Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö writes in his own autobiography that he was born in the female Water Snake year. He is unsure of the precise date, but says that it was during the autumn. This means it was certainly 1893. The Water Snake began in February 1893 and continued until the following February, but the reference to autumn precludes 1894.
I was born […] in the female Water Snake year— during the autumn months, I heard it said. My parents had little concern for such things, so they left no written record of the planets and stars, or dreams and signs.
So far so clear. Yet, many sources, including recent ones, state that Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö was born in 1896. One such is E. Gene Smith’s Among Tibetan Texts (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001), and Smith’s unimpeachable authority may account for some of the other instances. Another is Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s The Lamp That Enlightens Narrow Minds (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2012), although the book does note (p. 141, n. 28) that Tulku Thondup’s Masters of Meditation and Miracles (Boston: Shambhala, 1996) and other texts give the birth year as 1893.
“There is, to my knowledge, however, no evidence in the biographical archive that Patrul had a relationship with Kongtrul […]. Kongtrul does not appear in Patrul’s biographies, nor does Patrul appear in Kongtrul’s autobiography.” (2012: 51)
It is indeed true that the principal biographies of these two great luminaries of nineteenth-century Kham make no mention of any direct contact or relationship. But this is not to say that the two never met at all.
I imagine that most readers of this blog will be as keen as I am to read Matthieu Ricard’s forthcoming book, Enlightened Vagabond: The Life and Teachings of Patrul Rinpoche, which is due out (from Shambhala Publications) in July. Fortunately, the book is already searchable over on Amazon.com, and a quick hunt for some key terms and phrases brought up a little matter I would like to address — or rather, return to — below.
Biographical information on Orgyen Tendzin Norbu was hard to come by until recently, and his dates are still quite muddled in the various sources. Some, including TBRC [now BDRC], give 1851 as the year of his birth, but, as recently pointed out in a comment on the Treasury of Lives site (on the Khenpo Shenga article) [the comment is no longer accessible] this date no longer seems tenable. Tulku Thondup did not provide any specific dates in his biography in Masters of Meditation and Miracles (pp. 226–227), and noted simply that Orgyen Tendzin Norbu lived in “the 19th century.” Nyoshul Khenpo’s Dzogchen history (2005, p.482) offered 1827–1888, based on the idea that the master passed away at the age of sixty in the earth rat year (1888–9). Yet, according to Tendzin Lungtok Nyima (2004, p.594) in his vast history of Dzogchen Monastery and its associates, while Orgyen Tendzin Norbu did indeed live for sixty years, he died not in the earth rat, but in the iron rat year, i.e., 1900–1. This date, which has since been reproduced in other historical works published in Tibet, seems for the moment to be the most reliable.
Ches dkon pa’i sa skya’i mkhas grub chen po khag gsum gyi rnam thar
There are times when the apparent paucity of names available to Tibetans can prove confusing. If it seems as if Dharamsala has more than its fair share of Tenzins, for example, this is because so many of its residents have taken refuge with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso—who, following tradition, bestows his own first name on others. Still, when a second name is added the resulting permutations usually suffice to bring at least a degree of clarity. Yet there are some names that seem to have been deliberately contrived purely to confound the historian or the compiler of databases. Such a name is Dakpo Tashi Namgyal (dwags po bkra shis rnam rgyal), for as common as “Tashi Namgyal” might be in general—and TBRC lists at least sixteen notable examples from Tibetan history—it seems to defy the odds that there should have been two eminent teachers by that name who also acquired the prefix “Dakpo”.
Of these two, the later Dakpo Tashi Namgyal (1512/13–1587) is perhaps the better known today. He is chiefly remembered for being the author of a major work on Mahāmudrā, The Rays of Moonlight (phyag chen zla ba’i ’od zer), which has been translated into English by Lobsang Lhalungpa. (Another of his works on Mahāmudrā is included in the recent Mahāmudrā and Related Instructions, translated by Peter Alan Roberts.)
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