Biography of Adzom Drukpa Thupten Padma TrinléRoot Teacher of Khenpo Sherab Sangpo
Adzom Drukpa Thupten Padma Trinlé
Adzom Drukpa Thupten Padma Trinlé (1926-2001) was born in Kham near Yulhong Lhari Mountain, a sacred terma location of Guru Rinpoche. He was recognized by Thupten Chökyi Dorjé, the Fifth Dzogchen Rinpoche, as the reincarnation of the famous Adzom Drukpa Drodul Pawo Dorjé who was a manifestation of one of the twenty-five disciples of Guru Rinpoche. Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche was enthroned at age three at Adzom Monastery. Two years later he was given refuge vows by his root teacher, Adzom Gyalsé Gyurmé Dorjé, the son of Adzom Drukpa Drodul Pawo Dorjé, and took novice vows at age ten from Khenpo Thekchok Lodan. During this time one of his remarkable meditation practices was shyiné (śamatha) using a real feather instead of visualizing it. He was able to maintain focus and gently move the feather to and from his nose. His teacher saw this and recognized his great capacity even as a child. He received numerous teachings, empowerments, and transmissions from his root teacher, Adzom Gyalsé Gyurme Dorjé.
Following the invasion of Tibet, Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche was imprisoned by Chinese authorities for twenty-six years. He continued to practice Dzogchen and gave instructions to the other prisoners. Three times the guards sealed his cell but later found him amazingly outside the prison walls. The guards asked him how this was possible and he indicated that, if he wished, mere walls could not confine him as he could pass through them. His guards asked him why he remained in prison, if he could escape so easily. He replied that they wanted him there, so he would stay. After his release, he rebuilt Adzom Gar and Adzom Buddhist Academy that had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.
Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche was one of the most renowned Dzogchen masters in Tibet as he had received numerous empowerments and reading transmissions from many different traditions. Due to this wealth of experience in turn he was asked to give many empowerments and transmissions. His primary focus was on meditation, rather than Buddhist philosophy. His method for teaching consisted of giving instructions and then leaving his student to practice. They would meet and he would check the student’s understanding and either correct the student or give more meditation instructions. This was how he taught Dzogchen. Although he often taught one student at a time, he would give teachings to many thousands of students on virtually any topic. He was very gentle and humble. Throughout his life he displayed the qualities of a bodhisattva.
My Connection to My Root Teacher
I was sent to see Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche by Khenchen Padma Tsewang, my first root teacher. When I arrived I presented a letter of introduction written by Khenchen Padma Tsewang to him. The letter said that I was a good student, it listed my qualifications, and requested that I be given the pointing out instructions. Usually when students studied with Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche, they would have to follow the curriculum of completing the preliminaries and investigating the mind. However, because of this letter, I was able to skip ahead and begin with shyiné (śamatha). I was taught in Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche’s traditional way of receiving instructions and then meditating. While meditating, I had the wish to leave everything and to meditate alone for the rest of my life. I went to see Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche at his home and presented him with a khata, a picture of a stupa and one of Buddha, and some money. Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche accepted everything except the money. When I began my prostrations, I was immediately told that I had the wrong plan for my life. I had not said anything, but I knew that Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche was commenting on my idea of meditating alone. Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche asked how many years I had been studying and he told me that I needed to use my knowledge of Buddhist philosophy to teach to benefit others. I was specifically given permission to teach Dzogchen. I promised that I would and asked what I should do if I encountered obstacles. Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche told me that after I practiced 1,500,000 Dorjé Phurba (Vajrakīlaya) recitations that I would have no obstacles.
Because of the letter of introduction from Khenchen Padma Tsewang, Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche loved and trusted me. He often gave empowerments secretly, but he would always send students to get me so that I could receive the empowerments. During the empowerments he ask me questions about Buddhist philosophy and other subjects. He was fond of khenpos because we are scholarly and could cite Buddhist philosophy.
Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche was kind to me in countless ways; he took care of me spiritually and he cared for my worldly concerns. At that time, I had little food and money. Rinpoche knew this and would give me tsampa and butter to eat.
I received six months of Dzogchen teachings and other empowerments at Adzom Monastery. The monastery setting was beautiful with many students sitting beneath trees meditating and it was very conducive to meditation as it was peaceful. I wanted to remain there longer, but I was told that I had received everything and there was no need to stay. When I returned home to my monastery, Khenchen Padma Tsewang asked about what I had received and my experiences. I saw Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche three more times before I went to Nepal to teach. While I was in Nepal, Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche passed away in 2001.
Links are for the First Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche, Drukpa Drodul Pawo Dorjé (1842-1924), as there are very few resources for the Second Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche, Thupten Padma Trinlé (1926-2001), in English at this time.
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