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The 11th Lelung Tulku Tendzin Phüntsok Löden Rinpoche

The 11th Lelung Tulku Tendzin Phüntsok Löden Rinpoche was born in the 16th rabjung of the Iron-Dog year 1970. Since childhood he had visions of deities and lamas as well as many distinctive and wondrous signs. He attended primary school until the third class after which he left for monastic education. In the 16th rabjung of the Iron Bird 1981, seeking the audience of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he went to Dharamsala to receive a blessing. He then joined Trehor house within Drepung Loseling, one of the three great monasteries (Gelugpa seats) in the South of India. As per the instructions of the Sixth Kyabje Yongzin Ling Rinpoche, Geshe Pedma Ludup took him under his wing. He also attended regular school classes at the monastery. In the 16th rabjung, 1984, in his 14th year as requested by his house, Kongpo Khangtsen in Drepung Loseling Monastery, HH Dalai Lama recognized him as the unmistaken former incarnation of Lelung Jedrung Tulku, one of the three principle incarnations of Tibet. HH Dalai Lama looked upon him with esteem and consideration.

He was enthroned at both Loseling’s Kongpo Khantsan and Loseling’s monastic college. Ling Gumbar Rinpoche Thupten Ngodup, as per the written instructions of HH Dalai Lama, became the tutor of Lelung Tulku. Beginning with the five collected Buddhist texts, and gradually as he matured, he studied the main Buddhist texts. Furthermore, he also received teachings from teachers such as Geshe Menla Tsering and others. All his tutors were peerless and he received extensive teachings – hearing, learning and contemplating them extensively. In 1993, when he was in his 23rd year, according to the wishes of HH Dalai Lama, he went to Tibet and received teachings on the Sangwa Yeshe cycle of teachings as well as others. While receiving teachings, people of Lelung valley were rebuilding his predecessors’ monastery Olkha Tekchok Namdroling.

In 1994 in his 24th year, he obtained a Geshe degree from the major monastic center of Drepung, then he travelled abroad and undertook many virtuous activities for Buddha Dharma and for the sake of sentient beings. In 1996, in his 26th year, he started learning the wide field of Tantric studies at Gyuto Tantric college. When he was there, he was appointed and took responsibility as Khadé Geshe and carried a lot of duties as Geshe as well as a Lama. He received many extensive and profound teachings, oral transmissions and instruction of both Sutra and Tantra from Sarma and Nyingma learned scholars and realised beings, considering them all teachers. They included; HH Dalai Lama, Denma Lochö Rinpoche, Pangnang Tulku Jampa Tsultrim, Dungkar Lozang Trinlé, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Minling Trichen Rinpoche and Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche amongst others, totaling over fifty. In 1997, by emulating the examples of his predecessors, he entered Tantric practice.

In 2003 he established the Lelung Literature Preservation Centre in Dharamsala to research and search for the hagiographies, teachings and dharma cycles of his predecessors. After establishing this centre he managed to locate and obtain forty-six volumes which is gradually being printed into book form. In 2006 for the sake of Buddha Dharma and to revive those dharma texts that are in decline and develop those that have survived, particularly focusing on Tsongkhapa’s teachings, Lelung Rinpoche convened an extensive discussion about the management and supervision of the Gedun Phacho Bhucho project at Norbulinka in Dharamsala. He invited all the Abbots of the three seats; Sera, Drepung and Ganden, upper and lower Tantric colleges and so on. There were also ministers representing the Tibetan Government in attendance. For the meeting HH Dalai Lama also sent a written message of support and appreciation.

After establishing the Gendun Phacho Bucho Project, empowerments, oral transmissions and instructions, and commentaries which were on the verge of decline are now in the monastic colleges. The senior lamas teach and pass them onto the younger generation of monks. Lelung Rinpoche is someone who has not only received and studied the oral transmission of the profound teachings of Vajrayana, but he also practices them in his daily life. He has written the lineage of his predecessors in a book named “A Drop from The Marvelous Ocean of History of the Lelung lineage,” amongst others. As for Lelung Zhepai Dorje, during the time of Buddha Shakyamuni he was the Bodhisattva Da Ö Shyönnu in India. Then he was the Incomparable Dwagpo Lharje (Gampopa). The first Lelung Jedrung was Lodrak Drupchen Lekyi Dorje (1326-1401) The 5th Lelung was Jedrung Losang Trinlé (1697-1740) and was prophesied to be Sangwa Yeshe’s doctrine-holder. Many learned and realized beings have successfully manifested.

The current Lelung Rinpoche’s predecessor, 10th Lelung Thupten Lungtok Chokyi Wangchuk (1909-1962), also joined Loseling College Drepung, after graduating in his studies and contemplation, he obtained the Geshe Lharampa degree. Towards the end of his life he went to Olkha and gave teachings to many karmically fortunate disciples. Whilst engrossed in the two stages of tantric meditative absorption (wyl: thugs dam), after the catastrophic times (Cultural Revolution) under the forceful occupation of the Red Chinese he passed into Nirvana. When the current 11th Lelung Rinpoche first had an audience with HH Dalai Lama. After some time HH Dalai Lama bestowed a certificate of confirmation of his recognition of him as the unmistaken incarnation of the previous Lelung.

He joined Drepung Loseling Monastery in Mundgod. He received and reflected on his teachings obtaining a Geshe degree. More recently since leaving Drepung he now spends time between Dharamsala and London undertaking enlightened activities for the sake of his Dharma centre and the Buddha Dharma. The Lelung Jedrung lineage has recently turned 690 years since the 1st Lelung Namkha Gyaltsen (1326-1401) was born. Whenever the name of Lhodrak Namkha Gyaltsen was mentioned, His Eminence Kyabje Lingtsang Rinpoche, the late senior tutor of H. H. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, would put his hands together in the gesture of deep reverence, and express his infinite gratitude to the 14th century lama. “He was so kind to Tibet. Thank Buddha he stopped Jey Rinpoche [Tsong Khapa] from going on pilgrimage to India after his enlightenment and persuaded him to spend his years teaching the Dharma in Tibet.

Lhodrak Namkha Gyaltsen’s special vajra and skull bowl are in a display case in one of the few reconstructed buildings in Ganden monastery (completely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the late 60’s). A short work called Garland of Supremely Healing Nectar, which is in the Collected Works, contains a recording by Tsong Khapa of a dialogue between Lhodrak Namkha Gyaltsen and the divine bodhisattva Vajrapani himself, done as a teaching for Tsong Khapa and his companions. Though the text does not say so, it must have been a remarkable event, since the tradition says that when Namkha Gyaltsen taught Tsong Khapa, the former was perceived openly as Vajrapani himself, not as an ordinary human being (when Tsong Khapa on other occasions taught Namkha Gyaltsen, Tsong Khapa was perceived openly as Manjushri himself).

Among the invocations of Vajrapani that Namkha Gyaltsen expresses at the beginning is this: “Since You are all beauty of form, please teach the personal instruction that fills the eyes with tears born of the vision of the precept that generates the undissipating bliss!” When Vajrapani is asked about the actuality of the clear light of emptiness, he gives a statement that is so important for practitioners still now in our day: “First the pattern of mistaking the actuality; in general. What we call ‘actuality’ is the introspectively known reality that exists just like this, free from the adulteration of present artificial consciousness, originally clear emptiness wherein nothing is intrinsically established. When a person meditates on emptiness without focusing just on that, he falls into the error of cutting off enlightenment at emptiness, by not freeing his mind from the holding on to emptiness. The sign of error is that thoughts arise such as ‘above there is no Buddha, below there is no hell, the utter lack of establishment of anything is emptiness.’ The fault of the error is that the mind that thinks everything is empty, on the positive side, abandons all religious practices such as devotion, purification of perception, refuge- taking, the spiritual conception of love and compassion, and engages in the enterprises of this life, and, on the negative side, all his practice is contaminated by the activities of sin…

Among the other very interesting teachings given by Vajrapani, he states that Tsong Khapa was the famous Kashmiri pandit (scholar/practitioner) Sumatikirti in a previous life. He also predicts that there will come a time when war will come and the deities and demons of Tibet will be driven out by foreign invasion, but that if the lamas and masters teach and practice well, the Dharma can be restored in Tibet. Now, in the light of the relevance and greatness of the Great Abbot of Lhodrak, Namkha Gyaltsen, how wonderful to meet the present incarnation of that lama, known today as the Lelung Tulku (conscious incarnation), and have his energetic activities to help us out still today. Now with his first book beginning to track the history and search out the works of his predecessors, we can appreciate the impact of the Lelung line over the last half millennium.

The first Lelung, Namkha Gyaltsen (1326-1401), was instrumental in empowering Tsong Khapa’s huge renaissance in Tibet, as already mentioned. His biography shows that he was already a highly developed bodhisattva, an actual manifestation of the bodhisattva Vajrapani, considered the emanation of Vajradhara Buddha, born to collect and guard all Tantric teachings. In the Tibetan tradition, he may be considered the reincarnation of the enlightened soul-continuum of the famous Kadampa Geshe Potowa, a direct disciple of Dromtonpa. The biographies make no suggestions about intervening lifetimes.

The second Lelung Jedrung incarnation appeared after 85 years in 1486. He also had a very distinguished life, becoming a heart disciple of His Holiness, the Second Dalai Lama, Gendun Gyatso (1475-1542), and, once matured and realized, being entrusted with prodigious tasks in developing monasteries in the Flower Valley where Gendun Gyatso had constructed the Chokhorgyal monastery, near the “Soul-lake” (gLatso) of the powerful protector goddess, Palden Lhamo. He subsequently became an important teacher of His Holiness Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588), transmitting to him key teachings of all the Unexcelled Yoga Tantras as well as super-secret teachings of various powerful protectors, such as Mahakala. Gendun Tashi, though a member of the “New Kadampa,” Gandenpa, or Gelukpa order, was very much involved in the nonsectarian study and teaching of important Nyingma order teachings, and shared these interests and practices with both Second and Third Dalai Lamas. He passed away from his body into the clear light in 1559.

The third Jedrung Lelung Rinpoche was Tenpa Gyatso, born in 1560. Recognized at the age of three by Sonam Gyatso, he was installed as a youth in Chokhorgyal and also at Jamba Ling in Chamdo. He received all the heart teachings from the Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso that his previous incarnation had given to that distinguished lama. In his twenties, he accompanied Sonam Gyatso to Mongolia to the momentous meeting with Altan Khan, the ruler of Genghiz Khan’s Central Asian empire, whom Sonam Gyatso converted to Buddhism, and was in turn given the Mongolian name, “Dalai Lama” (“Dalai” being Mongolian for Tibetan “Gyatso,” “ocean”), as the emperor felt the “Presence” (Kundun) of Sonam Gyatso as being just like an ocean of compassionate bliss. Tenpa Gyatso was then sent by Sonam Gyatso to the Wanli Emperor (1563-1620) of China’s Ming dynasty (Altan Khan refused to let Sonam Gyatso himself accept the Chinese invitation), where he became the emperor’s root guru, and in return was laden with offering gifts he brought back to Tibet to further the Third Dalai Lama’s works. Around the same time, the Lelung Rinpoche became the root guru of Panchen Losang Choekyi Gyaltsen (1570–1662), the very important Fourth Panchen Lama, who was the key figure in teaching and supporting the Great Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682). The Panchen Lama wrote of him as follows: “You do not merely masquerade as a learned master; You are free of the artifice of a phony realized master, Your holy conduct is worthy of praise from the holy— Therefore your qualities are reflected in the clear pool of my mind!” Finally, Tenpa Gyatso served as an important teacher of the young Mongolian Fourth Dalai Lama, Yonten Gyatso (1589–1617), before he “manifested the appearance of dissolving his body and mind into the sphere of ultimate reality,” as the traditional expression goes, in 1625. This Lelung Jedrung Rinpoche thus served two Dalai Lamas and a Panchen Lama, among thousands of other disciples, as well as a Chinese emperor.

The fourth Lelung Jedrung lama, Gendun Choegyal Wangchuk (1646-1696), was recognized, ordained, and initiated by His Holiness the Great Fifth Dalai Lama Losang Gyatso, and became as well one of the root gurus of the Fifth Panchen Rinpoche, Losang Yeshe (1663–1737), who wrote his biography and praised him very highly. Like the Fifth Dalai Lama, he was born in an illustrious Nyingma order family, was educated in all the vast teachings of the Gaden order,and had many visionary experiences of the great precious Guru, Padmasambhava and many Nyingma deities.

The fifth Lelung, Jedrung Lobsang Trinley (1697-1740) was recognized as a small child by the Nyingmapa master, Terton Choeje Lingpa, and was much admired by the mystical adept and poet, the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso (1683-1706?). As he grew up he received major teachings form both the great Nyingma masters of Mindroling and the mainstream Gelukpa masters such as the Panchen Rinpoche Losang Yeshe. He suffered through the dislocations that happened due to the Mongolian warlords’ interventions in Tibet, beginning with the deposing and (supposed) death of the Sixth Dalai Lama in 1706, the war between two factions of the Mongols in the next decade, and finally the installation of the Seventh Dalai Lama, Kelsang Gyatso (1708-1757) and the overwhelming intervention of the Manchurian empire in 1720. He had very close relations with the Seventh Dalai Lama during the latter’s youth.

The sixth Lelung Rinpoche, Jedrung Losang Lhundrup Trinley Gyaltsen (1641-1811), was recognized at the age of three by the Seventh Dalai Lama, and considered His Holiness to be his root guru for his whole life. He was educated at Drepung and afterward at the Gyuto Tantric University in Lhasa, where he served as abbot for some time.

The seventh Lelung, ölkha Jedrung Rinpoche Losang Ngawang Tenzin Gyatso (1812-186?), participated in the brief lives of the 9th (1805-1815), 10th (1816-1837), 11th (1838-1856), and 12th (1857-1875) Dalai Lamas, which is probably why little is known about him in comparison to the other Lelung incarnations. Nobody really knows why all these Dalai Lamas were so short-lived but during this period, the Manchurian emperors had representatives (Ambans) and garrisons in Lhasa, and they often interfered with the Tibetan government and society, which was made easier for them by no Dalai Lama coming into a spiritually and socially fully developed majority with the ability and experience to oversee personally the development of the country.

The situation of the eighth Lelung Jedrung, Kalsang Tenzin, was even less clear. His birth and death dates not clearly known, and with a report circulating that he passed away before finishing his education.

The ninth Lelung Jedrung (1905-1909) passed away as a child.

The tenth Lelung Jedrung, Thubten Lungtok Choekyi Wangchuk (1909-1962) was recognized by the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama (1876-1933), who very effectively stabilized Tibet, defeated a plot to assassinate him in youth, coped with the British invasion and the last bit of Manchurian interference in Tibet, discovered the world of international politics during the terminal phase of European imperialism, and proclaimed and maintained Tibetan independence as a recognized nation from 1913 until 1951. The Lelung Rinpoche worked with him during all these difficult times and helped him with all his powers. In 1959, he did not succeed in escaping the Communist Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet, and passed away in 1962.

Finally, after a gap of 21 years, the eleventh Lelung Jedrung Rinpoche was found in 1983, and he is with us today.


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