Ngawang Khedrup (1779-1838)

Ngawang Khedrup (1779-1838)1 was born in Mongolia and as a child went to Urga to take his monk’s vows. He entered Tashi Chopheb monastery and studied Pramana-vartika. Then, he travelled to Tibet and entered Drepung Gomang college and studied the five classic texts. He finally received the Rabjampa degree and returned to Mongolia. In Urga, Mongolia he became the Grand Patriarch, and the Emperor Daoguang gave him the title Supreme Chief Khenpo.2

Among his teachers were the Fourth Jetsun Dampa, the Eighth Dalai Lama, and the Second Retreng Rinpoche, an early proponent of the development of Shugden within the Gelug tradition. Regarding his collected works, TBRC states:3

Among the great Mongol teachers of the Gelugpa tradition stands Ngagwang Khedrup (1779-1838), the abbot of the Hevajra Practice College of Urga (now Ulan Bator). The original five volumes were from a set of prints from the Urga blocks.

Interestingly this shows there was a Gelug college devoted to practice of Hevajra as late as the 19th century. His written works cover a broad range of subjects, including sadhanas, hagiographies of the Jetsun Dampas, lam-rim, and also a text that presents death, bardo and rebirth.4 Ngawang Khedrup seemed to have an affinity with Buddha Maitreya as sadhanas and praises to him are found in many volumes of his collected works. Included is a guide to a Maitreya statue he constructed that was over 120 feet in height. This was observed in the late 19th century and documented in Mongolia and the Mongolians:5

The burkhan of Maidari, because of its size and symmetry, may truly be regarded as one of the masterpieces of Chinese art. The deity is represented as seated upon a lion throne, and its height in this attitude from the feet of the crown of the head equals fort Mongol tokhai... The burkhan is cast in brass and is covered with thick gilding. Its sides are more than a vershok in thickness and the empty space within, as that in any burkhan, is filled with sheets covered with prayers; in addition to this, it also contains a portion of relics of Tsong-k’a-pa. Funds for the casting of the burkhan were collected throughout Mongolia.

His personal association with Dorje Shugden is noted in Lobsang Tamdin’s introduction (dkar chag) in the Shugden be bum. When he was studying in Lhasa, he was falsely accused of breaking his monk’s vows by a villain and went to the Nechung oracle looking for advice on what to do. Nechung said that only Shugden can discriminate between true and false on this matter. He went to Trode Khangsar and brought the matter before Dorje Shugden. This controversy was shortly resolved, and he returned to Mongolia.6

Among his writings is a short petition to Sonam Dragpa’s life story, bsod nams grags pa'i rnam thar gsol 'debs.7 In here it states that the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden is an emanation arisen from Panchen Sonam Dragpa’s omniscient wisdom. As will be shown, the disciple of Ngag dbang mkhas grub called Ngag dbang ye she thub bstan wrote some rituals for Dorje Shugden and has an important text quoted by many 20th century Gelugpa masters included in his collected works. Thus, this tradition of Dorje Shugden grew generation by generation in Mongolia, finally culminating with Lobsang Tamdin.

1 TBRC Person RID: P4699.

2 Chandra, Lokesh (1963). Materials for a History of Tibetan Literature. International Academy of Indian Culture: New Delhi. pp. 10-11.

3 TBRC Work RID: W16912.

4 Which has a often quoted statement that at the time of the clear light of death, ordinary beings generate the fright that they will be annihilated. Cited in several books, including Reflections on Reality by Jeffrey Hopkins, p. 25, University of California Press (2002).

5 Pozdneev (1971-1977), p. 61.

6 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), vol. X, pp. 399-400.

7 Guru Deva Rinpoche (1984), pp. 119-130.