Here is Part III of my Dharma pilgrimage travelogue series on Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and the places in Sikkim he is connected to. On Guru Rinpoche day, the 10th day of the lunar month, 5th January 2020, I paid another visit to the Royal Palace, Gangtok (having visited there a few days prior, see more on that here). It seemed an auspicious day to visit again, and necessary too, as if I had missed something the first time I went there a few days before. My intuition gracefully proved correct and this time, at an open side door of the royal palace temple, a monk suddenly appeared out of nowhere and I asked him what was inside. He then led me into the sacred and precious space of (what he told me were) the separate meditation and sleeping quarters of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and his spiritual consort and wife, Khandro Tsering Chodron. I had never seen any photos of these places, never mind entered the sacred spaces with body, speech and mind. It was a major thrill and blessing indeed. I took some photos of the rooms and objects with my simple mobile phone (with the permission of the monk) and have uploaded them to share the blessings here (higher resolution images are available if needed on request). According to an archivist working on Chokyi Lodro, she has not seen these items either and I have requested her to verify the information I was given about them by a monk who showed me the rooms.
Khandro Tsering Chodron: Embroidered pecha and mala
The first room I was led into was that of Khandro Tsering Chodron (1929-2011). Much has been written about this woman who married Chokyi Lodro at a young age. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has been quoted as saying that that: “I watched renowned masters hastily jump off their high thrones when they realized that Khandro was about to walk in. It is Asian custom to denote one’s rank by the seating order and the height of the throne. None of the teachers, no matter how big their title and how elevated their rank, would want to be seated higher than Khandro.”
For a short biography of her life see here. According to that:
”Khandro was born in the Earth Snake year (1929) into the Aduk Lakar family of Kham Trehor, an ancient family of benefactors who supported many monasteries and teachers in Tibet dating back to the time of Je Tsongkhapa. Her mother was Dechen Tso, a princess of Ling, who was married to the two Lakar brothers Tutob Namgyal and Sonam Tobgyal. She became Jamyang Khyentse’s spiritual wife in 1948, at a time when he was in poor health and many of his disciples were urging him to take a consort to prolong his life. For the next eleven years she served as his attendant and devoted companion, receiving countless teachings and transmissions, requesting practices and prayers and putting questions to him in the form of songs…
She accompanied Jamyang Khyentse to Central Tibet in 1955, during which time her tutor Lama Tseten passed away near Yamdrok Tso. From Central Tibet the party went to India and to Sikkim, making their residence at the temple of the Royal Palace in Gangtok. Khandro continued to live there for many years after Jamyang Khyentse passed away in 1959, quietly devoting her life to constant prayer in the presence of his reliquary stupa. During this time she read the entire Kangyur and Tengyur.”
The first room I was led into at the Royal Temple was hers. A simple seat/bed and table were there with her photo on top. I asked the monk if these were her belongings and he replied they were and that she used to meditate in the room. The thick, pecha text was covered with a worn-away woven green cloth and u-med script text inside (see photos). There was also a big statue of Guru Rinpoche in the room. The text seemed completely absorbed in sacred energy and clearly often used. In one corner of the room was the entire Kangyur (see photos). Apparently, these are the ones that Khandro read and studied.
In front of the pecha was a small mala, when I asked the monk if that was hers, he replied that it was.
Inside the pecha it reads in Tibetan U-Med script: legs bshad mkhas pa’i ‘gul bdyan las nag ba tsis dang dgos pa kun tshang bzhugs so//
Jamyang Khyentse : Stupa, Phurba, Statue and Pecha
After spending a little time in Khandro’s room, I was led into the next room upstairs which I was told was the living and sleeping place of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro himself. Entering this inner sanctum was also a rare treat. The curtains were drawn yet some sunlight shining through them. Again there was a seat/bed, a photo of Chokyi Lodro and on the table a covered pecha text, a small stupa, phurba and Guru Rinpoche statue as well as his red worn and well-used hat. What a treat to see and touch. There was also a larger statue in the room of Lhatsa Namkha Jigme who is said to have founded Tashi Ding and who Chokyi Lodro is said to also be an incarnation of. One cupboard in the room contained the Kangyur, which the monk told me had been handrwritten by Chokyi Lodro himself!
Images of mahasiddhas outside the room of Chokyi Lodro at the Royal Temple.
I sat for a while in the room at the foot of the bed where Khyentse Chokyi Lodro was said to have slept and meditated. A truly memorable Guru Rinpoche day indeed, with the outer, inner and secret guru all around! Sharing the blessings, may it be of benefit.
Report and photos by Adele Tomlin, Royal Temple, Gangtok, Sikkim, 5th January 2020.