The Sakya tradition is one of the four major religious traditions that existed in Tibet, the others being the Nyingma, Kagyu, and Gelug. It is one of the Red Hat sects along with the Nyingma and Kagyu. It rose to play a significant role in the development and spread of the new Tantras that came to Tibet in the 11th century. During the 13th and 14th centuries, the holders of the Sakya tradition were also the principal political powers that ruled over Tibet . Although its political stature gradually declined over the centuries, emphasis on its unique religious traditions continued to be nurtured and sustained.
Consequently the Sakya tradition strengthened and flourished and produced many great and distinguished practitioners, saints, and scholars. The origins of the Sakya tradition are closely connected with the ancestral lineage of the Khön family: a family which itself originated from celestial beings. Beginning with Khön Konchok Gyalpo (1034-1102), the founder of the Sakya tradition, the lineage continues to be unbroken to this day.
The Five Patriarchs of the Sakya Traditon
Five of the foremost luminaries of the Sakya tradition were the renowned Sachen Künga Nyingpo (1092-1158), Loppön Sonam Tsemo (1142-1182), Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147-1216), Sakya Pandita (1182-1251), and Drogön Chogyal Phagpa (1235-1280). Together, they are regarded as The Five Patriarchs of the Sakya Tradition.
The Khön family from which the Sakya lineage has descended is known by three special names, each of which tell a story. Because the family is descended from Gods of the Realm of Clear Light who entered the human realm, the family came to be known as the "Celestial Race." Then because this family subjugated the raksas, a class of harmful spirits, they were called "the Family of Conquerors." Finally, because they also established the Sakya Order, they were known as "The Sakyapa Lineage."
In more recent times, because the palace of the lineage to which the present Sakya Trizin belongs was built next to the turquoise Tara shrine at the Sakya Monastery in Tibet, this divine family also came to be known as the "Drolma Phodrang" or "Tara Palace" lineage.
Lama Choedak Rinpoche is the founder of Sakya Losal Choe Dzong, Rongton Buddhist Training College and heads many of the Sakya centres in Australia as well as New Zealand.
Born in Tibet, Rinpoche escaped with his parents in the early 1960s to Nepal where he completed his secondary education, being the first of the many Tibetan refugees to complete the Nepalese secondary schooling certificate.
He undertook 12 years rigorous training as a Sakya Tibetan Buddhist monk, several of those under the guidance of His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, one of the finest Tibetan teachers of this time (b 1920 - d 2007).
In 1980, sponsored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Rinpoche completed a tradtional three-and-a-half year solitary Lamdre meditation retreat.
He has translated for some of the most important teachers of all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism including the late tutors of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Rinpoche is one of the few Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Masters living in Australia. He has been teaching meditation in the West for more than 25 years and has an excellent understanding of the western mind. His teachings are spiced with the richness of his experience and realisation. Offered from the heart, they are lucid, authentic, humorous and profound.
His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, Ngawang Khyenrab Thupten Lekshe Gyatso, was the head of Tsharpa branch of the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. His Eminence was a renowned tantric master, a dedicated practitioner, an outstanding scholar and an eloquent poet. His Eminence embodied the wisdom, spirit and activities of the holy Dharma.
His Eminence was a master of masters as most Tibetan Buddhist lineage holders are his disciples. Amongst these disciples were His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness Sakya Trizin. Perhaps one can begin to comprehend the greatness of His Eminence through the words of His Holiness Sakya Trizin, who describes the great accomplishments of His Eminence as thus:
"There are many who have attained the wisdom arising from the study of the Scriptures. There are some who have attained the wisdom arising from contemplation of the Dharma. There are few who have gained wisdom arising from meditation. His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche is one who has attained all three wisdoms. One should consider oneself fortunate just to meet him, which is in itself a great blessing."
In addition to His Eminence's stature among Tibetan lamas, King Birendra of Nepal awarded His Eminence "Gorkha Dakshin Babu", a tribute which has never been awarded to a Buddhist monk in Nepal before.
It was often said that His Eminence maintained the style of a hidden yogi as he has engaged in several three-year meditation retreats. Outside of these retreats, His Eminence spent most of his time in deep meditation and practicing tantric rituals and prayers from early dawn to many hours past midnight. His Eminence was regarded as the modern day manifestation of past Indian Buddhist siddha saints such as Mahasiddha Virupa.