The Vajrayogini lineage of practice, transmissions and empowerments are not lost; there still are many great qualified lineage holders. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, the late tutor to H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama was considered by Tibetans to be an emanation of Vajrayogini and is one of the Vajrayogini lineage holders through whom the practice was passed down to modern-day masters such as H.E. Tsem Rinpoche.
Coming from a devout family, Trijang Rinpoche’s father Tserin Dondrub, descended from the uncle of the 7th Dalai Lama, Losang Kelsang Gyatso, and was knowledgeable in religion. His mother, Tsering Drolma, came from the village of Gungtang Nanggong.
Considered an emanation of Vajrayogini, Trijang Rinpoche’s first incarnation was that of chariot driver Chandra. It was Chandra who escorted Buddha Shakyamuni out of the palace for the final time, to renounce his worldly position to become a Buddha. Chandra exchanged his clothes with Shakyamuni before bidding him goodbye, thus leaving him to begin his spiritual path.
Trijang Rinpoche’s early life follows that of many other reincarnated great beings. Miracles were witnessed at the time of Trijang Rinpoche’s birth in Gungtang in the winter of 1901 – it is said that an apricot tree flowered and bore 30 apricots at his birth even though it was deep winter. Before he could walk, he showed great interest in religious paintings, statues, and Tantric ritual implements; and would make as if he was reciting prayers.
News of his precocious actions reached Ngarampa Losang Tendar and Geshe Gendun Dragpa Chen. They were responsible for finding the reincarnation of Losang Tsultrim Palden, who was the Ganden Tripa and former Trijang Rinpoche. Upon hearing of the child, they travelled to his birth place of Gungtang – on seeing them, he yelled out: “Gendun Dragpa!” and later asked him to wash his feet. Gendun Dragpa used to wash the feet of Losang Tsultrim Palden when he had rheumatism. The child also correctly identified the former Trijang Rinpoche’s private Buddha statue, rosary and bowl from among a selection. This and other signs led the search party to conclude that they had probably found the correct incarnation. Upon being given a list of names of several boys who had shown encouraging signs, the 13th Dalai Lama said:
It would be best to recognize the boy born to the Gungtang girl Tsering Drolma in the Iron Bull year as the reincarnation of the former occupant of the Ganden throne.
He was invited by the 13th Dalai Lama to the Lhasa Trijang residence in 1904. Although only 3 at the time, Trijang Rinpoche showed signs of swift learning, quickly and easily learning to read, study and comprehend what he was taught, from the alphabet onward.
In 1906, aged 5, he moved to the Trijang Residence at Chusang Ritroe, where he met Pabongka Rinpoche. It was from Pabongka Rinpoche whom he received his first teaching, Set of Initiations into Manjushri from the Secret Lineage of Tsongkhapa. Pabongka Rinpoche took great delight in caring for the young child. Their strong connection was to last a lifetime and he became Pabongka Rinpoche’s closest disciple.
One year later, Trijang Rinpoche moved to Gepel Ling Monastery at Reteng. At this auspicious place, the birthplace of the Kadampa teachings, Trijang Rinpoche took the five lay Pratimoksha vows and the ten novice vows of a monk. He received the name Losang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso Pelsangpo. More signs of his swift learning were shown – it was at Gepel Ling where he memorised and analysed the meaning of many Buddhist texts, including over half of Madhyamakavatara by Chandrakirti. Later that year he visited Ganden monastery, where he was received by the abbots of Shartse and Jangtse, whom he apparently recognised, along with the main temple, without introduction.