Trung Mase | The First Zurmang Gharwang

Trung Mase

The earliest manifestation of the glorious Lord of Refuge known as Zurmang Gharwang can be traced as far back as the 14th century, to the time of the Fifth Gyalwa Karmapa, Deshing Shegpa (1384-1425).

The First Gharwang was born as Trung Mase, the son of a learned sage of the renowned Mase family in Minyak, eastern Kham. Auspicious signs accompanied his birth the entire region was curiously illuminated by a celestial light, the skies were filled with rainbows, and fragrance permeated the air. Even at a very young age, Trung Mase displayed the characteristics of a spiritually advanced person. In due course, he severed all worldly concern in preference of a spiritual path.

Among his first teachers was the acclaimed Michok Kunchog Dorje, belonging to an ancient lineage called Chizchen. From him, Trung Mase received many Kagyudpa and Nyingmapa teachings, including the Six Yogas of Naropa, and Khandro Nying-Thig. He became so accomplished in these meditations that numerous omens occurred confirming his attainment.

Further quest for the liberating teaching brought Trung Mase to Tsurphu, near Lhasa, the Seat of the Glorious Karmapa. He arrived whilst the Fifth Gyalwa Karmapa was giving teaching to the lay community.

In his innate wisdom, Trung Mase perceived Karmapa to be the sacred embodiment of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, riding on a snow lion. As the day progressed, in the course of empowerment, he saw His Holiness assuming the form of Dorje Phagmo. He felt so blissful that he was totally immersed in Samadhi, free from all thoughts.

As he approached the Fifth Gyalwa Karmapa for blessings, His Holiness instantly recalled the ancient prophecy of the great Indian Guru Mahasiddha Tilopa which concerned a pledge to return after the teachings he received directly from the Celestial Buddha Vajradhara had been transmitted through thirteen successive lineage holders.

These teachings formed the core of the Whispering Lineage. Among them, the Ocean of Samvara, the Ocean of Vajra, the Ocean of Heruka, the Ocean of the Dakinis, the Ocean of Action and the Ocean of Activities, as well as the Tantra of Jyorwa Yeshi Khagyor, the Tantra of Heruka Bhadra, the Tantra of Nyingpo, the Tantra of the Vajra Dakinis, the Tantras of Dechok Dorje Trengwa, the Tantra of Dakini Sangwai Zo, and the Tantra of Vajradhara Self-Appearance.

His Holiness recognized immediately that the young Trung Mase was the omniscient emanation of the glorious Tilopa, and concurred that he was destined to become the unequivocal holder of the incomparable Zurmang Kagyud Lineage and a successful disseminator of Buddha Dharma.

His Holiness personally ordained the young bikksu, bestowing upon him the name of Mas Lodroe Rinchen Pal, which means “The Precious Jewel of Wisdom”, as if in anticipation of his future grandeur.

Thereafter, Lodroe Richen Pal remained at the feet of his root lama in Tsuphu, and received from him many empowerments, textural transmissions and important Kagyud doctrines including the supreme teachings of the Six Yogas of Naropa, the Mahamudra philosophy of Tilopa, and the oral instructions of the Secret Mantra. He also received in its entirety, the complete oral instructions of the Zurmang Kagyud tradition.

For ten long years, Trung Mase engaged himself in strict retreat, often under conditions of the utmost austerity. Consequently, he emerged as the most spiritually evolved student of the Fifth Gyalwa Karmapa. His learning and insight was said to be so extraordinary that he became widely known as Dubchen Mase. The word Dubchen in Tibetan means “Great Saint”, and is the equivalent of Mahasiddha in Sanskrit.

Later, at the command of the Fifth Gyalwa Karmapa, Dubchen Mase proceeded to Kham in order to benefit the beings there. He was told explicitly to establish a monastery on a particular site on which two great rivers converge before flowing steadily downhill, where the terrain resembled a red horse that was split open. In accordance with a prediction of Dorje Narjolma, this was the precise location of Cakrasambhava’s Speech Abode, and is auspiciously blessed by the deity to ensure the complete success of religious practice.

Holding these instructions dear to his heart, Dubchen Mase travelled the length and breadth of Tibet, in search of a corresponding site. By and by, he arrived at a beautiful valley in Yoshung, and felt instinctively that this was the place foretold by his teacher.

Seeking for an auspicious confirmation, he walked around the village with his alms bowl, reciting the Arya Manjushri Namosamgita (The Song In Praise of The Holy Manjushri). When he got to the part which says, “chokyi gyaltshen legpa dzug” which literally means, “Fly high the victorious banner of Buddha Dharma”, a woman came out of her house and offered food in his bowl. He perceived this apparent goodwill to be an excellent sign and portent for the future, and decided to build a retreat centre there.

Prior to its construction, Dubchen Mae performed many pujas and made vast Torma offerings to appease the protecting deities of the region. From the four directions, springs of water sprouted instantaneously from the ground. Many mundane and wisdom deities miraculously appeared, making immense offerings to Dubchen Mase, pledging unflagging support to fulfil his aspirations.

On one occasion, when Dubchen Mase inquired as to where his attendant had disposed of the torma, the reply was that of “a place with many corners” –that was how Zurmang Monastery derived its name. Zurmang literally means “Many Corners”.

At age forty-three, when he was nearing the end of his activities, Dubchen Mase predicted that he would gain enlightenment in the Pureland of Bon Nyen Dang where the air is filled with wondrous fragrance.

Thereafter, he miraculously dissolved into light, leaving only his hair and fingernails to mark his passing. He was thus known as མཁའ་སྤྱོད་པ, the Heaven-Gone One.

Moreover, in the immaculate vision of the great Nyingma yogin Terchen Chogyur Lingpa, the tradition of Siddha portrayed prominently in the history of The Glorious Lord of Dharma known as Zurmang Gharwang.

Next: The Second Zurmang Gharwang