Drubchen Namkha Gyaltsen


grub chen nam mkha' rgyal mtshan

Alternative Name(s):

Tokden Namkha Gyeltsen (rtogs ldan nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan)



Period: 13th–16th // Early Masters

In the very brief sketch of his life by Jonang Taranatha, it says that he was born in a Wood-Bird year. That could however be a mistake of the editors of Taranatha’s Collected Works, as the only acceptable Wood-Bird year would be 1465, the year in which Namkha Gyaltsen’s main teacher, Nyame Sangyé Palsang, passed away.

Namkha Gyaltsen’s father was Rinchen Sönam, his mother Sönam Drölma. From his earliest years onwards, he would constantly repeat the Six Syllables of the Great Compassionate One, and loving kindness and compassion towards beings came naturally for him. An understanding of mind-nature and the various meditative absorptions of shamatha and vipashyana arose without effort.

At the age of eight, he received novice-ordination from Lama Rinchen Tsültrim. At twelve he began to study the Hevajra tantra. At eighteen he went west to Chölung and began studies under Khön Rinchen Gyalwang Drakpa, from whom he also received full ordination. It was this occasion on which he actually received the name Namkha Gyaltsen. He then trained himself for several years in the methods of listening, reflection and meditation of both the sutras and tantras approaches and eventually met with his main teacher, Nyamé Sangyé Palsang. He also met with other illustrious teachers of his time and received teachings and transmissions from them, such as Butön Rinchen Drub, Lotsawa Namkha Drak, Taktsé Gyaltsen Palsang and the Indian pandita Vanaratna, etc.

In particular he received the complete transmission of the teachings and practices of the Shangpa Kagyü from Nyamé Sangyé Palsang, and soon the clear and irrefutable signs of erudition and realisation appeared clearly. He beheld many different yidam deities face to face, such as Kalachakra, Hayagriva, Avalokiteshvara, Vajrayogini and so forth, to name just a few. In his dreams he travelled to many pure realms and was welcomed there by dakinis and Dharma protectors. His compassion for human and non-human beings was unparalleled. When his master Nyamé Sangyé Palsang renovated Kuklung monastery (apparently after it had been damaged by an earthquake), he went there as his servant.

At age 63 he renovated the residence of Langri Tangpa and appointed a caretaker. He also established the hermitage of Ritrö Rabten at Chölung. Eventually he showed signs of sickness and, a few years later, passed away on a tenth day by way of performing the transference of consciousness into the space of suchness, thus merging his mind with dharmakaya itself.

Among his main students was also Gyagom Lekpa Gyaltsen, to whom he entrusted the transmission of the Shangpa Kagyü lineage in particular.

Namkha Gyaltsen is the sixth of the Later Seven Jewels of the Shangpa Kagyü.


Adapted from: dpal ldan shangs pa’i chos skor gyi ‘byung khungs yid kyi mun sel, by Jonang Tāranātha, vol. 34, pp. 194-285 of his Collected Works, dpal brtsegs bod yig dpe rnying zhib ‘jug khang edition. (Translation from Tibetan by Lama Shérab Drimé)