Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama) - Kunga Drolchog

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 65776)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1600 - 1699
Lineages Sakya, Jonang (Sakya), Shangpa Kagyu and Buddhist
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Monastic

Gender: Male

TBRC: P2387

Interpretation / Description

Jonang Kunga Drolchog seated at the viewers right and Lochen Gyurme Dechen seated in front. This is one of twelve illuminations from the manuscript text, volume two, of Gyurme Dechen.


Biography: Lochen Gyurme Dechen (1540-1615) was a maternal descendent of the great adept Tangtong Gyalpo (grub chen thang stong rgyal po). He was recognized as an emanation of the Indian master Maitripa and was one of the most respected teachers of his time, especially of the Kalachakra practices and the teachings of the Shangpa Kagyu (shangs pa bka' brgyud) tradition. Gyurme Dechen's most important master was Lochen Ratnabhadra (lo chen ratna bha dra, 1489-1563), from whom he received many transmissions, such as Sakya Lamdre and the six-branch yoga of the Kalachakra, probably according to the Jonang system. He meditated on the six-branch yoga in retreat for four years and eight months. Gyurme Dechen studied and meditated extensively on the teachings of the Sakya tradition in general under the guidance of Jetsun Tsemo (rje btsun rtse mo), from whom he received the Lamdre and the Shangpa teachings of Niguma (ni gu ma). He also completed the Hevajra retreat according to the Lamdre system. He studied with many other teachers of different Tibetan traditions, such as Kunga Drolchog (kun dga' grol mchog), who taught him the instructions of Niguma, and Lhatong Lotsawa Shenyen Namgyal (lha mthong lo tsA ba bshes gnyen rnam rgyal). As indicated by his epithet "Lochen" (Great Translator), Gyurme Dechen was a master of Sanskrit language and the various fields of scholastic knowledge. He also became the royal preceptor of Namkha Tsewang Puntsog Wanggi Gyalpo (nam mkha' tshe dbang phun tshogs dbang gi rgyal po), the ruler of the Jang (byang) district of Lato (la stod).

Gyurme Dechen passed various teachings to special disciples who continued the lineages. Among his most important students were the Sakya master Panchen Ngagwang Chodrag (paN chen ngag dbang chos grags) and the Nyingma master Yolmo Tulku Tenzin Norbu (yol mo sprul sku bstan 'dzin nor bu). Gyurme Dechen recognized Ngawang Chodrag as his main heir for the Six Dharmas of Niguma and other transmissions of the Shangpa Kagyu tradition. Ngagwang Chodrag later wrote instruction manuals on the various Shangpa practices according to Tangtong Gyalpo's teachings. Yolmo Tulku received many teachings from Gyurme Dechen, especially the practices of the six-branch yoga of Kalachakra. Gyurme Dechen also gave Tangtong Gyalpo's monastic complex at Chung Riwoche (gcung ri wo che) to Yolmo Tulku. Gyurme Dechen's main heir in the fields of scholastic knowledge was Tagtsang Lotsawa Ratna Sengge (stag tshang lo tsA ba ratna seng ge). Gyurme Dechen wrote many texts, but his most enduring literary composition was his biography of Tangtong Gyalpo, which was the last major study of the great adept's life.

Sources: 'Jam mgon a mes zhabs ngag dbang kun dga' bsod nams. 2000. Dpal dus kyi 'khor lo'i zab pa dang rgya che ba'i dam pa'i chos byung ba'i tshul legs par bshad pa ngo mtshar dad pa'i shing rta. In The Collected Works of A-mes-zhabs Ngag dbang kun dga' bsod nams, vol. 19: 1-532. Kathmandu: Sa skya rgyal yongs gsung rab slob gnyer khang, pp. 431-34.

Cyrus Stearns

[Extracted from The Treasury of Lives, Tibetan lineages website. Edited and formatted for inclusion on the Himalayan Art Resources website. November 2009].

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Thematic Sets
Manuscript: Gyurme Dechen Illuminations
Teacher: Kunga Drolchog
Teacher: Gyurme Dechen Main Page