The Third Trijang Rinpoche, Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (1901–1981) was the foremost Gelug Lama of his generation and a direct disciple of Je Pabongka. He was the root guru and junior tutor of the 14th Dalai Lama for forty years. He is also the root lama of many Gelug Lamas who teach in the West including Zong Rinpoche, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Geshe Rabten, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa. A great number of present-day Tibetan Buddhist masters are his students.
(Zong Rinpoche) sometimes said that Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang was the “director of us all.” …. He was the guru of practically every Gelugpa lama of his generation.”
-Molk, David. Chod in the Ganden Tradition
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has likened Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche to “a vast reservoir from which all Gelugpa practitioners of the present day received ‘waters’ of blessings and instructions.”
-Belither, James. Modern Day Kadampas: The History and Development of the New Kadampa Tradition
He was the most outstanding Master in every field of Buddhist teachings as well as Tibetan culture. He was the very source of all the fields of knowledge and a consultant in all of them. It was a well-known fact that he had really been the very epitome of a Master who had attained the highest realizations of the Sutras and Tantras, as well as an unsurpassable propagator.
– The Life of a Tibetan Monk ~ Autobiography of Geshe Rabten, page 250, Edition Rabten.
Almost every Tibetan sought his guidance and blessings in almost all situations and activities, and that includes great masters, senior and junior rinpoches, Geshes, monks, nuns, ministers, business people, men, women, old and young, poor and rich, intellectuals or practitioners. Tibetans from practically every walk of life sought his help and advice in their good and bad times. He cared for everyone equally, without discrimination, with boundless compassion and patience.
– The Life of a Tibetan Monk ~ Autobiography of Geshe Rabten, page 250, Edition Rabten.
About Triang Dorjechang
Trijang Dorje Chang’s natural nobility and rare affability captivated his many visitors, each of whom, the humble or great of this world, knew he would be assured a warm welcome and an attentive ear. That kind reception was always a prelude to precious advice, as clear as it was sensible on matters both secular and religious, because nothing escaped his luminous intelligence and the humane wisdom which he put in the service of others with unfailing abnegation.
The Junior Tutor of his Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama was for his generation the repository of the Ganden Oral Tradition originating with the second Victorious One—the great Je Tsongkhapa Lobsang Drakpa. He was the guardian of the Extraordinary Volume derived from Mañjuśrī, that wonderful work that only beings of the highest spirituality can appreciate.
It was the dawn of a Tuesday in spring, the twelfth day of the third lunar month of the Female Iron Ox year (1901) when Trijang Rinpoche was born. He was the third with that name after two Ganden Tripas, the sixty-ninth and eighty-fifth supreme heads respectively, of the Gelugpa school. This time he chose for himself an unusual family who lived in one of the most spiritual places of Central Tibet, Tsel Gungthang. Tsering Döndrup, his father, had two reasons to be proud: he was descended from a maternal uncle of the Seventh Dalai Lama and was in charge of the well-known local monastery. With his first wife, who died too young, he had two girls and five boys, one of whom was Tati Khamlung Rinpoche, Lama of Sera Monastery’s Je college. Later on Tsering Döndrup had another son with a servant woman, a son recognized as a Lama, this time of Ganden Shartse, and known as Pukhang Khyenrab. When Tsering Döndrup’s recently married fifth son died by being pulled by the current of the Kyichu River while on his way to Lhasa, he did not abandon his daughter-in-law Tsering Drölma. In fact, he took such good care of her that they had three children: Trijang Rinpoche, his sister Jampel Chötso and her younger brother Lelung Rinpoche. In short, three Lama sons were born from three different mothers. And this is not the whole story. The list grows longer when later on Tsering Drölma would build a new life for herself after years of misery. When their older son was only six or seven, Tsering Döndrup, thoroughly disgusted by the empty pleasures of the world, decided to devote himself to spiritual practice. He renounced his responsibilities at Tsel Gungthang and entrusted his family to his aunt Yangzoma and her husband, a Khampa by the name of Apo, who robbed Tsering Döndrup’s family continuously and drove them out of their own home. In his autobiography, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang tells of his grief when, at the age of eight, he learned of the problems his mother and sister had faced.
He himself knew what it was like to be poor when he was young. Very often he and his instructor did not have much to eat. Later, when the invitations flooded in and his relatives resurfaced, he recalled with a smile those days of starvation when he wished in vain to be asked to say prayers or perform rituals that would have provided him with a nourishing meal.
But let us go back to 1901. Trijang Rinpoche’s father was then fifty-nine, and his mother twenty-seven. Soon they would be visited by those in charge of finding the reincarnation of the Tutor of the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama whose name was Lobsang Tsultrim Pelden (1839–1900), and who insisted shortly before he died that they stop at Tsel Gungthang. The little boy showed so many confirming signs that the steward Ngag-rampa Lobsang Tendar’s doubts were quickly dispelled. In fact, the two state oracles, Gandong and Nechung, each singled him out from among the candidates whose names they had been given.
The little boy was not yet three when he was taken to Lhasa early in 1904. He was placed in Chusang Ritö, the hermitage of his illustrious predecessor Jangchub Chöpel (1756–1838), who had come from his home in Kham, the Chateng, to study at Ganden Monastery. At first the boy asked to be admitted to the Jangtse college, but the head of the regional khangtsen or monastic house contemptuously turned him away because he looked awful. Meanwhile, the local inhabitants, the Chatengpas, in no way would accept that this boy from Gungthang had been designated the reincarnation of “their” Lama. The people had their own local candidate and did not hesitate to threaten “the usurper.” It took until 1929 for them to recognize his legitimacy, but from then on they vowed to venerate him unconditionally, as they had done with his predecessor. The Chatengpas literally adore their Lama, to whom they offer their possessions and dedicate their life.
Although challenged thus, the young Lama started his education at Chusang Ritö, a place where monks have always been eager to do retreats as it’s such an auspicious site. In particular, many Sera Lamas went there and exchanged traditions and instructions. Their young host loved to lend a hand with the fire rituals and other colorful ceremonies. And so it happened that one day the man who would be his principal Master and whose true spiritual heir he would become arrived. The man’s name was Kyabje Pabongka Dorje Chang (1878–1941). Kyabje Pabongka Dorje Chang would remain at the hermitage no less than seven years until 1912. Meanwhile, the very young Trijang Rinpoche considered him the ideal playmate. After the morning memorization sessions, Trijang Rinpoche loved to join the young Pabongka Rinpoche, so sweet and kind, who would put him on his lap, make him wonderful drawings, and perform all sorts of sacred dances for him. And if the boy caught him at rest, the monk would put the boy next to him and share with him his own food, a gesture which in the highly hierarchical Tibetan society was meant to emphasize their equality.
It goes without saying that the time was devoted mostly to studying, but that was easy for one who had an excellent memory and a good tutor like the steward Ngag-rampa. Early in the summer of 1907, Trijang Rinpoche’s assistants took him to Reting Monastery. There, in the monastery founded in 1056 by the Master Atiśa’s main disciple Dromtön Gyalwey Jung-ne himself, Trijang Rinpoche was ordained by the fourth Reting Rinpoche, Jetsun Ngawang Yeshe Tenpai Gyaltsen, who gave him the name Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso. Because at Chusang Ritö he had twice read the conversations between Atiśa and his disciples compiled in the Kadam Bu-chö—the Kadampa Teachings of the Son—Trijang Rinpoche was able to understand everything and to situate people and things perfectly in his mind as soon as the monks began to give him an explanation.
– Short Biography: Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (1901–1981)