The 8th Terchen Taksham Rinpoche
Biography of Tenzin Gyurme Trinley Dorje
Foremost amongst the many scholars and masters who brought the sutric and tantric teachings of Buddhism to Tibet was Padmasambhava. Knowing that certain teachings would benefit future generations of practitioners, Padmasambhava and his spiritual consort, Yeshe Tsogyal, hid collections of spiritual teachings called terma in the earth and in the minds of disciples, knowing that these would be revealed at the appropriate time by treasure revealers called tertöns.
There were one hundred main tertöns. Amongst these, Taksham Nüden Dorje discovered the most important terma related to the wrathful deity Hayagrīva. His tertön title was Samten Lingpa. Padmasambhava prophesized that the tertön who would reveal the main practice of Hayagrīva would have a tiger skin birthmark—taksham means tiger skin skirt—and that this tertön would be the emanation of both Padmasambhava and Hayagrīva. The incarnations of Taksham Nüden Dorje are considered to be the emanations of Acharya Salé, who was one of the spiritual consorts of Yeshe Tsogyal. Taksham Nüden Dorje revealed the spiritual biography of Yeshe Tsogyal as terma.
The 1st Taksham Rinpoche, Taksham Nüden Dorje, was born in 1655, in the Powo Gawa region of Kham in Tibet. It is said that he instantly recognized the emptiness of his own mind upon hearing the recitation of the 100,000-verse Prajñāpāramitā Sutra at the age of seven. When he was nine years old, he had vision of Green Tara who gave him blessings and prophecies about his future activities to benefit the Dharma.
When he was eleven years old, he had a profound encounter with Padmasambhava who blessed him with his wisdom mind and gave him direct teachings. After these teachings from Padmasambhava, his meditation practice of luminosity caused him to no longer differentiate between day and night. He also had many visions of dakinis and left footprints in rock when he was dancing with them. These footprints can still be seen today in Gawalung in Tibet. At this time, he also found earth terma treasures, but they were not made public.
When he was eighteen years old, Taksham Nüden Dorje revealed many terma that were made public. Of these, one of the most important is the Vajrasattva Nyingtik that he revealed in the secret practice cave of the dakinis.
When was nineteen years old, he revealed the terma of Vajrakilaya from the practice cave of Bairotsana. He revealed seventeen main terma of which the most famous is terma cycle of Hayagrīva called Yidam Gongdu—The Quintessence of the Deity. He revealed this at Gawalung-La, the rock slope shaped like a pig, a scorpion, and a garuda. His seventeen main treasure texts fill thirty-two volumes of Tibetan text.
In addition to revealing important terma, he also built monasteries and retreat centers in Gawalung in Tibet. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution some of these practice centers were destroyed, but the main monastery with the statue of Hayagrīva still exists today. Taksham Nüden Dorje conveyed his teachings to the Tibetan Buddhist lineages of the Nyingma, the Kagyu, and the Gelug. His students included His Holiness the Karmapa, Shamar Rinpoche, Choeje Lingpa, and the great 5th Dalai Lama. Taksham’s termas are practiced in these lineages still today.
At the age of fifty-three, he passed away in 1708. To this day, there has been a successive line of reincarnations of Taksham Nüden Dorje—the current incarnation is the 8th Taksham Tulku.
The 2nd Taksham Rinpoche, Pema Rabje Yeshe Rolpa, was born in 1709, and was recognized by the 12th Karmapa Changchub Dorje. He received all of the Taksham treasures from Chöje Lingpa who was the prior Taksham Rinpoche’s heart student. In 1730, when he was twenty-one years old he passed away.
The 3rd Taksham Rinpoche, Pema Tenzin Wangchuk, was recognized by the 13th Karmapa Dudul Dorje from whom he received the treasure teachings and his monastic and bodhisattva vows. He passed away in 1792, at the age of sixty.
The 4th Taksham Rinpoche, Pema Gyepe Dorje, was born in 1795. He was recognized by the 13th Karmapa Düddul Dorje from whom he received the Taksham treasures and many teachings. He was known for his many activities to benefit the Dharma including building the monastery Samten Chöling. In 1843, his merged his illusory body with the dharmakaya.
The 5th Taksham Rinpoche, Sangnak Tenpe Dorje, was born in 1844. He was recognized by the 14th Karmapa Thekchok Dorje. He spent his entire life in retreat. He left many hand- and footprints in rock. In 1897, his illusory body dissolved into Hayagrīva’s heart.
The 6th Taksham Rinpoche was Karma Sangnak Tenzin. He was recognized by His Holiness Riwoche Kyabgon Jampa Chonyi. After his monastery was by destroyed by the Uyghur, he rebuilt it before passing away in 1948.
The 7th Taksham Rinpoche, Karma Yongdu Chokyi Nyima, was recognized by the 16th Karma Rangjung Rigpé Dorje. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, he established a monastery in southern India. In 2005, he passed away.
On December 20, 2006, a boy by the name of Jalue Dorje was born in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. His father, Dorje Tsegyal, and his mother, Dechen Wangmo, noticed many wondrous omens just prior to this birth.
On April 8, 2007, Kyabjé Trulshik Rinpoche recognized the young boy as the 8th Terchen Taksham Rinpoche, and it was reported by the media in different countries that he was the first Tibetan Buddhist reincarnation born in Minnesota. That same year, when Jalue Dorje’s parents heard that Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche was coming to give teachings in Minneapolis, they invited him to their home. Upon meeting Jalue Dorje, Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche recognized the essence of body, speech, and mind to be that of the 8th Terchen Taksham Rinpoche. He conveyed blessings and made aspirations for the 8th Taksham’s long life and for his dharma activities to benefit all beings.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness the Sakya Trinzin, and His Holiness the Karmapa all recognized the young boy as the 8th Terchen Taksham Rinpoche and sent their official letters of support.
The Dalai Lama gave the young Taksham Rinpoche his name Tenzin Gyurme Trinley Dorje and made aspirations for his long life and dharma activities.
On May 17, 2010, the young Taksham Rinpoche’s parents took him to meet the Dalai Lama in Madison, Wisconsin, at which time His Holiness conferred blessings, the Manjushri transmission, and performed the traditional hair-cutting ceremony. When he heard His Holiness teaching, the young tulku was moved to tears.
The incarnations of the Terchen Taksham Rinpoche and of the Dalai Lama have historically been closely connected, beginning with the first Terchen Taksham, who entrusted his terma to the fifth Dalai Lama. Because of the strong lineage connection, the Dalai Lama’s recognition of the 8th incarnation is considered particularly reliable.
“The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of all Tibetan Buddhists as well as the traditional Tibetan lineages. I have deep faith and trust that the Dalai Lama is the real Buddha. That is why I am so happy that he recognized my son to be the Terchen Taksham Rinpoche,” said Dorje Tsegyal, the boy’s father. “Although he is my son, I don’t consider him just to be my son. I have great respect for him as the Terchen Taksham Rinpoche, and I’m doing my best to help him with his education and serving him however I can.”
In 2009, His Holiness the Sakya Trinzin recognized the 8th Terchen Taksham Rinpoche and His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche wrote a long-life prayer for Taksham Rinpoche. In that year, His Holiness Palyul Karma Kuchen Rinpoche came to Minneapolis and started to give the young boy Tibetan reading lessons and Dzogchen teachings.
In 2010, Taksham Rinpoche attended the 100th year anniversary of the birth of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in New York. At this time, he met Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche and received blessings and empowerments for the Pema Tseye Nyingtik, a terma of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
In that same year, Taklung Matul Rinpoche, Garchen Rinpoche, and Ling Rinpoche came to the United States and the young Taksham Rinpoche received further blessings and empowerments.
In 2011, his parents took him to Nepal and India for a pilgrimage to the Buddha’s sacred sites and in this period he met many rinpoches and high lamas and received many blessings and empowerments.
He also visited the Ngagyur Nyingma College at Og Min Ogyen Mindrolling Monastery, an important Nyingma monastery. On February 28, His Eminence Kyabje Khochhen Rinpoche conferred the Upāsaka (male lay person) vows and made aspirations that Taksham Rinpoche’s dharma activities benefit all beings.
In the future, Terchen Taksham Rinpoche will study at Mindrolling Monastery in Dheradun in India. He has a close connection to the Nyingma lineage, since the root guru of the 7th Taksham Rinpoche was His Holiness the 11th Mindrolling Trichen Jurme Kunzang Wangyal.
At this time Taksham Rinpoche is attending public school in Minneapolis and his parents report that he is studying very well; his reading and writing skills are very good. His father is teaching him Buddhist practices and pujas, as well as Tibetan grammar and history. He has memorized The 37 Practices of the Bodhisattvas, Sakya Lekshey, and many traditional prayers. After he completes his public education and his traditional Buddhist studies, he intends to offer Buddhist teachings at his nonprofit educational center called Nyingmapa Taksham Buddhist Center in Columbia Heights, Minnesota.