Tersé is a Tibetan honorific title meaning ‘son or lineage holder of the Tertön’. Gyurmé Tsewang Drakpa (died c. 1888-9), also widely known as Wangchuk Dorjé, was an emanation of King Jah, and the great tertön Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa’s eldest son. Biographies are not clear, but it is probable that he was born before Chokgyur Lingpa arrived at Pelpung Monastery in 1853 from his homeland in Nangchen. He had been prophesied to spread the Chokling Tersar widely, but he passed away at the age of only 24.
Magical Display of King Jah, Tsewang Drakpa
This line refers to Chokgyur Lingpa’s son, Wangchuk Dorjé, also known as Tsewang Drakpa (Renowned Longevity). He was an emanation of Mañjuśrī and is described here as “the magical display of King Jah.” King Jah was otherwise known as Chögyal Lungten Dorjé, the recipient of the Eighteen Mahyoga Tantras. Wangchuk Dorjé was still very young when he spontaneously recognized the nature of mind all by himself. Before he passed away, he had chanted hundreds of thousands of Mañjuśrī mantras. Due to the power of his training, he developed an incredibly sharp mind, and his insight would leave people speechless. But, when asked for clarification, he would say:
Don’t ask me for mind teachings! I didn’t get up on the roof by climbing one stair at a time. I’m the type who got there in a single leap. Even if I were to describe the state that I train in, you wouldn’t be able to grasp it. I’m not the kind of person who can guide you to the nature of mind.
In terms of his realization and where he was on the paths and bhūmis, I have been told that Wangchuk Dorjé was at an even higher level than his father, Chokgyur Lingpa. In fact, it was predicted by Padmasambhava that he would be the one to reveal all the remaining termas and ensure their propagation. Even as a child, he could see the magical script of the ḍākinīs as if it was right in front of his eyes; he could transcribe the script at will, and any teachings connected with it.
People found Wangchuk Dorjé stunningly handsome. Some even said he had the features of a god and that they had never seen anyone so beautiful. He was quite tall, very strong, and had a noble bearing. His hair was most unusual; it had never been cut and was braided and wrapped around his head. It shone with a dark blue luster and, when he washed it, it never tangled, even if he didn’t comb it. This is known as the “magnetizing tiara,” which means hair that has never once been cut and where a ḍākinī is said to dwell in every strand.
As the son and lineage-holder of Chokgyur Lingpa, Wangchuk Dorjé was supposed to have sons to carry on the lineage, but his life was cut short at the age of twenty-four. Prior to that, they say he had many lovers, but since he was an accomplished yogi who had reversed the flow of the white essence, he never fathered a single child.
When Wangchuk Dorjé went to visit Patrül Rinpoché, he arrived with great pomp and circumstance, with a large following in tow. However, during his time there, he became inspired by Patrül’s teachings. Patrül Rinpoché would often speak about being a child of the mountains, wearing the mountain mist as one’s garments, and behaving like the great practitioners of the Kagyü lineage. He told Wangchuk Dorjé to follow their example: “To practice the true Dharma, one should always take the lower seat and wear secondhand clothing. Nowhere does it say that one should put oneself above others and get all dressed up in brocade.” Wangchuk Dorjé thought to himself, “That’s fine with me!” He dismissed his entourage, shed all his fine brocade, and began to wear a simple felt cloak instead. He also gave up women, took the vows of a novice monk from Patrül Rinpoché, and shaved off all his hair.
Once his hair was cut off, Wangchuk Dorjé couldn’t see the ḍākinī script any longer. In order to transcribe this ‘sign script,’ the syllables have to hover in your vision, but now they had become blurred, were darting about and growing smaller and smaller. Soon he was no longer able to decode or write down any termas. He remained at Patrül’s encampment for several years, but his splendor faded and he became just like any ordinary person. When he finally set out to return home, Wangchuk Dorjé was walking on foot, with a staff in one hand, like a mendicant beggar, and with only a single yak as a pack animal. By then, he had become quite wan and frail. He walked all the way back to Dzongsar monastery from Patrül’s encampment at Golok in the northern part of Kham. However, just as they were approaching the monastery, Wangchuk Dorjé fell ill. He died a few days later at Jamyang Khyentsé’s mountain retreat, the famous Fortress of the Gathering Place of Sugatas.
When the news of Wangchuk Dorjé’s death reached Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo, he expressed great displeasure:
Damn! It was Padmasambhava’s prophecy that this particular son of Chokgyur Lingpa would spread the Chokling termas from the Chinese border in the East all the way to Mount Kailash in the West, benefiting beings like the unfurling of an immense white banner. Now everything is messed up!
Expressing despair in typical Khampa fashion, Khyentsé thumped his chest with his fists. “The auspicious coincidence didn’t last,” he said, with a very morose expression. “He was supposed to be the one to uphold the remaining termas.”Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche in The Great Tertön: The Life and Activities of Chokgyur Lingpa, Lhasey Lotsawa Translations, 2016, pp. 366-68.
Supplication to Tersé Gyurmé Tsewang Drakpa
pakpé yül du kelden gyelpo dzah
King Jaḥ, the fortunate one, in the Noble Land;
gangchen drupé lopön namkhé nying
Namkhé Nyingpo, the realized, in the Snowy Land;
deng dir tsewang rikdzin sé kyi tsül
now manifest as Tsewang Rikdzin, exalted son, who hoists up
drakpé gyeltsen dzin der sölwa dep
the victory banner of fame–I supplicate you.
མཉྫུ་གྷོ་ཥའི་གསུང་ངོ༌། །From Supplications to the Chokling Tersar Lineage Gurus, Rangjung Yeshe & Lhasey Lotsawa Translations (trans. Erik Pema Kunsang, checked against the Tibetan by Laura Dainty and Oriane Sherap Lhamo, and ed. by Libby Hogg), June 2020.
Composed by Mañjughoṣa.