His Holiness Penor Rinpoche
The Third Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche(1932－March 27, 2009), was the 11th throne holder of Nyingma Palyul lineage. HH Pema Norbu Rinpoche was a great Dzogchen Master (the Great Perfection), and he was recognized as the incarnation of the Great Pandita Vimalamitra, as well as the manifestation of Vajrapāṇi.
Pema Norbu Rinpoche was born in the Powo region of Kham, East Tibet, to Sonam Gyurme (father) and Dzom Kyi (mother) during the twelfth month of the lunar calendar, the year of the Water Monkey (1932). His birth took place during the most bitter, cold, bleak and dry part of the winter season, a time when nothing grows and the land is blanketed with thick, deep, heavy snow. Yet at the time of his birth, sweetly-scented flowers burst into blossom all around the home of the infant tulku.
There are many instances demonstrating Pema Norbu Rinpoche’s extraordinary powers even as a young child. On one occasion Rinpoche was playing with an old and precious vajra when it suddenly slipped through his fingers and dropped to the ground, breaking in two. Fearing a reprimand from his teacher, he quickly glued it back together with his own saliva, making the vajra stronger than ever before. A similar incident occurred later on when, during the Chasum ceremony, he accidentally dropped his ritual bell onto the stone floor. But when Pema Norbu Rinpoche picked it up, it was unbroken and rang even more sweetly than before.
At the age of 15, Pema Norbu Rinpoche left his footprint in stone near Dago retreat monastery above Palyul where it can still be seen today.
Once while he was still young, Rinpoche was approached by an old man who insisted that he practice Phowa for him. Innocently he complied with the request. At the end of the practice, he was shocked to see that the old man had passed away. Immediately Rinpoche started to practice again to revive the corpse lying there in front of him. To his immense relief, the old man came back to life, but instead of thanking him, he shouted, “For heaven’s sake, why did you bring me back? I was already in the Pure Land of the Buddha Amitabha!”
HH Pema Norbu Rinpoche was invited to Palyul Monastery in Tibet and formally enthroned at the age of five. Studying and receiving teachings from numerous masters and scholars, including his root teacher, Thubten Chökyi Dawa (1894–1959) the Second Chögtrul Rinpoche, and Karma Thegchog Nyingpo (1908–1958) the Fourth Karma Kuchen, the 10th Palyul throneholder.
Aged twelve, HH Pema Norbu Rinpoche received from Chögtrul Rinpoche the most important transmissions and empowerments of the Nyingma School, including the great empowerment of the Kagyé and the Rinchen Terdzö empowerments. From the fourth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche he received the terma revelations of the Ratna Lingpa. At twenty-one Pema Norbu Rinpoche was fully ordained by Chögtrul Rinpoche at Tarthang Monastery, receiving all the essential instructions and empowerments of the Nyingma tradition. He then entered into retreat for four years during which his master Chögtrul Rinpoche gave him all the transmissions of the Palyul tradition, following the secret oral instructions of Tertön Mingyur Dorjé's Namchö. HH Pema Norbu Rinpoche successfully completed all the stages of the practice, accomplishing the root recitations of the Three Roots (lama, yidam, and khandro), the Namchö preliminary practices, tummo and tsa-lung, and Dzogchen practices.
Spreading the Dharma
In 1959, Pema Norbu Rinpoche fled with a party of three hundred towards the Northeastern border of India. It proved to be a long and fearful journey, full of tragedy and immense hardship. In the end, only thirty survivors reached India.
The purpose behind Pema Norbu Rinpoche’s flee from Tibet had always been to keep the bright flame of the Buddha Dharma lit and so free sentient beings everywhere from the darkness of ignorance. Immediately upon reaching Southern India he poured all of his energy and effort into creating a centre where the transmission of the Nyingma teachings could be maintained unbroken and where the great living tradition of Palyul could be re-established. In 1963, the year of the Water Hare, in Bylakuppe, South India, with his tremendous courage and resolve, Pema Norbu Rinpoche began to build the monastery of Namdroling.
At the beginning, the entire sum that Rinpoche had at his disposal was 300 rupees. Today, Namdroling is the largest teaching center of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. The monastery is home to a sangha community of over five thousand ordained (both monks and nuns), a junior high school, a shedra for both monks and nuns, and a hospital. Palyul Centers are established around the world, in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the USA, Canada, the UK, France, etc. giving teachings and empowerments to students around the world.
In 1993, as requested by the entire Nyingmapa Community, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, appointed Pema Norbu Rinpoche as the Supreme Head of the Nyingma School, following in the footsteps of HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and HH Dudjom Rinpoche.
Despite his weakening health, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche insisted upon traveling around the world to grant teachings and empowerments to all those who wished to receive them.
In 2009 Penor Rinpoche traveled to Bodhgaya for the Nyingma Monlam Chenmo.
It was there that His Holiness’s health became noticeably more fragile. On March 24, the condition of His Holiness’ health deteriorated and he was brought to the Columbia Asia Hospital in Bangalore. Following this, on March 27th, the first day of the second month, His Holiness returned to Namdroling Monastery. There all the close tulkus, khenpos, lopons, and other students sat around him. At 8:20pm His Holiness looked around at them, closed his eyes, and entered the state of Thugdam. His Holiness came out of the state of Thugdam on the morning of April 3rd 2009, and entered Parinirvana.