Life and Teaching of Ngulchu Thogme Sangpo (Translated from Tibetan)

Translated By Erik Pema Kunzang

Buddhist Himalaya: A Journal of Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods

Vol. II No. I & II (1989)

Copyright 1989 by Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods


Ngulchu Gyalsey Thogme Sangpo (dngul chu rgyal sras thogs med bzang po) was born in the year of the wood Sheep of the fifth rabjung cycle (1285) in the vicinity of Sakya in central Tibet.

Noble beings always inherently possess the feeling of impermanence but they seem to need a prompt from negative circumstances like in the life example of Prince Siddhartha. In the life of Ngulchu something similar took place. His loving mother died when he was at the age of three, followed by the passing away of his father two years later. His aunt then brought him up until he was nine when also she left this world. Following this, he was taken care of by his maternal uncle who taught him to read and write. At the age of 14 he took the full monk ordination of bhikshu at the age of 29.

Ngulchu Thogmey then engaged in the studies of the teachings of the Sugata, first receiving the bodhicitta trainings according to the systems of both Madhyamika and Cittamatra as well as the empowerments, reading transmissions and oral instructions of Vajrayana. In fact, he tried to receive all the teachings of the sutras, tantras and oral instructions present in the land of Tibet, as well as the Mahasandhi teaching (Dzogchen). In this way he become a great master of Buddhism in Tibet.

As the story goes one day when he was 15 years old, he was able spontaneously to clarify a difficult point in Arya Asnga's Abhidharma-samuccaya, to his teacher and the students in the class. From that time on he was called Thogmey (Asanga). Another time he was bodly infested with lice but refused to kill them and kept the lice until they died by themselves. Chanting dharani mantras for them and making tsa-tsas (clay images) out of their remains, he was given the name Gyalsey, Jinaputra (Son of the Jinas).

About being sick, Ngulchu Thogmey once said, "In actuality, sickness does not exist but in one's deluded experience the feeling of being sick occurs as the effect of one's own negative karmic actions. That shows the unfailing quality of cause and effect. It also shows that sickness is like a magical apparition, it is felt and yet it is unreal. In that way sickness is a spiritual teacher showing the nature of samsara. It is the direct cause for cultivating the patience of accepting pain and for feeling compassion for people who suffer. Since sickness in this way is a most eminent method for purifying the misdeeds and obscurations gathered in former lives. I do not deliberately try to get rid of being sick. Even if I were do die because of this sickness, I will have no deep anguish, so for me there is nothing more joyful than having a sick body."

This great master and true bodhisattva wrote more than one hundred texts clarifying the teachings of the Buddha the most famous of which is the Gyalsey Laglen, The Practice of the Sons of the Buddha.

Ngulchu Thogme passed away in 1369 at the age of 75 accompanied by many many wonderful signs.


Adapted from ccbs.ntu.edu.tw