Drubwang Shakya Shri (1853-1919) is a widely celebrated spiritual luminary who exemplified both the Drukpa Kagyu and the Nyingma traditions. He was also a Terton who revealed extraordinary Terma teachings, hidden instructions of the profound and unsurpassable Ati Dzogpa-Chenpo. Shakya Shri was at the same time master and disciple of the famed practitioners of Dzogchen Nyagla-Rangrig Rinpoche (1847-1903), the root Guru of Rigdzin Changchub Dorje (1826-1961), who was the root Guru of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, and Adzom Drugpa Drodul Pawo Dorje (1842-1924). The Great Mipham Namgyal Gyatso (1846-1912) and Adzom Drugpa recognized him as a manifestation of the glorious Mahasiddha Sarahapa (B.A. 659-664) and regarded him as the bearer of the marvelous Victory Banner of the Teachings of Mahamudra and Dzogchen.
According to his previous incarnations, he was once born as the Mahasiddha Saraha, who was the forefather of an ocean of realized beings, whose fame even today is still widespread in Tibet. Again he was born in India as the great scholar-adept Naropa (956-1040), protector of the northern gate of the Vikramashila monastic university, and one of the foremost eighty-four Tantric Adepts of India. Once he was born as Lingchen Repa (1128-1188), called the ‘Saraha of Tibet’, for his name as a highly realized being reached the plains of the River Ganges or Ganga. In this life, Shakya Shri was born in 1853 into the Naru family, on the Northern border of Drugu, in the highland pasture called Beru, Kham Tibet.
As a boy, he served as the attendant of a monk of a monastic college in Chamdo. When he grew up, he entered the Drugu Monastery by the help of his uncle Pema, an attendant of Drugu Choegyal Tenzin Gyatso Rinpoche. Gradually, he met the sixth Khamtrul Tenpe Nyima (1849-1907), who was staying in secluded retreat at Lhadrag Yangdzong Cave, from whom Shakya Shri received the main introduction to the nature of mind known as the ‘Mahamudra of the Innate Yoga’ (Chag-Chen-Lhen-Cig-Kye-Jor). Shakya Shri received many special instructions from Drubwang Tsoknyi Rinpoche (1849-1904), and chose the secret path, entering the lineage of the oral transmission of Dakinis.
As he had been urged by his masters, and by a Dakini’s prediction, he took Choesang Dolma from the Thotsawa family, who bore the signs of a Dakini, as his secret partner for training in the ‘other-body method’ (Shen-Lue-Thab). His first place of practice was the Great Cave of Evam in Drugu region, where he undertook strict retreat. He wore simple cotton clothing and went barefoot. He practiced day and night. He lived on whatever he was given and dedicated himself solely to his practice. Not much later, many people began making offerings to him, becoming his benefactors, including Chogtrul Choegyal Rinpoche, several Lamas and incarnate teachers of Drugu monastery, and especially the Khamtrul Rinpoche Tenpe Nyima.
Shakya Shri met Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892) three or four times and received initiations, the liberating instructions and additional teachings on Guru Dewa Chenpo – Guru of the Great Bliss – and the Terma of Khyentse himself and so forth. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo empowered him with these transmissions and then requested Shakya Shri to be their holder. According to the advice of Khyentse Rinpoche, Shakya Shri went to meet Jamgon Kongtrul Lodoe Thaye at Ling Dzachukha monastery. He received empowerment, transmission, and teachings from Jamgon Kongtrul such as the ‘Heart Essence of the Dakinis,’ the ‘Single Cut of Dzogchen that Liberates All’ – a Terma by Rinchen Lingpa; the ‘Essential Vajrakila;’ a ‘Profound Dharma of the Oral Lineage;’ the ‘Commitments of the Altruistic Mind of Awakening in Accordance with the Madhyamika Tradition;’ the ‘Amitabha Rite’ belonging to the Namchoe – or Sky Teachings; and so on. Shakya Shri then met Adzom Drugpa and received various teaching transmissions.
From Dza Paltrul Rinpoche, he received the profound teaching on the ‘Guide to the Boddhisattva’s Way of Life’ of Acharya Shantideva. He visited Kathog monastery and received the complete ‘Detailed Teaching on the Mind Cycle of Dzogchen’ from Kathog Trulku Drime Zhingkyong Jigme Yonten Gonpo. In the presence of Dzogchen Khenpo Pema Dorje, he heard the explanations of the ‘Prayer for Rebirth in the Pure Land of Sukhavati’ belonging to the series of Namchoe – or Sky-teachings – of Karma Chagme Rinpoche (1613-1678).
Shakya Shri met Jamgon Mipham Namgyal Gyatso (1846-1912) on two occasions and they spent a long time together discussing in great detail on the ultimate view. Mipham Rinpoche gave him the transmission and the explanation of the ‘Aspiration of Samantabhadra’ and also added ‘Jaana’ at the end of his name, which means ‘primordial awareness,’ and he was thus also known by the name of ‘Shakya Shri Jaana’. He received immense teaching transmissions from Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche. On another occasion, when Shakya Shri was leaving for the sacred place of Tsari, on the way he stopped at the hermitage of Dzongo in Chamdo, where once again he met with Mipham Rinpoche, and they spent the next three days together, and discussed the journey Shakya Shri was undertaking.
Shakya Shri requested Mipham Rinpoche to write a commentary on ‘Chanting the Names of Manjushri, the King of Tantras,’ and at the same time he received the teaching transmission of the ‘Prayer that Pacifies the Times of Decline, The Guru Yoga of the Seven Verses,’ and its commentary, entitled the ‘White Lotus.’ When Shakya Shri was about to leave, together the two masters, outside the gate of the hermitage, performed the ritual offering of burning juniper to the enlightened King Gesar of Ling (Gesar Sang). With great affection Mipham Rinpoche circumambulated three times around Shakya Shri’s felt tent and then bade him farewell.
Shakya Shri spent many years of intensive practice at Lhadrag Pema Yangdzong and other places. Shakya Shri spent his entire life practicing the Dharma through relying upon the great masters of his time, and he thus attained the state of Vajradhara. He manifested clear signs of having developed the practice of Tummo, or ‘Inner Heat’, and having experienced an extraordinary state of contemplation of the unborn nature of the mind, he was able to foretell the precise date of the lunar and solar eclipses without restoring to conventional astronomy.
He spent most of his time staying in intensive retreat at the hermitage of Solder, and later travelled to Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, as a pilgrim. He visited Ganden monastery (one of the three great Gelugpa monasteries), Samye monastery (the first Buddhist monastery to be founded in Tibet), Sakya (the monastic seat of the Sakya School), Tsari (the sacred place of enlightened mind), Lapchi (hidden land of enlightened speech and sacred place of Milarepa’s practice), and many other holy places throughout Tibet. Shakya Shri also revealed various Mind-treasure teachings (Gong-Ter) of the profound secret instructions on the preliminaries and on the main practices, as can be found in his Collected Works.
According to the ‘Restoration Project’ envisioned by Shakya Shri, he sent his sons to restore and reconsecrate the three great Stupas at Swayembhu, Boudhanath, and Namobuddha (Tag-Mo-Lue-Jin). Once the fund-raising was over, he sent a group of people to Nepal, headed by Tsewang Jigme, and included two of his sons, Sida Lama, and a few teachers and disciples.
While they were waiting there, Thupten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama (1876-1933), became aware of their wish to restore the Stupas, and accordingly gave his written permission, and he offered ten thousand silver coins as his personal contribution toward the restoration project. The 13th Dalai Lama also decided to send with them Choje Rinpoche, a great master and scholar from Gaden monastery.
The great restoration of the Stupa began in 1917, and the consecration took place in 1918. Once the renovation of the Swayembhu Stupa was finished, Shakya Shri’s sons returned back to Tibet, where the precious Lord of Yogins was staying at Happy Cave. Then Shakya Shri commissioned his sons and his disciples, to renovate both the Boudhanath Stupa and Namo Buddha, which he thought would be beneficial for the Buddha Dharma, and ensure the people’s prosperity.
Having accomplished his service to the teachings and to sentient beings in a truly extraordinary way, Shakya Shri himself said, “It seems I may not live much longer; the time has come for me to move on to the Buddhafield of the Copper-colored Mountain (Sang-Dhog-Pal-Ri).” Not long after, in the female sheep year 1919, at the age of seventy-seven, the master blessed with wonderful qualities appeared to be slightly unwell. On the morning of the nineteenth day, he passed into perfect peace, as if falling asleep, placing his hands in the posture called ‘Avalokiteshvara resting in the nature of mind,’ and displaying various miraculous and auspicious signs.
Shakya Shri began his life as a Yogin and ended his life by achieving enlightenment, through his great devotion and remarkable dedication, like the great Mahasiddhas Naropa in India, and Milarepa in Tibet. While Drubwang Shakya Shri is technically not in the ‘eldest son’ birth lineage of the Ripa family, he was the great grand father of H. E. Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche, and subsequently the great great-grandfather to Gyetrul Jigme Rinpoche and Dungsey Lhuntrul Rinpoche. Shakya Shri is deeply revered and respected by the Ripa family as a great teacher of both Mahamudra and Dzogchen, and is considered to be one of the root teachers of the Ripa Lineage.
Today his spiritual heritage is preserved and continued in many places, including Solder-Tashi-Choe-Gar retreat Center, the first retreat place founded by Shakya Shri and the ancestral home of Mayum Palden Tsomo in Tibet. His hereditary lineage continued through his sons in Tibet, such as the renowned Gyalsey Pagchog Dorje, the mind-incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and many masters of that time recognized him as a direct lineage incarnation of the great Nyingma visionary, Jigme Lingpa. Sey Rinchen Dhondrub was enthroned as the incarnation of the master Ragshe Nunnery, in Nagchukha, on the northern steppes of Tibet, and is currently living there. Ngawang Yeshe Rangdrol, also known as Apho Rinpoche (1922-1974), became an outstanding master and probably the main holder of his grandfather’s lineage. He founded many retreat places in the Himalayan regions: Tibet, Ladhak, Lahoul and Manali. His son Sey Rinpoche, Gelek Namgyal (reincarnation of Pema Choegyal, the renowned Ladhakhi Yogin and disciple of Shakya Shri), is the current lineage holder.