Biography of Khenchen Chöying ChapdalRoot Teacher of Khenpo Sherab Sangpo
Khenchen Chöying Chapdal
Khenchen Chöying Chapdal (1920-1997) was born in Dolé in Kham, Tibet. During his birth amazing flowers began to grow despite the wintertime. He began his studies with his uncle who taught him Tibetan and then studied the preliminaries and Dzogchen with Tulku Tsultrim Zangpo. After receiving the teachings and practicing, Khenchen Chöying Chapdal explained his experiences to his teacher to check if his recognition of the nature of mind was correct. Tulku Tsultrim Zangpo declared that everything was excellent and perfect and therefore he was given the name Chöying Chapdal, universal expanse of the nature of all phenomena. Khenchen Chöying Chapdal continued to develop. He found confidence, devotion, and faith in Padmasambhava through practicing the Padma Kathang: The Chronicle of Padma (Sheldrakma), a terma text with advice and the biography of Guru Rinpoche that was revealed by Orgyen Lingpa from the Crystal Cave.
When he was twenty-three, he met Yukhok Chatralwa Chöying Rangdrol and received many Dzogchen teachings along with other instructions. Thereafter he was told to go to Dzachuka to meet his root teacher Dongak Tenpé Nyima. Before departing he was given a bowl of yogurt that was overflowing. This was a sign that he would receive everything from his teacher, including many blessings. During his journey he was told to practice Mañjuśrī and Tārā to eliminate obstacles and to bring success and to never forget Padmasambhava.
He spent twelve years studying with Dongak Tenpé Nyima who recognized him as the reincarnation of Rongsom Chökyi Zangpo (Rongzompa). During this time he received all of Longchenpa’s and Mipham Rinpoche’s texts. After studying with Dongak Tenpé Nyima, the oppression from China intensified. At this time there was little food, and Khenchen Chöying Chapdal practiced chulen (rasāyana), the alchemy of extracting essences. He was able to survive with little to no food through this practice and was able to offer tsok feasts every month despite the famine. Since Khenchen Chöying Chapdal’s outward appearance reflected his lack of food and clothing, the Chinese authorities thought that he was crazy and let him be. During this time he was able to practice Dzogchen and gave sporadic teachings secretly to a few students.
In 1979, conditions in China were changing and he started teaching Buddhist philosophy regularly. As his fame spread Khenchen Chöying Chapdal continued to live a life of humility and austerity. He had completely abandoned the eight worldly concerns and remained a renunciant. He lived in a small home with only enough room for his bed. He never kept anything for himself nor did he value outer show, such as constructing elaborate temples. Whenever people offered anything, he would accept it and then give it to his students. He offered lunch to his students everyday and ate with them. After eating his lunch, he would teach for two hours without eating more food. He always told his students that if they wanted to be a good practitioner, then they must give up everything from this life. If they were attached to saṃsāra, then they were not a good practitioner.
Khenchen Chöying Chapdal showed great dedication to teaching and he taught up until the day he passed away. He told his students his death was coming and prepared a three-day celebration to bring happiness to everyone. He offered good food and teachings. On the third day, he finished his final teaching and went to his home and passed away at the age of seventy-seven with rainbows appearing in the sky. He told his students to build only a small white stūpa to remember him, but nothing else. Throughout his life and death, he demonstrated true renunciation.
My Connection to My Root Teacher
I spent one year with Khenchen Chöying Chapdal. I was the happiest there despite the lack of food and other provisions. I enjoyed the time with the other monks sharing tea and conversation during lunch and was deeply moved by the simple life of renunciation that my root teacher lived.
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