Ngawang Trinle (ngag dbang ‘phrin las) was born in the Chozar (chos zar) region of Tsang in central Tibet in 1657. At the age of sixteen he took ordination from his paternal uncle, Lodro Namgyel (blo gros rnam rgyal, 1618-1683), a disciple of Taranata Kunga Nyingpo (tA ra nA tha kun dga’ snying po, 1575-1635). From an early age, he studied with Chalung Dorje Drak Tsen from Chalung Monastery. By the time he was twenty years old, he had trained extensively in the so-called middle lineage of Vinaya as well as the Abhidharmakośa, Mādhyamaka and Prajñāpāramitā as well as within the Jonang Kalachakra tradition, having received profound instructions on the six-fold vajrayoga from his uncle Lodro Namgyel. He completed his exams in the presence of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobzang Gyatso (ta la’i bla ma 05 ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho, 1617-1682). Though he was appointed to serve as a representative of a lama at Dzamthang in Amdo, his parents discouraged it, and he decided not to go. Then, at the age of twenty-four, with the death of his uncle and the forcible conversion of Taranatha’s monastery from Takten Damcho Ling to Ganden Puntsok Ling, his place of residence became uncertain. At this time, Ngawang Trinle began to wander, giving teachings at various Jonang monasteries. For six years, he practiced the six-fold vajrayoga at Amitu (a mi tu) hermitage and spent four years teaching at Puntsok Lhundrub (phun tshogs lhun ‘grub) Monastery. He also conferred empowerments and gave instructions from the Jonang tradition to the nephews of Drogge Kunga Pelzang (‘brog dge kun dga’ dpal bzang, 1629-1686) as well as exchanged teachings with Rigdzin Choyang Dorje (rig ‘dzin chos dbyangs rdo rje, d.u) from whom he received teachings on the northern terma tradition and to whom he gave numerous Jonang instructions. In 1707, Ngawang Trinle returned to the seat of Chalung Dorje Drak where he established a school for instruction on the six-fold vajrayoga practices of the Jonang Kalachakra. Having lived for years as a hermit, he became renowned throughout central Tibet for his nonsectarian approach. He was well known within the circles of the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Gelukpa, for the Shangpa Kagyu and Jonang initiations that he transferred to Mok Chog Tulku (rmog cog sprul sku), and for the Sakya and Drukpa teachings that he received from Sangge Zangpo (sang ge bzang po). By 1700, he had established Jonang teachings as part of the curriculum at both the Geluk monastic universities of Drepung and Ganden. He had also become the teacher of numerous prominent Jonang scholars including Choje Kunzang Wangpo (chos rje kun bzang dbang po). In 1719, Ngawang Trinle traveled to Dzamthang where he was celebrated as an accomplished master for the legacy that had spread from his many disciples. He then proceeded down to Sikkim and along the way visited the seat of Taranatha’s close disciple, Kunga Rinchen Gyatso (kun dga’ rin chen rgya mtsho). Late in 1714, by invitation from Lhazang Khan (lha bzang, d. 1717), chief of the Khoshut tribe of the Oirat Mongols who ruled Tibet, and by command of the Second Panchen Lama Lobzang Yeshe (paN chen 02 blo bzang ye shes, 1663-1737), Ngawang Trinle set out to Mongolia. After a yearlong program of giving extensive Buddhist teachings in Mongolia, he planned to return to his home in central Tibet. His fate was to prove otherwise however. Due to the massacre of Lhazang Khan and the hereditary decedents from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery by the Zunghar Army in 1717, central Tibet was off limits and Ngawang Trinle was forced by circumstance to remain in Mongolia where he continued teaching and established several monastic colleges. After a year, he returned from Mongolia to his home in central Tibet. He stayed at Tashi Lhunpo where he gave Jonang transmissions and initiations to the chief of Mongolia and the ruler of central Tibet, Tsetan Dorje (tshe brtan rdo rje). Among Ngawang Trinle’s numerous disciples are his nephew Ngawang Namgyel (dbon ngag dbang rnam rgyal), Je Kunzang Wangpo (rje kun bzang dbang po), Khenchen Chakpa Chopel (mkhan chen chags pa chos ‘phel), Drogge Chokyong Dondrub (‘drog dge chos skyong don ‘drub) and so on. Ngawang Trinle died in 1723. Sources Ngag dbang blo gros grags pa. 1992. Jo nang chos ‘byung zla ba’i sgron me. Beijing: Krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrin khang, p. 69 and p. 280. Nga dbang rnam rgyal. Rje ngag dbang ‘phrin las kyi rnam thar nyung ngu rnam gsal. Unpublished manuscript. Acquired by the Jonang Foundation.
Alternative Name(s): cha lung pa ngag dbang 'phrin las
Period: Later Masters (16th–18th)