H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo is a greatly accomplished person within Tibetan esoteric Buddhism who attained the rainbow body. He is a great Bodhisattva known and respected by one and all in Tibet. He is also an extremely holy person who has made huge contributions to the Tibetan people. It was this great Bodhisattva who was the father of medicine, ferryboats, bridges, and operas in Tibet. He has brought to the living beings of Tibet limitless blessings. To this day, Tibetan temples and families continue to worship H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo Bodhisattva.
The first Tangtong Gyalpo left the household life to become a monk when he was very young. He studied the sutras and treatises and became good at debating the sutras. Although he possessed the Five Vidyas, he remained modest, simple, and down-to-earth. In order to provide a model of self-cultivation, H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo followed and learned under many people of great virtue. He also engaged in solitary, quiet cultivation for a long period of time at the Eri Temple. Later, he received teachings directly from Dakini Niguma and became a person greatly accomplished in the dharma. People praised H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo with the following words: ¨In the vast realm of emptiness, there is a yogi who intensively studies emptiness and who is like the King of Fearlessness. His name is Tangtong Gyalpo.〃 He has also been respectfully called Zhibai Wangxiu Tangtong Gyalpo, which means the accomplished, free and unhindered Tangtong Gyalpo!
During a certain year in history, there was a serious drought and famine in Tibet. H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo conducted a Dharma Assembly in front of the Sakyamuni Buddha statue in the Jo-khan Temple in Lhasa. At that Dharma Assembly, he wrote ¨A Prayer to Eliminate Famine.〃 Many people then saw Kuan Yin Bodhisattva in the sky disseminating various grains. The famine ended not long after that. There was another time when war and chaos occurred in the Muya district of Kham in Tibet, causing people to leave their homes and wander about. H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo made a vow and wrote ¨A Prayer to End War and Chaos.〃 People in that area very soon after that ended their mutual hatred and instead treated one another in a peaceful, friendly, and loving manner. There was another year when a pestilence broke out in a large area covering a religious site of the Sakya sect, causing countless deaths. The chanting of mantras and the offering of sacrifices could not end the pestilence. Thus, H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo again practiced dharma and wrote ¨A Prayer to End the Disaster of Illness.〃 As a result, the pestilence disappeared forthwith.
In previous times in Tibet, it was very difficult for people to cross rivers. The river waters mercilessly took away peopleˇs lives as they attempted to cross the rivers. Thus, H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo made improvements to ferryboats and began building bridges. In that lifetime, he built fifty iron-chain bridges, sixty wooden bridges, and many temples. One of those temples was the Tangge Lakong (the Tangtong Gyalpo Temple), which was the first temple in the Derge region.
With respect to medicine, H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo established the Medicine King Temple at Jiabori in Lhasa, invented a white pill that cured all kinds of internal medical diseases, and invented a red pill that cured epidemic diseases. Thus, he became the founder of Tibetan medicine. That white pill and red pill are used in Tibetan medicine even to this very day to relieve the sufferings of living beings.
H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo Bodhisattva also wrote many Tibetan operas and established the Ache Lhamo opera troupe, the members of which acted out Tibetan historical stories through song and dance and pioneered Tibetan operas.
H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo was the supreme leader of four esoteric sects within India, Bhutan, Sikkim, Mongolia, and Eastern Tibet. He possessed teachings from many dharma lineages, the most remarkable of which were the lineage to extend oneˇs life and the lineage to bring in wealth and change oneˇs fortune. Everyone in Tibet, no matter what sect he or she belonged to, believed in and practiced such lineages and scriptures. Countless disciples of H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo became accomplished in the dharma under his teachings and attained great supernatural powers, wisdom and great compassion. More than one hundred disciples of his attained the rainbow body or the transformation rainbow body. All Tibetan people know that H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo is truly a great patriarch of Tibetan esoteric Buddhism and a great Bodhisattva. Later, each time H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo incarnated into this world. He was a great patriarch who spread the dharma, liberated living beings, and pervasively benefited people.
H.E. the sixteenth Tangtong Gyalpo Bodhisattva (Thangtrul Rinpoche) took birth in Bhutan. His physical appearance resembles that of Guru Padmasambhava. Even when he sleeps, his eyes remain open. He saw H.H. Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu during a Dharma Assembly that took place in 2005 at Hua Zang Si in San Francisco, U.S.A. In a supernatural state of samadhi, he instantly saw that H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha, the highest ancient Buddha in the dharma realm, had already come to this world again. He at once formally acknowledged H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu as his master. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III asked him, ¨Did you follow and learn dharma under Guru Padmasambhava? Why have you come here?〃 H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo answered that he had received teachings directly from Guru Padmasambhava and from H.H. Sakya Trizin who is the nirmanakaya of Manjushri Bodhisattva. He also said that he had come to request the highest dharma in order to save living beings. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III immediately snapped His fingers, and a dharma bowl manifested awesome power. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III then accepted H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo as one of his disciples who is on the level of a great venerable one and performed an initiation for him. H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo took that dharma bowl back to his home country.
He later learned that the book A Treasury of True Buddha-Dharma about the H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu Holiest Tathagata was about to be published. He thereupon organized many rinpoches to practice the Kuan Yin Dharma one billion times as an offering to His Holiness Dorje Chang Buddha III. He also sent his written congratulations stating that His Holiness is the master of Buddhas, the magnificence of His Holiness is supreme and that in this world no other holy being in history can compare with His Holiness.