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Life of a Saint

The Great Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (vegetarian): Venerated Master of the Sakya School, Part 1 of 2



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The Great Sachen Kunga Nyingpo was a venerated Tibetan spiritual Master. Known as “the Great Sakyapa,” He was the founder of the Sakya Order and first of the five Sakya Patriarchs. He was also the third Sakya Trinzin, or throne-holder of the Sakya Monastery, and was honored as an emanation of the Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. He brought on an incredible luminous era to Tibet with His Holy presence on Earth, and today we begin to trace the footsteps walked in His Saintly life.

Sachen Kunga Nyingpo was born in 1092 in Sakya, Tibet. His father was Khön Könchok Gyalpo, and His mother was Sonam Kyid (known as Machig Shangmo). There were auspicious and precursory signs before the birth of this great Saint, one of which was the vision by Namkha’upa Chokyi Gyaltsen, revered as the Lord of Mahasiddhas. He saw a rainbow canopy hanging in the air above Kar Ghong Valley, and Avalokiteśvara Khasarpani was standing right in the center, directly underneath the canopy.

Young Saint Sachen was skilled in astrology, Sanskrit, poetry, rhetoric, medicine, gemology, animal-people biology, and psychology, among other things. The future preeminent Master of Tibetan Buddhism exhibited many good qualities. His temperament was charming, calm, disciplined, and very compassionate. Furthermore, people who saw Him were filled with joy; hence He was named Kunga Nyingpo, “Essence of Joy for All.”

As a child, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo received from His father the Hevajra initiation and other Dharma teachings, and He was a strict vegetarian. With the passing of His father and under the advice of Bari Lotsawa, He went on an extended retreat, meditating on the Worshipped Manjushri Bodhisattva of Wisdom. The inner connection with Manjushri was one of the first in a series of conjunctions throughout Master Sachen’s life, and empowered and magnified the Sakya Saint’s ability to grasp the real essence of all phenomena.

At 12 years old, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo was sent to study Adhidharma with Geshe Drang Ti Dharma Nyingpo, who was the most revered teacher in this subject at the time. Another renowned teacher of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo was Khön Jechuwa Dralhabar. Among many disciples, the swift learner Saint Sachen was the one that Khön Jechuwa Dralhabar appointed to lead the monastery after his worldly departure.
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