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Biographies: The Life of Nub Sanggye Yeshe

Nub Sanggye Yeshe was born in the Dra Valley, surrounded by the mountains of Central Tibet. He was a child of the Nub family clan. In the ancient scripture known as the "Rid-dzin Dus-pa Tsa-wai Gyud," there is a prophecy which refers to the birth of this exceptional child. It reads:

"Most especially, the mystery of the Buddha-embodiment shall be revealed by the precious one called Sanggye Yeshe."

It is thought that this is a prophecy referring to the fact that, as White Manjusri (the enlightened Bodhisattva of Tantric Science), he would be the chosen one to introduce the inner yogic teachings of Buddhahood and preserve them in Tibet.

From the age of seven he began to study under a Tantric master named Odren Pel-gyi-Zhonnu. He was a young man when Guru Padmasambhava came to Tibet, and the youngest of the great Guru's 25 chief disciples. When he received the Empowerment of the Eight Mandalas, his flower fell upon the mandala of Wrathful Manjusri. He was therefore given the Sadhana of Jampal Yamantaka, the slayer of death, as his personal spiritual practice. After practicing for twenty-one days consecutively in solitary retreat, he arrived at a Pure Vision of the tutelary form. This conferred upon him such miraculous power–so it is said–that on one occasion while meditating in the cave of Drag Yangdzong, he pierced the solid rock with his wooden phurba. (A 'phurba' is a ritual spike, or 'magic dagger,' used in exorcism. Although many are made of meteorite iron, Sanggye Yeshe's came from Nepal and was fashioned out of wood.)

Afterwards Nub Sanggye Yeshe received the complete tantric collection and esoteric instructions of Padmasambhava in the Dorje Tsenga Cave, a cave that is located in a place where yogis used to gather on the frontier of Nepal and Tibet.

Sanggye Yeshe visited Nepal, India and Gilgit on seven different trips. He received teachings from Sri Singha in the Cina (Kinaur) Valley, and in other locations met with Vimalamitra, Santagarbha, Dhanasila and many other great Indian masters. In Tibet he received further instruction from Nyag Jnanakumara, Sogpo Palye, and Zhang Gyalwai Yonten. Becoming a great expert of Mahayoga and the mind-section (sems-sde) of Atiyoga, Sanggye Yeshe acquired particular fame as a tantric wizard.

At the age of fifty-four Nub Sanggye Yeshe went to Nepal one further time, where he requested numberless empowerments and teachings from the Master Vasudhara. During the nine months that he then spent in retreat, his mind was liberated and he entered into the abiding nature of Reality. Where ever he traveled after that, the local spirits would come forth to honour him. A little while later, in a place called Omeitsel, he experienced a divine vision of Yamantaka and completely realized his intrinsic nature.

Sanggye Yeshe founded his primary hermitage at the sacred site of Yangdzong in Central Tibet. It was their that he acquired a large following.

When King Lang-dhar-ma came to the throne he overturned the policies of his predecessors and became a vicious persecutor of Buddhist practitioners throughout the land. However, when he attempted to extend this anti-Buddhist attack against the disciples of Nub Sanggye Yeshe, the latter produced such an amazing and frightening display of miraculous power, that the King stayed his hand. It is said that at one point when threatened by a military force, sent to kill him, Sanggye Yeshe faced the armed troop, raised his hand to the sky, and brought down a bolt of lightning that split apart an enormous boulder. The King relented. "I will not harm you nor your followers," he said, and let them go in peace.

Sanggye Yeshe is viewed as the second of the greatest ancient Tibetan Masters to have preserved the Buddhist tantric teachings in Tibet. His transmission survived the dark age brought on by the evil King Lang-dhar-ma. The foremost preserver of the Dharma through that period of persecution was a student of Padmasambhava known as Nyag Jnanakumara; Sanggye Yeshe was the second foremost; and Zur-chen (followed by his son Zur Sakya Senge) was the third. Without them, Buddhism in Tibet would not have survived.

Nubchen Sanggye Yeshe wrote several very important texts; the most valuable from an historical point of view, being the bSam-gtan mig sgron, a treatise detailing the status of Dzogchen meditation instruction in Tibet during Padmasambhava's era.

Sanggye Yeshe passed away into Nirvana in a mass of light when he was 111 years of age.

Among his many incarnations we find Tilopa's teacher Guru Vijaya (10th Century), Terton Zhing-trom (11th Century), Dri-me Kunga (late 14th C.), Tsa-sum Lingpa (early 18th C.), and Mipham Namgyal Rinpoche (1846-1912). As a disciple and student of the great Guru, the enlightened Sanggye Yeshe's incarnations are believed to carry a special transmission pertaining to the Master Padmasambhava. This incarnate line is said to embody Padmasambhava's living presence – in other words, meeting with an incarnation of Sanggye Yeshe is said to be like meeting Lord Padmasambhava in person. Sanggye Yeshe was an amazing, holy Buddhist saint, whose teaching-tradition can be traced in many lineages, both Nyingmapa and Kagyu, up to the present day.

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