Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, who passed away in 1987, came from a long line of the some of the greatest masters of Buddhism in India and Tibet. A direct descendant of Tibet's king Trison Detsen, the pearls in his succession of rebirths include the Buddha's disciple Shariputra, the Brahmin Saraha, Rongzompa, Dudjom Lingpa, and many more in between. Known as a great terton, or treasure revealer, Rinpoche was also known for his many works preserving the wider Nyingma tradition. His Collected Works in Tibetan consist of twenty-five volumes.
Once Tibetans went into exile in the 1950s, the Dalai Lama asked Dudjom Rinpoche to take the title of the head of the Nyingma School, a position that previously did not exist but was beneficial to the tradition, especially in the time of exile.
His Holiness's major work in English is his The History of the Nyingma School, which until the recent publication of The Complete Nyingma Tradition (three volumes thus far with several more on the way), was the largest work published on any school of Tibetan Buddhism. It remains an indispensable resource. A significant chunk of it has been re-translated as part of another work due out in 2019 as well.
The succession of twenty primary rebirths (both historical and prophesized for the future) that include Dudjom Rinpoche is detailed by Thinley Norbu Rinpoche in The Ruby Rosary Joyfully Accepted by Vidyadharas and Dakinis as the Ornament of a Necklace. This book begins with an overview of the arising of the Buddha's teachings across the three yanas and then details each of the twenty figures, masterfully displaying how they have appeared throughout the history of Buddhism, and across lineages and traditions.
You can also see our visual guide to the great beings profiles in Ruby Rosary.
The scope for these readers’ guides is not inclusive of an extensive biography—that role is filled very well by Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal's Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom: The Life and Legacy of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche. This wonderful biography includes an overview of Dudjom Rinpoche’s previous incarnations; his own account of his birthplace and parents; his birth as predicted by Guru Rinpoche; his recognition and enthronement; his receiving of teachings and initiations; his activities including termas, or spreading the teachings; restoring texts; his passing; and more.
Wisdom Nectar: Dudjom Rinpoche's Heart Advice is an incredible collection of Rinpoche's writings and one that is meant to be revisited over and over. The first section is a translation of Essential Advice for Solitary Meditation Practice that he wrote for retreatants at Ogmin Pema Ösel, his retreat center in Tibet. This includes fifty selections on Heart Advice (zhal gdams). According to Rinpoche himself, he wrote this in order to:
"Present essential advice for solitary meditation practice in an easily accessible way. My words will place direct instructions for the practice of innermost secret Great Perfection in the palm of the hands of fortunate individuals. Their previous lifetimes’ positive aspirations and pure karmic propensities have led them to feel heartfelt trust in the teaching of the profound secret Great Perfection and in the Lama who reveals it; and they wish to take their practice to completion. For them, this text will provide an open gate to the path of Great Perfection."
The second section is a translation of The Celebration of Fortunate Ones: A Compilation of the Cycle of Songs of Realization and Songs of Tantric Gatherings, as found within the Collected Works of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, volume ah, pages 269–90. This collection comprises four songs of tantric gatherings and five songs of realization. In addition, there is the profound and beautiful song of tantric gatherings from Dudjom Lingpa’s Tröma cycle.
The third section encompasses the majority of the supplication prayers (gsol ’debs) section from His Holiness’s Collected Works, volume ah, pages 1–105. The few prayers omitted are ones Dudjom Rinpoche wrote at the request of students for a supplication prayer to his or her Lama.
The final section contains a set of aspiration prayers that come from the aspiration prayers section called The Ship of Entirely Pure Benefit and Happiness: A Compilation of Aspiration Prayers from Dudjom Rinpoche’s Collected Works, volume ah, pages 427–79.
Counsels of My Heart is a small books with great impact. In these teachings, Dudjom Rinpoche calls upon us to follow the Buddha’s instructions to “get a grip on our minds.” He points the way to giving up our habitual ways of behaving in order to liberate ourselves from suffering. He also offers advice on how to view the Vajrayana teachings—which are said to be so powerful that they can be dangerous if misunderstood or practiced incorrectly. He says the most important point is to study the view of the Great Perfection, which is, essentially, that all phenomena are empty by nature. But this mustn’t cause us to fall into the trap of acting on our own meager understanding. He says: “Like eagles soaring in space, we should be clearly convinced of the view, but at the same time we should heed the karmic principle of cause and effect.”
This book features talks to students presented in Dudjom Rinpoche’s characteristically incisive and direct style, bringing the timeless heart-counsels of this great teacher, who was known for not mincing his words, vividly to life.
This is available as an audiobook read by actor Simon Callow:
A Torch Lighting the Way to Freedom is an incredible book. In the Nyingma tradition, including of course the Dudjom Tersar lineage, the ngondro, or foundational practices, are essential. Two of the most famous texts for ngondro practice among Nyingmapas is Patrul Rinpoche's Words of My Perfect Teacher and Khenpo Ngwang Pelzang's A Guide to the Words of My Perfect Teacher, both based on the Longchen Nyingtik tradition of ngondro. These are essential works are for anyone engaged in ngondro practice. However, in Torch, Dudjom Rinpoche presents his own unique take and presents the Dudjom Tersar–specific practices, which differ from—but fully complement—the Longchen Nyingtik.
See also Padmakara's Stephen Gethin who translated this volume discuss it and compare it to The Words of My Perfect Teacher.
One of the scions of a family deeply connected with the Dudjom lineage is Tulku Pema Rigtsal. In his book, The Great Secret of Mind: Special Instructions on the Nonduality of Dzogchen, he invokes Dudjom Rinpoche throughout, frequently telling stories of his life, advice he gave, and quoting him extensively from such works as Calling the Lama from Afar, Aspiration on the Gradual Path of the Wrathful Dakini, Lifeblood of the Mountain Retreat, and more,
The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master includes a short commentary by Dudjom RInpoche on this essential teaching. The translator, a student of Dudjom Rinpoche, refers to him throughout his introductory material, referring in particular to the History of the Nyingma School.
Sunlight Speech That Dispels the Darkness of Doubt contains five works of Dudjom Rinpoche translated by his eldest son and great master in his own right, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. These include:
- Praise to Dudjom Lingpa
- The Sadhana of Fully Enlightened Supreme Vajrasattva, Called "The Daily Practice of the Profound Path, Contained in Essence"
- The Assembly Palace of Great Flawless Exaltation, Radiant Lotus Light
- Calling the Lama
- The Guru Yoga of Receiving Wish-Fulfilling Great Flawless Exaltation
Gyatrul Rinpoche includes a ten page section in his Meditation, Transformation, and Dream Yoga of Dudjom Rinpoche's Illumination of Primordial Wisdom: An Instruction Manual on the Utterly Pure Stage of Perfection of the Powerful and Ferocious Dorje Drolo Subduer of Demons.
This text covers the topics of the union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen as applied in shamatha meditation.
Gyatrul Rinpoche follows this with his own commentary.
Dudjom Rinpoche in Dungse Thinley Norbu's Autobiography
"My father’s name is Fearless Wisdom Vajra. He was born east of the Himalayas in the Hidden Land of Lotus Ornament, as his previous incarnation had predicted. His mother’s family came from Dragonland. When he was young, because of his graceful, androgynous appearance, it was sometimes difficult for strangers to recognize whether he was a man or a woman. He had long hair that was sometimes left loose and sometimes plaited, and he wore clothes in the Snowland ordinary yogi’s style, except during special ceremonies when he dressed according to the Vajrayana custom. He had many sublime teachers, including Empowered Changeless True Meaning, his previous incarnation’s disciple, who recognized him in this next incarnation. Extraordinarily gifted, he has organized many texts of treasure holders, especially those of his previous incarnation. From the time he was a teenager, profound hymns and songs came to him naturally that awakened readers like the self-sounding of Dharmata. The fingers of old intellectual scholars could not write meaningfully in this way even with their pens aimed in tight concentration just like seagulls waiting at the shore for fish who rarely come. He has written many shastras and given initiations and tantric teachings up to the Great Perfection. His disciples include a great variety of scholars, monks, nuns, laypeople, yogis, yoginis, and lamas, and cannot be numbered. Everyone is spoiled by his gentle nature, and he is always blessing fortunate beings through peaceful compassion and subduing demon-minded beings through exposing their dormant evil qualities. He has no certain, definite ideas, so he just echoes other beings’ demands and desires. He has no self-grasping judgment, so many self-seeking beings often misuse him as capital for their own self-promotion, just as there are many beings surrounding the Gandhola of Bodh Gaya and the Stupa of Boudhanath who do not have even one iota of faith, but are relying on these stupas to do their business."
The Final Public Teaching
The following is an extract from the introduction to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche's Guru Yoga: According to the Preliminary Practice of Longchen Nyingtik:
"The teachings on Guru Yoga presented in this book were themselves given during an extraordinary and historic occasion. No one who was there could ever forget those days during the summer of 1984 in Dordogne in France, when both Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche and Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche-the two most eminent masters of the Nyingma tradition, the living representatives of Padmasambhava, and peerless exponents of Dzogpachenpo-taught to about five hundred practitioners who had come from all over the world. In the mornings Dudjom Rinpoche gave what was to be his last public teaching, on the practice of Dzogchen from Padmasambhava's famous Prayer in Seven Chapters; in the afternoons Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche granted empowerments and gave teachings at his residence, La Sonnerie. Many other masters of the Nyingma tradition who were their students gathered there, including Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, Pema Wangyal Rinpoche, Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche, Shenphen Rinpoche, and Sogyal Rinpoche, as well as five great dakinis, the spiritual consorts of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, Dudjom Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Kangyur Rinpoche, and Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche."
An Audio Interview
On Dudjom Rinpoche's Reincarnation, from Chatral Rinpoche's Compassionate Action:
When the Sun set in the West - when Dudjom Rinpoche passed away in France in 1987 - the moon was there to rise in the East. Chatral Rinpoche, as the Vajra Regent of Dudjom Rinpoche's tradition, is still shining brightly today, illuminating the ignorance of all beings who come into contact with him and guiding them on the path to enlightenment. Dudjom Rinpoche entrusted Chatral Rinpoche to be his Regent for good reason, knowing that Rinpoche would flawlessly preserve his Dharma teaching lineages, such as the Dudjom Tersar, until the point when the next reincarnation of Dudjom Rinpoche was fully trained and ready to benefit beings as before. In the meantime, Chatral Rinpoche has protected those powerful teachings and only passed them on to those disciples who can truly benefit from them. Chatral Rinpoche wrote the following prayer in 1987 to facilitate the swift rebirth of his teacher, Dudjom Rinpoche.
Chatral Rinpoches prayer was answered in 1990 with the birth of Dudjom Yangsi Rinpoche in Tibet, who is the son of the previous Dudjom's son Dola Rinpoche. Chatral Rinpoche was notified of the evidence that Dudjom Rinpoche had reincarnated and he confirmed that the child was indeed Dudjom Yangsi. Chatral Rinpoche consulted with Dudjom Rinpoche's son Thinley Norbu Rinpoche in New York to verify the decision, and Thinley Norbu concurred.
Chatral Rinpoche wrote the following prayer to give Dudjom Yangsi his name, Sangye Pema Shaypa Drodul Rigdzin Thinley Drupadey. Each part of the name is included in the prayer (as indicated in boldface type).
Atop the thousand petals of loving kindness of the lotus of
A wondrous emanation has blossomed forth from the pistil
And taken a form without peer to be a regent of the Buddha, a
tamer of beings.
He appears because of the abundant merit of his fo11unate disciples.
The culmination of awareness holders, possessing vajra body,
speech, and mind,
A wish-fulfilling Lord.
Through your effortless enlightened activity, you bestow
whatever one may desire,
Fulfilling the aspirations of all living beings in the three planes of
Here is a video of Dudjom Rinpoche from the classic film by Arnaud Desjardins, The Message of the Tibetans
Other Titles by His Holiness:
- Dudjom Rinpoche's Vajrakilaya Works: A Study in Authoring, Compiling, and Editing Texts in the Tibetan Revelatory Tradition
- Inborn Realization
- Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the Three Vows
- Bountiful Cow of Accomplishments
- A section in The Great Gate: A Guidebook to the Guru’s Heart Practice.
Another great resource is the collection of free translations from Lotsawa House.
The Dudjom Lineage
The Dudjom incarnation line is based on a prayer Dudjom Rinpoche wrote himself, which lists his previous incarnations. This prayer is called A Chariot of Devotion, A Supplication to the Lives and Liberation of the Great Nirmanakaya Treasure Revealer Heruka Dudjom Lingpa. In it, one can find his main previous incarnations. The list below is adapted from the Rigpa Wiki:
- Yogi Nuden Dorje Chang: tutor of a 1,000 princes who, countless ages ago during the aeon of the Buddha Pranidhanaraja, vowed to appear as Sugata Möpa Ö Tayé (Skt. Adhimukta), the 1,000th and last buddha of this Fortunate Aeon.
- Krishnadhara: chief minister of Indrabhuti of Uddiyana
- Khye'u Chung Lotsawa
- Rongdzom Pandita Chokyi Zangpo (1012–1088)
- Dampa Deshek (1122–1192)
- Palden Ling Je Repa: one of the founders of the Drukpa Kagyü school
- Sakya Trizin Chogyal Phakpa (1235–1280)
- Drum Khar Nagpopa: Khampa yogin who meditated in dark retreat for 18 years.
- Hewa Chojung: Khampa magician and subjugator of enemies of the Dharma.
- Traktung Dudul Dorje (1615–1672)
- Katok Gyalse Sönam Deutsen: as head of Kathok Monastery, he restored and preserved the tradition of the monastery.
- Dudul Rolpa Tsal: yogin, teacher of Jikme Lingpa
- Dudjom Lingpa (1835–1904)
- Dudjom Rinpoche (1904–1987)
- Like many great masters whose abilities are not constrained by our ordinary or linear logic, there are two recognized yangsis: