On the Dates of Rogza Sönam Palge

This post is no more than a quick note to provide the dates of Rogza Sönam Palge (rog bza’ bsod nams dpal dge), who is known primarily as a teacher of yogic practices (tsa-lung) to Patrul Rinpoche (1808–1887) and also as one of the gurus of Orgyen Tendzin Norbu (1841–1900). As far as I’m aware, his dates have never appeared in any English-language publication. Indeed, he doesn’t even have an entry on tbrc.org

Matthieu Ricard’s Enlightened Vagabond includes a brief summary (pp. 219–220) of the major facts concerning Sönam Palge’s life, such as how he studied with the First Dodrupchen Jigme Trinle Özer (1745–1821) and later followed Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (1800–1866) as a Dharma companion.

Ricard suggests that Sönam Palge was born in the eighteenth century and passed away in the nineteenth; he notes that there is no written biography and records an oral tradition that the master passed away at the age of eighty in the village of Mamo Nakha in the Doring Valley.

There is one text, however, which does specify the years of Sönam Palge’s birth and passing. This is a short praise by the Third Dodrupchen, Jigme Tenpai Nyima (1865–1926), which tells us that the master was born in the Iron Monkey year (1800)—as, incidentally, was his sometime Dharma companion Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje—and passed away in his eighty-fifth year (i.e., 1884?).

Jigme Tenpai Nyima also offers a physical description of the master (whom he met in person):

You were large in stature and your senses acute;
Your limbs and torso were stout and physically strong;
Your head was broad like a parasol;
And your upper body resembled that of a lion.

This is remarkably similar to his portrayal of Patrul in his short biography of the latter. Patrul too, Jigme Tenpai Nyima says, had a broad head like a parasol and clear/acute senses. Both masters were also hidden yogins and both belonged to the Mukpo Dong clan.

Although Jigme Tenpai Nyima refers to Sönam Palge’s “excellent compositions” (rtsom pa bzang), his writings are currently unavailable. Let’s hope that changes soon.

References

‘Jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma.”rdza dpal sprul rin po che’i rtogs brjod/” in gsung ‘bum/_’jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma/ (‘bras ljongs sgang tog). TBRC W23907. 5 vols. Gangtok, Sikkim: Dodrupchen Rinpoche, 2000?. Vol. 4: 115–146

‘Jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma. gsung ‘bum/_’jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma/ (‘bras ljongs sgang tog). TBRC W23907. 5 vols. Gangtok, Sikkim: Dodrupchen Rinpoche, 2000?. Vol. 1: 223–224

‘Jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma. gsung ‘bum/_’jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma/(bdud ‘joms rin po che’i dpe mdzod khang du bzhugs pa’i shing par dang lag bris ‘dres ma/). TBRC W23627. 5 vols. Gangtok: Dodrub chen Rinpoche, 1974–1975. Vol. 4: 187–189

Ricard, Matthieu. Enlightened Vagabond: The Life and Teachings of Patrul Rinpoche. Boulder: Shambhala Publications. 2017.