Chegompa Sherab Dorje (1130 – 1200)

Chegompa Sherab Dorje (lce sgom pa shes rab rdo rje) was born in the lower part of the valley of Tanag (rta nag) in Tsang Province. His father was a fisherman named Lugkyab (lug skyabs) or Lugkye (lug skyes). He was raised by a famous female spiritual leader named Machig Rebma (ma gcig reb ma). He studied Kadam teachings in a direct lineage back to Potowa with one named Jangchub Nangwa (byang chub snang ba), and he would compose a commentary on Potowa’s most famous work, the Example Teachings (dpe chos). He certainly had Gyaltsa Rinchen Gonpo (rgyal tsha rin chen mgon po) as a teacher, and Gyaltsa was in his turn a teacher of Tropu Lotsawa (khro phu lo tsA ba), which makes him part of the Tropu Kagyu transmission, to which his foster mother Machig Rebma also belonged.

We also know that he received the teachings on the Doha songs of the Mahasiddhas from a Tibetan follower of Vairochanavajra. These are about the only things that may be known with much certainty about his life, but then it is true that Chegompa’s importance to posterity lies in his writings and anthologies, not in stories about his life.

Chegompa founded Kakyong Drag (mkha’ skyong brag) Monastery in his home region of Tanag. His name often includes the element Khakyong Dragpa (mkha’ skyong brag pa) or Khakyong Namkha Drag (mkha’ skyong nam mkha’ brag). He may be called Chegom Zhigpo (lce sgom zhig po) and Chegom Dzongpa (lce sgom rdzong pa). Sometimes he is called Drubtob Chegompa (grub thob lce sgom pa). Although this has sometimes been done, it seems that he should not be identified with a more obscure near-contemporary follower of Shang Yudragpa by the name of Chegom Sherab Sengge (lce sgom shes rab seng ge), despite the similarities in their names.

To give an example from his anthology of Kadam teachings, here is a small section on the renunciation of worldly society recording the words of Geshe Puchungwa (dge bshes phu chung ba):

If you are going to take the teachings to heart in all earnestness, it has to be like the sparrow and the hawk. Just as the sparrow cannot flock with the hawk, you cannot stay in the company of people with thoughts only for the present life. The pressure for conformity and the discontentment would become so great that finally delusions would carry you off [like the hawk]. When someone is displeased with you it’s a dream come true, because if he is displeased he will leave you alone. And if you slight him, others will leave you alone as well. Meanwhile all you need is an ounce or two of travel supplies, but even without them you can do your virtuous practices with relaxed and happy thoughts. This improvement in the level of practice will bring with it spiritual gifts and qualities, and benefits for others will come about on their own.

In one of his own compositions preserved for us in yet another Kadam anthology, he explains how to take nature as your teacher in solitary retreats:

You may ask, ‘Well then, if you are staying in a retreat, who will teach the precepts?’ When one is staying alone in a hermitage the seasons change, the forest trees and grass change colors, the fresh flowers are gradually replaced by old, the fruits shrivel in the autumn frosts, are blown off the trees by the winds and the birds feast on them. This alone teaches that phenomenal things are impermanent, that they change.

Finally, an example of his simultaneous Mahamudra (phyag rgya chen po lhan cig skyes sbyor) teachings from the Precious Heap of Instructions,

The afflictive mental states, the passions and so forth, are abandoned through recognizing their nature. When you realize that desired objects and afflictive mental states are of the nature or characteristic of discursive thoughts, in their reality unproduced dharma proper, this very recognition turns them back. Through this reversal the passions free themselves up. For example, if you were to err in seeing a desert mirage as real water, you would examine it closely and see that there is no water in it. Then the fixation on the idea that it is water would free itself up. Even the Secret Mantra never taught that the real raw afflictive mental states are expedients on the path to Enlightenment. There may be some difference in the way the afflictive mental states are abandoned, but there is no difference in the abandonment.


Roerich, George, trans. 1996. The Blue Annals. 2nd ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, pp. 711,

Per Sørensen. 1999. “The Ascetic Lce-sgom Shes-rab Rdo-rje Alias Lce-sgom Zhig-po: Prolific, Allusive, but Elusive.” Journal of the Nepal Research Centre, vol. 11, pp. 175-200.

Matthew Kapstein. 2000. The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 77.

Dan Martin
August 2008


wa yu ba shes rab tshul khrims


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