Penor Rinpoche studied with many lamas, benefiting most
deeply from the warm and close relationship he enjoyed with his great
master, the Second Chögtrul Rinpoche. At his lay ordination, Chögtrul Rinpoche gave
him the name Thubten Lekshe Chökyi Drayang, "Upholder of Buddha's
Teaching with the Eloquent Speech of Melodious Dharma." At Dago retreat
monastery, he received and engaged in the Namchö Dzogchen preliminary
practice teachings of Sangye Lakchang, "Buddha in the Palm of the
Hand." He also learned general subjects, including writing, poetry,
astrology and medicine, and went on to study the sutras with Khenpo Nuden,
Khenpo Sonam Dondrup and Khenpo Gondrup.
At the age of twelve, in the water sheep year 1944,
Penor Rinpoche began to receive the most important transmissions and empowerments
of the Nyingma School. From Chögtrul Rinpoche he received the Great Empowerment
of the Kagyé and the Rinchen Terdzö empowerments, transmissions
and secret sealed protector empowerments. From Karma Kuchen Rinpoche,
he received the Namchö, the terma revelations of Ratna Lingpa and
the major empowerments of the cycles of Kagye and Lama Gongdu.
At the age of thirteen, he received novice (getsul)
ordination and with it the name "Dongak Shedrup Tendzin Chokle Namgyal" (All-Victorious Holder of the Teachings of Study and Practice of
the Sutras and Tantras). At twenty-one he took full (gelong) ordination
with his master at Tarthang Monastery and received a vast number of teachings
covering all the essential instructions and empowerments of the Nyingma
tradition. This lineage of the vinaya is a very pure one, transmitted
to Tibet by Shantarakshita during the time of Padmasambhava.
At the time of his ordination, Chögtrul Rinpoche offered
Penor Rinpoche the yellow robe that had been treasured and handed down
by generations of lineage holders. Despite the tremendous difficulties
of escaping from Tibet, Penor Rinpoche was to carry this robe with him
all the way to India while leaving behind many other precious possessions.
As a direct result, during his life in exile he was able to ordain more than
10,000 monks and nuns, so making a priceless contribution towards the stability
of the vinaya vows and Vajrayana practice during this age of degeneration.
From the great Khenpo of Kathok monastery, Khenpo
Lekshe Jorden, Penor Rinpoche received many transmissions. One special
one was the Kham tradition of the Anuyoga empowerment of the Do Gongpa
Dup through Mokton Dorje Palzang's famous empowerment ceremony "The
River of Honey." Penor Rinpoche also received the ancient tradition
of Kathok monastery and at the same time the empowerments, transmissions
and teachings of Jamgon Kongtrul's "Treasury of Essential Instruction;"
Tertön Dorje Lingpa's "Condensed Utterance of the Lama;"
the Dorje Lingpa terma "Hung Kor Nyingtik;" Ngari's Complete
Condensation of Kagye; and Lerab Lingpa's great terma revelation, the
cycle of Tendrel Nyesel. The transmissions he received from Karma Kuchen
Rinpoche included Nyelpa Delek's Anu Yoga empowerment from the Rinchen
Another of his teachers was Khenpo Khyentse Lodrö,
also known as Khenpo Nuden, from Kathok. In a forest above the Dago retreat
centre, Khenpo Khyentse Lodrö performed the Drupchen of the Anuyoga
Dupa Do, at the same time giving the very first transmission of his newly
written four volumes on Anuyoga. Khenpo told the following story. Before
the second Drubwang Pema Norbu had passed away, he had given the Khenpo
a small knife. At the time he had not given it much thought, but now he
realized what this had really meant. The knife represented the sword of
wisdom, and when he handed it to him, it was as if Pema Norbu was granting
the Khenpo his blessing to finish writing these important new treatises,
so as to be able to transmit them to his next incarnation.
From Khenpo Pema Jigme, a learned Khenpo from the Palyul
tradition in Golok, Penor Rinpoche received the nine volumes of Jigme
Lingpa's collected works, the thirteen chapters of Karma Chagme's "Ah
Cho" and the collected works of So Wangdrak Gyatso. While he was
receiving this transmission, Penor Rinpoche began to make intricately
woven knots in blessing cords with his tongue, something which is done
only by the most highly accomplished masters. He continued to make these
special blessing cords until 1958. They were renowned for affording powerful
protection when worn. One such cord is kept and treasured by one of his
Around this same time, Penor Rinpoche happened to write
the syllable Ah on a white conch shell. Once the ink had worn away, the
syllable remained embossed on the shell. This shell is still kept as a
object of veneration in Palyul monastery in Tibet.
Having received all the transmissions of the Kangyur
and Tengyur, as well as completing a Vajrakilaya retreat, Penor Rinpoche
entered into retreat with his master Chögtrul Rinpoche. To go into retreat
with one's own teacher is a rare privilege enjoyed by very few. Penor
Rinpoche spent four consecutive years in retreat at Tarthang Monastery
in the same room as his master. Already elderly and with failing eyesight,
Chögtrul Rinpoche endured great personal hardship in order to give Penor
Rinpoche virtually all the transmissions practiced in the Palyul tradition
emphasizing the empowerments, transmissions and secret oral instructions
of Tertön Migyur Dorje's Namchö and the terma revelations of
Beginning with Ngöndro, up to the most profound
innermost teachings of Dzogchen, he stressed every practice until the
naked truth was revealed to his young disciple. He said, "If
I am not able to transmit all the empowerments, transmissions and teachings
to the third Pema Norbu Rinpoche before I leave this world, then this
precious human life of mine will have been wasted." With the
constant guidance of his master, Penor Rinpoche successfully completed
all the stages of the practice, accomplishing the root recitations of
the Three Roots (lama, yidam, and khandro), the Namchö preliminary
practices, tummo and tsalung, and the actual foundation practice of the
Dzogchen "Buddha in the Palm of the Hand", including trekchö,
clear light tögal, inner tögal practice, darkness practice,
and training in the dream state, the nature of sound and the pure realms.
HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche once said, "Penor
Rinpoche is a saint who has transcended the boundary of samaya."
By this, he meant that Penor Rinpoche had actualized the experience of
inner wisdom, and so realized the state in which there is nothing to grasp
and nothing to release.