Togden Kunzang Longdrol
Togden Kunzang Longdrol and Dudjom Lineage
Togden Kunzang Longdrol, or Togden Sithar, was a great Dzogchen master from the Powo region in southern Tibet. Togden practiced under the guidance of many Dzogchen masters from central and southern Tibet, particularly under Lama Gyurga Rinpoche, a main disciple of Dudjom Lingpa. Later becoming a disciple of H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, Togden was considered a highly accomplished master in the Dudjom lineage, particularly in the practice of Chöd, which Togden effectively practiced in one hundred and eight significant places (nyansa) in various regions of Tibet.
In order to fulfill a prophecy, H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche asked Togden to select one hundred and four suitable Chöd practitioners from among his disciples. After their careful selection by Togden, His Holiness gave the complete Chöd instruction to them, and in time, all became excellent masters in this lineage. The Dudjom lineage became the main focus of practice of Togden’s disciples and on the retreat land, Thegchog Osel Chöling, in the upper region of Powo, Tibet. Togden and his devoted disciples lived and did much of their solitary retreat on this land until Togden, foreseeing the dark period of Tibet, departed to search for a suitable and safer environment in Pemaköd.
HH Dudjom Rinpoche
Arriving in upper Pemaköd as a main disciple of H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche from Powo, Togden was venerated as the head of the Khorlo Dratsang (Dharma Wheel Sangha), also sometimes known as the Ngakpa Dratsang (Yogin Sangha), one of the two main seats of H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche in Pemaköd.
Later, as more political turmoil spread, His Holiness asked Togden to relocate the Sangha to lower Pemaköd in India. In 1959, with much hardship, Togden traveled to lower Pemaköd, accompanied by his disciples from Powo and upper Pemaköd. After a brief search for a suitable environment in which to continue his spiritual practice, Togden settled in a village called Yoldong, which is, geologically speaking, a perfect place for Dharma practice and particularly for Togden’s Dzogchen Thogal practice.
Togden envisioned on this site, in the heart of Guru Rinpoche’s holy land, a three-story temple built in the style of the Copper-Colored Mountain, Guru Rinpoche’s Pure Land. Owing to their having just arrived and facing new challenges and circumstances, Togden’s aspiration was not fulfilled at that time. However, a single-story temple was built in fulfillment of his great Bodhisattva vision for Pemaköd as a geographical region and for the preservation of the pure Dudjom lineage in particular, now in lower, Indian-controlled Pemaköd.
Togden enshrined in this temple three main statues: Guru Rinpoche, Chenrezig, and Amitabha—later to be placed in the three-story temple he envisioned—along with statues of Dorje Drolo, Guru Drakpo, and Sengdongma. Many additional sacred objects from upper Pemaköd and Powo, including two stupas that hold the sacred remains of His Holiness’s root teacher, Jurmey Ngedon Wangpo, and his mother, Yum Namgyal Dolma, a dakini in human form, were also enshrined in the temple.
Nearly all of the senior yogins from the Dharma Wheel Sangha and the disciples who accompanied Togden from Powo settled here and spent the balance of their lives around this temple in their own small retreat huts made mostly of bamboo and sealed with cow dung. These authentic Dharma practitioners, in the very simplicity of their lives, were totally dedicated to the practice of Buddha Dharma.
More importantly, Togden rekindled the light of the authentic Dudjom lineage in this new location in order to continue its blessings for generations to come. Among various sadhanas of the Dudjom lineage, one that was exclusive to the Dharma Wheel Sangha’s practice manuals was the Dechen Namrol, The Display of Great Exaltation. This Guru Sadhana—Rigdzin Düpa—in essence combines the treasure teachings of both Dudjom Lingpa and H.H.Dudjom Rinpoche, thus the blessings of both treasure revelations are ensured through practicing this.
In order to continue the tradition of this particular sadhana practice in the newly founded temple, Togden built a Guru Padmasambhava statue, according to the specifications of this sadhana.
Since Togden’s time, this sacred sadhana has been practiced on every Guru Rinpoche Day; Throma and Khandro Thukthig sadhanas are practiced alternately on Dakini Days at Deden Tashi Choeling Temple. All the three-year retreatants on the retreat land, also known as Thegchok Osel Choeling, have used this Guru sadhana for their practice of Guru yoga in the context of their Three Roots’ practice, as the practitioners of the Dharma Wheel Sangha formerly did in upper Pemaköd.
These important Dharma practices have been undertaken uninterruptedly at the appropriate times from Togden’s time until the present day by Lama Rigdzin Phuntsok—Tulku Orgyen’s father—and his disciples. Thus many consider the newly founded Deden Tashi Choeling Temple to be the successor seat of the Dharma Wheel Sangha.
Lama Rigdzin Phuntsok
Togden also invited many other great masters to live on this land. Among them, one of the most revered teachers was the great and realized master Phulung Sangye Rinpoche from Powo. He was the teacher of many masters, including H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche himself. Terton Choeje Lingpa, one of the most important treasure revealers in Pemakod, also lived here for many years.
Terton Choeje Lingpa, PhuLung Sangye Rinpoche, and Togden were very devoted to one another and would often undertake meditation practice retreats together in one mandala. On the retreat land, there is a small creek, and it is said that these three masters together revealed this as the water source for the retreat land.
Togden entered into parinirvana in 1971, amidst many signs of accomplishment, and remained in meditation, Thugdam. Relics of five colors appeared, which H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche said were signs of accomplishment of the five aspects of Vajrasattva. When Tulku Orgyen was just one year old, H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche recognized him as the unmistaken, immediate reincarnation of the master Togden Kunzang Longdrol, named him Orgyen Phuntsok, and gave him a recognition letter. Soon after, Tulku Orgyen was enthroned amidst many masters and practitioners at Deden Tashi Choeling Temple, led by Tulku Dawa Rinpoche—the reincarnation of Gyurmey Ngedon Wangpo—who wrote Tulku’s long life prayer. In accordance with H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche’s instruction, Tulku Dawa Rinpoche became the first root teacher of Tulku Orgyen.
Tashi Choeling Temple in Pemaköd
May Togden’s great aspiration for Pemaköd continue to ripen, and may its blessings shine to the rest of the world for the benefit of all sentient beings.
The translation of Togden Kunzang Longdrol’s biography will be posted here soon.