Shākya Shrī

Category: Biography

Shākya Shrī was born in 1853, the female water-ox year in Kham, Tibet, to father Naru Donden and mother Nyamtso Dron in a nomadic family. He had an uncle named Pentsa.
As a child, Shākya Shrī was said to be soft-spoken and inclined towards dharma practice. He would often use soil and pebbles as objects of offerings, sometimes sitting on raised stone platforms in a Mahāmudrā pose, imitating meditation. Other times he would act as if conferring teachings on his playmates. According to legend, when Shākya Shrī was about four years old, a beautiful female yogi appeared to his parents and told them that the child had descended from the ḍākinī land.
It was said that he was easily moved by the suffering of others and was often found in tears after seeing others in misery. As a result of his compassion, he frequently dedicated the positive results of his practice towards their benefit.
As a young man, Shākya Shrī worked as a cook at Drugu, a Drukpa Kagyu monastery in the Chamdo region. After completion of his kitchen duties, he would sit and do his practice beside the hearth, tying his hair to the ceiling so that he would not fall asleep. Once, during a profound teaching by First Tsoknyi, Pema Drime Ozer, who was considered a reincarnation of both Rechung Dorje Drakpa (ras chung rdo rje grags pa, [1085-1161] and Ratna Lingpa (rat na gling pa, [1403-1479], Shākya Shrī was serving tea. When Shākya Shrī attempted to listen to the teachings, some of the monks in the audience laughed at him and said that the long-nosed nephew of Pentsa should go back to his kitchen. Upon this remark from some of the monks, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, retorted that they should not mock him, as they would be longing even for a drop of his urine in the future.
After being ordained as a monk at Drugu, Shākya Shrī took lessons in Mahāmudrā from the Sixth Gyalwa Dokhampa, Khamtrul Tenpai Nyima (1819-1907), who became his root teacher. He also received initiations in Dzogchen teachings from Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892).
For many years, Shākya Shrī practiced in the remote mountain caves of the Kham region with his consort Chozang Dolma and their four daughters and six sons. One of the sons, named Pakchok Dorje (1893-1943), was recognized as the mind emanation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Monks who mocked Shākya Shrī at that time referred to him as “the dirty yogi with a large family.”
When the Sixth Dechen Chokhor Yongdzin, Sheja Kunkhyen camped below the cave of Shākya Shrī to give teachings, he had a vision in which he saw the maṇḍala of thirteen-deity Cakrasaṃvara pointing towards Shākya Shrī’s cave. Upon asking who resided in the cave, he was informed of the presence of a “dirty yogi.”
Shākya Shrī became renowned when Chokhor Yongdzin invited him to test his yogic power and, amazed at his achievements, gave him the title of Drubwang (Master of Meditation).
Shākya Shrī was attending a prayer ceremony with about five hundred monks when he first met Ju Mipam Gyatso (1846-1912) at Gatra Guri. At dawn, he saw a vision of Mañjuśrī, orange in color with four arms, holding a sword in one hand, and a bow, an arrow, and a book in the other. He had this vision for a while and later understood that this vision of Mañjuśrī was none other than Mipam Gyatso. He received further teachings from Mipam Gyatso, specifically the Pel Kuntu Zangpoi Monlam, and the two sat together in conversation for fifteen days. Mipam Gyatso commented that Shākya Shrī was also Jampeyang in the human body and called him Shākya Shrījñāna, which indicated his profound understanding of Dzogchen views.
Shākya Shrī’s fame was considerable, and students gathered from throughout the Himalayan region, including Bhutan. Bhutanese masters who were direct disciples of Shakya Shri include Lama Sonam Zangpo (1892-1983), son of the brother of the first King of Bhutan, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck; Lama Monlam Rabzang, from Kangpar Trashigang; Kunlha Tendzin; Sonam Gyeltsen; and most notably Drubwang Ngawang Tendzin Gyatso (1883-1966) who later became the root guru of 68th Je Khenpo Tenzin Doendrup. Other notable students from the Himalayan region were the 10th Gyalwang Drukpa, Mipam Chokyi Wangpo (1884-1930); Ladakhpa; Trulshik Pema Chogyal; etc.
Shākya Shrī stayed in Pemako and Khenpajong in Bhutan and Sikkim and Nepal. In Nepal, he sponsored a renovation of the Swayambhunath and Boudanath stupas and Namo Buddha. His sons later completed these projects.
Towards the end of his life, although continuing to teach, Shākya Shrī told his students that the time had come for him to pass into nirvana, and he showed signs of illness soon after that. When his children and students offered him medicine and prayers of propitiations for him to live longer, Shākya Shrī said that while these would ultimately make no difference, they could continue, as it would bring them merit.
Shākya Shrī passed away in 1919, the earth-sheep year. It is said that he displayed the rainbow body, transforming his body into light.
His disciple Lama Sonam Zangpo edited and has published a few volumes of his teachings.

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