The History of Mindrolling: Part VII

Jetsün Migyur Paldrön (Part 3)
The Return to Mindrolling

Jetsün Migyur Paldrön returned to Mindrolling via the district of Dra. Crossing the last hill before reaching home, she paused on the summit of the hill called gnyen mkhar, from where she could see the entire view of the monastery.

In the place where before there had been the vast and beautiful monastery, equal to the joyous grove celestial palace, now stood ruins and remains of the destroyed temples, monks quarters and stupas. Only gsang ngags pho brang, the main shrineroom, remained standing.

Remembering the wealth, prosperity and harmonious land that had been built and founded by her revered father and uncles and her brothers, she broke down overwhelmed by unbearable grief. This grief also brought back memories of her previous life and the many challenges and sufferings she had experienced during her previous life as snang gsal 'od bum.

Upon reaching the monastery, Jetsün Migyur Paldrön was escorted in by the umdze, other senior monks, the general assembly of monks and nuns as well as the lay community members who had survived and returned back after the destruction. She was led into the remaining part of her personal quarters called gzim chung bde chen yang rtser (zimchung dechen yangtser)—the personal residence of the family called The Peak of Great Bliss.

There she spoke to the gathered assembly, offering advice and inspiration to all. Jetsün Migyur Paldrön also offered tea and rice to all the monks and nuns along with monetary gifts and robes. She made offerings to the monastery of all the wealth and offerings she had received thus far from all the places she had visited and announced the beginning of the rebuilding of the Mindrolling Monastery and re-establishing of the monastic sangha. Thereafter, she began her work with an extensive seven-day Guru Ganachakra with vast offerings and the amending and fulfillment practices of the Dharma protectors.

Soon, Phola Thaiji Gyurme Sonam Topgyal, who had been promoted to the powerful position of Kalön (cabinet minister) came to receive Jetsün Migyur Paldrön's blessings and have an audience with her. He had great devotion to her and wholeheartedly made offerings of robes, hat and a white stallion to the Jetsünma, while also making offerings to the monastery.

The first building that began to be reconstructed was the klu sding lha dbang dga' tshal (luding lhawang gatsal). Upon its completion she performed the consecration and then remained there in strict retreat for several months.

While more renovation and expansions continued under her guidance, Jetsün Migyur Paldrön also began to teach and transmit many essential teachings, empowerments and transmissions to the monks and nuns. The sangha of monastics grew steadily and the traditional ceremonies and elaborate rituals began to be held and performed as before.

Around this time, her elder brother Ratna Vijaya (Drinchen Rinchen Namgyal) and her younger brother rgyal sras nye ba'i mgon po (Gyalsay Nyewa'i Gönpo)having escaped the dzungar Mongols, returned from Kham with their attendants. Their reunion was an occasion of great joy and delight.

But the hardships and the enormous responsibilities of rebuilding Mindrolling took its toll on her health and at the age of 22 Jetsün Rinpoche fell seriously ill. Her personal physician, Emji Lophel-la diagnosed the illness as a serious tumor in the stomach and began giving her long-life pills and Tibetan medicines. The entire Sangha offered many prayers and conducted various zhabten (prayers and ceremonies for stability of life, dispelling of obstacles etc). After a severe spell of illness, she gradually recovered enough to resume her activities and teachings once again.

Under her direction and guidance, much of Mindrolling was rebuilt and renovated, despite her health difficulties and once again it began functioning as an important and pivotal center of learning and practice of the precious Dharma. 

Jetsünma's name and fame spread throughout the regions of Ü, Tsang, Ngari, Lhö, Mön, Uru, Yöru and the provinces of Drakpo, Lhodrag and Kham etc. People gathered to receive her blessings and teachings. But for some senior ranking people, Jetsün Migyur Paldrön's activity and influence began to worry them and wanting her out of their way, they began to plan a way to remove her from Mindrolling.

Knowing Thai Ji's influence they approached him and convinced him to believe that many people longed for Jetsün Rinpoche to come to Kongpo to teach and spread the Dharma. And that this activity would also be of immense benefit to many people as well as Mindrolling. Believing it to be true, Thai Ji supplicated to Jetsün Migyur Paldrön to consider this request, especially now that much of the work in rebuilding and establishing of Mindrolling was nearing completion.  Jetsün Migyur Paldrön accepted the request and soon departed for the remote region of Kongpo.

Over a year passed and having not received any news of Jetsün Rinpoche, Thai Ji enquired about her when he happened to meet Gelong Ogyen Rabten and Gelong Tashi Wangchuk during an official appearance at the Court in Lhasa. 

Kalon Thai Ji enquired, "Is Jetsün Rinpoche doing a great deal of Dharma activity and is she well?"
Gelong Ogyen Rabten answered, "Actually no. Other than a few people passing by occasionally, she has no dharma activity there at all. Most of the time, she and her attendants, Gyurme Yangzom, Gyurme Chödrön and Gelong Drakpa are working in the fields."

Thai Ji realizing how he had been fooled, said, "Akha (alas) I have been fooled by these people. I must quickly remedy this."

Immediate orders were given to invite Jetsün Migyur Paldrön back to Lhasa.

Upon her return to Lhasa, Jetsün Migyur Paldrön visited the Arya Lokeshavara temple and other sacred temples making vast offerings and prayers. She then performed many ceremonies and drubchens and conferred long-life empowerments and the one hundred fold long-life empowerment to many fortunate people. She performed one hundred fold fire-offerings and the thousand-fold peaceful fire offering rituals of The Accomplishment of Vajrasattava.

While in Lhasa she engaged in numerous Dharma activities and also had an audience with His Holiness the 7th Dalai Lama Kalzang Gyatso who conferred on her the name Jetsün Sherab Drönma. The monks of the Namgyal Dratsang, the main monastery of His Holiness the Dalai Lama offered her Tenzhug, the ceremony supplicating for her long life and requested the Jetsünma to compose an invocation prayer for her, which they could always do regularly. It is said that she composed a prayer so profound and deep in its meaning that it left many great scholars in awe and greatly struck by its composition.

As she bade farewell, people lined along the route and with many tears supplicated her to return. At Kha Rabmo Rag Go, Jetsün Migyur Paldrön was met by hundreds who, along with her own mother, had travelled from Mindrolling to greet her.

The author of Jetsün Migyur Paldrön's biography, Gyurme Ösel, who first met her here later wrote—

"I was eight when I first saw the Noble Lady Migyur Paldrön and the sight of her marvelous countenance was so inspiring that I could not contain my tears. Such a strong devotion arose along with the conviction that I must follow her."

It is said that he remained with her as her most trusted student until the passing away of Jetsün Migyur Paldrön. He became her attendant and student at eight and wrote her biography when he turned sixty seven, 13 years after the passing away of Jetsün Migyur Paldrön.

Upon her return to Mindrolling, she held audiences with her family and senior monks of the monastery and then entered into a yearlong solitary retreat. After the completion of the retreat, she conferred upon everyone the Profound Heart Meaning of Ati (Ati Zabdön) empowerments and teachings.

Jetsün Migyur Paldrön's biography mentions her continuing with tireless activities of performing many great ceremonies for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government as well as giving teachings and empowerments while at the same time overseeing the completion of Mindrolling Monastery's rebuilding.
Meanwhile, political changes and turmoil continued in Tibet. When the monastery's rebuilding was completed, Jetsünma once again entered into a three year retreat. Upon its completion, she bestowed the Heart Essence of Dakinis (Khandro Nyingthig) empowerment and teachings to a vast gathering of fortunate disciples.

Following this, she embarked on a long pilgrimage with many senior monks and nuns along with her mother and sisters. The party travelled to many sacred places where she continued to bless and bestow teachings and empowerments to the numerous people who gathered at every place to receive her blessings.

At Samye, it is said that when Jetsünma offered the Chökyong Pehar (dharmapala Pehar) a white scarf, the statue resounded saying, "It is excellent that the consort of the great Ogyen, the Lady of Kharchen, has returned to this palace for the sake of sentient beings. May your life remain long. I will remain with you even though you cannot see me".

In 1732, as Jetsün Migyur Paldrön turned thirty-four, she received many older and senior practitioners, retreatants and students of her father, Chögyal Terdag Lingpa, from Lato. Among them, great yogis such as Gyurme Namdrol and Gyurme Tharchin and their students arrived with auspicious offerings and sacred articles. She then conferred the profound Dakini instructions from the Shawug Terma upon them.

Thereafter, she also composed an instruction manual for the Khandro Sangwa Yeshe Sadhana called the "Lamp Illuminating the Profound Crucial Points." She then taught it extensively to the gathered assembly of yogis and yoginis and to the practitioners who had come from all over the Töd region of Tibet.  Upon its completion, once again she entered into another three years retreat, spending all the time in practice and strict retreat.
In 1736, at the many requests of various officials and senior practitioners, Jetsünma's brother, Trichen Drinchen Rinchen Namgyal, invited the greatly renowned Lelung Jedrung Rinpoche to Mindrolling. He and his entourage of sixty people were received with great honor and ceremony. Having just completed her retreat, Jetsün Migyur Paldrön with her attendants and senior monks paid her respects to Jedrung Rinpoche and upon his request conferred the reading transmission and related explanation of the Guru Yoga of Guru Rinpoche.

Deeply impressed, Lelung Jedrung Rinpoche sent her a message saying, "If in this life Minling Jetsün Rinpoche and I join together in the auspicious relationship of indivisible Means and Wisdom, there will be fruition to the prophecy that the degeneration of the dharma will be averted for another 500 years.” To which Jetsün Migyur Paldrön replied, "I shall not be able to accept your offer. I have pledged to follow the instructions of my root master, Chögyal Terdag Lingpa, to keep this body pure and to simply practice the Dharma."

In the biography of Jetsün Migyur Paldrön there is mention that Jedrung Rinpoche persistently followed Jetsünma with the same request for quite sometime and each time was refused. This request and several other prominent figures approaching her with similar requests made Jetsün Migyur Paldrön once again enter into a retreat. She spent many years in retreat occasionally coming out to further teach and give transmissions to the monks and nuns and many devotees who journeyed to receive her blessings.

From 1739 until 1744, she transmitted the Dzogchen teachings, the entire cycle of Ati, the Guhayagharbha, the complete cycles of Vajrasattava, Thugje Chenpo Desheg Kündü (Mahakarunika as the Gathering of All Sugatas), Dorje Phagmo (Vajravarahi), Khandro Sangwa Yeshe and various teachings on Yogic exercises or Trulkhor etc.  

She also bestowed the elaborate transmissions of Ati Zabdön and Macigma's Chöd teachings upon the nuns from Menjid, Shong Ga-gang, Sogphu Samten Ling and hundreds of yogis and yoginis.  Around this time, due to samaya violations of some nuns and monks, Jetsün Migyur Paldrön fell gravely ill. Many prayers of protection and long life were performed.

It is said in the Jetsünma's biography—

"The throne-holder (Tri Drinchen Rinchen Namgyal) along with Chagdzöd Kushog, Rabjampa Chödrak, Gomchen Döndrub, Sotön Thutob Namgyal, Rabjampa Palgön and many eminent senior practitioners and monks performed elaborate rituals of the wrathful Red Guru, Yamantaka and Amitayus etc. for her long life.

The monks' assembly did protectors' practices and amendment, confession and purification rituals connected with Metsek. A hundred thousand peaceful fire-offerings and a hundred thousand ganachakra connected with Thugje Chenpo etc. were offered for her long life. Stupas were renovated and vast offerings were made, bridges and roads were repaired and constructed to help others, food and clothing were distributed to thousands of poor and many other practices were carried out. Led by her mother, Gyalyum Chenmo (great mother) and her sisters the Semo Jetsünmas, the rituals of Ransom and Turning back the Dakinis were performed to supplicate Jetsün Migyur Paldrön to remain and not turn her mind to Akanishta.

The great master Gomchen Döndrub la one day came to her presence to find that she had sat in meditation with her eyes turned upward and mind fixed in Dharmadhatu. With tears falling down from his eyes, he supplicated saying, 'Isn't it unkind of you to leave your young son-like disciples behind on their path? You, a Dakini, who has attained freedom, should not leave as yet. Think of those you will leave behind.'  As he said these words, the Jetsünma looked slightly downward.

From the next day, her health gradually became better to everyone's good fortune and great joy."

Jetsün Migyur Paldrön regained her health but thereafter fell ill often. However, she continued with many activities of transmitting and teaching the Dharma. She undertook the enormous project of collecting many profound texts and teachings and creating an archive. As printed texts were rare, she also began the printing of the collected works of Chögyal Terdag Lingpa and the great master Lochen Dharmashri and the precious texts of Nyingthig Yabzhi, thus making them available for numerous students of dharma and bringing immense benefit.

Along with her vast activities she continued to build and expand on the works of Samten Tse, Dechen Ling and Özer Ling where nuns and yoginis received complete training and teachings of the precious Dharma.
Jetsün Migyur Paldrön began spending more and more time in retreat. She practiced six sessions daily remaining in the continuity of the Dzogchen state and completing many great practices, the list of which would be too long to mention here.  In between retreats, she would grant audiences, teachings and empowerments.

Her biography says, "Always kind and equal to all, the powerful and the humble, she with great affection constantly inspired others to practice the Dharma. She was never anxious for her own happiness or comfort. She carried each day along the path of meditation with no boundaries between periods of meditation and post-meditation and never strayed into mundane activity."

At the request of the throne-holder, her brother Drinchen Rinchen Namgyal, and Thugsey Rinpoche, she composed the Excellent Path of the Great Bliss Instruction Manual for the Heart Essence of Mother and Son Combined in accordance with the prophecy of the wisdom sound—a text that would have been difficult for anyone else to compose.

Throughout her life, Jetsün Migyur Paldrön composed numerous texts which brought immeasurable benefit to countless students of the buddhadharma. She composed the Introductory Practice for Daily Practices and the Collection of Daily Recitations, the Guru Yoga called Clearing the Darkness of Longing, the biographical invocation prayers to the Guru and the Tenzhug liturgy, a collection of various invocations to the Guru, a collection of heart-teachings called Clearing the Darkness of the Heart, questions and answers gathered in one called the Clear Radiant Mirror, Inscriptions of Thangkas and scarves gathered and collected together called the Spontaneous Wish-fulfilling Jewel,  a manual on how to make offerings and scarf-offerings, the history of the lineage of the Gathered Essence of the Sugatas, Lineage chant of Garwang Tshe Pagme, the liturgy connected to the Lam rim of Khandro Sangwa Yeshe,  the lineage chant for the Heart Essence of Vajrasattava, Rigzin Thugtig and other new termas of Chögyal Terdag Lingpa, the manual for the ritual of empowerment of entering the mandala of Shaking the Depths of Hell (Narak Dontrug) called the Excellent path of Great Bliss, the liturgy for entering the visualization of oneself as the deity of the new terma of the Wrathful Guru (Guru Drakpo) called the path of attaining the Wrathful Empowerment, the extended explanation on the Wrathful Guru practice and the sequence of the practices of creation and completion stages, the empowerment of Thögal of Dzogchen Ati Zabdön Nyingpo, the prayer connected to Ati Zabdön and a collection of advice on the practice of Ati, the invocation liturgy for the phowa practice of Rigdzin Thugtig, additional notes (zin-bris) on the sequence of concentrations (dmigs rim), the daily practice of Garwang Tse Pagme, the empowerment for Künchog Kyidu called Delighting the Fortunate Ones, the instruction manual for Künchog Kyidu called the Oral Instructions on the Essence of the Bright Lamp and the fulfillment and amending ritual for the Vajra Dharma Protectors called Künzang Roltsho.

Her vast activities continued and Jetsün Migyur Paldrön tirelessly worked for the benefit of the people of Tibet with great concern for the preservation of the authentic and precious teachings. She was often haunted by the experience of her youth, when the teachings of Terdag Lingpa and Lochen Dharmashri and what they had so carefully gathered had nearly faced extinction in the hands of the Dzungar Mongols.  This made her work tirelessly and continuously despite its heavy toll on her health.

Her biography says, "Although she had done so much in preserving and propagating the teachings which had been entrusted to her, she felt she had not done enough. Often scolding the monks and practitioners for their lax behavior, she encouraged nuns and monks on strict discipline. She was also very direct in speaking about the sadness she experienced in seeing the jealousy and strife among practitioners and asked everyone to try go beyond such negativities."

Most moving are the accounts of her last days as she suffered from grave illness. It is said she still insisted on giving a series of elaborate empowerments herself, saying, "What is the use of leaving the teachings on a corpse?" She was then 70 years old.

On a morning in the year 1769, she visited all the sacred shrines of Mindrolling. She then bestowed empowerment in great detail and following that, gave heart-advice to all those who were present. She later met with all her attendants and presented them with personal presents and advices. Then she insisted on meeting with a local official who had earlier requested a transmission. Because she was so ill, many tried to dissuade her and the official himself requested that she not exert herself but she insisted and bestowed on him the full transmission.

This was her last activity. That night, she sat in meditation and dissolved her wisdom mind into dharmadhatu. Jetsün Migyur Paldrön remained in samdhi for three days gazing outward into the space.
The throne-holder of Mindrolling and her brother, Tri Drinchen Rinchen Namgyal, announced Jetsün Migyur Paldrön's parinirvana to the assembly of Mindrolling.

"The great bliss-warrior of supreme means—Samantabhadra
United in bliss with Samantabhadri—the wisdom,
Appeared indivisibly in the form of Migyur Paldrön
In order to raise the Vajra Song of the secret teachings of Atiyoga.

This Lord's activities—a treasure of qualities
So countless that it is difficult for even a Buddha to describe—
Is unfathomable to the near-sighted ordinary mind.
Of what I have heard of this great Lord,
This is just a single drop."

from Gyurme Ösel's biography

More information on the Mindrolling Lineage will be forthcoming.
Please check back for future installments.