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Northern Treasures


Beginning of the Northern Treasures


Text Preservation Project


Northern Treasures Lineage

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Ngari Panchen Pema Wangyel 1487-1542 C.E.

Ngari Panchen Pema Wangyel

Pema Wangyel was born in the Ngari western part of Tibet, which is the present day region of Mustang, Nepal. He was the tenth direct incarnation of the Prince Gyaltse Lhargye, the youngest son of King Trisong Detsen as well as the mind emanation of the King. He began his studies by taking lay vows at the age of eight. By the age of twenty he had mastered over 100 famous textual traditions. In his twenties, he began to study and practice the new translation schools until he became known as a Mahapandita. In this forty-sixth year, he began to bring forth treasures including the Means for the Attainment of the Prayer in Seven Chapters. These remain widely practiced to this day. He also wrote sdom gsum rnam nyes, a terse but pivotal work on the three levels of commitments. (Perfect Conduct)



Legden Dorje, Rigdzen Chenpo II 1512-1625 C.E

Legden Dorje, Rigdzen Chenpo II

The next rebirth of Rigdzen Godem was Legden Dorje. Born in 1512 in Ngari, he lived for 113 years. His elder brother was Ngari Panchen Pema Wangyel. His root guru and teacher for the Northern Treasures was Shakya Zangpo (see below); however, he studied with many great masters from several traditions. With his brother and the great Drukung Kagyu master Rinchen Pontsok, he restored and reconsecrated Samye Monastery. They also collaborated in revealing several treasures left by Padmasambhava at Samye. Having received the Sutra Which Gathers All Intentions (Tib: ‘du-pa mdo) at a young age, he became one of it’s main proponents. He also revealed several other treasures in Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan.



Tashi Tobgyel 1550-1602 C.E.

Tashi Tobgyel

Tashi Tobgyel was the immediate rebirth of Pema Wangyel and also the qualities emanation of King Trisong Detsen. During his lifetime, wars raged in central Tibet and the monastic community of the Northern Treasures was forced to wander from place to place. Having been invited to Kham in Eastern Tibet to teach, he was offered robes for his monks. Tashi Tobgyel returned to his community, establishing it at the present site of Dorje Drak which he named Pema Evam Chogar.

He found Padmasambhava’s treasures at places such as Samye Monastery, Tsa-rong and Lhodrak. His younger brother, Yidshin Norbu, founded a monastery at Zang-zang Lhadrak where Rigzen Godem had found the bulk of the Northern Treasures.



Yolmo Tulku Shakya Zangpo 15th c.

Shakya Zangpo was born in the southern region of Latod to a noble family of yogins. In Yolmo, a valley northeast of Katmandu in Nepal identified by Buddha himself as a naturally holy place, he found several treasures. At Samye Monastery, he found a treasure text of Padmasambhava on the great stupa at Boudhanath. He also found teachings from King Songsen Gompo, the grandfather of Trisong Detsen and king of Tibet in the seventh century, who is regarded by Tibetans as an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara.

Shakya Zangpo was the rebirth of the minister of Trisong Detsen and a disciple of Padmasmabhava. During that life, he had taken a vow to protect various holy places in the future. Shakya Zangpo is generally credited with excavating the original stupa which had become partly buried, and creating the various levels surrounding the stupa.

He became the teacher of the Northern Treasures to Legden Dorje and Padma Wangyel. Traveling to Western Tibet to spread the teachings there, he returned to Yolmo in his later years where he lived until the end of his life.



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