasamaja, until 1959 when the Chinese occupation of Tibet forced him to flee into India.

While living in exile in India, and recognising the world’s thirst for the Dharma, Ling Rinpoche travelled to the West, to Switzerland and England, where he gave many teachings. He also travelled around India to teach, such as at a particularly memorable teaching on the Lamrim Chenmo in Phelgyeling Monastery which had been requested by Guru Deva Rinpoche. By his sheer wealth of knowledge, academic excellence, powerful teachings and total dedication to the spread of Dharma, Ling Rinpoche rose quickly and high within the Gelug school. When he was 57 years old, Ling Rinpoche ascended to the highest, most respect position of the Gelugpa lineage – as the 97th Holder of the Gaden Throne.

As the Tibetan community sought to re-establish their great monasteries in India, Ling Rinpoche visited Sera, Gaden and Drepung in South India to give teachings, in support of their work. It seemed that the most illustrious and well known he became, the harder he worked for the Dharma. He dedicated the rest of his life to teaching and thereby to preserve the teachings in new lands, far away from his native Tibet. In so many ways, Ling Rinpoche worked tirelessly for the Dharma from the moment of his birth in 1903, to the time of his passing into clear light in 1983.

The unmistaken incarnation of Kyabje Ling Rinpoche was born in 1985 in Dharamsala, India and in 1987, recognized again by the student of his previous life, H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama. The young current incarnation is currently focusing on his monastic studies at Drepung Loseling as well as giving teachings all around the world, proving to be just as powerful a scholar and spiritual guide as his predecessor.

The Gelug assembly of Varanasi University requested Kyabje Ling Rinpoche to compose for them a simple way to do the fulfillment, confession, request for activity and serkyem for Mahakala, Kalarupa, Palden Lhamo and Dorje Shugden. Thus Kyabje Ling Rinpoche composed the following text (Source: Jam mgon rgyal ba’i bstan srung rdo rje shugs ldan gyi ‘phrin bcol phyogs bsdus bzhugs so. Bylakuppe, India: Ser smad gsung rab ‘phrul spar khang (1992), pp. 63-69)

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2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Practitioners must consistently read about the life biography of great Lamas. It helps us overcome our mental delusions. More importantly we receive lots of blessings and faith increases as we thread through our own journey remembering the harship and emulating the great works of these Lamas. These Lamas have gone through a lot in life in order to preserve the lineage and teachings of the Great Buddhas. There are lots to learn from their personal journey, which will help us improve ours. Thank you ds.com for making so many important biographies of High Lamas available to us.

  2. Kyabje Ling Rinpoche is a renowned lama who is the longest Gaden throneholder in history. He was also the tutor to the 6th HHDl, 12th HHDL, 13th HHDL in his previous lifetimes. Before Kyabe Ling Rinpoche entered clear light, he was one of the two tutors to the 14th HHDL. Reading about the usual achievement of high lamas such as Kyabje Ling Rinpoche is very inspiring. And Given that it is world known fact for the selection of HHDL’s tutors to adhere to stringent conditions and under the scrutiny of the Tibetan government, hence it is safe to say that the tutors to HHDL must be flawless in their Buddhism knowledge and practice.

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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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