Known as one of the most erudite scholar-yogi masters of this century to arise from the esteemed Gaden Shartse Monastery, His Eminence Kyabje Zemey Dorje Chang, also known simply as Zemey Rinpoche, was born in 1927. He was the incarnation of a very renowned and high-ranking line of tulkus from Yangting in the Kham province of Tibet. Many of the greatest and most influential practitioners of today were his students, including high Lamas such as His Eminence Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche and the translator of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Geshe Thubten Jinpa.
Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche was a very devoted student of His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and, along with the illustrious Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, formed the two closest heart disciples of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche held all the lineages, transmissions and practices that Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche had, including the practice of Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden.
It is well known that Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche regarded Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche very highly. According to Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche’s main assistant, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, in taking into account his old age and with the intention of ensuring the continuity of quality teachings in Gaden Monastery, declared to the monks of Gaden Monastery that Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche’s knowledge and attainments were equal to his own. As such, he directed the monks to invite Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche to teach in Gaden Monastery and be their Guru.
Considering that Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche is counted amongst the greatest of masters who have achieved the highest attainments in Vajrayana Buddhism, such endorsement by Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche is a great testament to the character and attainments of Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche.
Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche’s deep respect and devotion to his guru, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, is evident in his response to Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s instructions. Following Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s endorsement and directive, the students of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche invited Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche to teach at Gaden Monastery with a letter handwritten by Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. Upon receipt of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s handwritten letter, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche unhesitatingly sent an application letter to the Dalai Lama for purposes of formality and then, went straight to Gaden Monastery to assume such position without waiting for the Dalai Lama’s official response or approval.
Such action taken by Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche goes to show the closeness and deep trust that he shared with the Dalai Lama throughout the 1950s. This relationship developed from the time Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche accompanied the Dalai Lama on his visit to China in the 1950s to meet with Mao Zedong and Zhou En Lai prior to the 1959 Tibetan Uprising. Due to the sensitivity and perilous timing of the visit, the Dalai Lama selected only the highest calibre and most trusted of Tibetans to assist and provide advice. The other illustrious figures within the Dalai Lama’s entourage during that trip were his two tutors His Holiness Kyabje Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche; the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama’s mother.
Following the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche entered exile with the Dalai Lama and was instrumental in the re-establishment of the great institution of Gaden Shartse Monastery in South India. Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche was personally involved in implementing the teaching syllabus and also wrote extensively on various subject matters as an extension of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s focus on the quality of teachings.
Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche writings include the Yellow Book (named after the yellow cover of a Tibetan book called the “Thunder of the Stirring Black Cloud: The Oral Transmission of the Intelligent Father”). This book, unfortunately, became embroiled in controversy and seemingly became the catalyst that severed the close bond between Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama. In essence, the Yellow Book was meant to compliment Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s commentaries (published in 1967) pertaining to His Holiness Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche Dechen Nyingpo’s praise to Dharmapala Dorje Shugden, but was taken out of context and deemed to be promoting sectarianism within Tibetan Buddhism.
Ironically, the Yellow Book, being Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche’s personal notes of one of the teachings he received from Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, was not originally meant for publication. However, the manuscript was somehow leaked and eventually published in 1973 by Chophel Legden, a publisher based in New Delhi. Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche never had the opportunity to convey the true meaning of the teachings he received and the manuscript he composed. In addition, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche was not allowed to participate in the Dalai Lama’s teachings and activities.
However, according to many witnesses, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche displayed his inherent nature as a true Dharma master by always being present at the periphery whenever the Dalai Lama was in the monastery giving teachings. For as many hours as the Dalai Lama was present, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche would perform prostrations outside the building to ask the Dalai Lama for forgiveness. Such was the humility and high realisations of Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche.
Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche spent the last years of his life in isolated retreat and steadfast propitiation of Dharmapala Dorje Shugden and entered clear light meditation in 1996. The young incarnation of Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, Kyabje Zemey Chocktrul Rinpoche has been found and recognised by high lamas across Tibet, Nepal and India.
Kyabje Zemey Chocktrul Rinpoche has officially reconnected with his Protector of many lifetimes by receiving the Dorje Shugden initiation or “Sogtae” with two other young tulkus from Lama Jampa Ngodup at Yangting (Shugden) Monastery in Daocheng County, Sichuan, China.
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