Biography of Lama Sonam Zangpo (1892-1982)

Lama Sonam Zangpo from Kurtoe Dungkar was identified as an immediate reincarnation of Boe Rinpoche Kuzho Thrinley and Lingchen Repa Pema Dorje (1128-1188) and was regarded as one of the most enlightened disciples of Togden Shakya Shri (1834-1919). Also Lama was the maternal grandfather of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche.

Lama Sonam Zangpo was born in 1892 in a small hamlet called Dungkar Ruling in Lhuentse. It is said that he was an illegimate son of the younger brother of the 1st king of Bhutan, Dungkar Choeje Gyeltshen. His mother, Sonam Drolma, was an exceptionally beautiful and very kind hearted woman. This way the Lama was actually related to the Royal family by blood.

Amongst many accomplishments, Lama Sonam Zangpo was especially regarded as one of the most experienced masters of all Six Yogas of Naropa, the practice of the Inner Heat Yoga. It is said that he was able to dry a wet cloth by wrapping it around his naked body in sub-zero temperatures just through the power of his Inner Heat meditation in the middle of winter when he was in Tibet.

In 1968, the third king was invited as the chief guest to grace the occasion of the Dantak fair at Dewathang. While Lama, along with large crowd of people of Dungsam Dozhi, was waiting in line at Wangchuk tsethang to catch a glimpse of the king, Lama Sonam Zangpo spent a good deal of time looking up the hill way above Dewathang ridge and then down to Samdrupjongkhar towards which Deori River was flowing like a black snake.

Lama Sonam Zangpo noticed that the slope of the hill looked much like Tsuktor (Ushnisha) of the Buddha and that the hill right below also resembled someone sitting in a cross legged posture.

He thought to himself that if a temple was built in the lap of the figure sitting in the cross legged posture, people of entire Dungsam Dewathang region would enjoy complete peace and happiness.

The Bangtsho community offered him a little more than an acre of land free of charge as a gesture of their devotion and support.

In Thimphu, Lama Sonam Zangpo met with Gelong Nyerchen Drepa who was very influential and very close to the king. He personally offered a donation of ten thousand ngultrum, which was a signicant amount at that time. Lama received additional donations from other generous patrons as well.

Monks of Yongla Gonpa and Gomchens from Kulikata came to Dewathang to built the temple for the Lama. The main supervisor overseeing the temple building project was Meme Sonam Chophel from Kurtoe.

After completion of the temple the principal statue enshrined was that of Buddha surrounded by thousands of brass miniature Buddhas cast in New Delhi in the early 1970s by Khorchen Trulku at the behest of the Home Ministry.

The wall paintings were of the 42 peaceful and 58 wrathful deities dedicated to the deceased ones, based on the Bardo teachings of Terton Karma Lingpa. Hence the lhakhang was named as ‘Zhethroe lhakhang’.

Today at the exact location Chokyi Jamtsho Shedra is established under the patronage of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche.

Source; Melue Rinpochee, Facebook

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