A Biography of Gongga Rinpoche
Please note that this work is a direct translation of a text printed in the People Republic of China in 2006. Any references to Tibetan culture, and the historical relationships between Tibet and China are those of the original author and not mine. I will endeavour to provide more detail on the author and the text itself in future releases.
I am not an expert in Tibetan language and so have not attempted to translate the Tibetan names of anyone mentioned in the text, but I have included the Chinese characters for those who might wish to look into this. Unfortunately I have never come across a digital version of this text and so cannot provide this for others to judge and suggest improvements on my translation. I am, however, certain that there is plenty of room for improvement.
I myself can’t remember where I first head about the existence of this text, but I do remember very vividly when I first came across it in the Library of Peking University in 2008. It’s an easy date for me to remember as it was in that period just after the Olympic Games had come to China and I was studying at said university. I’ve held off a long time on putting any of this work out into the world, and I do feel quite emotional to now be going through the process of making it ready for my website. I am still a long way from finishing the whole text, and have other projects that perhaps should take priority, but I hope that this work will find some support from those who value the life and teachings of Gongga Rinpoche…
On the dreamlike, mystical and beautiful Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the Tibetan people live beneath the blue sky and white clouds, their principal modes of production are simple agriculture, handicrafts and animal husbandry, travelling nomadically from generation to generation, and farming the land above the snow-capped mountain and grasslands. During the day they graze their cattle, plough, weed, and labour. In the evening they gather beside their campfires, the boys and girls wholeheartedly singing moving songs, so that they can dance their lively Tibetan folk dances with freedom and beauty. The old folk drinking barley wine and milk tea, calling out encouragement to the young folk. These ancient nomadic people all devoutly follow their own religion of Tibetan Buddhism. They have their own sacred traditional culture, as a result of the backward transportation of the past, a gap drew open in the cultural exchange between the Han and Tibetan people of this ancestral land, this meant that the ancient, extensive and profound spirit of Tibetan Buddhist culture could not be understood and accepted by those people outside of the Tibetan region, this cultural treasure of the ancestral land could not release its very own dazzling light.
In our present 21st century, Tibetan culture has not only become popular and accepted by more Han people, but Tibetan studies have gradually become a popular branch of learning around the whole world. As a result of this the number of people engaged in the research of Tibetan esoteric teachings and Tibetan studies has gradually increased. This mystical and alluring land of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, has already created numerous avenues for Tibet scholars, lovers of Tibetan esoteric teachings, and tourist-explorers to yearn for and explore.
In the Muya (Minya) region of Tibet on the South-Eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau there once appeared a Kham-Tibetan great sage of the White Sect (Kagyupa) whose entire life and energy were devoted to diligently transmitting the culture of the Tibetan people, transmitting the Tibetan Buddhist teaching, and promoting cultural exchange between the Han and Tibetan people. In the history of the transmission of Tibetan esoteric teachings he flashed an epoch-making dazzling radiance, and he is precisely the subject of this book whom I now wish to introduce the reader to – the ninth-generation snow mountain dharma lion Gongga Hutukutu (Gangkar Hutuktu).
Lama Gongga Hutukutu (Lama Gangkar Rinpoche) was born in the nineteenth year of the Qing Guanxu reign (1893), the water-snake year according to the Tibetan calendar, on the fifteenth day of the ninth lunar month (甲午?) (24th October?). He was born in Geleidi Village 格勒底村, Pengbuxi Township 朋布西乡, Kangding County 康定县 in the modern-day Sichuan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Ganzi (Garzê) 四川甘孜藏族自治州, into a half farming and half herding middle-class family. When I say that it was a middle-class family, in fact his family were not well-to-do. Their ethnic name was Zhalang 扎郎, his father’s name was Zhalang Zelei 扎郎泽勒 (Draknak Trinle?) and he was a hunter. His mother’s name was Zhuoma 卓玛 (Drolma?) and she was an ordinary Tibetan farming woman, good-natured, and a devout disciple of the Buddha.
Zhalang Zelei and Zhuoma had not been married long, when Zhuoma became pregnant. Every day from that time onward, Zhuoma silently recited the six-syllable great wisdom mantra of Guanyin Bodhisattva, and every day she went before the statue of Guanyin Bodhisattva, lit offering lamps, bowed and prayed, hoping that the greatly compassionate Bodhisattva could bestow on her a good, kind-hearted, honest and considerate son. Her husband Zelei was also hoping that his wife would be able to bear him a son, so that in the future, when he grew up, he could carry on and develop his family’s business.
Day by day Zhuoma inevitably moved closer to giving birth. At midday on the day before she went into labour, Zhuoma and her husband sat together beside the fire eating zamba and drinking tea, she felt that her body was a little fatigued, so she leaned against the earthen wall beside the fire, and fell into sleep… She suddenly felt that she had unknowingly walked downstairs, and was standing in the centre of the courtyard, looking at the green grass all around her, the leaves on the trees transformed into an array of fresh green lotus flowers. At this time, the sky and the earth shone forth a five-coloured aura, and within the aura arose a thousand petaled lotus platform. Upon this lotus platform stood an incomparably large greatly compassionate thousand-armed thousand-eyed Guanshiyin Bodhisattva with body draped in ornaments and adorned with sublime treasures. The bodhisattva’s eyes opened slightly and looked on her with a slight smile. Zhuoma with great astonishment paid close attention to all that what happening, and just as she was thinking that she would kneel and bow in reverence, she saw the bodhisattva gradually shrinking down, becoming smaller and smaller, until finally transforming into a seven coloured small ball of light. Shining like the sun, this small ball of light suddenly transformed into a beam of light which passed through the crown of Zhuoma’s head and entered into her belly. Startled, Zhuoma instantly awoke and realised that it had all been a dream.
On the morning of the following day, Zhuoma gave birth to a son, whose head was much larger than that of a normal baby, and who had single-lidded eyes. On the day the child was born, there were many strange phenomena in the village, and the people of the village were amazed to see two suns appearing in the sky. In the space above the Zhalang family home a gigantic dazzling rainbow arc spanned the sky from morning to afternoon, lasting for a long time without dispersing. People heard marvellous music in the sky over the village, just like you would hear at a Dharma assembly in the temple; and, both inside and outside the Zhalang family home a rare fragrance reached the nose like curls of incense smoke, but no one could ever say for sure what that fragrance was. This day was precisely the fifteenth day (jiawu) of the ninth lunar month in the Tibetan year of the water-snake. That night there was a great gale, and swathes of snow fell from the sky. The next day, in the early morning, the wind and snow stopped, and on the snow could be seen lion tracks leading from the Zhalang family home all the way to Gongga Temple (Gompa?) in Liuba Township. Pengbuxi Township had a Yellow Sect (Gelugpa) temple known as Guwa Si, and when the great incarnate buddha of Gawa Si saw these auspicious signs he said to the abbot, “this is most certainly the reincarnation of a great incarnate buddha.”
To be continued...
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