Chokyi Dorje (1457 – unknown)

Name Variants: Cho Dorje; Drubchen Chokyi Dorje; Wensa Nyomba

Chokyi Dorje (chos kyi rdo rje) was born near the Nyingma monastery Tanak Dorjeden (rta nag rdo rje ldan) in 1457 to two wandering ascetics from the Tsongkha (tsong kha) region of Amdo. His father was Kunga Gyalpo (kun dga’ rgyal po) and his mother was Paldzom (dpal ’dzom). He spent his childhood on pilgrimage, ending at age eleven when his parents brought him to Ganden Namgyeling (dga’ ldan rnam rgyal gling).

At Ganden, Chokyi Dorje met his root teacher, Baso Chokyi Gyaltsen (ba so chos kyi rgyal mtshan), the 6th throne holder of Ganden (dga’ ldan khri pa). Forewarned of the arrival of his future disciple, Chokyi Gyaltsen welcomed the boy and his parents warmly, supplying them with food and goods, and requesting of the parents that they give him their child. The boy soon took novice ordination and received the name Chokyi Dorje.

Under Chokyi Gyaltsen’s instruction, Chokyi Dorje proved himself to be an exceptional scholar. He received teaching in the standard course of Gelug training, beginning with the Bodhicaryavatara and proceeding through the Lamrim (lam rim), or stages of the path. In due course, he received the lineages of the lamrim, the initiations of Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara, Vajrabhairava, and Kalacakra. In particular he received the transmission of the oral tradition of Tsongkhapa’s lineage of Ganden Mahamudra (dga’ ldan phyag chen), which Tsongkhapa is said to have received from Manjushri himself, together with the root text of the transmission, the Trulpai Legbam Chenmo (sprul pa’i glegs bam chen mo).

Following his time at Ganden, Chokyi Dorje continued his studies at Drepung Monastery (’bras spung), where he trained in Madhyamaka philosophy with Delek Tobden (bde legs stobs ldan) and took full ordination under Jepon Lobzang Nyima (je dpon blo bzang nyi ma, 1439-1492), the 9th throne holder of Depung.

Chokyi Dorje then journeyed to the province of Tsang to deepen his understanding of the scriptures. He took teachings from Jamyang Monlam Pelwa (’jam dbyangs smon lam dpal ba 1414-1491) and Lodro Bepa (blo gros sbas pa, 1400-1475). Finally, following the instructions of his heart teacher, Chokyi Dorje sought to intensify his experience of the path, and began to practice in solitary retreat in the wilderness of Tibet. At the sacred site of Pema Chan (padma can), important to the lineages lamas of the Ganden Mahamudra, he had a vision of Tsongkhapa, receiving from him the complete lineage of the secret oral tradition.

Towards the end of his life, Chokyi Dorje took Wensapa Lobzang Dondrub (dben sa pa blo bzang don grub, 1505-1556) as his disciple. According to legend, Chokyi Dorje found Wensapa at home, stricken with smallpox. He sang a song outside his door, inspiring his future disciple with faith. Wensapa joined Chokyi Dorje at his hermitage, Garma Chodzong (mgar mo chos rdzong), near Wensapa monastery (dben sa pa) and received from him the complete transmission of the Ganden Mahamudra. He passed away after spending a number of years with his disciple, both at Garma Chodzong, Pema Chan, and visiting monasteries in U and Tsang.



Willis, Janice D. 1995. Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition. Boston: Wisdom Publications, pp. 48-55.

Willis, Janice D. 1985. “Preliminary Remarks on the Nature of rNam-thar: Early dGe-lugs-pa Siddha Biographies.” In Soundings in Tibetan Civilizations. Barbara Aziz and Matthew Kapstein, eds. Delhi: Manohar, pp. 304-319.

Miranda Adams
August 2007


Baso Chokyi Gyaltsen b.1402 – d.1473 (Name Variants: Chokyi Gyaltsen; Ganden Tri 06 Chokyi Gyaltsen; Lhanwa Sowa Chokyi Gyaltsen; Tatsang 01 Chokyi Gyaltsen)


skyabs mchog dpal bzang
Wensapa Lobzang Dondrub b.1505 – d.1556 (Name Variants: Lobzang Dondrub)




One Response to “Chokyi Dorje (1457 – unknown)”
  1. Sarah says:

    Chokyi Dorje was the holder of the Oral Tradition of Lama Tsongkhapa and was a great Mahasiddha. He was one of the “three Dorje brothers” who achieved “total integration”. Together with Pelden Dorje of Tolung and Dorje Pelwa of Kham, he achieved the Rainbow body in one body and in one lifetime by mastering the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa. His famous disciple was Gyelwa Ensapa to whom he transmitted the practice.

    The great Mahasiddhas of the Gaden tradition emphasised guru devotion, without which enlightenment cannot be achieved. Gyelwa Ensapa once said: The size of one’s realisation is completely dependent upon the size of one’s guru devotion”. (Janice D. Willis, “Enlightened Beings”, p. 17)

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