The History of Mindrolling: Part XV

Jetsün Trinley Chödrön

Jetsün Trinley Chödrön, who is known as one of the greatest and only known female masters of some of the most renowned dzogchen masters of her time, was born amidst marvelous and wondrous signs as the daughter of Mindrolling's 5th Trichen, Gyurme Trinley Namgyal. Jetsün Trinley Chödrön is credited with having kept the lineage of many great dzogchen teachings alive through a difficult period and thus her contribution to the preservation of the Nyingma teachings is amongst the greatest and most remembered.

Born as the sister to the 6th Mindrolling Trichen Gyurme Pema Wangyal, she displayed immense wisdom and clarity of mind from a young age and became accomplished in all levels of studies of buddhist texts, calligraphy, grammar and buddhist arts. She pursued her studies of the methods of the sutras and tantras at an early age.

Her great learning ability enabled her to begin intensive studies and training in buddhist philosophy and teachings from many great teachers. She began receiving many teachings and sutra and tantra from her learned uncles and the great master and brilliant scholar Rabjam Jampa Palgön.

In particular, at a young age she received the Minling Tersar (the new Mindrolling termas) and the complete collection of sadhanas compiled by Terdag Lingpa called 'dod 'jo bum bzang (The Excellent Wish-fulfilling Vase), which were her father's legacy as well as many other empowerments and teachings such as the entire collection of the great master Pema Lingpa's cycle of teachings and transmissions.

Jetsün Trinley Chödrön then went on to practice the teachings and soon became the holder of the teachings of the secret and pith transmissions within the Nyingma school. She then accomplished the intensive retreat of the rtsa gsum lhag pa'i lha, displaying many signs of their accomplishments.

In particular, she received the entire rdzogs chen gsang ba snying thig gi chos skor— the Secret Dzogchen Nyingthig cycle of teachings— from her father, the noble and great Trichen Gyurme Trinley Nangyal. She practiced these profound teachings her entire life with great dedication and actualized their meaning and realization with supreme confidence beyond doubts and hesitations.

Satisfactorily bringing to exhaustion the snang ba bzhi zad (four appearances) she became known as the supreme lineage holder of rang bzhin dzogs pa chen po) (the natural Great Perfection) or the dzogchen lineage.

It is thus written in her biography, "Jetsün Trinley Chödrön directly experienced the authentic unshakeable confidence born of realization and reached the furthest limit of the four visions. She thus become a lineage holder of the natural Great Perfection".

Great masters such as the great Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye received the precious ocean-like profound transmissions and empowerments of Dzogpa Chenpo Lonchen Nyingthig and the entire Minling terma transmissions from her. She thus became their guru and these precious teachings which were at that time on the verge of extinction once again flourished and continued allowing the great dzogchen lineage to continue down to our present times.

Jetsün Trinley Chödrön tirelessly turned the wheel of the precious dharma and manifested incalculable dharma activities for the benefit of others enabling the great teachings to be spread and strengthened during this time in Tibet. She transmitted manifold transmissions and empowerments and taught the profound path of dzogchen to countless practitioners of the dharma bringing them to maturity and liberation. In this way she became one of greatest female masters of Tibet and the only woman of Mindrolling whose activities rivaled those of Jetsün Migyur Paldrön.

Her father the fifth Trichen Gyurme Trinley Namgyal entrusted the main transmissions onto her which at that time led to Jetsün Trinley Chödrön being one of the very few living masters who had received the authentic lineage and also accomplished the practices.

The great masters Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye were two of the greatest masters during the nineteenth century who, along with Chokgyur Lingpa, led the great renewed flourishing and spread of the dharma in Tibet and were instrumental in the preservation and compilation of the key transmissions of the Nyingma school. Jetsün Trinley Chödrön bestowed teachings and transmissions to these two great masters thus enabling them to continue the peerless pith transmissions of the dzogchen lineage and of many other precious terma cycles.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo received the Nyingthig teachings of Dzogchen— the ripening empowerments, liberating instructions, entrusted advices and so forth—from Jetsün Trinley Chödrön. Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye received these transmissions of the direct lineages of the two lines of Nyingthig teachings and transmissions from Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. They were able to impart the transmissions they had received from Mindrolling to a succession of students, thus ensuring that these teachings spread not only throughout Tibet but also in all ten directions. In this way, the authentic and pure line of transmission of the precious dzogchen teachings which was almost in danger of being interrupted was once again firmly established through the efforts and kindness of Jetsün Trinley Chödrön.

Jetsün Trinley Chödrön served the dharma by firmly establishing a strong foundation of pure dharma in Mindrolling as well as engaging in vast dharma activities throughout her life. She beautifully balanced her own retreat and practice as well as seamlessly expounding the precious teachings and transmissions to thousands of practitioners.

It was a great loss for buddhadharma in Tibet and particularly for Mindrolling when Jetsün Trinley Chödrön passed away at a very young age. Amidst marvelous signs of exhaustion, she allowed her mind to dissolve into the expanse of dharmakaya.