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"It is crucial to understand and to gain the conviction that
the laws of cause and effect govern the universe and all beings. …
There are only two ways to erase the trace left by a harmful act:
either by going through the experience of suffering that is its natural consequence,
or by purifying it with the appropriate antidotes before the appearance of its dire effects.."
- H.H. Dilgo Khyentse

Palyul Nyingma Lineage

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The founding of Palyul Lineage and its profundity. The founder of the Palyul lineage is the maha-siddha Vidyadhara Kunzang Sherab. He was the reincarnation of Rahula, the son and disciple of historical Buddha, and later reincarnated as Dharmata and Arya Shri Singha. He was born in Akhyog village that is close to Kathog Monastery. His was from the Ga family, one of the four great families in Tibet. His father’s name is Dorje and mother’s name is Guru-tshog. He was born in 1634 (Fire Rabbit year). As a child, he possessed compassion for all sentient beings and never harmed even the smallest insect.

At an early age he was gifted with the ability to memorise many prayers of the Kathog tradition. He offered the traditional piece of hair when he took refuge under Master Chogkyong Gyatsho and received the lay precepts. He was given the refuge name Tshulthrim Gyatsho, and he received many teachings from this master. Later he followed Master Drungpa Cho-nyid Gyatsho and remained with him for five years to learn the Profound Teaching on the Co-emergent Union of Mahamudra. He completed the training and realised the Great Perfection Wisdom, as such he is able to easily complete his other trainings and practices.

After Master Drungpa passed away, he met his root guru Serlo Tonpa Gyaltshen and received from him the Great Perfection teaching on the self-arise self appearance Dzogchen practice and also the trilogy of mDo, Gyu, Sem, etc. teachings from the Terma (hidden treasure) and Karma lineages. He completed these trainings and attained the realisation of the Great Perfection State. He also received outer, inner, and secret teachings from Padma Lodro and other masters and completed the purification and other practices.

During this time, he went to Central Tibet for pilgrimage and on his way he heard the name of Terton Migyur Dorje and generated strong faith on Migyur Dorje. So he cancelled his pilgrimage trip and went to Ngomtong to see Migyur Dorje. When Kunzang Sherab saw the face of this eminent terton, inconceivable faith and devotion welled up in his heart. Terton Migyur Dorje received him as his spiritual son and gave him the name Kunzang Sherab. Terton Migyur Dorje transmitted to him all the Namcho Terma (Sky Teaching Treasure) and recognised Kunzang Sherab as the Lineage Holder of Namcho Terma and an important disciple.

At that time, Karma Chagmed came to visit Migyur Dorje, and Kunzang Sherab became a disciple of Karma Chagmed and received novice monk ordination from Master Karma Chagmed. Karma Chagmed transmitted all his teachings to Kunzang Sherab. When Terton Migyur Dorje went to the eastern Kham region, Kunzang Sherab followed him as his attendant and guard. When they reached Kathog Monastery, he also performed the role of vajra master of the mandala activity ritual when Terton Migyur Dorje gave transmission of Nyingmapa Namcho and karma lineage teachings. In Kathog Monastery, Kunzang Sherab also became the disciple of Vidyadhara Longsal Nyingpo and at the same time he also accepted many disciples, among them the most accomplished disciples are Serpa Yeshe Sengge, Janggang Aphar, Tsangda Dorje Thar, and Shuggang Badong, etc. These four great disciples were later called the main pillars of the Palyul Lineage.

At the time where Terton Migyur Dorje practiced in the cave of Mugsang, Kunzang Sherab also with him. In 1664, the site where future Palyul Monastery will be erected came under the territory of the King of Dege. The King built the new Palyul Monastery in this auspicious place and named it Namgyal Jangchub Ling, which means the Monastery of Ultimate Liberation, and gathered five hundred monks after the construction. The King sent invitation to Thrulzhig Tonpa Gyatshen to be the head of Palyul Monastery but Thrulzhig Tonpa Gyaltsen declined, saying “I am too old to maintain such an important position, please go and seek my disciple Kunzang Sherab and invite him to become the Abbot and he will be able to uphold and spread the Buddhadharma in all directions”. So the King sent a formal invitation to Kunzang Sherab who is still in the cave of Mugsang. Kunzang Sherab asked his Guru Migyur Dorje to predict the outcome of such an undertaking and the Terton replied, “The time is now ripened. You must go to take charge of this monastery and it will become an exhaustless source of Dharma and will benefit many sentient beings and train many monks.” After this prediction, Master Migyur Dorje bestowed him many precious terma, and made further prediction: “You are the owner of my Sky Terma Lineage which is entrusted to me directly by Padmasambhava. Today I entrust this Sky Treasure to you and you must go to propagate the Dharma to benefit limitless sentient beings.” Then Migyur Dorje recited auspicious blessing verse and threw flower upon Kunzang Sherab, authorised him to be the regent of the Lineage of Migyur Dorje. At that moment, rainbow appeared at the sky showering down heavenly flower and the four corners of the earth together with top and bottom six directions shaken with auspicious signs.

At the age of 30, Kunzang Sherab became the first abbot of Palyul Monastery. Shortly after that, Master Migyur Dorje enter into parinirvana in the cave of Mugsang. Kunzang Sherab then returned to perform all the appropriate offering ceremonies and erected a stupa to contain relics of Migyur Dorje. Then he went to the monastery of Karma Chagmed to receive the full ordination (Gelong), ate the blessed rice, and receive the title of Vidyadhara. After listening to many profound teachings, Karma Chagmed inaugurated him as Vajra Master. Then Kunzang Sherab returned back to Palyul Monastery to transmit to the monks the three principle training of precept, concentration, and wisdom. He formulated the monastery rules and set the root example of the Buddhist Monastery Abbot. He also invited Terton Longsal Nyingpo to the monastery to teach the monks. Master Longsal Nyingpo also transmitted the Longsal Terma to Kunzang Sherab and authorised him to be owner of this terma. Thus in Palyul Monastery, he propagated the Namcho Terma, and all the karma (oral transmission) and terma teachings. He founded the Buddhist Institute and Retreat Centre and nurture many practitioners.

By this time Palyul Monastery was attracting vast numbers of devotees and became noisy, Kunzang Sherab then entered into retreat in the isolated place of Lhari Odsal Hill. Sometimes he also asked his 4 heart disciples to teach in Palyul Monastery. Through the miraculous power of Kunzang Sherab and his 4 heart disciples, many dharma halls in Palyul Monastery were built.

As such he and his 4 heart disciples became the object of offering by the King of Dege. The number of monks in Palyul Monastery also gradually increased to over 3,000 and the number of practitioners doing retreat in Lhari Odsal Hill also gradually increased, such that Palyul Monastery and Lhari Odsal Hill Retreat Centre became active spiritual centres. Thus Kunzang Sherab went back to the monastery to transmit the monastic vows to the over 3,000 monks, as well as bestowing empowerment and teaching of Nyingmapa Karma and Terma. As such, the 3,000 over monks became the upholders of the vows of the 3 vehicles (Pratimoksha , Bodhisattva, and Tantric Vows). He also combined the teaching of Kagyud and Nyingma to become the lineage of the teaching of the non-dual union of Mahamudra (Great Seal) and Dzogchen (Great Perfection) and formulated the stages of Vajrayana practices as:

1. Four Foundations Practice,
2. Channels, Winds, and Drops,
3. Great Perfection Practice,
4. Dream Yoga,
5. Darkness Practice Retreat,
6. Purification of Environment,
7. Purification of Sound.

He wrote 4 volumes of commentary of the Buddhist Scriptures, and made prediction over his four great disciples saying “you should return to your home town and establish monastery like that of Palyul, so that you can benefit many sentient beings in future”. He also named the monastery of each of his four great disciples, and observed the dependent arising factors of the propagation of Dharma of each of his four great disciples, and asked them to randomly pick the scripture text that will be propagated in future. Lama Serpa Yeshe Sengge got the Great Perfection’s Buddha in the Palm of the Hand. Thus, the four great disciples returned to their own home town. Lama Serpa Yeshe Sengge established the Lhatse Monastery. Lama Janggang Aphar established Janggang Monastery. Lama Tsangda Dorje Thar established Tsangda Monastery. Lama Shuggang Badong established Shuggang Monastery. These four branch monasteries have the same monastic system and teaching as that of Palyul Monastery. Palyul lineage and its teaching were spread throughout Kham and Amdo and many other places. Finally, Kunzang Sherab passed the lineage of the Palyul Monastery to his nephew Padma Lhundrub Gyatsho and at the age of 63, he entered into parinirvana in the midst of many auspicious signs. While his body was being cremated, a self-originating Syllable, Ah, became embossed on his skull and many precious bone relics were observed. As for the lineage of Kunzang Sherab, Kathog lineage holders generally considered him as belong to the same Kathog lineage. Actually, Kunzang Sherab combined the lineage of Kagyud and Kathog, and practice the unique union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen of the Palyul lineage.