Kyabjé Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche Tibetan: པདྨ་ནོར་བུ་, Wylie: pad ma nor bu (1932 - March 27, 2009) was the 11th throne holder of the Palyul Lineage of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, and said to be an incarnation of Vimalamitra. He was widely renowned in the Tibetan Buddhist world as a master of Dzogchen. He was one of a very few teachers left from his generation who received all his training (in the traditional sense) in Tibet under the guidance of what Tibetan Buddhists consider to be fully enlightened teachers.
The Third Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche, Thubten Lekshed Chokyi Drayang, also known as Do-ngag Shedrub Tenzin Chog-lei Namgyal was born in 1932 the year of the Water Monkey, in the twelfth month, in the Powo region of Kham, East Tibet. He was recognized in 1936 by the Fifth Dzogchen Rinpoche (Thubten Chokyi Dorje) and Khenpo Ngaga Rinpoche (also known as Khenchen Ngagi Wangchuk, Ngawang Palzangpo, or Khenpo Ngagchung). Pema Norbu was formally enthroned by his root teacher, Thubten Chökyi Dawa (1894–1959) the second Choktrul Rinpoche, and Karma Thekchok Nyingpo (1908–1958) the Fourth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche. He trained at the Palyul Monastery in Tibet, studying and receiving teachings from numerous masters and scholars, including the Fourth Karma Kuchen, the 10th Palyul throneholder.
Establishment in India
In 1959, recognizing the situation in Eastern Tibet to be very tense, HH Penor Rinpoche left with a party of 300 for the Hidden Kingdom of Pema Köd in North-East India. Only 30 of the original party survived. In 1961 they were resettled in South India in Bylakuppe in a series of Tibetan camps. HH Penor Rinpoche initially built a bamboo temple to train a small handful of monks in 1963.
He made his first visit to the United States in 1985, invited by Gyaltrul Rinpoche to Ashland, Oregon, to confer the Nam Cho cycle of teachings. In 1987 he recognized Catharine Burroughs as the incarnation of Genyenma Ahkön Lhamo. The historical Genyenma Ahkön Lhamo was the sister of the founder of Palyul, Kunzang Sherab.
In 1988 he gave the Kama teachings at Gyaltrul Rinpoche's Yeshe Nyingpo center in Ashland, Oregon, followed immediately thereafter by the Longchen Nyingthig at Ven. Peling Tulku Rinpoche's centre in Canada, Orgyan Osal Cho Dzong. After this His Holiness gave the Rinchen Terzod empowerments at Kunzang Palyul Choling. Towards the end of this cycle of empowerments he ordained 25 western monks and nuns.
In 1995 he was invited by John Giorno to give teachings and empowerments for a week in New York City. His Holiness then travelled to Kunzang Palyul Choling to give the Nam Cho cycle. After this trip, he sent Khenpo Tsewang Gyatso, who had previously taught in the U.S. in 1992, to establish centers in New York and other regions.
In 1998 he established the Palyul Retreat Center in McDonough, New York, offering a one-month retreat course that follows a similar if abbreviated curriculum to the one at Namdroling monastery. He offered Kalachakra empowerments, first in Rochester in 1996 and next at his retreat center in 2007. He also granted the Nam Cho cycle of teachings in Austin, Texas, in 2003.
Head of the Nyingmapa
Statement from Kyabje Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche from 2001 in regards to the position of The Head of the Nyingmapas and on the retirement in order to concentrate on the duties and responsibilities held as head of the Palyul lineage.
Within Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism there did not exist a position of a main throneholder, thus upon onset of the Tibetan diaspora there was a request from the Tibetan Government in Exile to the Nyingmapa followers to request some one to be such a representative, some one of the highest esteem who could be responsible for all of the Nyingmapa Tradition followers. Now the request is usually made during Nyingma Monlam Chenmo in Bodhgaya.
- Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje (c. 1904–1987), was unanimously requested to become first Head of the Nyingmapas and has served from the 1960s until passing in 1987.
- Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (c. 1910–1991), was requested to become second Head of the Nyingmapas and served from 1987 until passing in 1991.
- Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche (1932–2009), was requested to become third Head of the Nyingmapas and served from 1991 until retirement in 2001.
- Mindroling Trichen Rinpoche (c. 1930–2008), was requested to become fourth Head of the Nyingmapas and served from 2003 until passing in 2008.
- Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche was requested to become fifth Head of the Nyingmapas, but declined.
- Trulshik Rinpoche (1923-2011) served as the fifth Head of the Nyingmapas from 2010 until his death in 2011.
- Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche (b. 1926)
Each year a prayer festival called "Monlam Chenmo" is held in Bodh Gaya, the place of the Buddha's Enlightenment. Recognizing its importance, HH Penor Rinpoche headed a committee of monks, tulkus and khenpos who organized the yearly prayer ceremony.
Activities at the South Indian Monastery
His Holiness was responsible for an ever-expanding population of Himalayan monks and nuns who come to Namdroling Monastery based on the traditional cultural style of sending a son or daughter to the monastery for an education. Many of the young monks and nuns come from extremely impoverished families located in Bhutan, Nepal or the Tibetan refugee camps in India. The monastery provides full room, board, clothing, medical care and an education in the traditional Tibetan Buddhist canon. The population of students exceeds several thousand.
Activities in South Indian local community
His Holiness sponsored the pavement of the road leading from Bylakuppe to Kushalnagar. He also built a small hospital that still requires equipment, but provides infirmary services to the local community. A side benefit of his activities is that the temples he built brings busloads of Indian tourists to the area daily, increasing the income and economic activity in the area.
His Holiness' main U.S. representative is Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche, who maintains a yearly travel schedule that includes Canada, Singapore as well as Arizona, California, Florida, Montana, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Washington DC.
Monks and international students went on retreat with HH Penor Rinpoche and received teachings directly from him on two occasions per year. The first was in the 2nd month of the lunar calendar at Namdroling Monastery in South India. The second was in the United States at Palyul Ling. The retreats consisted of the teachings as structured within the Nam Cho cycle beginning with Ngondro, followed by the Inner Heat practice of Tsa Lung, and then Dzogchen Trekcho and Togyal.
The Successive Incarnations of the Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche
- The First Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche (1679–1757, aged 79). The 3rd Throne Holder of the Palyul Tradition.
- The Second Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche, Pema Kunzang Tenzin Norbu also known as Thubten Chokyi Langpo, also known as Rigdzin Palchen Dupa (1887–1932, aged 46). The 9th Throne Holder of the Palyul Tradition.
- The Third Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche, Thubten Lekshed Chokyi Drayang also known as Do-ngag Shedrup Tenzin Chog-lei Namgyal (1932–2009, aged 77). The 11th Throne Holder of the Palyul Tradition.
The Palyul lineage was founded in 1665 by Kunzang Sherab (1636–1699). It is based out of Palyul Monastery, one of the six "mother" monasteries of the Nyingma lineage. The primary teachings followed by Palyul Monasteries were revealed by Terton Migyur Dorje, a "Dharma Treasure Revealer" who received teachings mystically. The works of Migyur Dorje have been passed down from teacher to disciple as the Nam Chö or "space treasure" cycle of teachings. It was these teachings that HH Penor Rinpoche followed and transmitted to his students along with some texts from the Longchen Nyingthig cycle.
Well in advance of his death, Penor Rinpoche requested the Fifth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, his designated successor, to establish his seat at Palyul Monastery in Tibet. The Fifth Karma Kuchen is 12th and current Palyul throne holder.
His Holiness' main monastery and most recent "seat" was the Namdroling Monastery, located South India, home also to the Ngagyar Nyingma Institute, where hundreds of lamas study and graduate from a ten-year shedra program which includes a three-year retreat. Three senior khenpos (professors of Buddhist philosophy), Khenchen Pema Sherab Rinpoche, Khenchen Namdrol Rinpoche, and Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche oversee the education of the thousands of monks and nuns enrolled in study at shedra (Buddhist college).
Other Palyul Monasteries
There are many small branch monasteries throughout Tibet. There are also dharma centers across the globe including Canada, England, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Philippines, and the United States that were founded under HH Penor Rinpoche's guidance.
Penor Rinpoche's students include the Fifth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, Kyabgon Phakchok Rinpoche, Khentul Gyangkhang Rinpoche and Mugsang Kuchen Rinpoche. Other prominent students include Jara Tulku Rinpoche, Ajam Rinpoche, Chonjur Tulku Rinpoche, Dakmar Rinpoche, Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, Jigme Lodro Rinpoche, Ngawang Jigdral Rinpoche, Ogyen Tulku Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and many others.