Lama Tsurlo (also known as Padma Gyalpo) was born in 1923 in the Marko region of Golok in Tibet. He was regarded as a true Dharma master – compassionate, courageous and very straightforward. He was well known for treating everyone equally, regardless of social status or rank. Lama Tsurlo lived the majority of his life with a deformity that caused him to be bent over at the waist. According to some accounts, when he was a young child he had a serious illness. His parents decided to take him to see Anam Chatral for advice. It is said that Anam Chatral blessed him and recommended that the child do prostrations; eventually he was healed from the illness. At the young age of 6 he began to study and read with his uncle Lhundrub Gyatso. At age 12, he studied with Lama Odnor and excelled in art. He went on to become proficient in both Tibetan and Sanskrit style calligraphy.
Some years later he took upasaka ordination from Chaktsa Tulku Padma Trinley Gyatso who gave him the name Thubten Tsultrim Gyatso (his name was later abbreviated to Tsurlo as a term of endearment). Lama Tsurlo also received teachings on the Longsel Ngondro from Gontrul Losang Norbu. He accomplished bum nga (500,000 accumulations) of the preliminary practices at that time. He then studied astrology, medicine and thangka painting from Takla Jigme Namgyal Gyatso, a famous Tibetan doctor and astrologer. He continued his Dharma training with many well-known Dharma teachers and received numerous empowerments and teachings from masters such as Betsa Lama, Gyalsey Padma Namgyal and Khenchen Jampal Gyatso. Around that time he was hired by several communities to chisel sacred images on stones at holy sites such as Chakri and Dholi Doka.
Among his teachers, Apang Terton became his main guru. From Apang Terton he received empowerments, transmissions, and instructions on the full cycle of Apang Terton’s terma writings. He was formally recognized as Apang Terton’s Dharma keeper. He also became very close to Apang Terton’s family. The renowned lama Tare Lhamo, Apang Terton’s daughter, called him uncle even though they were not related by blood. Throughout the course of her life she maintained a close connection with him and would often pay visits to seek consultation; she held him in very high regard.
During his lifetime he traveled to and meditated at many sacred sites such as Drongri, Yutse, Ari Nak, Drupuk and so forth. In his retreats, he recited 400 million mantras of wrathful Padmasambhava. In the 1980s he began to train young people in calligraphy to preserve Tibetan culture. He gave many empowerments and transmissions on the terma writings of Apang Terton, Duddul Dorje and Longsel Nyingpo. One time, Tare Lhamo invited him to the Tsida monastery where he gave a reading transmission of Apang Terton’s terma writings to hundreds of monks. A few years before he passed away he met Choeje Jigme Phuntsok and received empowerment and teaching from him.
He was a true renunciate and lifelong hermit who spent his life in retreat. As he passed away at age 67, he told his attendant Tsodor that in his vision he saw four dakinis who presented him with a white silk charioteer and said, “It’s time for you to go.” In his life, he was a perfect exemplar of the true Dharma. He intentionally never acquired wealth and had no attachment to fame, success or position. He kept all his inner qualities to himself and walked through life with tremendous humility. When he died, he left very few possessions behind aside from a few of his handwritten sacred texts.