Chöje Sangye Tönpa

Chöje Sangye Tönpa Tsondrü Senge was born in 1213 to a Bönpo family. His birth was accompanied by the auspicious sign of the adept Amogha, flying down from the sky to offer wondrous prophecies about the newly born. From a very young age his mind was in tune with the Dharma. He took ordination at the age of thirteen from the famous Lama Tsarirepa and was given the name Tsondrü Senge. After serving Tsarirepa for a short time, the latter passed away, and although Sangye Tönpa continued studying with several lamas, he still felt the need to receive teachings from a genuine secret yogi.

He was told to seek out Lama Rigongpa by both Lama Zhupa Nakpo and Lama Dokton. Having found and attended Rigongpa, Sangye Tönpa became the sole lineage holder of Rigongpa’s oral instructions. He received the transmissions of Dream Yoga, Tummo and Illusory Body that had been passed from Vajradhara, down through all the lineage masters to Rigongpa. He became especially proficient in Dream Yoga, even excelling all the previous masters in the Dream Yoga practices of training, multiplication, emanation and transformation. In one of his many visions, Vajrayogini gave him both common and extraordinary siddhis and he gained the siddhi to transform foul-tasting chang (barley beer) into that of the finest quality and flavour, multiplying its quantity and changing its nutrition and potency. All those who drank his transformed barley beer potion were cured of illness, evil spirits and showed immediate improvement in their practice. Sangye Tönpa also had a vision of the five deity mandala of Chakrasamvara.

He established both a shedra (Buddhist college) and a gomdra (a meditation retreat centre). To his male and female sponsors, Sangye Tönpa propounded the Vinaya code of discipline and oral teachings from both the new and old traditions. Because of his pervasive activity, he gathered many disciples from China and India. From amongst his disciples, Shangtönpa and Khedrup Zhönnu were the greatest. Before his death, Sangye Tönpa’s disciples approached him and begged for his advice on what they should do. He replied:”Do not cling to fame, glory or happiness in either this life, or in future lives, don’t get mixed up in the eight worldly concerns. Instead go to the mountains and practice Dharma! The extremes of mental fabrication do not need to be cleared from the outside. Rather, the qualities of enlightenment will arise from within.” He kept practicing, teaching and giving empowerments until his death. In order to fulfil Rigongpa’s last wish, Sangye Tönpa left for Rigong to die near the relics of his Root Guru in 1285. He was the last of the “Seven Jewels”.