Himalayan Art Resources

Teacher: Lodrag Khenchen Namkha Gyaltsen

Life Story Painting Set | Three Combined Deities

Lodrag Khenchen Namkha Gyaltsen (1326-1401 [p1317]) was a teacher of Tsongkapa. He was also regarded as an emanation of Vajrapani. The incarnation lineage of Lodrag Khenchen still exists today and they are known as the Lelung Trulkus. Namkha Gyaltsen's secret initiation name was Lekyi Dorje.

The three paintings below appear to be part of a larger set of compositions, of unknown number, detailing the life of Lodrag Khenchen.

Jeff Watt 3-2015

Drubchen Namkha Gyeltsen

Drubchen Namkha Gyeltsen (1326-1401. grub chen nam mkha' rgyal mtshan) was born into the Shupu lineage (shud pu'i rigs) in Lhodrak in 1326, the fire-tiger year of the seventh sexagenary cycle. His father, Lobpon Namkha Zangpo (slob dpon nam kha bzang po), was a master of Nyingma tradition. His mother was called Rinchen Gyen (rin chen rgyan).

At the age of seven, Namkha Gyeltsen received upasaka vows from his uncle Kyuwo Khenchen Gyelse Zangpo (khyu bo mkhan chen rgyal sras bzang po, d.u.) who also taught him reading, writing and how to memorize texts. When Namkha Gyeltsen was ten years old Khenchen Gyelse Zangpo granted him preliminary vows (rab byung sdom pa) immediately followed by the vows of novice monk (dge tshul sdom pa), and gave teachings on Lamrim, Mahakaruna, and the Twenty-One Taras.

Namkha Gyeltsen commenced his studies in Vinaya at the age of fifteen and, after four years, travelled to Lhasa for pilgrimage. At the Jokhang Temple he went for blessings from the famed Jowo statue and made a great of number of circumambulations before proceeding to Rinchen Gang (rin chen sgang) where he was fully ordained by Khenpo Tashi Gyeltsen (mkhan po bkra shis rgyal mtsan, d.u.) who also gave him teachings on Lamrim, Lojong, and various sadhana initiations. He visited Lama Rizang Dokpa (bla ma ri zangs rdog pa, d.u.) who gave him a number of tantric teachings. He also received many tantric teachings from Lama Dewai Jungne (bla ma bde ba'i 'byung gnas, d.u.) in 1350, at the age of twenty-five. When Namkha Gyeltsen's uncle, Gyelse Zangpo, died in 1357, he commissioned a large gold statue in his memory.

Later in his life, Namkha Gyeltsen was enthroned to the seat of the abbot of Trowa Gon (lho brag sgro ba dgon), a small hermitage in Lhodrak. He also founded a monastery called Chakdor Gonpa (phyag rdor dgon pa), also known locally as Tikchik Gonpa (thig gcig dgon pa). The name Chakdor Gonpa stems from the identification of Namkha Gyeltsen as a manifestation of Vajrapani. The monastery later grew into an important pilgrimage destination, largely due to its reputation in curing leprosy. A stupa near the monastery is the center of this belief, where pilgrims would circumambulate in the hopes of curing their disease.

The monastery's relics include the skull of Namkha Gyeltsen's mother, a large thumb-claw of a garuda that helps control nagas, and an instruction of Drubchen Namkha Gyeltsen (grub chen nam mkha' rgyal mtshan gyi bka' shog), to the nagas on the subject of avoiding harmful actions and encouraging beneficial behavior, which is encased in a wooden-block with gold-nails.

The monastery later became a branch of Ganden Jangtse Monastery and the abbot was deputed from Ganden. The monastery and stupa were at least partially destroyed and some clay statues were thrown away in the nearby river following Communist rule in Tibet. A small Chakdor Gonpa was reestablished in India in Dekyiling Resettlement Camp in Dehradun.

In 1345, at the age of seventy, Drubchen Namkha Gyeltsen became a teacher of Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa (rje tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419). Tsongkhapa received from him teachings on Lamrim and general instructions as well as esoteric instructions especially on tantra required for daily practices. Tsongkhapa highly respected his teacher, and wrote a prayer of praise of him.

According to his hagiography, Drubchen Namkha Gyeltsen had over one hundred thousand general followers, fifty close disciples, and eight eminent yogis, with Tsongkhapa being the main and most favorite disciple.

Two volumes of Namkha Gyeltsen's compositions were published in India in the 1960's under the partial sponsorship of the U. S. Library of Congress, New Delhi, India. The contents of the volumes are mainly various sadhanas for tantric practice, as well as the above-mentioned instruction to the nagas.

Drubchen Namkha Gyeltsen was the thirty-first in the line of lamas of the Lamrim lineage (lam rim bla brgyud kyi bla rabs). He passed into nirvana in 1401, on the twenty-fifth day of the first month in the iron-snake year of the seventh sexagenary cycle. In his honor, an annual nirvana-prayer was held under the name of Drubchen Ngacho (grub chen lnga mchod), in Lhodrak Benpa Chakdor (lho brag ben pa phyag rdor) until the destruction of the monastery after 1959, an event of equal status to the Ganden Ngacho festival that honors Tsonkhapa. The prayer event is still practiced in the Diaspora community.

Name Variants: Khenchen Chagdor; Lhodrak Drubchen Namkha Gyeltsen; Namkha Gyeltsen; Sangdak Namkha Gyeltsen


Grags pa 'byung gnas and Rgyal ba blo bzang mkhas grub. 1992. Gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod. Lanzhou: Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun khang, pp. 1880-1881.

Tshe mchog gling Yongs 'dzin Ye shes rgyal mtshan. 1970 (1787). Byang chub lam gyi rim pa'i bla ma brgyud pa'i rnam par thar pa rgyal mtshan mdzes pa'i rgyan mchog phul byung nor bu'i phreng ba. New Delhi: Ngawang Gelek Demo, vol. 1, p 640 ff.

A biography of Namkha Gyalten by Tsong kha pa is listed in Sonam Dondrub's catalog of Tibetan biographies, no. 2088. See: Bsod nams don grub. 2000. Bod kyi lo rgyus dpe tho. Lhasa: Bod ljongs Mi dmangs Dpe skrun khang.

Samten Chhosphel
August 2010