The Present Zasep Tulku Rinpoche

After the death of the Twelfth Tulku, the lamas of Zuru asked the terton to advise where the next Tulku would reincarnate. Jetrung Rinpoche said he saw signs that Konchog Gyurme had transferred his consciousness to Ngayab Ling pure land and would remain there for three years, as well as simultaneously travel to many other Buddha-fields. He would then reincarnate, his next father having been born in the Tiger year and his mother in the Bird year.

When the time had come for the thirteenth Tulku to be born, the wonderful lamas again asked Jetrung Rinpoche for his advice. Jetrung Rinpoche together with Lama Trinlay Konchab, a high Bodhisattva from Zuru Gompa, and Laksam Naljorpa, a powerful yogi, went into retreat to divine the birthplace of Zasep Tulku. Using their great psychic powers the three yogis, by direct vision and dreams, saw with perfect clarity exactly where he would be reborn. Monks from Zuru Gompa went to the place indicated.

Zasep Tulku Rinpoche, the thirteenth incarnation and our present teacher, was born in the year of the Earth-Ox-with-golden-nose-ring (6), 1st of July 1948. His father’s name was Karma Dugdak, and his mother’s name Paltso.

Zasep Tulku Rinpoche with his Grandfather

As Jetrung Rinpoche had predicted, the father had been born in the Tiger year and his mother in the Bird year. Prior to his birth, Paltso had auspicious dreams and during his birth she experienced no pain. The family had very good dreams, and the whole of Gerjel province had a fine year with no pestilence or disease and good seasonal weather. The high Kargyn, Sakya and Gelug lamas recognized Zasep Tulku when he was born and pointed out, referring to the miraculous signs that had appeared at his birth, that he was a very highly realized and powerful Rinpoche.

Installation at Zuru Gompa

Until the age of five, Zasep Tulku remained at home. He was then taken on horse in procession to Zuru Gompa. As he entered the gompa he passed between rows of musicians playing sacred instruments and was escorted into the temple under an ornamented victory umbrella. He was installed with great ceremony. Thousands of people came to Zuru Gompa to meet young Zasep Tulku, to receive blessings and to make offerings. Rinpoche received the robes, hats and bowl of the previous incarnation.

He stayed for two years in Zuru Gompa and learned the alphabet, the many daily prayers of Zuru and the Tunzhi prayer. He liked to read the One Thousand Songs of Milarepa (Mila Gurbung) and the sutra of Great Liberation (Tharpa Chenpodo).

When he was seven, Zasep Tulku visited his parents and the people of his village. His family invited his uncle, a renowned Kargyupa teacher who had meditated in seclusion for nineteen years, to his home to meet him. From this holy lama, the Venerable Sachyu Tulku, Zasep Tulku received Amitayus (Tib. Tsepame) long life and Tara (Tib. Drolma) initiations.

Zasep Tulku Rinpoche’s grandfather at a younger age

Rinpoche’s grandfather took him to Tashi Lhapug Gompa to study. At Tashi Lhapug, where there were 700 monks, is the largest monastery of the Geluk order in that area. Here Zasep Tulku took eight precepts and robes from the holy Gelug lama Chonjor Gyaltso. He received the name Jamyang Thubten Lodro. Lama Chonjor Gyaltso Mahasiddha was a disciple of the great Phabongkhapa Dechin Nying Po. He became oracle of Damchen Chogyal or Kalarupa the Dharma Protector of Gelukpa Lineage, an emanation of Yamantaka. He had completed the 108 Cemetery meditations and had meditated by 108 springs so as to help the cemetery beings and nagas. He gave many blessings to Zasep Tulku.

Zasep Tulku studied and meditated at Tashi Lhapug and received Yamantaka (Tib. Dorje Jigje Pawo Chikpa) initiation from the great Bodhisattva Lama Lodro Dragpa.

At the request of the many Kargyupa monks at Zuru, he returned to learn Kargyu practice from Lama Trinlay Konchob. From Geshe Tsegyam, a Kargyupa monk who had studied at Sera, he received teachings on Je Tzong Khapa’s Lam Rim.

To Lhasa and Sera

Zasep Tulku left Zuru Gompa in the spring of 1957, due to bad conditions existing in Kham province following the communist invasion of that year. He was accompanied on a journey to Lhasa by his uncle.

Sera Monastery

On the way to Lhasa, Zasep Tulku stayed for three months at Nalanda, A Sakyapa monastery, to receive detailed teachings. He felt great devotion for the Sakyapa teachings. From the abbot, Lama Zinwog Dorje Chang, he received an Amitayus initiation.

In Lhasa he met His Holiness Yongzin Trijang Rinpoche, who was the junior tutor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was one of the greatest Lamas in this century. Yongzin Trijang Dorje Chang, a very holy yogi Bodhisattva who has total clairvoyance, immediately recognized Zasep Tulku as the incarnation of Konchog Gyurme. He suggested that Zasep Tulku go to Sera Monastic University to further his studies and learn Madhyamika philosophy.

On his arrival at Sera, Zasep Tulku entered Sera Je Tratzang where he was installed as a lama with great ceremony. From Geshe Jampa Chogdup he received teachings on Pramanavatika by Dharmakirti.

In 1958, Sera Ngapa Tratzang (the Tantric College) invited Yongzin Trijang Dorje Chang to the college to give initiations. From this holy lama, Zasep Tulku — then ten years old — received Guhyasamaja Akshobhya Vajra, Heruka Tilbu Lhanga, Thirteen Deities of Yamantaka, and Kunrig Yoga Tantra initiations.

At the end of 1958, Zasep Tulku went on a pilgrimage for six months. He visited Tashilhunpo Monastery, the Sakya monastery, and Tingri Langkor, the temple of Pha-Dampa Sangye (the lineage holder of Chod practice. He was the Guru of Machig LabKyi Dolma.) Tingri is the town on the Tibetan slope of Mount Everest where the great yogi Pha-Dampa Sangye taught.

Then Rinpoche and his party went to Mount Kailash. At this holy mountain Zasep Tulku made two months of Ngondro (preliminary practices) including prostrations, and a Migtzema retreat. He went to three of Milarepa’s caves: Zurtrul Pug (manifestation cave), Dra Pug (yak horn cave), and Choku Pug (Dharmakaya cave). He then returned to Sera.

Escape from Tibet

Three months later the communists invaded Lhasa. Zasep Tulku escaped from Sera walking by night across the monolithic mountain range between Lhasa and Penpo. He went to Nalanda Gompa for two days. In order to escape the communists he continued by horse across the great western grass plains of Tibet, carrying only a tent and a few possessions. His small party had to go many days without food. They turned south and traveled by day and night to cross the Nepalese border at Mustang, into freedom.

At Mustang border is the holy pilgrimage town of Muktinath. Zasep Tulku stayed there three months to do another set of Ngondro and a Guru Yoga retreat. Rinpoche’s mother passed away near Mustang due to illness and the Chinese taking away and jailing Rinpoche’s father.

Zasep Tulku Rinpoche, age 11

Rinpoche then went to Kathmandu to see the three great stupas of Swayambhunath, Boudhanath and Namo Buddha. At Parping, the holy place of Vajra Yogini (Tib. Dorje Naljorma) and Padma Sambhava, he made more prostrations and mandala offerings.

In the small Nepalese village behind the Great Stupa of Boudhanath, Zasep Tulku did a five-month Vajrasattva (Tib. Dorje Sempa) and Guru Yoga retreat.

In 1961, he went to Dharamsala in north India. Here he rejoined his kind and holy teacher, the Venerable Trijang Dorje Chang and met Yongzin Ling Rinpoche again. In the same year he took Getsul (novice monk) ordination from Trijang Rinpoche.

The Ven. Geshe Thubten Wanggyel

Wanting to practice Dharma very strongly, he asked Trijang Rinpoche where to go to receive further teachings on Sutra and Tantra. Trijang Rinpoche told him to go to Dalhousie in the high Himalayas to live and study with Geshe Thubten Wanggyel, a highly realized being. When Trijang Rinpoche mentioned the name of this great teacher, Zasep Tulku felt very happy because of a strong karmic connection existing between them.

Zasep Tulku arrived at the home of Geshe Thubten Wanggyel on the morning that Geshe was completing his six-month Demchog (Sri Heruka) retreat with a fire puja. Although Zasep Tulku had not seen Geshe Wanggyel before, great faith and devotion rose in him at their meeting and he made request to stay with Geshe to meditate and receive teachings. Geshe happily accepted Zasep Tulku as his disciple. Geshe-la said, “I’m honored to accept you as my student because my root Guru Trijang Dorje Chang sent you to me. Trijang Dorje Chang knows that we will develop good teacher and student relationship.”

Geshe Thubten Wanggyel

Geshe Thubten Wanggyel lived in an austere and simple manner. He had few possessions, as he had totally abandoned the eight worldly dharmas. Zasep Tulku studied with him for ten years and during that time received teachings on the Pramanavatika, Prajnaparamita, Madhyamika, Abhidharma, Vinaya and Tzong Khapa’s Lam Rim. He also received many profound Tantric teachings.

Almost every winter for ten years, Zasep Tulku did four months’ retreat with his teacher in the mountains above Dalhousie. He and his guru lived in an old colonial English cottage called Bright View, from which they could see the whole Himalayan chain. Sometimes the snow against the cottage was eight feet deep and they couldn’t open the door in the morning. Zasep Tulku made Lam Rim, Bodhicitta and Shunyata retreats as well as Chenrezig, Tara, Vajra Yogini, Yamantaka and other daily retreats.

During the summer, Zasep Tulku received teachings on five different texts simultaneously. At night he meditated and recited sadhanas with Geshe Wanggyel. Having been taught a technique of quiescence and concentration meditation one day, Zasep Tulku would be questioned the following day about his meditation experience. If his answer was not satisfactory, Geshe asked him to practice more and more. Geshe was wrathful and he was a very strict teacher. Zasep Tulku was known as a good student and practitioner.

One evening Zasep Tulku was very tired and as he was meditating in front of Geshe, he started to drop off to sleep. Geshe picked up the small mud butter lamp, his daily offering to the Triple Gem, and threw it at Zasep Tulku. The lamp hit his head and broke into many pieces. Zasep Tulku wrapped his upper robe around his injured head to stop the blood. Seeing this, Geshe beat him and kicked him out of the house. Zasep Tulku had great devotion to his teacher and took his teacher’s harsh treatment as a blessing and initiation. Early the next morning he went to Geshe’s house and made prostrations before him. Geshe laughed for minutes, then patted Zasep Tulku on the head and gave him his old mala (rosary) as a blessing. That whole day Zasep Tulku was especially happy; his meditations were good and he realized that his teacher had helped him to quickly purify much bad karma. Geshe was a very loving and humble Bodhisattva. Zasep Tulku understood that these beatings were only for his own benefit, and although they caused physical pain, they never made him unhappy.

Geshe used to say, “After overcoming many physical difficulties and mental hindrances with enthusiasm and calm perseverance, your mind will naturally open, revealing its inner radiance, just as the Blue Lotus which remains closed by the pale light of the moon opens as the sun rises to reveal its true beauty and splendor.”

In 1966, Zasep Tulku received the transmission of the complete works of Tzong Khapa on Sutra and Tantra from Pangnang Rinpoche and the transmissions of four volumes of Gyaltsabje, a disciple of Tzong Khapa. In addition, he received the transmission of eight volumes of Kadruje and the transmission of Getongpa (Prajnaparamita in 8,000 verses.)


6. According to Zasep Rinpoche, the “Golden Nose Ring” indicates that someone born in that year will never be very rich, but neither will he/she be poor — a desirable state of affairs!


The Eleventh Zasep Tulku, Konchog Tenzin

The eleventh incarnations of Lama Chabdak, Lama Konchog Tenzin, a Kargyupa yogi, was a contemporary of the fifteenth Karmapa Kachab Dorje.

Konchog Tenzin was born in 1871, at Yomnak Sakkryi, the provincial town of Gerjel. His father, Sangnga Regzin Dorje, was a realized Nyingmapa yogi and the nephew of the King of Nangchen. His mother was called Donla.

At his birth many miraculous and auspicious signs and omens appeared, and the holy and clairvoyant Bodhisattvas immediately recognized him as the eleventh incarnation. He was conveyed in a magnificent procession to Zuru Gompa where there were now 300 monks. He was given the tenth incarnation’s robes, hats and Tantric instruments and was installed with much ceremony as the recognized Bodhisattva emanation at the age of seven.

So great was his compassion and wisdom that when he was eight, his tutor had only to start teaching the first few lines of any treatise for him to remember the entire content of the work and to recite and give explanations of it. He learned Dharma, grammar, Sanskrit, poetry, medicine and astrology. His tutor was his uncle who was the Prince of Nangchen and the teacher of the King.

When he was seventeen, he went to the Dergye province in eastern Kham to study at the great Kargyupa center for meditators, Dergye Pepung. From the famous teacher, Kongtrul Yonten Gyaltso, and Lama Suti Pema Nyanche Rinpoche he received the complete teachings on the Sutras as well as transmission of the Tantras, and was continually engaged in meditation.

Having received the complete teachings from his kind and holy lamas, Konchog Tenzin retired to a cave at Tsadra Rinchen Dak to meditate on the profound and all-encompassing meanings of the Sutra and Tantra.

After finishing his preliminary practices, he meditated on the Six Yogas of Naropa and the other secret tantras. Having completed his retreat he made a pilgrimage to Lhasa and the three great monastic universities of Sera, Gaden and Drepung. He then continued on his pilgrimage to the holy place of Wolka where Tzong Khapa made his 3,500,000 prostrations and made purification and insight retreats.

From Wolka he traveled to Karmapa’s great monastery of Tudlung Surpu. There he met the fifteenth Karmapa, Kachab Dorje, who asked him to remain at his monastery for a long time to give detailed teachings and initiations; but after only one year he returned to Zuru Gompa.

After a while he journeyed to Dergye Pepung again and was offered the position of Supreme Abbot. He stayed two years, during which time he gave many teachings and initiations, later returning to his own monastery. He was then thirty-two.

Red Chenrezig, Gyalwa Gyaltso

Lama Konchog Tenzin then went to a closed retreat in silence. He practiced the Tantra of Avalokiteshvara Jina Sargan (Tib. Chenrezig Gyalwa Gyaltso — a secret and effective practice of Red Chenrezig). By the age of fifty-three he had completed one billion (1,000 million) Red Chenrezig mantras. Each day he took the eight Mahayanist precepts and made many prostrations.

He grew two new teeth, a sign of the realization of Chenrezig; and Red Chenrezig and many other deities appeared to him. He had great psychic perception and profound realizations. Although he showed only his closest students, he clearly perceived the nature of Samsara and Nirvana and their inseparability (3). He was able to see Red Chenrezig at any time. He was a great practitioner of Heruka Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini. He had many students from all over the Land of Snows who came to Zuru Gompa to receive teachings and initiations.

Siddhis of Lama Konchog Tenzin

Generally Lama Tenzin could easily see the wisdom and insight others had and their accumulation of good and bad karma. He was a famous astrologer and could predict the coming of the winter snows and the amount of summer sunshine with precision. He wrote the renowned astrological treatise Chedup Gongdrel which is still in use today.

Due to his powers, Lama Tenzin could completely control the weather. In Tibet sometimes so much snow fell on the low plateaus that the wind couldn’t sweep it away and snow covered all the grass that the animals ate. By stopping the snow and making the already fallen snow disappear, he saved countless lives. During the summer he could bring rain to the parched and drought-ridden plateaus by means of his weather control pujas. He was able to predict the coming of famine and disease and advise precautions.

He could also see the spirits in rocks, mountains, water and air as well as their methods of communication and what they said. Besides being able to talk with them himself, Konchog Tenzin could completely subdue all the spirits by peaceful and wrathful actions and order the white spirits to do what he wanted to benefit sentient beings. He helped so many spirits liberated through his Chod practice.

One day Lama Konchog Tenzin’s cook was very sick; he was hallucinating and unable to sleep at night. The cook asked Lama Tenzin for his blessing so that he could regain his health and peace of mind. The cook, who normally slept in his own room, went to bed that night in the lama’s apartments.

At midnight the cook heard Lama talking with someone. Konchog Tenzin, who was always in meditation, was looking out his window, immersed in conversation. The lama turned to the cook and told him to give a certain needle which the cook apparently had. The cook couldn’t immediately recall such a needle; but upon reflection he remembered picking up an unusual needle in a remote place and without thinking he had put it in his amulet box. The cook then gave this needle to Lama Tenzin.

Lama handed the needle through the window and said, “You take this needle back now, please.”

The servant was perplexed and asked the lama to explain his actions. Lama replied that he was talking to the spirit who owned the needle and that this spirit had chased the cook and made him sick. The spirit appeared to Lama to beg for the return of his needle, agreeing not to harm the cook further. The cook straight away fell into a relieved sleep, and the next morning all his ailments were gone.

Contact with the Gelug Tradition

At the age of forty-five, Lama met a very learned Geshe from Amdo who was travelling home from Drebung Gomung Tratzang. On the way the Geshe fell ill and rested at Zuru Gompa. Lama received the Amdo Geshe and was impressed by his scholastic knowledge of the Sutras. From him Lama received teachings on Madhyamika philosophy, the Six Logical Treatises of Nagarjuna, the Prajnaparamita, the Five Dharmas of Maitreya and Tzong Khapa’s Lam Rim Chenmo. For two years Lama studied with this great teacher, before the Amdo Geshe resumed his journey.

Lama Je Tsongkhapa

Through this Geshe’s teaching, Konchog Tenzin became interested in the Gelug tradition and felt an awakening of faith towards Je Tzong Khapa. He advised his students that when they wished to study the root philosophies of Lord Buddha they go to the Gelug monastic universities to receive these teachings. Lama regarded Amdo Geshe as his guru because the profound teachings he received on Nagarjuna’s philosophy were in exact accordance with his own earlier realizations. He often said he prayed to receive more Gelug teachings in his next life, as he had only studied them for two years.

The Passing Away of Lama Tenzin

When he was sixty-one, Lama Konchog Tenzin was requested by the famous Lama Tzongsar Chentze Rinpoche to write many Tantric sadhanas. Lama then wrote root texts, daily recitation manuals, meditations, peaceful and wrathful rituals, commentaries, mandala pujas and initiation texts on the all-powerful Yamantaka (Tib. Dorje Jigje) practice of the direct attainment of Enlightenment to quickly benefit all sentient beings. He failed to complete the Yamantaka commentary as he felt the time had come for him to pass away.

He predicted he would pass away at the age of sixty-three. From all over Tibet many high lamas and students hastened to Zuru Gompa to join in the big prayers requesting him to remain in his present body. As Lama Tenzin was dying, he described to his close students the many peaceful and wrathful deities and dakinis he could see. Sitting in the vajra position, he remained in meditation and passed away at the age of sixty-three, in 1934.

At the time of his passing, many incredibly powerful and auspicious signs manifested. Many relics and relic sils were recovered from his ashes, and on his bones appeared sudur (4).

The Young Twelfth Tulku, Konchog Gyurme

Before Lama Konchog Tenzin died, he predicted that he would be reborn in 1937, in the Tiger year. His father’s name would be Ngawang Losang and his mother’s name, Pelzum. Konchog Tenzin could clearly see where he was to be reborn, so no recognition search for his reincarnation was necessary.

The students of the eleventh Zasep Tulku found the parents Lama had mentioned, and on his birth the clairvoyant Bodhisattvas happily confirmed that the child born to this family was indeed the twelfth Tulku.

In Gerjel province was the monastery of Jetrung Gompa. The abbot of this monastery, Jetrung Rinpoche, gave the twelfth Tulku the name Konchog Gyurme.

Jetrung Rinpoche was a very holy yogi and besides having great psychic powers he was a terton, or finder of concealed texts (5) — a sign of great spiritual realizations. This terton lama predicted the communist invasions of 1951 and 1959. He had a consort (wife).

Jetrung Rinpoche suggested that Konchog Gyurme be brought to Zuru Gompa and quickly enthroned, as the young Tulku’s life was in danger. The young lama never reached the monastery. He died at the age of seven, in 1945. At his death many rainbows and auspicious signs appeared, and relics and relic sils were recovered from his ashes.


3. He had realized the highest stages of the path of Insight.

4. Sudur looks like a film of red mud and is used for marking purposes during some initiations. The appearance of this
substance on Lama’s bones at the time of death showed his attainment of Red Chenrezig.

5. These texts (terma) are written by the great master meditators of Tibet and concealed in secret places (e.g. inside
caves). The instructions in these treasure texts are secret and have been lost from the orally transmitted teachings and
practices of the Tantras. The time for removal of a text comes up when the instructions in it are needed by meditators. The
finders, or removers (terton), of these texts are certain Bodhisattvas who recover them at the appropriate time centuries
later. The tertons alone can read the secret symbol language in which these terma texts are written. The Bardo Thotol
(Book of the Dead) by Guru Padmasambhava is an example of a terma text.


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