Jigme Gyalwai Nyugu


Jigme Gyalwai Nyugu was born in the Wood Bird year (1765) in the Dzachukha valley. As a child, he never had any interest in worldly enjoyments but experienced an unbearable urge to go to a solitary place atop a high mountain and devote himself to meditation whenever he saw rainclouds in the sky and heard the sound of gentle thunder. In his youth he made a pilgrimage to Lhasa and Samyé and other sacred places and received Dzogchen instructions, but was still obliged to accompany his elder brother on business trips. The dishonesty he encountered on such trips filled his mind with revulsion for samsara. Around this time he received teachings from Getse Lama Tsewang Rigdzin Gyatso on Tertön Nyima Drakpa’s Tsasum Sangwa Nyingtik.

Later, when his brother died at the age of eighteen, this more than any other single event turned his mind resolutely to the Dharma. The pressure from his family to marry and assume responsibilities as householder increased, a responsibility that even Getse Lama urged him to accept. His mother, however, counseled him to leave, saying that were he to stay in the region he would only be pressed to fulfill his filial duties. She gave him a piece of silver and some tea and other provisions, and sent him off in secrecy. Eventually fleeing his home, he went to see the Third Dzogchen Rinpoche, before travelling to Central Tibet with Barchung Gomchung Rigdzin.

Not long after they were in Lhasa, a thief conned Barchung out of the piece of silver by pretending to be a monk and offering to exchange it for currency. Gyalwai Nyugu was philosophical about losing their sole source of funds, and fortunately, stating that it was their own lack of merit that disallowed them to use the silver for their religious pursuits.

At Samyé they met with the First Dodrupchen Rinpoche Jigme Trinle Oser who invited them to go to Chimphu and practice with him, but first he suggested that they go meet with his own teacher, Jigme Lingpa, and receive instruction from him. When they reached Tsering Jong and met Jigme Lingpa for the first time, Gyalwai Nyugu writes that for a while all the feelings of this life dissolved and he experienced joy as if he had attained the path of insight. Then for 15 days, Gyalwai Nyugu received the empowerment from the Rigdzin Dupa, the oral transmission of Yontan Dzod and detailed instructions on meditation on Dzogchen according to the maturity of their minds (Min-trid).

Gyalwai Nyugu and Rigdzin Barchung then returned to Samye to Dodrupchen Rinpoche. Dodrupchen Rinpoche travelled with them to meet other lamas and visit other monasteries and sacred places in the area. He received instructions from Jangter, teachings from Pema Shenyen and Chod teachings from Drubchen Tubten Tendzin. While accompanying Dodrupchen Rinpoche to Lhasa, Dodrupchen Rinpoche fell seriously ill on the way and accepted his illness with great joy. This greatly inspired Gyalwai Nyugu. Later at Tsang, for nearly three years, Gyalwai Nyugu went into retreat.

Later, he also returned to Tsering Jong to receive additional instruction from Jigme Lingpa. After receiving the Yumka empowerment, he visited the sacred mountain of Tsari to meditate there. On his way to Tsari, after having given his shoes to a beggar he walked a long way with bare feet, even in snow. His feet became hard and deformed. In such hardship, Gyalwai Nyugu circumnambulated the Tsari Mountain, which takes many days. At one place, sacrificing his own safety, he saved the lives of some people who had been buried in the snow. During this pilgrimage, he continuously experienced all appearances as the Sambhogakaya, the Buddha bodies of light and rays, which appear spontaneously without dualistic concepts.

For 9 months, he meditated in solitude in Tsari. In the beginning he ate a little tsampa 3 times a day with a soup made from the bark of a tree. After some time, he ate tsampa only once a day. When even that ran out, he boiled the old tormas he had offered earlier and drank the soup of it once a day. There after all his sources of food were exhausted. After some time, he was able to see the sunlight even through the joints of his bones. He boiled some nettles and drank the liquid but it injured his throat. In this way, he endured many numerous hardships in his practice.

Then at Ogyen Ling, he went into retreat for 6 months. One day, he went out and looked at the sky in the direction of his teacher, and a strong remembrance of his root master, Jigme Lingpa and other teachers arose in his mind. He prayed to them with strong devotion and experienced a revulsion toward samsara stronger than he had ever felt before. For many sessions, he kept crying and then thinking this to be an obstacle, he contemplated the ultimate nature. For a while, he fell unconscious, when he awakened, he found that all the reference points for his view and meditation were gone. When he reported his experience to Dodrupchen Rinpoche and Jigme Lingpa, Jigme Lingpa was pleased and affirmed that he had realised the ultimate nature.

After several more retreats in east Tibet he returned to Tsering Jong and experienced once more the great joy of seeing the omniscient Jigme Lingpa, who invited him to stay for three years. He explained frankly that he had to go back home because of obligations. He returned to Kham and for twenty years he stayed in caves in the Trama valley in upper Dzachukha, eventually becoming known as the ‘Hermit of Dzachukha’ and Dza Trama Lama. He lived under extremely austere conditions, sometimes under a rocky ledge, or even out in the open. As advised by Jigme Lingpa, he devoted the entire latter part of his life to teaching whoever came to listen, giving empowerments or meditation instructions to all who were devout and sincere. During this period, he gave Patrul Rinpoche teachings on the ngöndro of Longchen Nyingtik no less than 25 times, as well as teachings on Tsalung practice and Dzogpachenpo. His instructions on the preliminary practices are recorded in Patrul Rinpoche’s famous “Words of My Perfect Teacher”.

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