The 4th Tagpu Pemavajra Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub, most commonly known as Tagpu Dorje Chang, was a highly accomplished yogi whose great achievements and attainments were well-known and acknowledged by innumerable Lamas during his time. A hermit and holder of many important lineages, Tagpu Dorje Chang’s name became known far and wide through his most famous disciple, His Holiness Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche.
Tagpu Dorje Chang’s recognised line of incarnations stem all the way back to the 14th Century. One of these incarnations, Chodrak Zangpo, was even enthroned as the 20th Gaden Tripa. Although there are a total of eight recognised incarnations, his previous lives were not posthumously titled, therefore Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub is officially recognised as the 4th Tagpu incarnation and is generally regarded as such amongst Gelug lineage holders.
The Tagpu incarnations (also known as the Garwang incarnations) are highly accomplished yogis famous for their visions of the Buddha deities and their ability to astral travel to various pure lands to receive teachings directly from the Buddhas.
Born in 1876 in Naksho (Kham, Tibet), Tagpu Dorje Chang entered Drepung Loseling Monastery in Lhasa at the age of 12 where he studied Pramana, Madhyamaka, Prajnaparamita, Vinaya and Abhidharma for six years before returning home to Naksho in 1894.
When he was 30, Tagpu Dorje Chang returned to Lhasa and spent most of his time in a hermitage called Chuzang Ritro, located above Sera Monastery. It was here that Tagpu Dorje Chang taught and transmitted many vital practices and lineages to his foremost student, Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche.
At the request of Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, Tagpu Dorje Chang astral travelled to Tushita Pure Land to receive the complete instructions on the practice of Dorje Shugden and his five families, including the life entrustment initiation (sogtae) directly from Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen. Tagpu Dorje Chang then transmitted these elaborate instructions to Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche and also bestowed upon him the initiation. Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche later diffused the practice throughout the Gelug tradition.
Tagpu Dorje Chang and Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche had a somewhat unique teacher-disciple relationship, which is often seen between two enlightened minds. Tagpu Dorje Chang gave various teachings and transmissions to Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche including the Four Combined Annotations on the Lam Rim Chenmo, the completion stage teachings of Guhyasamaja and the Six Yogas of Naropa. He also bestowed the initiations and instructions on the practices of Heruka Chakrasamvara and Cittamani Tara.
Tagpu Dorje Chang also received teachings from Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche in turn, including the completion stage practices of Heruka Chakrasamvara and the initiations contained in the collection of The Hundred Which are a Source of Jewels (rin ‘byung brgya rtsa). This unique cross teaching between teacher and disciple is not unheard of, but is an incredibly rare occurrence where both teacher and student are highly attained.
Besides receiving the complete instructions of Dorje Shugden’s practice, Tagpu Dorje Chang had many other mystical experiences throughout his lifetime. During his retreat in the Nyang caves, he had visions of Padmasambhava, his consorts and entourage. On another occasion, during his stay in Chuzang, he had a vision of the 62-deity body mandala of Heruka Chakrasamvara, from whom he received the four initiations.
Tagpu Dorje Chang also had direct contact with Tara and was the holder of an important lineage of Cittamani Tara, which is unique to the Gelug tradition. Tara, whose practice is commonly taught as Kriyatantra (Lower Tantra), is practised as an Annutarayogatantra (Higher Tantra) in Tagpu Dorje Chang’s instructions, which he received directly from his visions of Tara. The practice spread widely within the Gelug tradition through Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, who became the principal lineage holder of this practice after Tagpu Dorje Chang.
In 1923, during his stay in U-Tsang, Sharpa Tulku, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang and a group of five other people requested teachings and initiations from Tagpu Dorje Chang, which they received. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, who had great faith and confidence in Tagpu Dorje Chang, even requested for a divination to be performed in order to decide which deity he should focus on for his practice and what would happen to him at the end of his life.
Tagpu Dorje Chang eventually set up his own monastery in Naksho called Driru Drubde Monastery, also known as Geden Lukzang Kunphel Ling. It was here that Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche would visit his teacher and receive various teachings and initiations from Tagpu Dorje Chang.
No one really knows when Tagpu Dorje Chang entered clear light and what signs occurred during the process. It is estimated that he entered clear light in 1922, however several biographies of his students state that they received teachings from Tagpu Dorje Chang up until the mid-1930s.
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