Sey Rinpoche
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FAMILY

A wall-painting of Drubwang Shakya Shri on the wall of Sural Gompa, in Pangi, Himachal.
A wall-painting of Drubwang Shakya Shri on the wall of Sural Gompa, in Pangi, Himachal.

 

The great enlightened yogi Apho Rinpoche with his familySey Rinpoche, literally “The Very Precious Son”, is the son of the late Kyabje Apho Rinpoche (1922-1974). He was born into a family of great Tibetan yogis who were widely renowned for their extensive and pure practice. Thus, His Eminence Sey Rinpoche became the third family Lineage Holder of the Tibetan Mahasiddha, Tokden Drubwang Dugu Shakya Shri. This family holds the lineage of the Drukpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

 

Shakya Shri (1853-1919) – a short biography.

Shakya Shri

His Eminence’s great grandfather, the Mahasiddha Drubwang Shakya Shri (1853-1919) was a great enlightened yogi and Terton of the 19th Century. He was an extremely important master of the Drukpa Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and a great realized master of the Rimé (non-sectarian) movement, amazingly accomplished in both Mahamudra and Dzogchen which he combined harmoniously.

Drubwang Shakya Shri was an enlightened yogi who started out as a simple cook in a Drukpa Lineage monastery in the Kham region of Tibet. He was born in a very humble nomadic family and from there, he bloomed into one of the most amazing yogis of that time. Brought up as a monk, he did a lot of practice in the Glorious Drukpa Lineage and accomplished the highest realisation of the Great Union, Mahamudra. Later, as instructed by his Guru, the sixth Drukpa Khamtrul Rinpoche Tenpay Nyima, he met the great Terton Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and from him and other enlightened Dzogchen Masters, he received all the Nyingma transmissions and teachings as well, and thus also mastered Dzogpa Chenpo, the Great Perfection or Great Completion. Up to the present day, Togden Shakya Shri is widely renowned for his skillfully combining the two supreme views of Mahamudra and Dzogchen.

Drubwang Shakya Shri became very involved in the rimé (non-sectarian) movement of the time. In his later years, he became so renowned that he had students everywhere, coming from different traditions, and he guided them in the Mahamudra and/or the Dzogpa Chenpo style – always in a pure, powerful yogic style. People used to flock to see him, not only from Tibet but also from other Himalayan regions such as Lahoul, Ladakh, Pangi, Zanskar, Bhutan and Nepal. Many realized disciples of Shakya Shri were sent back to their original region. This is how the family first developed its continuing connection to all these Himalayan areas outside of Tibet. 

 

Apho Rinpoche Apho Rinpoche (1922-1974) – a short biography

HE Sey Rinpoche’s father, Apho Rinpoche Yeshe Rangdrol, was a grandson of Drubwang Shakya Shri born and grown up in Tibet. He became a widely respected yogi. He was a humorous and compassionate enlightened Master who touched the hearts and minds of many people in Tibet, and in the Himalayan regions and of most of the early Western students of Tibetan Buddhism. To this day, all his students remember him with much appreciation.

Apho Rinpoche was brought up as a monk in the Drukpa lineage. His root Guru was Tripon Nawang Pema Choegyal (1876-1958), the main heart student of Shakya Shri and a great tantric practionner. Tripon literally means “throne-holder”, a title he inherited due to his realization of Shakya Shri's Wisdom Mind. Tripon Pema Choegyal had numerous eminent disciples, including the Eleventh Gyalwang Drukpa and the grandsons of his own root guru Drubwang Shakya Shri, such as Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche and Apho Rinpoche. One day, Tripon Pema Choegyal told his beloved disciple Apho Rinpoche that he should get married. At first, Apho Rinpoche resisted, saying that he did not have a spiritual realization high enough to get a consort, but as a genuine practitioner, he could not but follow his Guru’s instruction. He took Sangyum Urgyen Chodon, a devoted woman, as his consort. It later appeared that the Guru himself, Tripon Padma Choegyal, choose to take rebirth as the fruit of this spiritual union, and the baby received, among others, the name of “the Very Precious Son”, that is Sey Rinpoche.

In 1959, Apho Rinpoche led his family on a most difficult journey out of Tibet. He later was responsible for strongly reviving the Drukpa tradition in North Indian Himalayan regions such as Sikkim, Lahoul, Ladakh, Manali, Zanskar and Pangi, where he established several retreat centers. There he kept alive the practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa. One of his major contributions was reviving the renowned hermitages of Ladakh and Lahoul, including Gotsang and Khespang. In the late 60’s, he finally settled in Manali (Himachal Pradesh) where he built a monastery and planned the establishment of a yogic training and retreat center.

Apho Rinpoche also collected ancient carved wooden blocks of the songs and biographies of Milarepa, Gompopa and Rechungpa. In addition, he was a poet, scholar, healer and great meditator. He was also one of the first Dharma teachers to teach Western students in the 60’s and early 70’s, before he departed from this world in 1974. His heart students were Sengdrak Rinpoche, Gegen Khyentse as well as the renowned yogis of Ladakh and Lahoul.

 

Sangyam Urgyen ChodonSangyum Urgyen Chodon(1931-1985)

HE Sey Rinpoche’s mother was born into a great Tibetan aristocratic family in South Tibet. Her most famous ancestor is the Lopon Gar Dongtsen, Minister of the Dharma King of Tibet Songsten Gampo. He is especially renowned for having invited to Tibet the Chinese princess who married the king and then brought the Jowo, Tibet’s holiest and most famous Buddha’s statue, from the Chinese empire. It was hosted in Jokhang temple, in Lhasa. Sangyum Urgyen Chodron was very devoted to the Dharma from a young age and she refused to marry into a life of privilege.

She spent many years in retreat, completing seven sets of preliminary practices (ngondro) and meditating under the personal guidance of Tripon Apho Rinpoche. After marrying Apho Rinpoche, she went into still more intensive retreat. Later, she kept on practicing diligently for the rest of her life, with great devotion and love for the lineage. She was an accomplished yogini. When she left her body in 1985, she remained in a state of thugdam (post-mortem meditation) for seven days.

 
H.E. Thuksey Rinpoche

H.E. Thuksey Rinpoche (1917-1983)

One of His Eminence Sey Rinpoche’s uncle and Guru was the First Kyabje Thuksey Rinpoche. Thuksey Rinpoche's mother, Ashi Bhola, was Togden Shakya Shri's daughter, and his father was H.H. the Tenth Gyalwang Drukpa. Thus, Thuksey Rinpoche, Ngawang Gyurmed Pelsang, was born in 1916, as the son of the 10th Gyalwang Drukpa and the grandson of Mahasiddha Shakya Shri. Thuksey Rinpoche in Tibetan language actually means 'The Very Precious Heart Son,' in that 'Son' not only postulates the biological essence of great enlightenment but also the wisdom of its own nature.

Many of the holy masters of that time, and especially the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, declared that this small child was indeed the Speech Incarnation of Taklung Ma Rinpoche, the Head of the Taklung Kagyud School. However, his father, the Tenth Gyalwang Drukpa, refused to give his son away to the Taklung Lineage because he intuitively knew that his son would become a guardian and benefactor of the teachings of Buddha for the whole world, and particularly the teachings of the Drukpa Lineage, when it would suffer under the revolution that would take place in the future of Tibet. Instead, the child was given to Ngawang Tenzin Pelzang, the Seventh Dzigar Choktrul Rinpoche, to become adopted when he was little more than an infant. He resided for most of his younger days at Dzigar Gompa in eastern Tibet.

Having trained and studied under the guidance of his own father and many other high lamas, such as Dzigar Choktrul Rinpoche, who was what he called 'the main refuge', he also included among his teachers his Mahamaudra gurus, Tripon Pema Chogyal, Drukpa Yongdzin Rinpoche, Togden Pagsam Gyatso, Thuchen Choegon Rinpoche and Lopon Sonam Zangpo. Later, he entered more than three series of three years intensive retreats. Reluctantly, after 10 years of interrupted practice and meditation, he had to come back to the world to undertake various extensive activities for the sake of the Buddha’s Teaching.

Thuksey Rinpoche became integral to keeping the lamp of the Drukpa lineage burning after the Tibetan Revolution. A key holder of the ultimate teachings, he also passed on the monastic vows to hundreds of monks, etc.  This he did with great dignity during the most critical time of Tibetan relocation. He was also a great poet, chant master and scholar, with an amazing presence and a deep voice.

On one meeting with Apho Rinpoche in Manali, the young Sey Rinpoche, aged 8, was offered to Thuksey Rinpoche to receive intensive traditional religious education in the new monastic seat of the Drukpa Lineage that Thuksey Rinpoche had established near Darjeeling, West Bengal. The boy was delighted to go with his uncle and happily went to Darjeeling.

 

Khandro  Thrinlay Chodon

Khandro Thrinlay Chodon

Sey Rinpoche’s sister, Khandro Thrinlay Chodon was born in Lahoul, which is known in the Dharma texts as the 'Land of the Dakinis'. She has been trained since childhood in the practices of Vajrayana Buddhism and grew up in an environment where spirituality was an integral part of everyday life. Khandro-la trained as a child with the late Gegen Khyentse Rinpoche, a master of the Six Yogas of Naropa and Mahamudra. She received from him all the empowerments, transmissions and teachings of the Drukpa lineage. She also studied with the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. She has practiced in solitary retreat in the mountains of Nepal, at Tato Pani Bhakang under the guidance of Sengdrak Rinpoche - a Drukpa master known for his humbleness and ascetic practices. Beside, she also received modern education, in the USA, where she received her Master of Psychology degree.

She also married His Holiness the Ninth Shabdrung Ngawang Jigme in 1998, out of pure love and devotion. She then tirelessly assisted Shabdrung Rinpoche with the many duties of his role as head of the Drukpa Kargyud lineage of Bhutan. Khandro-la derives her current title through her marriage to Shabdrung Rinpoche. "Khandro" (also known as ‘dakini’ in Sanskrit) refers to the wisdom quality within the feminine essence. His Holiness passed away in 2003. Afterwards, she took care of her husband's monastery in Manali and undertook humanitarian activities. She also became a Dharma teacher, offering support to the nuns and laywomen of his lineage. Khandro-la has vowed to help both nuns and laywomen wherever possible to deepen their practice in retreat and daily life. She is now invited to spread the sacred teachings all around the world.

 

Jampal

HE Sey Rinpoche's Brother - JampelOne of Sey Rinpoche’s brothers, Jampal is also said to be an incarnation of a high Drukpa lama. He received advanced teachings and trainings in the Drukpa lineage, but he chooses to live the simple life of a lay working man, with his Ladakhi wife Phuntsok-la and their two children. He has a travel business and a guesthouse, and is an experienced mountain climber and trekker. He is known among his clients for his compassionate and prompt help. He also involves in various small scale humanitarian actions, and works with medical care for nuns and lay people in remote Himalayans areas connected to Sey Rinpoche’s family, such as the Pangi valleys.

 

Continuing the Familial heritage

Sey Rinpoche is now married to Nordzin-la, who is from Lahoul. They have two sons and one daughter. Beside his general activities as a teacher, such as taking care of all the monks and nuns of his lineage, traveling around the world to teach the Dharma, etc. Sey Rinpoche also takes care of the spiritual duties of the family heritage, including giving his children the best education he can with the hope that they can continue the familial lineage of Tokden Shakya Shri. His younger son, Sonam Rinchen (13 years old) is about to start traditional spiritual and religious training, entering monkhood. His other son, Nawang Tashi Namgyal (21 years old) and his daughter Tashi Chodron (16) are receiving very modern education in some excellent institutions. His Eminence hopes that, in the modern world, they will also be able to support and serve the lineage in their own way.

HE Sey Rinpoche's Family
HE Sey Rinpoche’s wife and children

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Sey Rinpoche