Drodul Pawo Dorje

The First Adzom Drukpa – Drodul Pawo Dorje

Adzom Drukpa
Adzom Drukpa

Adzom Drukpa Drondul Pawo Dorje (b.1842 – d.1924 ཨ་འཛོམ་འབྲུག་པ ༠༡ འགྲོ་འདུལ་དཔའ་བོ་རྡོ་རྗེ། a ‘dzom ‘brug pa ‘gro ‘dul dpa’ bo rdo rje) was born in 1842 in Tashi Dungkargang (bkra shis dung dkar sgang) in the Tromtar / Tromkok (khrom tar / khrom khog) region of Kham. His birth name is not known. Pawo Dorje’s father was Adzom Sonam Gyatso (a ‘dzom bsod nams rgya mtsho), an accomplished practitioner, and his mother was named Aga (a-ga).

Adzom Gyalse Gyurme Dorje
Adzom Gyalse Gyurme Dorje

She was the daughter of Adzi Adotsang (a ‘dzi a sdo tshang). His parents had five daughters and four sons among whom Pawo Dorje was the second son. An elder brother was also recognized as an incarnate lama, known in sources only as Wontrul Rinpoche (dbon sprul rin po che), and based at Katok (kaHthog dgon).


The Second Katok Situ Chokyi Lodro (kaH thog si tu 02 chos kyi blo gros, b. 1820 d.1879?) and the Third Drime Zhingkyong Jigme Yonten Gonpo (དྲི་མེད་ཞིང་སྐྱོང། dri med zhing skyong 03 ‘jigs med rig ‘dzin mgon po, 1837-1898) recognized him in infancy as the reincarnation of Adzom Rigdzin Sanggye Tashi (a ‘dzom rig ‘dzin sangs rgyas bkra shis, d.u.), who had foretold that he would take rebirth in his own immediate family; however, what his relationship to Pawo Dorje’s family is not clear. Drubtob Gyelwai Jangchub (grub thob rgyal ba’i byang chub, d.u.), a Drukpa Kagyu lama of Tromtar claimed that the child was also an incarnation of the Fourth Drukchen Pema Karpo (‘brug chen 04 padma dkar po, 1527-1592), hence his title Adzom Drukpa.

Drukchen Pema Karpo
Drukchen Pema Karpo

Despite the additional recognition, he did not become a lineage holder of the Drukpa Kagyu teachings. He was also said to be an incarnation of Ma Rinchen Chok (ma rin chen mchog, d.u.), one of the first seven Tibetans to ordain as Buddhist monks in the eighth century.

Ma Rinchen Chok
Ma Rinchen Chok

A legend explains the origin of the Adzom name: the family, apparently of Mongolian ancestry, traced its lineage back to Tashi Bum (bkra shis ‘bum, d.u.), a minister of Sonam Norbu (bsod nams nor bu), the ruler in Yonru in Amdo during the era of the Third Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso (ta la’i bla ma 03 bsod nams rgya mtsho, 1543-1588). A member of the family, Lama Sanggye Tashi (blama sangsrgyas bkrashis, d.u.), had five brothers all called Tashi; the five Tashis were each identified as incarnated lamas. A servant named Khage (khadge) said of this,

“A tser-mo! (Wonderful!) All five boys are Tashi and all of them are lamas!”

He further said, “Adzompo” (What a fortunate occurrence!). Following that a newly established residence was called “Adzom Labrang” and its lamas and successors were known by the title of “Adzom.”

Pawo Dorje received his refuge vow from Shechen Wontrul Gyurme Tutop Namgyel (zhe chen dbon sprul ‘gyur med mthu stobs rnam rgyal, 1787-1854), who gave him the name Pema Do Ngak Lhundrub Zangpo (padma mdo sngags lhun grub bzang po). At age twelve he received empowerments and instructions in the treasures of Longsel Nyingpo (klong gsal snying po, 1625-1692) cycle from Katok Situ. Tradition has it that Situ also instructed him in other teachings of the Nyingma as well those of the Sakya, Kadam, Zhije and Chod.

He also received Cho teachings from a lama named Wonpo Jigme (dbon po ‘jigs med) of Nyukgya, the lineage of Trulzhik Wangdrak Gyatso (‘khrul zhig dbang drag rgya mtsho, d.c.1640) Pawo Dorje also studied with the Pelyul Gyatrul Do Ngak Tendzin (dpal yul rgya sprul mdo sngags bstan ‘dzin, 1830-1892), receiving additional treasure lineages such as Namcho Mingyur Dorje (nam chos mi ‘gyur rdo rje, 1645-1667) and Ratna Lingpa (ratna gling pa, 1403-1479). Nyakla Pema Dudul (nyag bla pad+ma bdud ‘dul, 1816-1872) instructed him to remain a layman and let his hair grow long in the style of a tantrika, and gave him transmission of the Gongpa Dupai Do (dgong pa ‘dus pa’i mdo). The advice to remain a layman was repeated by Dzogchen Khenpo Pema Dorje (rdzogs chen mkhan po pad+ma rdo rje, c.1807-1884), a disciple of Dza Patrul Orgyen Jigme Chokyi Wangpo (rdza dpal sprul o rgyan ‘jigs med chos kyi dbang po, 1808-1887), who gave Pawo Dorje the transmission of the Lama Yangtik (bla ma yang thig).

Chief among Pawo Dorje’s teachers were Dza Patrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (‘jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i dbang po, 1820-1892). Dza Patrul gave him preliminary practice instructions from his Words of My Perfect Teacher (kun bzang bla ma’i zhal lung) as well as numerous empowerments and transmissions. Khyentse Wangpo gave transmissions of Longchen Nyingtik (klong chen snying thig) and numerous other treasure lineages. At Khyentse’s suggestion Pawo Dorje received the transmission of the Rinchen Terdzo (rin chen gter mdzod) and the Kagyu Ngagdzo (bka’ brgyud sngag mdzod) from Jamgon Kongtrul (‘jam mgon kong sprul, 1813-1899). He received the Jangter (chang gter) transmission from Gyeltse Rigpai Reltri (rgyal sras rig pa’i ral gri, 1830-1896), a son of Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (mdo mkhyen brtse ye shes rdo rje, 1800-1866). Katok Jewon Pema Gyeltsen (kaH thog rje dbon padma rgyal mtshan, d.u.) gave him the transmission of the Nyingma Gyubum (rnying ma rgyud ‘bum). Other eminent lamas he studied with include Nyoshul Lungtok Tenpai Nyima (smyo shul lung rtogs bstan pa’i nyi ma, 1829-1901) and Ju Mipam Gyatso (‘ju mi pham rgya mtsho, 1846-1912), who taught him many of his own compositions.

Other teachers included Khenchen Tashi Ozer (mkhan chen bkra shis ‘od zer, 1836-1910), Dzaka Chktrul Kunzang Namgyel (dzaH ka mchog sprul 02 kun bzang rnam rgyal, d.u.), the Fourth Dzogchen, Mingyur Namkhai Dorje (rdzogs chen 04 mi ‘gyur nam mkha’i rdo rje, 1793-1870), Do Ngak Tendzin (mdo sngags bstan ‘dzin, 1830-18972), and Minling Jetsunma Trinle Chodron (smin gling rje btsun ma ‘phrin las chos sgron, d.u.) who later gave him detail commentary and training in Chod.

When Pawo Dorje was twenty-two he debated between renovating the monastery built by his previous incarnation, Kegu (ke ‘gu), which had fallen into disrepair, having been seriously damaged during the Nyarong conflict, or constructing a new monastery altogether. He sat a retreat and is said to have received a prophecy from a ḍākinī, but the message was unclear; when he went for clarification from a local yogin, he was told that he should repair the old monastery first. He thus installed new pemba – the cornice made of horizontal sticks customarily painted red. Some sources suggest that he established Kegu himself, and that it was his work there — including a one-storey high clay statue of Śākyamuni Buddha, that was destroyed during the Nyarong conflict.

Later, a Derge minister named Pema Lekdrub (padma legs grub) became in charge of religious affairs in Tromtar and charged Pawo Dorje with building a new center for monks from the Nyoshul (smyo shul) and Gyasho (rgya shod) regions. The center, named Puntsok Gatsel Ling (phun tshogs dga’ tshal gling), was established as a border taming temple, with many monk quarters and buildings with several stories. Pawo Dorje, however, resisted residing there, and soon left on a lengthy pilgrimage, visiting most of Khams as well as Tibet, India, Nepal and Bhutan.

Around the age of twenty-two he went to Katok for the nirvana-prayer for his late elder brother Ontul Rinpoche. At that time Katok Situ offered him five bronze statues, of Mañjuśrī, Avalokiteśvara, Tārā, Amitāyus, and Vajradhara; Vajrayāna texts of Padmasambhava; a bell belonging to Tsopu Drubchen Choying Rangdrol (mtsho phu grub chen chos dbyings rang grol, d.u.); and a tantric musical instrument of the Second Moktsa, Choying Dorje (rmog rtsa 02 chos dbyings rdo rje, d.u.) as objects representing body, speech, mind, and activity respectively, and then requested him to give teachings to followers. His teachings to beginners were focused mainly on bodhicitta, training of mind, and preliminary explanation of various tantric practices, and gradually Dzogchen in detail with profound instructions. A large number of disciples were said to have gathered from Dokham, U-Tsang, Monyul, Nepal, China, and Mongolia.

Once he was invited by a family called Dungda Chushotsang (dung mda’ chu shod tshang) to their home for ritual-prayer for several days during which he had chance in their shrine to read the Lamrim Chenmo by Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa (tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419). It seems he had previously felt doubts regarding the Geluk view, as the reading inspired him to recite the migtsema prayer to Tsongkhapa a hundred-thousand times by way of confession of his negative thoughts.

Some twenty years later the ḍākinī’s prophesy finally came clear: Pawo Dorje was to build a new monastery. In 1886 Pawo Dorje established Adzom Gar (a ‘dzom gar) in Tromtar, on the southern bank of the Dzing River (‘dzing chu). Its main temple was grandly ornamented and filled with scripture, stupa, paintings and statues, including a form of Padmasambhava, Guru Nangsi Silngon (gu ru nang srid zil non) , reportedly made by the treasure revealer Rinchen Lingpa’s (rin chen gling pa) own hand. To the south of the new community is the Padmasambhava site of Dungrel Drakkar (dung ral brag dkar), and a location of Pawo Dorje’s treasure revelation.

He accepted a girl called Tashi Lhamo (bkra shis lha mo), the daughter of a popular merchant Budo (bum dos) for his wife at the recommendation of Jamgon Kongtrul. He had a son named Gyurme Dorje (‘gyur med rdo rje, b. 1895) who was educated mainly by him and later became a noted master and whose reincarnations continued his tradition. He was later known as Adzom Gyelse (a ‘dzom rgyal sras).

How much of the construction of Adzom Gar was accomplished by Pawo Dorje, and how much by his son and successor, Gyurme Dorje, is unclear. During Pawo Dorje’s life it was largely a loosely organized encampment more than a formal monastery; today it is one of the larger monasteries in Tromtar, with a monastic college and a printing house, as well as a large central temple and other buildings.

In 1917, the fire-snake year of the fifteenth sexagenary cycle, they faced brutal attack and raid by Chaktring forces (phyag phring dmag) that viciously damaged the encampment. However, the commander of the force, Lobzang Tashi (blo bzang bkra shis), was strongly impressed by Adzom Drukpa and became his devotee, and returned all the looted animals and property, even giving compensation to individuals harmed. When the commander apologized for the assault Adzom Drukpa is said to have responded,

“How can we practice patience if there are no enemies?

You may kill them if their karma deserves death!”

Pawo Dorje then prepared for an extended journey. He packed up all texts and wooden printing blocks and sent them to Katok, and sent other materials to Pelyul (dpal yul). He gave his disciples a lengthy teaching and entertained their questions and then sent them to their home regions. He started his journey towards Lingtsang (gling tshang) and went on to Lekgon (legs dgon) where he spent the winter. He visited Dzogchen Monastery (rdzogs chen dgon), and, in 1919, the year of earth-sheep he set his journey to Denkhok (‘dan khog) through the mountains in Dzachu (rdza chu) where he spent couple of months in meditation. He then travelled widely through Golok (‘go log), Sertar (gser thar) and so forth where he gave extensive teaching of their requirement to a large number of disciples from all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. At Shechen Monastery (zhe chen dgon), he came into close contact with the family of the young Dilgo Khyentse Tashi Peljor (dil mgo mkhyen brtse bkra shis dpal ‘byor, 1910-1991). Pawo Dorje took the young boy under his protection, administering the novice vows and clearing obstacles for his family.

In 1921, the year of iron-bird, he was invited to a monastery in Tromkhok by Jampa Tendar (gzhung sa’i bka’ blon byams pa bstan dar) a cabinet minister and the Military Commander-in-chief of the Lhasa government in Derge. He was also invited by the Third Katok Situ Orgyen Chokyi Gyatso (kaH thog si tu 03 o rgyan chos kyi rgya mtsho, 1880-1923), and also at the same time he was recalled with his promise to return after three years to his seat by Pelyul Rinpoche and others.

In 1923 he spent the summer in Chotrishi (chos khri gshis) and gave teachings. The following year, back at Adzom Gar, on the third day of the twelfth month of the lunar year, or February/March 1924, he felt ill and his disciples there and elsewhere began extensive prayer to extend his life. He advised the disciples to study and practice Dzogchen and in the evening he shared some of his experiences of clear visions of some tantric deities such as Peaceful and Wrathful Mahāyāmī and Vajrakīla, and also predicted that some ḍākinīs would arrived to take him away. It is said that on the night before he died, around midnight, people saw strange rays of light that did not reflect on surfaces. At the dawn he passed into nirvana at the age of about eighty-three and sat in tukdam for about ten days. His body was kept in state for sixty days, after which a grand cremation ceremony was held. A clay reliquary was built to hold his body and installed with rites and rituals performed by lamas and monks of Chogar, Katok and Pelyul monasteries. His reincarnation, Tubten Pema Trinle (thub bstan pad+ma ‘phrin las) was recognized by Adzom Gyelse Gyurme Dorje.

Among his main disciples were Khenpo Kunzang Pelden (mkhan po kun bzang dpal ldan, 1862-1943); Terton Sogyal Lerab Lingpa (gter ston bsod rgyal las rab gling pa, 1856-1926); the Third Katok Situ Orgyen Chokyi Gyatso, the Third Getse, Gyurme Tenpa Namgyel (dge rtse 03 ‘gyur med bstan pa rnam rgyal, 1886-1952); the Fourth Moktsa Jikdrel Chokyi Langpo (rmog rtsa 04 ‘jigs bral phyogs kyi glang po, d.u.); Tubten Gyeltsen Ozer (thub bstan rgyal mtshan ‘od zer, b.1862); Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (‘jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros, 1893-1959); Choying Rangdrol (chos dbyings rang grol, 1872-1952); Drejongpa Tubten Chonyi (‘bras ljongs pa thub bstan chos nyid, d.u.), the Fifty-fourth Ngor Khenchen Kunga Tenpai Gyeltsen (ngor mkhan chen 54 kun dga’ bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan, 1829-1870), Ayu Khadro Dorje Peldron (a g.yu mkha’ ‘gro rdo rje dpal sgron, 1839-1953), and Khunu Lama Tendzin Gyeltsen (khu nu bla ma bstan ‘dzin rgyal mtshan, 1895-1977).

Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche (b. 1938) is considered to be a reincarnation of Pawo Dorje.

Adzom’s name variants

Name variants:

  • Adzom Drukgan Drodul Pawo Dorje;
  • Adzom Drukpa Drodul Pawo Dorje;
  • Adzom Drukpa Pawo Dorje;
  • Drodul Pawo Dorje;
  • Gargyi Wangchuk Shepatsal; P
  • ema Do Ngag Lhundrub Zangpo;
  • Rigdzin Natsog Rangdrol.

Adzom’s Teachers

bkra shis ‘od zer b.1836 – d.1910
The Fourth Dzogchen Drubwang, Mingyur Namkhai Dorje b.1793 – d.1870
Name variants: Dzogchen 04 Mingyur Namkhai Dorje; Dzogchen Drubwang 04; Jigme Khyentse Wangchuk Trinle Namgyel Dorje; Mingyur Namkhai Dorje; Mingyur Namkhai Dorje Tsewang Drubpa Tsel; Rigdzin Gyurme Kunzang Tekchok Tendzin.

Nyakla Pema Dudul b.1816 – d.1872

Name variants: Drubchen Pema Dudul; Lhangdrak Drubchen Pema Dudul; Nyida Kundze; Pema Dudul; Trulzhik Jangchub Lingpa; Trulzhik Lingpa.

Mipam Gyatso b.1846 – d.1912

Name variants: Jamgon Mipam Gyatso; Ju Mipam Gyatso; Mipam Namgyel Gyatso
padma kun bzang.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo b.1820 – d.1892

Name variants: Dorje Zijitsal; Jigme Khyentse Nyugu; Khyentse Wangpo; Kunga Tenpai Gyeltsen Pelzangpo; Osel Dorje Tukchoktsal; Osel Tulpai Dorje; Pema Osel Do-ngag Linpa; Tsangse Gyepai Loden; Tsokye Lama Gyepaibang; Tsuglamawai Nyima Tsokye Shonnui Langtso

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye b.1813 – d.1899
Name variants: Chime Tennyi Yudrung Lingpa; Jamgon Kongtrul Yonten Gyatso; Karma Ngawang Yonten Gyatso; Karma Ngawang Yonten Gyatso Trinle Kunkhyab Pel Zangpo; Kongtrul Ngawang Lodro Taye; Kongtrul Ngawang Yonten Gyatso; Pema Gargyi Wangchuk Tsel; Pema Garwang Lodro Taye; Pema Garwang Trinle Drodul Tsel; Tendzin Yungdrung Lingpa; Tennyi Yungdrung Lingpa; Zilnon Gepa Tsel
Patrul Orgyen Jigme Chokyi Wangpo b.1808 – d.1887
Name variants: Dza Patrul Jigme Chokyi Wangpo; Dza Patrul Orgyen Jigme Chokyi Wangpo; Dzogchen Khenrab 05 Orgyen Jigme Chokyi Wangpo; Dzogchen Pelge Tulku Orgyen Jigme Chokyi Wangpo; Jigme Chokyi Wangpo; Pelge Tulku; Peltrul Jigme Chokyi Wangpo
‘gyur med mthu stobs rnam rgyal b.1787
The Third Drime Zhingkyong, Jigme Yonten Gonpo b.1837 – d.1898
Name variants: Drime Zhingkyong 03 Jigme Yonten Gonpo
chos kyi blo gros b.1820
kun bzang rnam rgyal
lung rtogs bstan pa’i nyi ma b.1829
The First Gyatrul, Dongak Tendzin b.1830 – d.1892
grags pa don grub
Pema Vajra b.1807 – d.1884
Name variants: Khenpo Padma Badzra; Orgyen Chemchok; Pema Damcho Ozer; Pema Dorje
thub bstan legs bshad bzang po
rgyal sras rnam rgyal
chos kyi rgya mtsho b.1880
pad+ma rgyal mtshan
ngag dbang bsod nams rgyal mtshan
‘gyur med thub bstan ‘jam dbyangs grags pa b.1883 – d.1945
skal bzang dbang phyug

Students of Adzom Drukpa

chos dbyings rang grol b.1872 – d.1952
bstan ‘dzin rgya mtsho
‘bad med gzhi grol
‘gyur med bstan pa rnam rgyal b.1886 – d.1952
chos kyi rgya mtsho b.1880
‘gyur med rdo rje b.1895
The Fourth Moktsa Tulku, Jikdrel Chokyi Langpo 19th cent.
Tubten Gyeltsen Ozer b.1862
Name variants: Atob Rinpoche; Khenchen Tobden; Khenchen Tubten Gyeltsen Ozer; Sonam Tobden.
khams gsum zil gnon dgyes pa rdo rje b.1890 – d.1939
Tubten Nyendrak b.1883 – d.1959
Name variants: Khenchen Tubten Nyendrak; Tubten Shedrub Dargye
Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro b.1893 – d.1959
Name variants: Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro; Jamyang Chokyi Lodro
thub bstan chos nyid
kun dga’ bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan b.1829 – d.1870
‘jam dbyangs bstan ‘dzin
chos kyi seng ge
Ayu Khandro Dorje Peldron b.1839 – d.1953
Name variants: Dechen Khandro; Tsewang Peldron

Incarnations of Adzom Drukpa

Subsequent incarnations

thub bstan padma phrin las b.1926

Bibliography about Adzom Drukpa

A ‘dzom rgyal sras ‘gyur med rdo rje. 1945. ‘Gro ‘dul dpa’ bo rdo rje’i rnam thar skal bzang yid kyi gdung sel. Blockprint, A ‘dzom gar. TBRC W1CZ2549

A ‘dzom rgyal sras ‘gyur med rdo rje. 1973. Gung ‘thor bu phyogs bsdus pod ‘di gnyis kyi spar byang smon tshig thung ngu. In Gsung thor bu dri med ‘od zer a ‘dzom par ma ldi lir bskyar par brgyab pa, vol. 2, p. 607. TBRC W12829.

Bradburn, Leslie. 1995. Masters of the Nyingma Lineage. Cazadero: Dharma Publications.

Bstan ‘dzin lung rtogs nyi ma. 2004. A ‘dzoms ‘brug rgan ‘gro ‘dul dpa’ bo rdo rje. In Snga ‘gyur rdzogs chen chos ‘byung chen mo, pp. 615-622. Beijing: Krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang. TBRC W27401.

Bstan ‘dzin nor bu. 1995.A ‘dzom lo rgyus mdor bsdus. In Dkar mdzes khul gyi dgon sde so so’i lo rgyus gsal bar bshad pa, Beijing: Krung go’i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, 1995, vol. 3, pp. 140-146. TBRC W19997.

‘Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros. 1981-1985. ‘Khrul zhig bde chen dpa’ bo rdo rje’i zhabs brtan sogs. In Gsung ‘bum ‘jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros. Gangtok: Dzongsar Khyentse Labrang, vol. 2, pp. 255-258. TBRC W21813.

‘Jam dbyangs rgyal mtshan. 1996. Rgyal ba kaH thog pa’i lo rgyus mdor bsdus. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, p.142.

Nyoshul Khenpo. A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems. Richard Barron, trans. Junction City, California: Padma Publication, 2005.

Thub bstan bshad sgrub rgya mtsho. 1985. Grub brnyes rig ‘dzin ‘gro ‘dul dpa’ bo rdo rje’i gdung rten mchod rten lha khang sgrub sde bcas bzhengs pa’i dkar chag phan bde’i dga’ tshal. In Gsung ‘bum thub bstan bshad sgrub rgya mtsho, vol. 1, pp. 699-714. Bylakuppe: Nyingmapa Monastery. TBRC W21957. 1: 703 – 718., 1985.

Thub bstan snyan grags. 1973. Dang grol skor gsum gyi spar byang smon tshig. In Gsung thor bu dri med ‘od zer a ‘dzom par ma ldi lir bskyar par brgyab pa, vol. 2, p. 353. Delhi: Sanje Dorje. TBRC W12829.

Alexander Gardner is Executive Director of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation and the Director and Chief Editor of the Treasury of Lives. He completed his PhD in Buddhist Studies at the University of Michigan in 2007.

Tulku Thondup. Masters of Meditation and Miracles: The Longchen Nyingthig Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Shambhala, 1996.

Samten Chhosphel is an independent scholar with a PhD from the Central Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies in Sarnath, India.

Published December 2009

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s