An Extraordinary Woman and Practitioner
Lady Könchok Palden died on June 12, 2019. She was the consort-wife of the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the wife of her second husband, Lama Pema Onchen (Lama Pegyal), and the mother of Sakyong Mipham and Lama Gyurme Dorje Onchen. She was a somewhat hidden but amazing practitioner whose life and times were extraordinary.
Here is a message we are passing on: “For those with a tender connection to Lady Kunchok Palden, who passed away on Wednesday, you are warmly invited to sit with her body at Marpa House this Saturday, June 15, through Tuesday, June 18. There will be two opportunities each day, 10am to 11:45am and 2pm to 6pm. Please arrive during these times and be seated in the shrine room. Small groups will be escorted to Lady Kunchok’s room to sit with her there for a short while.”
In tribute to Lady Könchok, we offer the following account of her life, offered to us by someone who has had a close relationship with Lady Könchok and Lama Pegyal and who with great care compiled this account in consultation with them, which includes biographical material on Lama Peygal and his relationship with Lady Könchok.
Lady Könchok Palden
Lady Könchok Palden (May 10, 1938 – June 12, 2019) is survived by her sons, Mipham J. Mukpo and Gyurme D. Onchen; her husband Pema G. Onchen; and her granddaughters, Drukmo, Yudra, and Dzedrön Mukpo, together with Sonam Onchen.
Trained from an early age as a nun, Lady Könchok accomplished three bardo or dark retreats before she escaped from Tibet in the early 1960’s with Chögyam Trungpa. Her first son was born in a cave near Bodhgaya. Lady Könchok remained in India where she met and later married Lama Pegyal. For the many years that she lived in Bir, Lady Könchok and Lama Pegyal worked as translators for the Library of Congress. In 1974, she gave birth to their son, Gyurme Dorje.
Although she visited Trungpa Rinpoche and Colorado in 1986, Lady Könchok did not move to the United States until 1993. In 2000, during her time at Karme-Choling, she became a naturalized United States citizen. Seated in their home at Marpa House in Boulder, Colorado, Lady Könchok and the Onchen family dedicated their service to the Shambhala lineage.
From her early days as a nun in Tibet to her life in Boulder, she remained a steadfast practitioner, never wavering in her view even when life was difficult. All of those who encountered Lady Könchok experienced her wisdom as unadorned, deep, and unabashedly direct. Throughout her arduous 15 years of dialysis, Lady Könchok viewed the blood-cleansing machine as a bodhisattava. She believed that every human has a chance for a good life. In particular she hoped that women could benefit from her story and attain enlightenment.
Pema Gyaltsen Onchen Rinpoche
We know him as Lama Pegyal. The Onchen Lineage is known as the Great Steam Great Glorious Lion Lineage and is predicted to continue for 180 generations.
Pema Gyaltsen Onchen was born to Dechen Shotso on March 2, 1949 in Kham’s Doshul County near Riwoche. When he was 10, he had a monastery named Thekchok Shedrup Tharje Ling, and every year he took the Dorje Löppön position. Even as a young boy, he did very well during drupchen and drupcho, impressing all with the way he conducted ceremonies. At seventeen, Lama Pegyal received the Könchok Chidu preliminary practice from a nearby relative, Shabdrung Seytrul Rinpoche, known to be a reincarnation of Rolpo Dorje. Lama Peygal went into three-year retreat with his kind and venerable retreat master.
When the red Chinese came and occupied all of Tibet— U-Tsang, Amdo, Kham, Dhotok, Dhome—everything was destroyed. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands went to India as refugees. And, as Lama Pegyal says, “so did I become part of that.” In 1964, Lama Pegyal met His Eminence Kalu Rinpoche and entered a three-year retreat with His Eminence at Tso Pema. After he finished retreat, Lama Pegyal went back to Bir to visit his family.
There he met a woman from Tashi Dzong, near Riwoche. Her clan was the Langza Clan. Her name was Ratna Shri Taray, known in the West as Lady Könchok. They worked together under the late E. Gene Smith, transcribing and preserving ancient texts for the Library of Congress. For the first seven years of his education, Lama Pegyal mentored the young Sawang, future heir to the Shambhala lineage. Lama Pegyal has remained his lifelong tutor for advanced texts and the accompanying rituals.
About the present, Lama Pegyal says, “I wish to benefit the dharma and sentient beings. Therefore I do Mo’s (divinations), bless rupas (sacred statues), and engage in practice for others. That is the way I live my life.” Despite the loss of his country, Lama Pegyal has remained deeply grateful, viewing Marpa House as his new monastery. Through the example of his daily practice and his complete devotion to Lady Könchok, many have experienced his gentle and purposeful being.