His Holiness Sakya Trizin Ngawang Kunga was born in Tsedong near Shigatse in the Sixteenth Rabjong cycle, in the year of The Wood Bird, on first of the eighth Tibetan month (September 7, 1945).

Sakya Trizin means "The Throneholder of Sakya". His Holiness is the 41st Patriarch of the Sakya tradition, one of the four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.  The Sakya lineage is often closely related to Manjushri (the youthful prince known as the bodhisattva of wisdom)

Ngawang Kunga Rinchen, the previous head of the Dolma Phodrang, and Sonam Drolkar, the sister of a renowned minister of the Tibetan government, had four children. The eldest, a daughter whose name is Jetsunma Chime Luding, currently lives and teaches in Canada. The next born were a son and daughter who passed away in infancy.

His Holiness Sakya Trizin remarked, "For the sake of having a son, my parents went on a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash, to Nepal, to Lhasa and to South Tibet, but there was never any sign that a son might be born. They had given up all hope when they reached Nalanda Monastery, an important Sakya monastery north of Lhasa and told the monastery's abbots of this. The leaders were shocked and very worried, as our family lineage, the Dolma Palace line, held the tradition of the most esoteric Sakya teachings and moreover, most of the heads of the monastery had received these teachings from my grandfather, so to them, the continuation of our family was most important.

"They urged my parents not to give up hope, and moreover they gave up one of their best teachers, Lama Ngawang Lodro Rinchen, so that he could travel with my parents. This was something of a loss to the monastery, but he was a very powerful Lama who could perform all the different rituals, and in particular, his prayers had caused children to be born to women who had been unable to have children before. After his he always travelled with my father, and together they performed many rituals and prayed for a son to be born. At last it became clear that the prayers had been answered and my parents halted at Tsedong, a small, pleasant town near Shigatse. It had been decided that it was a good place for a child to be born, partly perhaps for its reputation as the birthplace of many great Sakya teachers such as Ngachang Chenpo Ngawang Kunga Rinchen. In fact, I was born in the same room as Ngachang Chenpo. A further problem arose: a succession of astrologically inauspicious days. As my parents wanted me to be born on an auspicious day, many more prayers were said. And I was not born on a bad day: I was born on the first day of the eighth Tibetan month, which was considered quite good. It is said that rainbows were seen over our house, and that an image of Guru Rinpoche was then offered to my father, which were good signs, but of course, I didn't know anything of this."

Immediately after Sakya Trizin was born, birth, the sacred syllable letter Dhih (the letter of Manjushri) was written on his tongue with a special nectar made of saffron and many other things. While he was an infant, his name was Ayu Vajra. Later, when his father gave him his first major initiation of "The Nine Deities of Amitayus" he was given his present name Ngawang Kunga Thegchen Palber Thrinley Samphel Wangyi Gyalpo.   When the family returned to the main Sakya monastery the next year, there was an extensive celebration of the anniversary of his birth. 

His Holiness Sakya Trizin is the reincarantion of two great masters: a Nyingmapa lama known as Abong Terton and his grandfather the 39th Sakya Trizin Dhagtshul Thrinley Rinchen (1871 - 1936).

Early childhood and education     

His Holiness Sakya Trizin received the major initiation of Vajrakilaya and many other profound teachings from his father. He lost both parents at a very early age. So his maternal aunt, Thrinley Paljor Sangmo, with great kindness, took extremely good care of him. She appointed Jamphel Ponlop Kunga Gyaltsen as his first tutor and from him he learned the fundamental of the Tibetan reading, writing, memorization and the recitation of basic prayers. He learned chanting, music, ritual dancing, mudras and other subjects from his junior tutor Kunga Tsewang. After completion of these studies, a great celebration was held in which the Sakya Trizin officially entered both the Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries to perform the traditional Sakya ceremonies.

When His Holiness finished his studies at the Sakya Monasteries, he went to receive teachings at the Ngor E-Wam monastery. There at the age of five, he received the the Common and Uncommon Lam Dre (Tshoshey and Lobshey) teachings, bestowed upon him by his main root guru the great Ngor abbot Vajradhara Ngawang Lodro Zhenphen Nyingpo.

In 1951, His Holiness Sakya Trizin made a pilgrimage to Lhasa. There at the age of six he was designated the throne holder of the Sakya Order by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Accordingly, the next year a preliminary enthronement ceremony was performed in which he accepted the official seals of the office of the Sakya Trizin. Following the Parinirvana of His Root Guru Ngawang Lodro Zhenpen Nyingpo in 1953, the latter's Regent, Ngawang Tenzin Nyingpo, became another important guru to him. From this lama he received the initiations and reading tranmission (lung) for Grub-thab Kun-tu (The Collection of Sadhanas). And from Lama Ngawang Lodro Rinpoche he received the initiations and oral instructions relating to the Marpo Kor Sum (Three Major Red Deities),  the Marmo Kor Sum (Three Red Deities), and the two main Sakya Protectors.

At the age of eleven he again journeyed to Lhasa where he received teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Potala Palace. Also on this occasion he gave an extensive explanation of the Mandala Offering before the Dalai Lama and a large assembly. This event led to his wisdom being proclaimed throughout Tibet. Another guru to His Holiness was the renowned Lama Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, from whom he received many Tantric initiations and teachings, both Sakya and Nyingma. In 1957 he again received the Lam Dre teachings, on this occasion from the great abbot of Sakya, Vajradhara Jampal Zangpo, according to the tradition of the Khon Lineage transmission.

Fleeing Tibet for religious freedom and preserving the Buddhadharma

In 1959 at the age of fourteen he was formally enthroned as the Sakya Trizin, this three-day ceremony being preceded by a seven-day Mahakala ritual. Representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government were in attendance. But by this time the political and military situation in Tibet had undergone a dangerous deterioration, and his flight to neighbouring Sikkim (a three day journey from Sakya) soon became necessary.

Abandoning the holy principal seat of the Sakya tradition, which his family had occupied for nearly 900 years, His Holiness was able to take with him only the barest minimum of possessions and a few attendants. Arriving in India in 1959 at the age of fifteen, he was nonetheless able to found Ghoom Monastery at Darjeeling in the following year, and Sa-Ngor Chotsok Monastery at Gangtok in Sikkim and also to begin the task of reassembling the Sangha.

Under the oversight of his aunt, his studies continued with various of the great Buddhist teachers of the Sakya tradition who had survived the catastrophe in Tibet. From such great scholars as the Abbots Tritso Rinchen and Serjong Appey Rinpoche he received extensive philosophical teachings in Logic, Abhidharma, Madhyamika, the Prajnaparamita, and Discrimination of the Three Vowsby Sakya Pandita). Particularly from Khenpo Appey he received a thorough and detailed explanation of the Hevajra Root Tantra and other related teachings. And from one of the four Ngor abbots, Phende Khen Rinpoche, His Holiness received the initiation and explanation of Yamantaka in the Ra Lotsawa Tradition, as well as the collected writings of Ngorchen Könchog Lhundrup.

On account of political tensions between India and China during the early 1960s which were giving rise to military activity in the border regions, His Holiness then moved from Darjeeling to the relative safety of Mussourie in the Himalayan foothills near Dehra Dun. Around this time he taught the Lam Dre Tshod Shey at Varanasi. The Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, a Tibetan Buddhist university, had recently been established at nearby Sarnath, and this was a time for regrouping and re-establishing of contacts for many Tibetan people who had been scattered and separated by the traumatic events of recent years. His Holiness, His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche (head of the Tsarpa branch of the Sakya Tradition and of Nalendra Monastery), and His Eminence Ngor Luding Khen Rinpoche (75th abbot of Ngor Monastery) were all present. This event was seen by many as a watershed, after which a new blossoming of Dharma activity came about.

Marriage and maintain the tradition of the Khön Lineage

In 1974, to maintain the tradition of the Khön Lineage, His Holiness married Dagmo Kusho Tashi Lhakee, the daughter of the Minister of the King of Dege. That same year was highlighted by the auspicious birth of their first son, His Eminence Ratna Vajra Rinpoche. A second son, His Eminence Gyana Vajra Rinpoche, was to be born five years later in 1979.

The Propagation and Preservation of Buddhadharma in the 1980's

In 1978, Sakya Trizin received the complete transmission of "The Collected Works of the Five Great Founders of Sakya" and "The Collected Tantric Works of the Omniscient Teacher Gorampa" from the Kyabje Dezhung Rinpoche. Then in 1980 Sakya Trizin performed the opening ceremony of the main Sakya Monastery, Thupten Namgyal Ling at Puruwala.

Later, in January 1988, on the anniversary of the parinirvana of Sakya Pandita, His Holiness consecrated and inaugurated the monastery and temple of Ngor E-wam Choden at Manduwala, near Dehra Dun. Meanwhile larger permanent premises for Sakya College (referred to earlier) had been built at Rajpur, and by the present time it caters for 130 monks, producing twelve graduates each year.

Thus from the difficult beginnings of exile from his homeland His Holiness has worked ceaselessly for the preservation and successful reconstitution of Sakya's rich and profound Dharma heritage. Apart from these heavy responsibilities he has, in the course of his life so far, undertaken major and minor meditational retreats on twenty deities of the Sakya Lineage, given numerous initiations, written a large number of texts, and in particular has bestowed the vast Lam Dre teachings on no fewer than eleven occasions. Moreover he has not only been a beacon to his own Tibetan community in their time of crisis, but has taken an extensive part in making the Dharma available world-wide, travelling repeatedly and regularly to teach in many parts of the world. These have included Australia, Austria, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, and United States. He is an unfailing source of wisdom and compassion for his fortunate disciples.

He lives, when not engaged on his many commitments, at the Dolma Phodrang in Rajpur, Northern India, together with his wife and two sons, His Eminence Ratna Vajra Rinpoche and His Eminence Gyana Vajra Rinpoche, both of whom have themselves received an extensive education in the Buddhadharma which is in the interests of preserving unbroken the traditions of the Khön Lineage.


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