The Lamp That Enlightens Narrow Minds: The Life and Times of a Realized Tibetan Master, Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug.
Abstract: Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug (1909-1960) was a recognized tulku and tertön from Derge. He was recognized as an emanation of the bodhisattva Manjushri and the body reincarnation of influential teacher and tertönJamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892). During his lifetime Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug was credited with the revelation of a number of important teachings and sacred objects. The following summary will look at his life as told by his disciple and nephew Chögyal Namkhai Norbu in The Lamp That Enlightens Narrow Minds: The Life and Times of a Realized Tibetan Master, Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug, edited by Enrico Dell’ Angelo and translated by Nancy Simmons (North Atlantic Books, 2012).
The Khyentse Lineage: The biography pays particular attention to the reincarnation lineage to which Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug belonged. This lineage traces its roots back to Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798). One of Jigme Lingpa’s successive reincarnations, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892), was a founder of the nonsectarian rimé movement, the influence of which is strongly felt throughout the biography. After Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s death in 1892, many lamas were recognized as his reincarnations. The Lamp That Enlightens Narrow Minds, however, focuses on the two successive body reincarnations of Khyentse Wangpo. The first reincarnation, Jamyang Chökyi Wangpo (1893-1908), was enthroned as the successor of Khyentse Wangpo at Dzongsar Monastery following his death; yet although he was a promising figure, he fell ill and passed away at the age of fifteen.
Early Life of Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug: The second reincarnation, Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug, was born on March 17th, 1909, in the Geog valley in the Changra district of Derge. He was born into a well-off and well-respected family known as the “Wango Tsang Family.” His father was highly educated and served as the private secretary to the king of Derge.
The early life of Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug was that of an exceptional being. The biography states that when he was born, lamas had marvelous dreams and laypeople saw a series of auspicious signs. After his birth dozens of crows cawed, a nearby spring ran with milk, and a rainbow appeared above the family’s house. Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug was officially identified as a reincarnation soon after his birth. In 1913 he was enthroned at the residence of his predecessor at Dzongsar Monastery (a Sakya monastery and important seat of the rime movement).
Spiritual Career: Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug studied and received teachings from the masters of various Buddhist schools. He was drawn to the idea of living the life of a simple Buddhist practitioner and went on his first retreat at the age of fifteen. Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug would spend the rest of his life attempting to balance his desire for a solitary retreat with his duties towards his monastery and the local people of Derge (such as performing public teachings and collecting donations).
Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug was a recognized tulku and discovered a terma for the first time while on pilgrimage in central Tibet in 1942. In the following years, he discovered a number of additional terma. Furthermore, the spiritual career of Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug is remarkable for the number of healing miracles he performed. His biography recounts a number of incidents in which Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug exorcises evil spirits and heals men from paralysis, rabies, or insanity.
Relationship with Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodro: The biography focuses in part on Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug’s relationship with Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodro. Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1896-1959) was the recognized activities reincarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and assumed the care of Dzongsar Monastery in 1909. According to the biography, the administrators of the two lamas were prone to fighting and could not stand to reside in the same place; thus Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug eventually left Dzongsar for nearby Derge Gonchen Monastery. Yet the biography also stresses that the two lamas themselves never experienced disagreements. According to the biography, Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodro often transmitted teachings and gave assistance to the younger reincarnate.
Death and Rebirth: The life of Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug changed dramatically as a result of the Chinese presence in Tibet. In 1959 he was captured and brought to a prison in the capital of Derge. Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug died there on March 13th, 1960. According to the biography he was scheduled to be executed the next day; knowing this, Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug chose to die, while in meditation, before he could be killed. The reincarnation of Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug, Khyentse Yeshe, was born on July 3, 1970, in Italy.