Chimé Dorjé was the father of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. His father descended from the nobility of Nangchen, and was a member of the Tsangsar family. His mother, Könchok Paldrön, was Chokgyur Lingpa‘s daughter. Chimé Dorjé had been identified as a young child as a tulku from Tsangsar Namgon monastery but he did not enter into the monastery for training. Chimé Dorjé was a renowned practitioner of Chöd (cutting or “severance” practice).
Perfecter of the Four Visions, Chimé Dorjé
Next in age, after Samten Gyatso, was my father — the fourth incarnation of a master named Dzongsar Sönam Yeshé. After Wangchuk Dorjé died, Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo predicted where he would be reborn. Having made this prediction, Jamyang Khyentsé then asked, “How many sons does Könchok Paldrön have?” He was told, “She had one previously and this year she has had another.” Khyentsé then exclaimed, “Ah! This new child doesn’t have a long lifespan! You must re-name him Chimé Dorjé! It will help to prolong his life.” That is how old Jamyang Khyentsé gave my father his name, which means “Indestructible Immortality.”
I have to admit that my father, in spite of being a tulku, was a bit of a rogue in his younger days. He would carry a long knife and rifle and go out hunting. He delighted in confrontations and a good fight. He was brave and incorrigible, and no one in the district could get the better of him. And this was my father! You could say he had a taste for heroics, and he didn’t change his ways until he was about twenty-two.
At that time, he was acting as Samten Gyatso’s attendant and they had gone to meet Söntar Chönchok, high up on the mountainside. When they arrived at the door of the hermitage, Chönchok came out to greet Samten Gyatso and said, “Welcome, Rinpoché!” Then, looking around, he asked, “Who is this you have you brought with you?” Samten Gyatso replied, “He’s the reincarnation of Dzongsar Sönam Yeshé.” “Ah,” exclaimed Chönchok, “So the Sönam Yeshé incarnation has arrived!” And he bowed down at my father’s feet. Chimé Dorjé tried to sidestep him, but Chönchok kept bowing in his direction, expressing his deep respect.
Finally, my father thought to himself, “Oh darn! How can this lama have such pure perception of an evil-doer like myself? He has such devotion to my former incarnation that it makes no difference to him that I am standing here dressed like a worldly person. How I have wasted my life until now! I have hurt so many people.”
So, due to the skillful intervention of this lama, Chimé Dorjé experienced a complete change of attitude there and then, and said to Samten Gyatso: “Today, in front of this lama, I would like to promise to change my way of life and never repeat any of the evil deeds that I have committed in the past.” Samten Gyatso replied, “If you really mean it, then you should surely do it. But if not, what’s the use in making promises that will only cause you grief later?” Chimé Dorjé replied, “From this moment until I die, I will shed these mundane garments and will only dress and act like a lama!”
From that day onward, my father turned into a gentle person. It is very hard to find anyone as mild-mannered as he was. I never even heard him scold a servant. He never once hit me, but then I never went against his wishes — I attended him just like a servant would. For two years, I managed his household; before that, I was his cook and would make him momos.
Chimé Dorjé requested meditation instructions from Sön- tar Chönchok and was given all the “mind teachings” and oral instructions, as well as the pointing-out instruction to the awakened state. Hence he regarded Chönchok Rinpoché as his root guru. After Chönchok passed away, but before Chimé Dorjé had heard the news, Chönchok appeared to him in a vision in the sky, riding a lion and imparting the oral instructions on meditation practice. My father told me: “From that day on, it was like a sun shining in a cloudless sky. This master was the kindest to me!” With that vision, he had attained stability in non-dual awareness.
Chimé Dorjé had many such visions of masters and yidam deities, and he didn’t tend to keep his premonitions to himself. For instance, before a person of importance arrived at his hermitage, he would tell me that so-and-so was on his way. When I asked who had sent the message, he would say that it had just occurred to him. Sure enough, a short time later the person would arrive.
He carried out a vast number of practices and recitations from the Mah›yoga perspective. He used the Chö system as the framework, but the innermost core of his practice was the Heart Essence of Samantabhadra and the Heart Essence of Chetsün (Chetsün Nyingtik). He would sometimes say to me, “How can there possibly be any difference between the view of Prajñāpāramitā, which is the very nature of Chö, and the view of the Great Perfection? They are completely identical! Ultimately, they all converge in exactly the same state — Mahāmudrā, Dzogchen and Chö. There’s not the slightest difference, is there?”
My father loved going on pilgrimage and would often interrupt serious teachings with ceremonies and picnics. When he gave a reading transmission, you could hear each word distinctly; at the end of a day of hearing him read the sūtras, most educated people could remember what the Buddha had said to whom, and where, and were able to re-tell it to others. It’s interesting to note that when his body was cremated, they found his tongue lying, intact, in the ashes. Perhaps his tongue had been blessed in some way, for it would be hard to find anyone more articulate and with a voice that could project as far as his. When he chanted the Chö songs at his hermitage, they could be heard echoing across the entire countryside. He could read the whole Translated Words of the Buddha in three months, usually one and a half volumes per day, and he gave the complete transmission for it three times.
Chimé Dorjé had such a great voice that, wherever he traveled, people would gather from far and near, to listen to him. Of his many great qualities, one of the more obvious was his power of mantra, which was probably a result of all his Mahāyoga practices.
He was even more famous than Samten Gyatso for his powers to cure sickness and disease. Sometimes people were carried from far away — as much as a two or three-week journey. He would perform the Chö ritual once a week, and the sick would recover and then head for home. During the ritual, they had to lie down as if they had died, giving up all concerns, and in his meditative state Chimé Dorjé would then open his ‘Chö eyes,’ through which he could see the karmic causes of their various diseases and the remedies that were necessary for a swift cure. He would state these aloud, for all to hear.
When people heard why and in what circumstances they had fallen ill, they were often astounded. Not everyone was cured, but by the morning after the Chö ritual it would always be clear whether or not they would recover. He cured a lot of people in this way, receiving plenty of gifts of gratitude, and he was regarded with deep respect. Ask any old person from my region — they all remember Chimé Dorjé and his Chö practice. He died when he was about sixty-three.Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche in The Great Tertön: The Life and Activities of Chokgyur Lingpa, Lhasey Lotsawa Translations, 2016, pp. 379-83.