The Third Trijang Rinpoche, Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso

trijang rinpoche

The Third Trijang, Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso was born on March 10, 1901, in Gungtang (gung thang). His mother was Tsering Drolma; his father, Tsering Dondrub, was a descendent of an uncle of the Seventh Dalai Lama, Kelzang Gyatso (1708-1759). Tsering Dondrub had previously been Tsering Drolma’s father-in-law, until they married after the death of his son, Tsering Drolma’s husband. Altogether Tsering Dondrub fathered children with three women, and in each case at least one male child was recognized as a tulku.

As a child, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the Second Trijang, Lobzang Tsultrim Pelden (1939-1901), who served as the Eighty-fifth Ganden Trichen from 1896 to 1899.

After his recognition, he was moved to Lhasa in 1904, first to Trijang Labrang and then to the Chuzang Ritro hermitage of the First Trijang, the sixty-ninth Ganden Tripa, Trichen Jangchub Chopel (1756-1838). Although the young tulku had been recognized by both the Nechung and Gadong state oracles, the title was contested by a rival candidate for some time.

It was during these early years that Tenzin Gyatso first met his would-be root guru Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo (1878-1941). Pabongka spent a number of years at the hermitage and spent time playing and eating with his young student. He also received teachings from Pabongka, such as the empowerment related to Mañjūśhrī, including Dharmarāja, and instructions on how to draw the hearth mandalas for fire rituals.

Tenzin Gyatso also studied with other teachers in his early youth. When he was eight, he received the Kālachakra initiation from the famed yogi Serkong Dorjechang, Ngawang Tsultrim Donden (1856-1918). In 1907, he received novice ordination from the fourth Reting Rinpoche, Ngawang Lobzang Yeshe Tenpai Gyeltsen.

His life was not without difficulties. When Tenzin Gyatso was five years old, his father took monastic vows, which eventually caused considerable difficulties for the family. His mother and her two other children were evicted from their house by the relatives who had been left to care for her, in a situation which Trijang Rinpoche compares in his autobiography to what happened to Milarepa’s (1040-1123) mother. Tenzin Gyatso himself also often lived on the edges of poverty, at times going without sufficient food. To make things worse, during the brief Chinese occupation of Lhasa, which began in 1910, he contracted a severe case of smallpox. His brother, who also contracted smallpox during this epidemic, died.

When he was fourteen, Tenzin Gyatso received numerous empowerments and teachings from Drepung Gomang’s Buldud Tulku Lobzang Yeshe Tenpai Gyeltsen, including those of Vajrabhairava (both Ekavira and Thirteen-Deity), Guhyasamāja Akṣobhyavajra, Luipa’s Sixty-two Deity Heruka Cakrasaṃvara, Ghaṇṭāpa’ Five-Deity Heruka and the initiation of The Great Compassionate One, Avalokiteśvara according to the lineage of Bhikṣuṇī Śrī Lakṣmī (alternatively Śrīmatī, 8th. century).

Most of Tenzin Gyatso’s youth was spent studying. He joined the Dokhang Khamtsen of Ganden Shartse Monastery and was tutored by Geshe Lobzang Tsultrim. After concluding his study of the five topics of Pramāṇa, Mādhyamaka, Prajñāpāramitā, Vinaya and Abhidharma, in 1919 he received the Geshe Lharampa degree as well as full bhikṣu ordination from the Thirteenth Dalai Lama Tubten Gyatso (1876-1933). After this he entered Gyuto Monastery to engage in a detailed study of the tantras. When he turned twenty-one, at Chuzang, he received from Pabongka, the empowrment of the Mañjūśhrī cycle again, as well as the Thirteen Golden Dharmas of the Sakyapas. He also received the four initiations into the sindhura mandala of Vajrayogīni Naro Kechari, together with commentaries on the generation and completion stages, as well as the Thirteen Pure Visions of Takphu, including Cittamaṇi Tārā. Furthermore he received other teachings associated with the Ganden Nyengyu, such as the Gelug Mahāmudrā and Panchen Lobzang Chokyi Gyeltsen’s (1570-1662) Guru Puja.

Tenzin Gyatso was Pabongka’s closest student, the one to whom he passed all of his lineages. In his autobiography, Trijang Rinpoche notes that during his time at Gyuto he would often travel to wherever Pabongka was teaching to receive instruction and that he would spend his free time meditating on the Lamrim and completing the approximation retreats of deities such as Vajrayoginī, Vajrabhairava Ekavira, Ghaṇṭāpa’s Five-Deity Heruka, Secret Hayagrīva and Bhikṣuṇī Śrī Lakṣmī’s Avalokiteśvara cycle. Each of these deities features prominently in Trijang Rinpoche’s writings. He also received the lineage of the Kadam Lekbam from Pabongka.

From Pabongka, Tenzin Gyatso also received teachings and transmission for the deity Dorje Shugden, which was the main protector practice emphasized by Pabongka. Trijang Rinpoche never spoke out publicly on the controversy that erupted over the worship of Dorje Shugden in the later half of the 1970s due to the Dalai Lama’s disapproval of the practice; instead he instructed his students to keep faith in both the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden.

After completing his education, Tenzin Gyatso travelled throughout Tibet, including a visit to Kham. By this time, he was already giving teachings, oral transmissions and empowerments, including those of Heruka, Vajrayoginī and Guhyasamāja. One of his earliest teachings took place when he was twenty-four. At the request of Geshe Yonten of Ganden Shartse’s Dokhang Khamtsen, he gave the oral transmission of the collected works of Tsongkhapa and his main two students to about two hundred monks.

Tenzin Gyatso visited India and Nepal in 1939, passing through Dungkar Monastery in the Chumbi Valley, where he bestowed the empowerments of Guhyasamāja, Heruka Cakrasaṃvara, Vajrabhairava and others. Although the majority of his teaching activities were associated to the Gelug tradition, there are exceptions. When he was twenty-eight years old, for example, during a stay in Chatreng, Kham, he gave the empowerment for the peaceful and wrathful forms of Padmasambhava and other Nyingma empowerments. Interestingly, later on in India, in 1965, he also gave the Fourteenth Dalai Lama the oral transmissions for two treasures of the Nyingma terton Choggyur Lingpa (, 1829-1870), the Barche Lamsel and Sampa Lhundrub .

After the passing of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama in 1933, Tenzin Gyatso played an important role in the construction and enshrining of the Dalai Lama’s remains inside a golden stupa in the Potala Palace. In his autobiography, he recounts how he visited the Potala every day for year in order to perform the necessary offerings and rituals.

Following the discovery and selection of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, in 1941 Trijang Rinpoche was appointed as his assistant tutor, and, in 1953, as his junior tutor, or yongdzin , teaching him grammar and spelling. It was also in 1941 that Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo passed away.

Trijang Rinpoche’s Collected Works comprise eight volumes. Famous examples of his work include a condensed sādhāna of the Heruka Body Mandala, a gaṅacakra offering text of Heruka and a sādhāna of Cintacakra White Tārā. A comprehensive collection of ritual texts associated with Dorje Shugden which Pabongka Rinpoche asked Trijang Rinpoche to complete entitled “Music Delighting an Ocean of Oath-Bound Protectors”, comprises a whole volume of his Collected Works. The second volume, further includes a number of essential ritual texts associated with the cycle of Cittamaṇi Tārā such as a four maṇḍala offering text, a gaṅacakra ritual, and a pacifying fire ritual text. Another important example of his writing includes the lyrics of the Tibetan National Anthem .

Trijang Rinpoche’s most famous work is undoubtedly Liberation in the Palm of the Hand, a Lamrim text based on notes taken over twenty-four days during Pabongka’s 1921 Lamrim teachings at Chuzang, which intertwined the Swift Path and Mañjūśrī’s Own Speech Lamrim systems along with the instructions on the Seven-Point Mind Training.

During the turbulent years following the Communist Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1949, Trijang Rinpoche stayed close to the Dalai Lama. In 1954, he accompanied the Dalai Lama to Beijing on the ill-fated meeting with Mao Tsedong, and, in 1959, he went into exile with him to India.

In India, Trijang Rinpoche continued teaching and travelling throughout the Tibetan communities such as Buxa, Dalhousie and later in the Karnataka settlements. Ganden Monastery was re-established in Lama Camp no.1 in Mundgod, and a residence, Trijang Labrang was established there for his use. Apart from teaching to the assemblies of Ganden, Sera and Drepung, Trijang Rinpoche also regularly taught in Bodh Gaya and Dharamsala. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he frequently met with Ling Rinpoche Tubten Lungtok Tendzin Trinle (1903-1983), the Dalai Lama’s senior tutor, in order to exchange teachings and empowerments.

Trijang Rinpoche travelled widely internationally, teaching and giving empowerments in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Switzerland, amongst others. In 1966, Trijang Rinpoche performed the site blessing ritual for the TibetanInstitute in Rikon. Later, in 1968, he consecrated the building together with Ling Rinpoche. During this 1966 trip to Europe, a delegation which included Trijang Rinpoche also met with Pope Paul VI (1897-1978, r. 1963-1978) in the Vatican, following the instructions of the Dalai Lama.

Trijang Rinpoche’s most famous students and lineage holders include figures such as the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Zong Rinpoche Lobzang Tsondru Tubten Gyeltsen (, 1905-1984), Loden Sherab Dagyab Rinpoche , Dakpo Lama Rinpoche Jampa Gyatso , Denma Locho Rinpoche, Gelek Rinpoche, Geshe Rabten (, 1920-1986) and Lama Yeshe ( 1935–1984), all of whom were instrumental in diffusing the Gelug teachings internationally.

Trijang Rinpoche passed away on November 9, 1981.


Blo bzang dpal ldan bstan ‘dzin yar rgyas. Khri byang rin po che’i rnam thar kha skong. In The Collected Works of Blo bzang dpal ldan bstan ‘dzin yar rgyas, vol. 4, pp. 11-407. Mundgod: Zemey labrang, gaden shartse monastic college. TBRC W14376.

Blo bzang ye shes bstan ‘dzin rgya mtsho, 1965. Rnam grol lag bcangs su gtod pa’i man nag zab mo tshan la ma nor ba mtshuns med chos kyi rgyal po’i thugs bcud byan chub lam gyi rim pa’i nams khrid kyi zin bris gsun rab kun gyi bcud bsdus gdams nag bdud rtsi’i snin po. Sarnath: Mongolian Lama Guru Deva.

Blo bzang ye shes bstan ‘dzin rgya mtsho, 1975. Dga’ ldan khri chen byang chub chos ‘phel gyi skye gral du rlom pa’i gyi na pa zhig gis rang gi ngang tshul ma bcos lhug par bkod pa ‘khrul snang sgyu ma’i zlos gar.India: .

His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, 1997. My Land and My People. New York; Warner Books.

Kar rgyal don grub. 1992. Khri byang blo bzang ye shes bstan ‘dzin rgya mtsho. In Mdo khams cha phreng gi lo rgyus gser gyi snye ma, pp. 101-108. Dharamsala: Bod kyi dpe mdzod khang. TBRC W21499.

Pabongka Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche, 1997. Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Pabongka Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche and Geshe Lobzang Tharchin, 1990. Liberation in Our Hands: The Preliminaries. Howell: Mahayana Sutra & Tantra Press.

Thub bstan ‘jam dbyangs. 1999. Bka’ drin zla med 7 skyabs mgon rgyal ba’i yongs ‘dzin skyabs rje khri byang rdo rje ‘chang mchog gi sku par. In Rdzong chos chos ‘byung bdud rtsi’i zil mngar, p. 352. Mysore: Zongkar Chode Monastery. TBRC W00EGS1017102.

Joona Repo
June 2011

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Many great masters have kept their practice of Dorje Shugden strong. Here we see Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche, meeting with Kensur Lati Rinpoche and Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen. The Tibetan leadership forced Kensur Lati Rinpoche and Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen to give up the practice, but they went to meet Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche in 2000, a sign that they still had great faith in Dorje Shugden. Why else would they meet a Dorje Shugden lama? Despite the ban enforced by the Tibetan leadership, they held their own views strongly. Click on image to enlarge.

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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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