Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Kunzang Gyalwa Dupa (Bon Deity) - (with consort)

ཀུན་བཟང་རྒྱལ་བ་འདུས་པ། བོན་ལྷ། 昆桑嘉瓦度巴(本教本尊)
(item no. 18352)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Bon
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Tibetan: Kunzang Gyalwa Dupa and the consort Yum Tugje Chamma (kun bzang rgyal ba 'dus pa).

Kunzang Gyalwa Dupa, the All-good Collection of Conquerors, a combined deity representing the Bon version of the Five Families of Conquerors. He is a peaceful deity who also represents the powers and strengths of all the great Bon deities. He is also regarded as the peaceful form of three of the fiercest deities: Walse Ngampa, Trowo Tsochog Kagying and Lago Topa. He is often depicted with two consorts Tugje Chamma and Namkai Lhamo.

At the lower center is Kundrol Dragpa (circa 1775 [P1681]), wearing a Bon monk's hat and and robes. An unidentified teacher sits to the left and two lay teachers to the right side. The first of the Lay teacher is Shenchen Luga (circa 11th century).

At the bottom left is the 'word protector' Machen Pomra riding a white snow lion. To the right side is Sipai Gyalmo, wrathful, with three faces and six hands riding a dre'u. At the far right side are the protectors Midu riding an otter and Nyi Pangse riding a white horse.

It is very rare to see Kunzang Gyalwa Dupa embracing a consort. Typically the two consorts stand to the right and left of the deity. This depiction belongs to the Bon Sarma tradition as is evidenced by the name inscription of the famous teacher Kundrol Dragpa of the late Bon Sarma of Eastern Tibet.

Jeff Watt [updated 1-2018]


'Bonpo Thangkas From Rebkong' Bon Studies 13, Senri Ethnological Reports 95. Edited by Bon brgya dge legs lhun grub rgya mtsho, Shin'ichi Tsumagari, Musashi Tachikawa, Ysauhiko Nagano. National Museum of Ethnology 2011 Osaka. Plate no. 40 pages 267-269.

Kundrol Dragpa Biography:

Kundrol Drakpa was born in the early eighteenth century in Golam (sgo lam), in the Dresho (dre shod) district in Khyungpo (khyung po). His father, a member of the Mutsa Ga (dmu tsha sga) clan, was called Mongyel Drungmu Wer (smon rgyal drung mu wer), which is a zhangzhung name for Yungdrung Gyelpo (g.yung drung rgyal po). His mother was named Takza Tsering Tso (stag bza' tshe ring mtsho).

It is said that up until the age of four he did not utter a single word. One day, while he was sitting next to the entrance door of the house, he saw a yogi. He hurried back into the house saying that there was a strange old man at the door of the house. Even though the parents were astonished at hearing their son talk for the first time, they checked at the entrance door but could not find anybody. People speculated that yogi was the famed ancient master known as Tonggyung Tuchen (stong rgyung mthu can) who is believed to appear to the fortunate.

According to tradition, the following year, while Kundrol was playing with other children, his father scolded him for wasting his time. Kundrol responded: "Father, what dare you say? If my body appears to enjoy these childish games, please know that my mind is the Absolute Body (bon sku) and is therefore immutable!" All those who witnessed the event were flabbergasted.

During his early childhood, Kundrol’s family lived in Kongpo (kong po) but at one point his father decided that that the family should go back to their land in Khyungpo. It is said that as they were leaving their village, the locals asked Kundrol for an empowerment.

In his early adulthood, Kundrol took ordination vows from Geshe Yungdrung Tendzin (dge bshes g.yung drung bstan 'dzin), the twenty-fifth holder of the Atri (a khrid) system of Bon Dzogchen, and received on this occasion the name Namkha Yeshe (nam mkha' ye shes). The Geshe also transmitted him all the initiations (dbang), reading transmissions (lung) and instruction guidance (khrid) of the outer and inner teachings of Bon. In particular, Kundrol received from him the direct introduction to the Great Vehicle, to the natural state (gnas lugs theg pa che'i ngo sprod). In this context, in the Bon tradition, the expression "Great Vehicle" (theg chen) refers to Dzogchen (rdzogs chen), not to the Mahāyāna, as one would normally expect. From that time onwards, it is said that his knowledge became so vast that he was actually able to embrace in his mind all the teachings of the Buddhas.

After this intensive training with Geshe Yungdrung Tendzin, Kundrol travelled to U (dbus) and Tsang (gtsang) where he met Rinchen Ozer (rin chen 'od zer), the then abbot of Menri Monastery (sman ri dgon). He renewed his vows with him and received on that occasion the name Gyelwa Ozer (rgyal ba 'od zer).

While he was in central Tibet, Kundrol took the opportunity to study with the main master of the Bon lineages associated with the Dru (bru), Zhu (zhu), Pa (spa), Meu (rme'u) and Shen (gshen) clans, receiving numerous initiations, reading transmissions, and so forth.

On his way back to his native region he had numerous spiritual experiences which greatly stimulated him. He trained intensively in the yoga of channels and winds (rtsa rlung) and was able to live simply dressed with a cotton robe. He did several long solitary retreats in the mountains and, like most hermits, endure privations, surviving merely with three bowls of tea each day and a small amount of tsampa.

Kundrol Drakpa's root-master, Sanggye Lingpa (sangs rgyas gling pa, 1705-1735), also known as Jangchub Dorje Tsel (byang chub rdo rje rtsal). Shardza Tashi Gyeltsen (shar rdza bkra shis rgyal mtshan, 1859-1934), the biographer of the main source of the present rendering of Kundrol's life, does not mention Sanggye Lingpa, despite the crucial role the latter played in Kundrol’s life. This silence should not be viewed as a political choice, given that Sanggye Lingpa is one of the main incarnation lines of the New Bon tradition. Rather it reflects the fact that Sanggye Lingpa did not play a role in the lineage and tradition of the Instructions on the Primordial A (A khrid), the subject of Shardza Tashi Gyeltsen's book.

Throughout his life, Kundrol Drakpa never stopped turning the Wheel of Bon through teaching, debating and composing a gigantic volume of works. He is renowned for his cycle on Peaceful and Wrathful deities (zhi khro), as well as several key works on Great Perfection teachings, starting with a short cycle entitled Pointing Directly at the Essentials (dmar mo mdzub tshugs). This cycle is directly associated with Atri system and actually represents an effort in incorporating special practices into Atri, such as secret instructions on the third initiation (previously unknown in Atri), as well as instructions on "Passing over the Crest" (thod rgal), the most secret and profound instructions of the entire Dzogchen tradition. This cycle is actually based on oral instructions going back to Tagu Nyigyel (sta gu nyi rgyal, 17th century) who introduced these practices in the curriculum of the Atri instructions. Kundrol Drakpa is counted as the twenty-sixth holder of the Atri lineage.

Among his many disciples, five played influential roles in spreading his teachings:

Mushen Kunga Puntsok (dmu gshen kun dga' phun tshogs), Trokhyung Namkha Wangden (khro khyung nam mkha' dbang ldan), Trotsang Tendzin Norbu (khro tshangs bstan 'dzin nor bu), Raton Yungdrung Gyurme (dbra ston g.yung drung 'gyur med), and Tokden Yeshe Tendzin (rtogs ldan ye shes bstan 'dzin), who was born in Tromdzong (khrom rdzong) and was his main heir in this lineage of transmission.

We have no information about the date of his passing. The last year mentioned in his autobiography is 1769 but he probably lived a few more years.

Kundrol Drakpa's incarnations have continued to be identified. They are:

1. Kundrol Drakpa (b. 1700)

2. Luwang Gyelpo (klu dbang rgyal po), born in central Tibet

3. Tendzin Rinchen Tsukpu (bstan 'dzin rin chen gtsug phud)

4. Tendzin Tsultrim Drakpa (bstan 'dzin tshul khrims grags pa),

5. Rigdzin Dudul Lingpa (rig 'dzin bdud 'dul gling pa), born in Derge (sde dge)

6. Hūṃchen Drodul Lingpa (hūṃ chen 'gro 'dul gling pa, 1901-1956), also known as Drodul Drakpa ('gro 'dul grags pa)

7. Namkha Trinle Wangyel (nam mkha' phrin las dbang rgyal, b. circa 1957).

Jean Luc Achard is a researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris and editor of the Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines. Published June 2016

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