Drungchen Kachopa Namkha Gyaltsen (1370 – 1433)

Drungchen Kachopa Namkha Gyaltsen b.1370 – d.1433

Name Variants: Drungchen Kachopa; Khachopa Namkha Gyaltsen; Namkha Gyaltsen

Drungchen Kachopa Namka Gyaltsen (drung chen mkha’ spyod pa nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan) was born in 1370 in Chamdo Ngomyul (chab mdo ngom yul). His father was Gyalwa Zangpo (rgyal ba bzang po) and his mother was Genja Zachodron (gan ’ja’ za chos sgron).

When he was just a boy of four, Namka Gyaltsen went to the Taklung Kagyu Riwoche monastery (ri bo che dgon) where he studied reading, writing and ritual services. At the age of nine he requested instructions on the Nigu Chodruk (nig u chos drug), the Six Dharmas of Niguma, from Lama Sanggye Gyaltsab (sangs rgyas rgyal mtshab, d.u.), and for a month he received teachings from him.

At the age of about twenty, he took four wives and pursued both religious and householder activity. He then traveled the region around Markham (smar khams) via boat, touring regions that were under his control, with Sanggye Gyaltsab and Konchok Pal (dkon mchog dpal, d.u.), who taught him the Kandro Nyintik (mkha’ ’gro snying thig) and other teachings, and writing out the Prajnaparamita in one hundred thousand, twenty-thousand, and eight-thousand verses in turquoise, gold and silver ink. Renouncing his throne, his grandson, Sanggye Zangpo (sangs rgyas bzang po) was appointed ruler.

Namkha Gyaltsen was quite wealthy, and sent much of his treasure to monasteries before taking ordination with Khenpo Gyalwangpa (mkhan po rgyal dbang pa, d.u.). He relied on about one hundred and thirty teachers to train in sutra and tantra, including the Karma Kagyu lama Karma Konchok Shonnu (ka+rma dkon mchog gzhon nu, d.u.), the Sakya masters Yakdrukpa Sanggye Pelwa (g.yag phrug pa sangs rgyas dpal ba, 1350- 1414), Sabzang Pakpa Shonnu Lodro (sa bzang ’phags pa gzhon nu blo gros, 1358-1412/1424), and Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa (tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419). Chief among his teachers, however, were Tokden Tsokarwa Jangchub Gyaltsen (rtogs ldan mtsho dkar ba byang chub rgyal mtshan, d.u.), Tokden Yontan Rinchen (rtogs ldan yon tan rin chen, d.u.), and the 5th Karmapa, Deshin Shekpa (ka+rma pa 05 de bzhin gshegs pa, 1384-1415). He studied with many of these lamas while in Tibet some time in his youth.

Namkha Gyaltsen returned to his homeland, up the Mekong River from Chamdo, to a valley called Drabyul (’grab yul), where he founded a monastery that later became known as Namgyal Gang (rnam rgyal sgang). He also built a bridge over the Mekong.

From there Namkha Gyaltsen went to China to have an audience with the Emperor, presumably the Yongle Emperor, who reigned from 1402 to 1424. He performed the funeral services for one of the Emperor’s wives, and gave his son tantric initiations, and received considerable gifts for his work. He then returned to the Chamdo region, where he remained for some years.

During this time there was unrest between Riwoche, Darawa Monastery (da ra ba), and Ngepa (rngad pa), and Namgyal Gang was burned to the ground. The Khyungpo region (which includes Riwoche) then raised an army and established peace. Repairing Namgyal Gang, Namkha Gyaltsen also established a monastic college there.

At the age of sixty Namkha Gyaltsen went to U a second time. When he was sixty-three, he went to Kampo Nenang (kam po gnas nang), a Karma Kagyu monastery near Litang founded by the 1st Karmapa, and entered a one-year retreat. When he completed his retreat in 1433, he went to Emei Shan, a mountain in southern Sichuan that is sacred to the bodhisattva Samantabhadra and known as Gyanag Langchen Gyingri (rgya nag glang chen ’gying ri).


Grags pa ’byung gnas. 1992. Gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod. Lanzhou: Kan su’u mi rigs dpe skrun khang, pp. 893-895.

Si tu paN chen chos kyi ’byung gnas, and ’Be lo tshe dbang kun khab. 1972. Sgrub brgyud karma kaM tshang brgyud pa rin po che’i rnam par thar pa rab byams nor bu zla ba chu shel gyi phreng ba. New Delhi: D. Gyaltsen & Kesang Legshay, vol. 1, pp. 501-508.

Alexander Gardner
December 2009

Source: http://www.tibetanlineages.org/biographies/view/173/6489


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