Monday, March 18, 2019

Lama Serpo (Rigzin Palden Rinpoche), a detailed biography

Lama Serpo (Rigzin Palden Rinpoche) was born in Khawchung, Lhuntse in 1916. His father was Sonam Dorji and mother Thuji Zangmo. His birth witnessed many auspicious signs and unlike his brother he was very easy to carry in pregnancy and also giving birth.

At his young age Rinpoche was plagued with jaundice that turned his complexion into yellowish. Due to this his mother called him Serpo (Yellow) the name that became a connotation throughout Rinpoche’s life.

Rinpoche’s father expired when he was very young. The sudden demise caused great misery to his mother, as she has to look after her two young sons all by herself. This constant discomfort made her very feeble. As they have no source of income, they resided with their relatives at Serzhong, upper Kurtoe. Daily they have to work strenuously. Life was a suffering and these understandings led Serpo to develop dislike to his relative and discovered the mundane life pathetic. Finally after discussion within three of them they have decided that Serpo will join monk and his brother Pema Dorji will support his mother.

In 1928 Serpo approached Lama Neten, Head, Monastic body and on request he was enrolled as a monk. He studied with great diligence and completed his monastic’s academy course in few years. Serpo also studied indigenous medicine and completed the course in three years. During his medical studies Serpo has to gather herbal plants for making medicines from mountains and has to stay months in Singye Dzong and Karchu, both a very sacred sites of Guru Rinpoche. The governor of the Luntshe District was then Kunzang Namgyal, a very religious man who Serpo shared a close relationship.

One day, Serpo went with the governor to Yodra Gonpa to receive preliminary practice of Mahamudra from Lama Rinzin Dorji, a close disciple of Tokden Shakya Shree. Serpo was hesitant to request the lama for teachings without any offering, as he has nothing. The adept lama knew Serpo’s karmic instincts and gave him the teachings. During these sacred teachings of more than a month, Serpo studied painstakingly with great attentiveness that automatically drawn him to the profound teaching of Buddha Dharma. Serpo’s developed an aspiration to acquire many teachings.

During this teaching Lama Rigzin Dorji narrated many fascinating stories about Tokden Shakya Shree that inspired him and instantly developed an urge to go and put himself at the feet of the great lama at any cost. Returning home he sought permission from his mother and brother to go to Tibet. After begging repeatedly he was given the permission. His mother gave him, her only possession a nine-eyed Zee (precious stone) to let him sell and fund his journey and also buy gift to his teacher in Tibet.
Serpo wanted to leave for Tibet immediately, but being a member of the monastic body, he has to pay huge compensation if he withdraws his monk ship. He even planned to run away but realized that the authority will charge against his family and ask some one to fill up his seat. Serpo was in great dilemma. One day Serpo went to see Jigme of Jasibi who was then the second most powerful person in the district. He explained everything to him. Jigme understanding his good intention assured protection to his mother and brother.

After waiting for three years, one day a Tibetan Lama of Gelupa tradition passed by on his way to Bumthang to receive Rinchen Terzod empowerment from His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche. The governor hoisted the Lama and granted all assistance. As Lama was taking a break after a long audacious journey, Serpo in an effort to please him served him to his utmost best. The Lama requested the governor to send Serpo to accompany him to halfway to Bumthang as his guide that was consented and Governor told Serpo to come back quickly. This was the golden opportunity Serpo got to realize his dream.

Upon request to Lama, Serpo instead of returning halfway reached Bumthang. His Holinessnes Dudjom Rinpoche was bestowing empowerment of Rinchen Terzod. The lama told Serpo to go back and report to the governor to which Serpo insisted that he also wanted to attend the empowerments and will return on completion. The lama felt obligated and consented.

Meanwhile Serpo who turned 27 went to Ngang Lhakhang in upper Bumthang to seek help from the Choeji and disclosed his intention. The Choeji agreed to provide him all he needed but asked not to go alone. After staying a week, a group of men from Trongsa came to import salt from Tibet. With great joy Serpo hitched with them and reached Monlakharchung, a hill that marked Bhutan-Tibet boundary. To his great disappointment, Tibetan partner has already reached the salt there and left. The Trongsapa merchant loaded the salts consignment and returned after showing him the ways. He was left all alone on the mountain and his destination was beyond his imagination but somehow he continued his journey.
After three day’s journey Serpo arrived at the ten-storied temple built by Jetsun Milarepa. He met Dzogchen Tulku and narrated his intention to meet Tokden Sakya Shree. Tulku told him that it is not certain he will meet Tokden as he stays far way and going alone will be very difficult. He advised Serpo to meet Jetsunma Chonyid Zangmo, a renowned Dzogchen master at the Shuksep monastery in Ganri Thoekar, Tibet. Tulku even wrote a forwarding letter to Jetsunma.

Likewise, Serpo met Jetsunma at Shuksep monastery after eight days of terrifying journey. He presented her his precious “Ze” that his mother gave him and received many empowerments and transmissions. Jetsunma named him Rigzin Palden. One day a group of businessmen came from Lhasa to perform Tshok Bum.
(This is Shugsep Khandro where Rinpoche stayed a few months before proceeding to Kham. She is head abbot of Shugsep nunnery monastery...around 700 nuns studied and practiced here. She prophesied that Rinpoche would live 95 years)
After completing the offering, Jetsunma told him to go to Lhasa and do Chagbum (100,000 prostrations). She delegated him to the businessmen and told them to provide all support. Jetsumaa also sent three nuns to help him while performing prostrations in Lhasa.

It took two days to reached Lhasa. At Lhasa during the course of performing Chabum Serpo met Drubwang Sonam Zangpo, a renowned master and disciple of Tokden. On enquiry, he was distraught to learn that Tokden had already left for the pure realm. However, Drukwang recommended him to see Se Phakchog (son of Tokden) who was equal to his father and assured him of any assistance to go there provided he acquire permission from Jetsunma.

Serpo completed 100,000 prostrations at Lhasa and went back to seek permission from Jetsunma. She was quite overwhelmed by his consistent yarning for learning more dharma practices but did not like him to leave. Nevertheless she made divination for him and found that he has strong link to the Dzogchen and allowed him to go. She gifted him a scarf and a gold coin for his expenditures.

Drukwang Sonam Zangpo found a man called Apho Palden going to Kham Ngakchkha and sent Serpo along with him after giving all information about the journey. On reaching Ngakchukha, Apho Palden has some work to do, which dragged him to stay there for two months and worse there was no sign of either finishing his work or finding someone to go to Kham. This made his life miserable and the thought of not seeing his master continuously haunted him.

One day he encountered a man with six horses who came to collect from debtors. The man agreed to take him on a condition that he do all the horse related chores and in return he would be provided food. The next day their journey started and after travelling with the horses about a week he had sores all over the leg and couldn’t trek any further. He took respite for five days without friend and ration.

Serpo would request for food whenever he comes across house and village. After travelling for a month he reached a place called Chamdo. From Chamdo it took three days to reach Sidhikha, in Kham Region where the abode of Se Phakchog was situated.

Unluckily, Serpo did not get the occasion to see Se Phakchog who then was not in good health, but he was given rations and a place to live. Serpo was very happy, as he had no burden of going out for begging amidst the ruthless attack of ferocious dogs and slander from unkind householder. Serpo also took part in the rituals and feast offerings that was executed daily for the quick recovery of Se Phakchog. Unfortunately, on a full moon day (11th lunar month, 1943) Se Phakcho left for the pure realm, the news that brought wind of depression in him. He did not even saw the face of Se Phakchog let alone get the teachings.

When the holy body was allowed for devotees to see and make offering, Serpo also joined the queue to receive blessings and prayed thus:

“May I be able to see you in the Pure Realms and have the fortune to practice your instruction perfectly”.

They invited the 2nd Azom Drukpa, 19 who came to preside over the ceremony. After the ceremony, Serpo put himself at the feet of 2nd Azom Drukpa and narrated his adventurous stories and how he wanted an instruction that can swiftly lead him to enlightenment. Azom Drukpa told him that at Azom Monastery, Gyelse Gyurmed Dorji, the son of first Azom Drukpa is equal to his father in terms of qualifications and attainments and that it will be better for him to see him.

On hearing the name Gyelse Gyurmed Dorji, an extraordinary joyful sentiment flowed through his heart. He immediately stood up and made many prostrations to Azom Drukpa and expressed his preparedness to see the Gyelse. Azom Drukpa took him to Azom Monastery. It took 18 days to reach the monastery with comfortable journey as all provisions were given by Azom drukpa.
(Rinpoche's root teacher, Gyalse Jurmed Dorji son of Azom Drukpa Rinpoche)

Serpo was extremely delighted when the attendant led him at the feet of Gysele Gyurmed Dorji. At the first sight of the Gysele Gyurmed Dorji’s compassionate face, an overwhelming sense of joy and devotion grew in Serpo’s heart like never before. This was an inarguable sign that Serpo had a Karmic links with the Gyelse Gyurmed Dorji.

The master accepted him and agreed to grant him his teachings. Initially it was difficult for him to understand his master’s speech as it was in the local dialect of Kham. Rinpoche gave him small place to live.

From Rinpoche he had received an oral transmission on Preliminaries Practices of the Great Perfection. Serpo carried out the practice earnestly and did prostrations in an open place facing the residence of the lama. When he was about to complete the recitation of Yigja (Vajrasattava Mantra), his Lama called him to come and said that he don’t have to complete the preliminary practices as he have suffered so much on the way from faraway Bhutan.

Thus after having practiced passionately for fourteen years, true realization of ultimate nature unveiled in him. Making prostration in front of his Lama, Serpo offered in verses the realization he achieved by practicing Dzogchen. The Lama was very pleased and praised him. Not long after that, Lama called him and advised to go back to Bhutan to practice in holy places. Conversely, Serpo had no wish to leave his Lama or to go back home. He requested Lama to allow him to stay with him and to do practice. He reiterated that he had nothing to do at home and would not see his mother even if he went.

As Serpo mentioned his mother, His lama rested in meditation for a while and spoke a prophecy with confidence that his mother is still alive and he can still spend some years with her. Although Serpo had no desire to go back, he could not disobey his lama’s word, which was heavier than mountain and more precious than gold.

Rimpoche wrote a letter for the people on Lama Serpo’s way entrusting them his safety.
(This was the Letter written by Gyelse Gyurmed Dorji Rinpoche ( Lama Serpo’s root teacher) for the safety of Lama Serpo ( Rigdzing Pelden Rinpoche) on his way from Tibet to Bhutan.

“The subjects of Dharma King of Dege Province and up to the boarder of Bhutan heed this letter.

My disciple and Lama along with his attendants are on their way. Please assist them with whatever necessity they need. I entrusted them to the Dharma Protectors to guide and protect them from all threats and harm that may befall them, so support them in the enhancement of spiritual advancement.

In case, if they were robbed, teased, imprisoned or troubled in whatever form, the accused will be cursed and exposed to death by the wisdom-sighted dharma protectors.

Therefore, I advocate all to act accordingly.’

Gyelse Gyurmed Dorji
Azom Dharma Center
In 1957 at the age of 41, Lama Serpo left Azom Monastery and reached Lhasa after two month’s journey. From Lhasa after crossing thirty bridges and many hazardous mountains he arrived in his village. He first met his brother and uncle Tshering Dorji but they couldn’t identify him nor he recognized them. His uncle was quick to recognize his identity by his voice and asked if he was Gelong Serpo. Later they went home together and met his mother after 14 years through tears of joy. Lama Serpo has many stories to tell but was constrained as he has forgotten his native tongue completely. He had a tough time to communicate with them.

While in Tibet he had no provision to perform feast offerings. So at his home he started feast offerings.

As prophesied, Lama Serpo went to practice in Singye Dzong and sat in retreat for six months. He also accomplished hundred million times of feast offerings there. After that he stayed in retreat at Palchen Drak (the cliff of Heruka) in Kurtoe for four years followed by another twelve years retreat at Shawa Phug (reindeer cave) where Terton Pema Lingpa rediscovered many treasures. His mother prepared his meals during his retreat while reciting “Mani” Lama Serpo taught her.

Lama Serpo meditated through his deep devotion to his master; an authentic realization of Great Perfection unfolded in him and his practice transcendent everything illusory. His method of accomplishment was out of passionate devotion to his Guru through Guru Yoga Practice and confidently focusing on Dzogchen meditation techniques. He never conducted any accomplishment of any Yidam deity.

It was elucidated by His Holiness Chadrel Sangay Dorji’s word of praise that he achieved Buddhahood by relying on hundreds of masters where as Lama Serpo achieved Buddhahood relying on a single master.

Keeping his master’s declaration clearly in his mind, Lama Serpo dedicated himself to a solitary place for practices and while he was planning to go into long retreat, Drukwang Sonam Zangpo was in Kurtoe at that time, who sent messenger asking him to come.
(Druk Wang Sonam Zangpo)
Drukwang rejoiced seeing him and later gave his own niece to Lama Serpo to be his spiritual consort. With Drubwang and Khandro Thinley Choden, Lama Serpo went to Khempa Jong and Paksam Lung where he practiced meditation for about thirteen years. After returning to Kurtoe, Drukwang granted him the post of Dorji Lopen and assigned to look after the new Temple Drukwang had built. He built a house nearby the temple and lived there. Khandro gave birth to her only daughter Samten Phuentsho Choden.
(Khandro Samten Phuentsho Choden)
Drukwang Sonam Zangpo went to stay at Hongtso. A few years later Lama Serpo and Khandro joined Drukwang Sonam Zangpo at Hongtso as requested by him. During winter season they used to move to Dorangthang in Punakha. Drukwang Sonam Zangpo passed away in 1982 at Dorangthang. Lama Serpo then stayed in Punakha for few years. Later Am Dorji Yanki allowed her sister Khandro and Lama Serpo to stay on their land above Lobesa Town. Lama Serpo built a small house and moved from Dorangthang.

One day, His Holiness Chadrel Sangay Dorji summoned Lama Serpo to Beylangdra, Wangdue Phordang and told that he would be of great benefits to beings if he guided students and bestowed teachings to those who were devoted.
(His Holiness Chadrel Sangay Dorji Rinpoche)
His Holiness Chadrel Sangay Dorji visited Lama Serpo’s residence after few years and again suggested that he at least have a proper place to keep his remains when he dies and small retreat center for practice.

In an effort to obey Chadrel Sangay Dorji’s wishes, Lama Serpo began guiding whoever comes for instructions and soon many fortunate beings started to gather around to receive teachings.

The foundation for three-year treat center was laid at Zhabje Thang (Plain fo foot print) in Bumthang in 1977. When Lama Serpo first came to this holy site on his way to find a place for retreat centre, he discovered self-arisen images of Benzaguru mantras and footprints on rocks. He chose the site for his retreat center.

With his Lama’s blessing and Lama Serpo’s own altruistic aspiration, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan presented two acres of land in Tashidingkha, above his residence in Lobesa, Punakha. In 2005, with generous contribution from his sponsors and devotees a Zangdok Palri Temple and retreat center with 11 hermitages were built within a few years. The retreat center was named Sangchen Pema Choekhor Ling (the land of turning the great Vajrayana of the lotus linage). But it was known to everyone as Lama Serpoi Goenpa (the monastery of yellow Lama).
(Rinpoche's daughter and son-in-law)
Rinpoche was following Longchen Nyingthig lineage. He also practiced Chetsuen Lineage a different Terkha. His teaching includes Semthri, Yeshi Lama, Tsalung Thruel Khor including Tumo (heat yoga) and three types of Phowa (consciousness transfer).

Tirelessly, day and night Lama Serpo guided his students with transmissions starting from the preliminary practices, and gradually with main instruction of the Great Perfection in accord with the norm of Azom Drukpa Lineage. The disciples who benefited from him and who attained inner realization were countless.
Powa instruction of the aural tradition, which was passed down from Tokden Shakya Shree, was of superior benefits to many devotees who came from near and far corner of the country. Thousands of practitioners practiced Phowa and there were hardly anyone who could not achieve signs of accomplishments.

As the number of disciples of Lama Serpo increased and dharma activities happened extensively his reputation of having high qualification and knowledge spread far and wide. People of all strata of society started recognize him as the greatest Dzogchen master of his time.
One main reason why so many lamas, Trulkus, Khenpos, Gomchens and some popular sublime beings of well established monasteries of Nepal, India, Tibet, Taiwan and Bhutan visited Lama Serpo was because of one unique teachings called Thiglay Nyernga/Sergithurma, this was received by Azom Drukpa Rinpoche in a state of trance (Yoedsel)/ Meditation directly from Jigme Lingpa.

In 2011, Lama Serpo bestowed long life empowerment of Thangtong Gyalpo from the aural tradition of Tokden Shakya Shree, Empowerments of Amitayus and Hatagriva Vajrapani Garuda at his Zangtok Palri temple even his heath was not good.

In the same years, the Great Sadhana based on Vajrasattva of Minling lineage was performed and Mendrub, the blessed pills were made. The Sadhana was performed for ten days and may auspicious signs have appeared like spontaneously flowing nectars from container. This way Lama Serpo achieved great benefits for the liberation of beings and propagation of esoteric instructions.

Although Lama Serpo was a great practitioners and a scholar, many people became aware of his presence only after his miraculous departure for the Pure Realm.

Thus after completing his activities for liberation of beings, Lama Serpo passed away peacefully in his residence on the 3rd day of the 11th Lunnar month of female Iron Rabbit year, 2011.
Lama Serpo was in Thukdam, the subtle level of meditation until the 15th day and unlike others his holy body retained normal skin and texture and was very dry. To their astonishment, the body has sunk to a size of one foot. The holy body is still preserved as a support for prayers.
(Kundung of Rinpoche)
On the 100th day the Kudung was led to Zangdok Palri Temple in the morning with grand procession; then the earth shook and beautiful rainbows appeared with little rain.
(Kudung Chorten)
That is the end of the Great Dzogchen Lama Serpo’s biography.

It was great blessing for me to post Lama Serpo’s Biography took wone day type this.

I request my friends to visit Lama Serpo’s monastery at Lobesa and receive blessing from the Kudung.


Naljore Gi Wangchuck Dampa Jetsun Lamai Zednam Ngejung Gi Phonya Tharpa Dang Thamched Khenpai Lamten Zhey Jawa Zhungso.

Approval: From Thampa Pethey, A disciple of Lama Serpo.

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