A brief biography of Her Eminence Dorje Phagmo Rinpoche
Who is Dorje Phagmo?
Dorje Phagmo ( Skt: Vajravarahi; literally Thunderbolt Sow is the wrathful form of Vajrayogini. She is considered the incarnation of Drolma ( Skt: Tara ) and the divine consort of Chenrezig (Skt: Avaloketeshvara). She is the “Mother to all Buddhas” – and the Ultimate Refuge for all deities, practitioners, and meditators of the Buddha dharma.
A line from a prayer recited by Shakyamuni Buddha goes:
The precious and sacred womb of Dorje Phagmo. Dwells in it, thousands of Buddhas. It is a place Buddhas come from. It is a place Buddhas live in ultimate bliss.
Several reincarnations of Dorje Phagmo have been recognized in Tibet since the medieval era, which began with the lineage of Samding Dorje Phagmo in the 15th century. In the hierarchy of Tibetan religious figures, Samding Dorje Phagmo is considered the highest female reincarnation in the Buddhist world.
The prophecy of Lama Sonam Zangpo
The prophecy of the birth of the reincarnation of present Dorje Phagmo was given by none other than the great twentieth-century yogi Lama Sonam Zangpo. In 1974, Drubthob Thangthong Gyalpo Rekey Jadrel Rinpoche shared to Dudjom Jigdrel Dorje Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, and to other realized masters the following prophecy:
A baby girl, an emanation of Dorje Phagmo will be born. She will be of great benefit to all beings but she will encounter very big obstacles. If she did not meet these obstacles, activities in the world to help all beings would be even more profound. The reason for these obstacles is that sentient beings are lacking sufficient merit at this time.
The current Dorje Phagmo
The current incarnation of Dorje Phagmo was born Farchen Zangmo in Kabesa in Punakha District, Bhutan on the full-moon of the second month of the Iron Monkey year (1980). Her biological parents were Tandin Gyeltshen and Lhachoe Droelma. Her birth was preceded by many auspicious signs. Among them, her mother saw a ray of light hitting the womb in her dream. The light emanated from a golden statue of Dorje Phagmo, bestowed by a monk. The monk is believed to be Guru Padmasambhava.
Dorje Phagmo was born in a forest, where her mother and two cousins had taken their cattle for grazing. Her birth was welcomed with various forms of rainbow encircling the Sun and lighting the spot where the birth took place. On the same spot, her mother and cousins describe a Dharlam and a sprinkle of rain – a light drizzle, which is considered highly auspicious.
At the moment of her birth, Dorje Phagmo was found to be clean with peculiar birthmarks and imprints all over her body. Since no one could read or understand those imprints, the child was initially perceived to be a bad omen. Some even concluded that the baby might be a witch or an evil spirit, who could bring misfortune to the village. Her poor parents were warned by villagers to dispose-off the baby immediately. Fortunately, her grandfather stood firmly and resolutely beside them in support. And as she grew up, Dorje Phagmo performed many miracles, which amazed the villagers and eased their apprehensions.
The first important moment in her life came when the caretaker of the Royal Stable shared the news of her birth and she received an audience with the Fourth King of Bhutan. His Majesty, upon seeing the unique imprints on her body, told the parents that the baby bore a mark resembling that of Dorje Phagmo. The parents were commanded to take good care of the child and maintain good hygiene. They also received a soelra (gift) from His Majesty The King.
Pursuing the call
When Dorje Phagmo was just one year and three months old, she felt the need to leave her biological parents and fulfill her prophesy. A teenage girl from the same village agreed to carry her to Thimphu – a place where neither had been before.
They set out from Kabesa for Thimphu by foot. A journey that requires crossing the Sinchula, a mountain pass, some 3,300 meters above sea level, that normally takes two days. The two girls were able to complete the passage in just four hours and it is said that the guardian deities of Dorje Phagmo journeyed along with them and even carried them.
When they reached Langjukphakha in Thimphu, the elder girl did not know where to go. Dorje Phagmo, however, pointed to the opposite hill and asked her to head towards it. This is where the nunnery Zilukha Lhakhang located which was then under the 16th Drubthob Thangthong Gyalpo Rekey Jadrel Rinpoche. The story also goes that the day before, Drubthob Rinpoche saw in a vision the arrival of Dorje Phagmo. The nuns of Zilukha had been ordered to arrange a ceremonial welcome for Dorje Phagmo. The nuns were stunned to see a young girl carrying a small baby arriving at the monastery – rather than the expected religious figure with a long retinue of attendants and disciples.
Thereafter, Dorje Phagmo lived under the sacred care and protection of Drubthob Rinpoche and his consort Dolkar in Zilukha Nunnery. This was her first place of learning and Drubthob Rinpoche and Yum Dolkar were her first spiritual parents.
She received initial teachings in the Dharma, and blessings and empowerments from Drubthob Rinpoche himself. Although her identity was kept a secret, many people and religious personalities from Bhutan, Tibet, and Nepal visited her after receiving their own premonitions and visions. Drubthob Rinpoche named her Farchen Zangmo (Farchen: Transcendental; Zangmo: Lady of Auspiciousness)
When Dorje Phagmo turned two, her spiritual father Drubthob Rinpoche passed away. Two years later, Drubthob Rinpoche’s consort, Dolkar, departed Zilukha Nunnery. Thereafter, Dorje Phagmo lived through a series of difficulties.
After almost a year and a half of her difficult life, she escaped to Darjeeling in India. She was not even six years old. There she stayed, received transmissions, and studied in Sonada Gompa under Kalu Rinpoche for about a year. Kalu Rinpoche was a close friend of Drubthob Rinpoche and had presided over the consecration of Zilukha Nunnery. From Darjeeling, she was taken to Nepal, where she stayed for about a year, receiving teachings from various lamas.
At the age of eight, Dorje Phagmo was brought back to Zilukha Nunnery at the request of some of the nuns who had retained a strong faith and devotion towards her. However, she stayed in Thimphu for just five months. Upon the advice of Druktruel Ngawang Khenrab and Ayang Rinpoche, she traveled to Mysore in India in 1988 to study under His Holiness Pema Norbu (known as Penor Rinpoche). For twelve years thereafter, she studied at Namdroling Monastery and received every teaching and empowerment from His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, who also recognized her as a true reincarnation of Dorje Phagmo.
During her studies in Mysore, Khandrola was diagnosed as a blood-related cancer patient. She was medically guaranteed to live just for over a few months. It was a nightmare of difficulties that Khandrola suffered from such illness. Witnessed with few attendant devotees at Kala Bazaar, Thimphu. Today we are all fortunate that cancer and the medical test could not prove right.
In 2000, after completing her studies, she returned to Bhutan spending two years in solitary retreat at Paro Tashi Chhoeling.
Today, Dorje Phagmo Rinpoche continues to work spreading the Dharma – spending much of her time at her monastery in Zhemgang District with occasional visits to Thimphu to raise the necessary resources – and to meet with visitors and her followers.
Since her return to Bhutan, Dorje Phagmo Rinpoche has revealed and discovered numerous ter (sacred treasures) while also manifesting several miracles in people such as leaving her handprints and footprints on rocks, pebbles, and wooden floors, and spending nights alone in places such as Buli Tsho (lake) and helping people recover from chronic illnesses. She has also performed greater miracles which many devotees have witnessed in the first person. All these people are still living and can testify to the events and experiences.
Buddhist door also covered about Khando Rinpoche: read here