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Lelung (Pema) Zhepai Dorje was born in 1697 near Machig Labdron's sacred meditation site of Zangri Kharmar in southern Tibet. His father was Kunga Gyaltsen and mother Gyalphur Choeden.

Fifth Lelung Rinpoche (1697-1740)
An heroic figure in the history of the Lelung lineage, the Fifth Lelung Rinpoche, Pema Zhepai Dorje, revealed many sacred teachings, wrote numerous manuscripts and built a new monastery in Lelung Valley

Early in his childhood he was recognized as the reincarnation of Jedrung Tulku by Terton Choeje Lingpa and was given Jam dPal Nag po'i bSam gTan Nyal Chog, a hidden treasure (terma) text rediscovered in Kongpo and others, including pills for longevity obtained from a hidden treasure. At that time, both the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, and Panchen Lobsang Yeshe Rinpoche, through their own divinations, came to the same conclusion and confirmed him as the reincarnation of the former Jedrung (Lelung) Rinpoche.

He learned reading and writing at an early age. The Sixth Dalai Lama performed the ceremony of cutting the first tuft of hair on the crown of his head. He received his novice monk's vows from Panchen Lobsang Yeshe. He was ordained as a Bhikshu (fully-ordained monk) from Yeshe Gyatso, the White Lotus Holder (Chenrezig).

Ruins of Lelung Monastery, 1992
The original Lelung Monastery was consecrated by the Fifth Lelung Rinpoche in 1717. The monastery temple shown in this photograph was built by local villagers in the 1990s

In 1717 he founded the monastery of Thekchok Namdrol Ling with its new monastic community. He studied Indian and Tibetan scriptures at Ngari Monastery in Chulho under many authoritative masters of the time and became the most outstanding scholar in the history of that monastery. Some of his works were used as text books at Ngari Monastery even until the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959.

Later, he became learned in the tantras of both Gelug and Nyingma traditions of Tibet and practiced them. Consequently he had the signs of spiritual accomplishment that accorded with the explanations given in the scriptures. He became so eminent that everyone, scholars and ordinary people alike, highly praised him.

He was renowned for the preservation and promotion of Buddhism in general, and in particular for the following:

  • The oral transmissions and empowerments of the ear-whispered lineage of his own Chief Master Namkha Gyaltsen, the great adept from Lhodak, from whom he received teaching on Je Tsongkhapa's Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Lamrim), which form the confluence of the two great rivers of transmission the vast and profound systems of Mahayana Buddhism
  • The Sealed Secret Visionary Teachings of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, the Omniscient Master
  • His own unique teachings of dPal gar gyi dBang Phyug gSang ba Ye She (Khandro Sangwa Yeshe). This, he taught extensively and perfectly to his disciples in accordance with their interest and disposition, without any exaggeration, but in the true spirit of Dharma

Owing to his great legacy, even today we have the great fortune to hear about his vast Dharma activities for the sake of Buddhism.

Karze Valley, East Tibet
Karze Valley, East Tibet
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