Tagphu Pemavajra

Tagphu Pemavajra is most commonly remembered today as being the guru of one of our most significant lineage fathers, Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche. Also, he is more famously known for being the first to transmit the lineage of Dorje Shugden that almost all of us are now practicing.

This incarnation lineage is a mystical and very old one which can be traced back to the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, as the disciple Dharmati. From that time, he has emanated into various lineages, each time emerging as a deeply respected and remembered practitioner. Within his illustrious incarnation lineage, are the incarnations of Sherab Dorje of the Kadampas, Milarepa’s student Sewan Repa, Ra Lotsawa’s disciple Trehor Lobsang and the Sakya Lama Shakya Chogden, to name only a few.

This proves the purity and efficacy of every lineage, that they are equally powerful for bringing attainments and that ultimately, they lead us to the same destination of enlightenment. Incarnation lineages like Tagphu Pemavajra proves to us that the labels and distinctions we make are only temporary and even false, for the real nature of every sect has equal power to bring us attainments.

For the most part, many of his incarnations were known mostly for their mystical practices and experiences, experienced either in retreat or through astral body travels to other realms. One of his earlier incarnations in the 18th century, Garwang Choekyi Wangchug, was famous for his written works which included writings that began to reveal the more secret and mystical lineages.

The most “current” incarnation as Tagphu Pemavajra was also particularly famous for his astral travels, and for travelling to Tushita Heaven where he received Dorje Shugden’s practice directly from Shugden himself (as his previous incarnation Duldzin Dragpa Gyeltsen).

Of special importance is the close connection that Tagphu Pemavajra’s incarnation lineage has had for centuries with Pabongka Rinpoche’s incarnations and with the practice of Vajrayogini. It is difficult to talk about Tagphu Pemevajra without consideration of these two most important aspects of his life.

For example, one of his previous incarnations, Lobzang Tenpay Gyaltsen, wrote a commentary on Vajrayogini at the request of Changkya Rolpai Dorje. Both these Lamas are known to have passed many teachings and practices to each other, which have since been preserved and passed on to many more practitioners.

At a later time, Lobzang Tenpay Gyaltsen incarnated as Tagphu Pemavajra; Changkya Rolpai Dorje’s incarnation at that same was time Pabongka Rinpoche who was a disciple of and recognized by Tagphu Pemavajra. The lineage of Vajrayogini’s practice held by almost all Gelug masters and practitioners in the world today stem from Pabongka Rinpoche – evidence again of how interconnected these two Lamas and Vajrayogini are.

Today, much of what is known about Tagphu Pemavajra is through the writings of Pabongka Rinpoche, one of his closest disciples with whom he would eventually come to share a mutually beneficial relationship – both would request and share teachings with each other.

While many know of Pabongka Rinpoche’s close relationship with Dagpo Rinpoche – from whom he learnt the Lamrim – it is a lesser known fact that it was in fact Tagphu Pemavajra who would advise him, through highly blessed visions, of the proper time to seek the teachings of Dagpo Rinpoche. Many of the highest and most secret teachings, as well as the Lamrim, were passed directly from Tagphu Pemavajra to Pabongka Rinpoche.

Among certain biographical accounts of Tagphu Pemavajra are mystical experiences, where he recounts his direct interactions with the deities, such as receiving the four initiations of Heruka Yabyum and seeing directly the deities of Heruka’s mandala. These extraordinary visions occur throughout his life, particularly of Heruka, as well as particularly sharp and accurate clairvoyance

There is a particular example of a time when Tagphu Pemavajra received many prophecies for searching a holy Heruka hermitage. As Tagphu Pemavajra and Pabongka Rinpoche traveled together in search of this place, many clear signs appeared to lead them there.

Most notable was a crow who appeared, sang, flew back and forth between them, and kept going towards a cave at a neighbouring mountain. They believed the crow to be a protector of Heruka who had come to show them Heruka’s special place. Upon arriving at the place indicated by the crow, they identified it immediately as a holy place, resonating with the energies and blessings of spiritual practice. Tagphu Pemavajra received many, many auspicious visions there.

Trijang Rinpoche, the heart disciple of Pabongka Rinpoche, writes in his autobiography that Tagphu Pemavajra was also known to have many frequent visions of Tara, who he would converse with directly and from whom he received many secret teachings, enough to fill volumes. It is further documented that the annuttarayogini form of Tara appeared first as a pure vision to Tagphu Pemavajra. Trijang Rinpoche himself requested Tagphu Pemavajra for prophecies regarding his spiritual practice.

As Trijang Rinpoche received countless teachings from Pabongka Rinpoche and became one of the most important figures of Tibetan Buddhism when it came out of Tibet (almost every prominent Gelugpa teacher in the world now would trace their lineage back to him and received teachings from him), this meeting and relationship with Tagphu Pemavajra is a particularly significant and auspicious one. He went on to write many detailed texts about this practice of this form of Green Tara, which had been received by Tagphu Pemevajra through visions.

The special relationship between Tagphu Pemavajra and Pabongka Rinpoche extended further into an unusually strong connection with the protector Dorje Shugden. It is known that Pabongka Rinpoche had been requested by Dorje Shugden himself, through an oracle to compose a new text. Though he complied and wrote the text, he felt it required further validation and thus offered it to Tagphu Pemavajra with further requests. Tagphu Pemavajra, by now very famous for his ability to travel to other realms, went to Tushita Heaven, where he made requests to Dorje Shugden.

Shugden emanated out of under Tsongkhapa’s throne and, in the form of Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen, passed him the practice and initiation. This was then passed down to Pabongka Rinpoche; from this, he later composed Melodious Drum Victorious in all Directions which has come to be the central text used today for propitiations and prayers to Dorje Shugden.

In his lifetime, Tagphu Pemavajra made various pilgrimages and engage in retreats at holy sites throughout Tibet. Often, he would receive immaculate visions and lineages at these places. In between these travels, Pabongka Rinpoche would invite him for teachings, which Tagphu Pemavajra would happily offer. Over the years, he would give many teachings including those at the heart of the Gelugpa lineage – Gaden Lhagyama and Lamrim – as well as initiations of some of the highest practices. In turn, Pabongka Rinpoche too would offer him teachings or he would give extensive teachings and initiations at the request of Tagphu Pemavajra.

Tagphu Pemavajra and Pabongka Rinpoche’s relationship exemplified the powerful results that can arise out of such a pure and committed guru-disciple relationship. They were known to often visit each other, share teachings and perform pujas and offerings together. So closely connected were they that Tagphu Pemavajra even wrote prayers as requests to Pabongka’s previous lives which revealed details of these incarnations.

For many years of their lives, particularly towards the second half, both would also offer long life rituals to each other, wherein Tagphu Pemavajra would even receive visions indicating that the Buddhas themselves came to bless Pabongka Rinpoche.

This special relationship between the two was always marked by the very powerful teachings they shared with each other and bestowed onto others; it was marked entirely by their devotion to Dharma. Even their very last meeting in 1935 was charaterised by the wealth of teachings that arose out of their meeting – teachings of the Lamrim, commentaries and oral transmission of Je Tsongkhapa’s writings, and initiations and teachings of Dorje Shugden.

While many attribute Pabongka Rinpoche’s eloquence and realization of the Lamrim teachings to his tutelage under Dagpo Rinpoche, we must not overlook the vast influence that Tagphu Pemavajra also had in passing many, many teachings to him, of both Lamrim as well as various secret teachings. Often considered as one of the founding fathers of the Gelugpa lineage as we know it today, Pabongka spent all his life promoting the teachings of Lamrim and the practices of Je Tsongkhapa, Vajrayogini and Dorje Shugden, many – if not all – of which would have stemmed from Tagphu Pemavajra.

In many instances, these teachings would be passed down directly from the deities themselves to Tagphu Pemavajra, creating a connection far closer and more auspicious to current day practitioners than we could imagine.

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  1. words fail me to express our incredible good fortune of being connected through our kind spiritual guide Geshe-la to such holy beings as Tagpu Pemavajra, Phabonkhapa Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche and Dorje Shugdan.

  2. Thank you for you wisdom!
    May all beings bathe in the light of Dorje Shugden & be protected from the false Dalai Lama.

  3. Tagphu Pemavajra is another one of the most incredible lineage masters in recent times. Wonder who his present incarnation is.

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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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