Himalayan Art Resources

Teacher: Jamgon Kongtrul Main Page

Jamgon Kongtrul Main Page | Karma Kagyu Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Jamgon Kongtrul Biography (below)
- Jamyang Kyentse Wangpo Main Page
- Choggyur Lingpa Outline Page
- Shangpa Outline Page
- Dam Ngag Dzo List Outline
- Kagyu Ngag Dzo List Outline
- Rinchen Ter Dzo
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye (1813-1899 [TBRC P264]) was born in Eastern Tibet (Kham) December 13th, 1813. Although coming from a Nyingma family his primary interests were Shangpa Kagyu, Jonangpa, Karma Kagyu and the Nyingma Revealed Treasure traditions. He, along with Jamyang Kyentse Wangpo, Choggyur Lingpa and others were very much involved in the Rime Movement of 19th century Eastern Tibet. He was a prolific writer as well as a compiler of the works of other scholars including their works into larger compendia of contextualized material. The most famous works are called the Five Treasures:

1. The Treasure of Encyclopedic Knowledge (shes bya kun la khyab pa'i mdzod), a massive text covering all of the common and uncommon subjects of Tibetan Buddhism.
2. The Treasure of Precious Instructions (gdams ngag rin po che'i mdzod), the most important texts of eight of the principal transmission lineages of Tibetan Buddhism known as the Eight Chariots.
3. The Treasure of Kagyu Mantras (bka' brgyud sngags kyi mdzod), a collection of the most important practices of the Kagyu Tradition.
4. The Treasure of Precious Revealed Treasures (rin chen gter mdzod), the largest compiled collection of rare Nyingma Termas (Revealed Treasure teachings).
5. The Treasure of Extensive Teachings (rgya chen bka' mdzod), primarily the writings of Jamgon Kongtrul himself such as the commentaries on the Hevajra Tantra and the Khon Tradition Vajrakila, etc.

Jeff Watt 5-2006 [updated 8-2017]

Jamgon Kongtrul Yontan Gyatso Lodro Taye

Gardner, Alexander. 2019. The Life of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great. Snow Lion (Shambhala publications). Boulder, Colorado.

Jamgon Kongtrul Yonten Gyatso ('jam mgon kong sprul yon tan rgya mtsho [1813-1899. TBRC P264]) was born at Rongyab (rong rgyab) in the Derge kingdom in Kham, on December 14, 1813, the water-bird year of the fourteenth sexagenary cycle. He detailed his life and activity in his autobiography, translated by Richard Barron under the title The Autobiography of Jamgön Kongtrul: A Gem of Many Colors. His father was a Bon priest named Sonam Pel (bsod nams 'phel). Kongtrul claims in his autobiography, which has been skillfully translated into English by Richard Barron, that his father was a member of the prestigious Khyung (khyung) clan named Lama Yungdrung Tendzin (bla ma g.yung drung bstan 'dzin). His mother's name was Tashi Tso (bkra shis mtsho). At the age of three he was given tonsure by Sonam Lodro (bsod nams blo gros), the abbot of Menri Monastery (sman ri dgon), the main Bon institution in central Tibet, who gave him the name Tendzin Yungdrung (bstan 'dzin g.yung drung). This was the name by which he was known in his youth.

In his youth, he was educated in a local Bon monastery, where he learned to read and write and studied the rituals and texts of the tradition. When he was sixteen years old, in 1828 or 1829, his family ran into trouble with the Derge officials and his father was imprisoned in a regional government center known as Chode Podrang (chos sde pho brang). Kongtrul followed him there and continued his education with a lama from Chamdo (chab mdo). At Chode Podrang Kongtrul was noticed by the local chieftain, a member of the Khangsar (khang sar) clan named Tsepel (tshe 'phel, d. 1842), an ordained monk in the Drukpa Kagyu tradition, who took him under his wing as a secretary and sponsored him for the next fifteen years.

In the service of Tsepel, Kongtrul soon met a lama from Shechen Monastery (zhe chen dgon), a major Nyingma establishment in the Derge kingdom. Impressed with the boy's knowledge of Bon, the lama suggested that Tsepel consult with a prominent lama from the monastery, Shechen Wontrul Gyurme Tutob Namgyel (zhe chen dbon sprul 'gyur med mthu stobs rnam rgyal, b. 1787), regarding what direction the boy's education should take. Soon after, Kongtrul arrived at Shechen Monastery, where he remained for the next four years under Shechen Wontrul's care, studying the texts of the Nyingma tradition alongside the Third Shechen Gyeltsab, Orgyen Rangjung Dorje (zhe chen rgyal tshab 03 o rgyan rang byung rdo rje tshe dbang grub pa rtsal, d.u). He received Buddhist ordination there in 1832.

Pelpung Monastery

In 1833 Tsepel told Kongtrul that he was to move to the Karma Kagyu monastery of Pelpung (dpal spungs dgon) on the southern edge of Derge. The chieftain was in the process of sponsoring monastic residences at Pelpung and he brought the twenty-year-old Kongtrul before an elderly Pelpung lama, Wongen Tulku Karma Tekchok Tenpel (dbon rgan sprul sku karma theg mchog bstan 'phel, d. c.1842). Wongen Tulku insisted that Kongtrul take ordination again, which he did in November 1833 under the Ninth Tai Situ, Pema Nyinje Wangpo (ta'i si tu 09 padma nyin rje dbang po, 1775-1853).

Kongtrul complained in his autobiography that his second ordination was unnecessary, but there were institutional reasons for taking it. Although all Tibetan ordination follows the Mulasarvastivadin ordination platform, Shechen, like all Nyingma and Geluk monasteries, followed the "lower" (smad lugs) or "eastern" lineage supposedly preserved from imperial times by Lachen Gonpa Rabsel (bla chen dgongs pa rab gsa, 953-1035). The Karma Kagyu and all other monastic traditions follow the "upper" (stod lugs) or "western" lineage introduced in the thirteenth century. Despite his complaints about the ordination, Jamgon Kongtrul developed a great affection for the Ninth Situ and considered him one of his dearest teachers. Situ gave him the ordination name of Karma Ngawang Yonten Gyatso Trinle Kunkhyab Pel Zangpo (karma ngag dbang yon tan rgya mtsho phrin las kun khyab dpal bzang po). Yonten Gyatso would become one of the names by which he was most frequently known.

Following this ordination, Wongen Tulku apparently feared that the Derge court might requisition the intelligent young man into public service, and he petitioned Tai Situ to recognize Jamgon Kongtrul as a reincarnation to prevent it; incarnations were protected from government requisition by their obligations to their monasteries. Tai Situ agreed to the request, and after some consideration he declared that the young man was the rebirth of the previous Tai Situ's disciple known as Kongpo Bamteng Tulku (kong po bam steng sprul sku), the Tulku from Bamteng in Kongpo. "Kongtrul" is a contraction of this title.

For the next ten years Kongtrul studied the sutra and tantra traditions of Pelpung and, in the last years of the decade, medicine. During this period, he also engaged in frequent retreats. Among his fellow students was Dabzang Tulku Karma Ngedon (zla bzang sprul sku ka+rma nges don, 1808-1864), who would collaborate with him frequently in later decades, and a lama named Wontrul (dbon sprul), whom Kongtrul never identified but who became a friend and colleague, as well as an influential lama of Pelpung who protected him later in life.

Starting around 1837, the Fourteenth Karmapa, Karma Tekchok Dorje (karma pa 14 theg mchog rdo rje, 1798-1868) spent several years at Karma Gon Monastery (karma dgon) in Nangchen, the previous seat of the Karmapa and Situ incarnations. Kongtrul traveled there at the Karmapa's request, in order to teach the elder lama Sanskrit grammar. Kongtrul records in his autobiography that while staying with the Karmapa at an encampment he studied Dzogchen with a practitioner named Karma Namgyel (karma rnam rgyal). He traveled with the Karmapa across Nangchen, visiting Zurmang Dutsitil (zur mang bdud rtsi mthil) for the enthronement of the Ninth Trungpa incarnation, Gelek Chokyi Nyima (drung pa 09 dge legs chos kyi nyi ma, d.u.), and to other monasteries in the region. During this period the Karmapa gave him bodhisattva vows and the name Jangchub Sempa Lodro Taye (byang chub sems pa blo gros mtha' yas), providing Kongtrul with the second of his most common names, Lodro Taye.

The Old Chieftain, as Kongtrul referred to Tsepel, continued to sponsor him until the former's death in 1842. His primary patrons at Pelpung included the Jadra clan (ja sbra), one of the families from which officials of the Derge kingdom were selected. He was also patronized in various endeavors by the Derge court, for which he performed numerous services during the course of his long life. These included religious performances on the court's behalf, preparing astrological charts for members of the royal family, constructing and consecrating temples and stupas that were built for the benefit of the kingdom, and participating in family ceremonies.

Jamgon Kongtrul received transmission of the Shangpa Kagyu teachings from one Karma Norbu (karma nor bu) from Ringu Monastery (ri mgul dgon). Among his many other teachers were the Ninth Drukchen, Mingyur Wanggyel ('brug chen 09 mi 'gyur dbang rgyal, 1823-1883); the Eighth Pawo, Tsuklak Gyelpo (dpa' bo 08 gtsug lag chos kyi rgyal po, b. c.1782); the Eighth Traleb, Yeshe Nyima (khra leb 06 ye shes nyi ma), who taught him the Seven-fold Ngok Ma??ala (rngog dkyil bdun) which would form the basis for his later compilation of Kagyu Tantra; the seventh abbot of Pelyul Monastery (dpal yul dgon), Gyatrul Pema Dongak Tendzin (rgya sprul pad+ma mdo sngags bstan 'dzin, 1830-1892); the Twelfth Lab Khyabgon, Wangchen Gyerab Dorje (lab skyabs mgon 12 dbang chen dgyes rab rdo rje, 1832-1888); and

the Fourth Dzogchen Drubwang, Mingyur Namkha Dorje (rdzogs chen 04 mi 'gyur nam mkha'i rdo rje, 1793-1870). His main practices were primarily Nyingma, chief among them the Lama Gongdu (bla ma dgongs 'dus) of Sanggye Lingpa (sangs rgyas gling pa, 1340-1396) and the Eight Commands Gathering of the Sugata (bka' brgyad bde gshegs 'dus pa), a central Nyingma practice first revealed and codified by Nyangrel Nyima Ozer (mnyang ral nyi ma 'od zer, 1124/1136-1191/1204), which he received from Zurmang Tulku Garpel (zur mang sprul sku gar dpal) and others.

Khyentse Wangpo and Chokgyur Lingpa

In 1840 Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo ('jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse'i dbang po, 1820-1892) visited Pelpung, where he met Kongtrul for the first time. Kongtrul came to revere Khyentse Wangpo as both a treasured friend, a teacher, and a close collaborator. Much of Jamgon Kongtrul's activity during the remaining six decades of his life was either inspired by or done in concert with Khyentse Wangpo. They would work together to open sacred sites, reveal treasures, compose and edit compilations of texts, and model the rimay (ris med) nonsectarian approach for which nineteenth-century Kham is justifiably famous.

In the late 1840s Kongtrul made an extensive teaching and alms tour of eastern Kham and southern Amdo, including religious centers such as Gyelmorong and Serta. The region was known to be quite dangerous, but he successfully avoided the bandits that frequently robbed and murdered travelers, both lay and clerical. At Dzamtang Monastery (dzam thang dgon), a major Jonang institution, he taught Kalacakra to the monks, and received teachings on the same topic from a lama named Ngawang Chopel (sngags dbang chos 'phel). In 1849, when he returned from Amdo, he taught the Jonang tantric traditions at Dzongsar Monastery (rdzong sar dgon), at Khyentse Wangpo's request.

In 1853 the Nyingma treasure revealer Chokgyur Lingpa (mchog 'gyur gling pa, 1829-1870) arrived at Pelpung seeking recognition for his treasures from Tai Situ. Situ passed the young man on to Kongtrul and Dabzang Tulku. Neither initially thought much of him, although they apparently both gave him religious vows: Dabzang gave him the bodhisattva vows, and Kongtrul gave him tantric vows. They did not give him their approval, however, although Kongtrul did provide Chokgyur Lingpa with a letter of introduction to Khyentse Wangpo, suggesting that the latter lama investigate whether or not the young man's revelations were authentic. Khyentse Wangpo did so soon after, and within a few years the three lamas were working together closely. They opened sacred sites, revealed treasure, composed liturgies, and taught widely, so much so that collectively they came to be known as the "Trio of Khyentse, Kongtrul, and Chokling" (mkhyen kong mchog sde gsum).

In 1843 Jamgon Kongtrul first began to develop his personal hermitage named Kunzang Dechen Osel Ling (kun bzang bde chen 'od gsal gling), the Garden of Auspicious Bliss and Clear Light, on a rocky outcrop above Pelpung named Tsadra Rinchen Drak (tsA 'dra rin chen brag). At the time, a previous hermitage on the site was in ruins and Kongtrul went up with a few other monks to repair buildings and enter a retreat. In 1857 Chokgyur Lingpa assisted him in consecrating the place, which he named one of the Twenty-five Great Sites of Kham, a list that he was only then in the process of developing, and he produced a treasure text that described the site. Three year retreats began there in 1861 with seven monks in residence. Tsadra developed as an important center of three-year retreats, and Kongtrul's retreat manual became a standard text for the practice.

The Five Treasuries

The period of Tsadra's development coincided with the beginning of Jamgon Kongtrul's literary output. He created one of the largest collections of writings, both edited writings and compositions, of any Tibetan scholar. His combined literary output is traditionally known as the "Five Treasuries." Four of the five treasuries were inspired by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, whom Kongtrul also credits with providing the conceptual framework of "five treasuries," something that Khyentse apparently saw in a dream. His training for the editing work appears to have begun about a decade after he arrived at Pelpung. In 1841 he had been tasked with cleaning up the monastery's library, during which he had a dream of Mañjusri, who gave him instructions on the many methods for organizing the Buddhist teachings. Around the same time he had also been put in charge of editing the block prints for several collections of scripture.

The first of the Five Treasuries that Jamgon Kongtrul began work on was the ten-volume Treasury of Kagyu Tantras (bka' brgyud sngags mdzod), a compendium of tantric liturgical texts based on material originally transmitted by Marpa Chokyi Lodro (mar pa chos kyi blo gros, 1012-1097) to his disciple Ngokton Choku Dorje (rngog ston chos sku rdo rje, 1036-1102), the lama to whom Milarepa (mi la ras pa, 1040-1123) once fled when Marpa refused to give him teachings. Khyentse Wangpo encouraged Kongtrul to create the collection in 1853 when he found the existing collections to be inadequate for proper transmission. Kongtrul began work on the collection that year, following the death of the Ninth Situ, and completed it the following year, in the summer of 1854. Two years later, in the summer of 1856, he gave the first transmission at Pelpung Monastery to Khyentse Wangpo and about twenty other lamas from Pelpung and neighboring monasteries such as the Sakya monastery of Derge Gonchen (sde ge dgon chen) and the Nyingma monastery of Dzogchen (dzogs chen). He gave the transmission seven times in all.

The second of the five treasuries that Jamgon Kongtrul compiled was his famous Treasury of Revealed Scripture (rin chen gter mdzod). This is a collection of root sadhana and other liturgical manuals, many of which he wrote himself, relating to treasure revelations of more than one hundred different treasure revealers. Originally composed of sixty volumes, it was enlarged in the late 1970s by Dilgo Khyentse Tashi Peljor (dil mgo mkhyen brtse bkra shis dpal 'byor, 1910-1991) with an additional forty-seven volumes of ritual liturgies. Jamgon Kongtrul began work on the Treasury of Revealed Scripture in the spring of 1855, not long after completing the Treasury of Kagyu Tantras. He suggested the idea to Khyentse Wangpo who told him to organize it according to the standard structure of complete treasure cycles, telling him to "write about four volumes collecting the minor treasure; it would then be very good if, using those as a basis, it were to be written according to the texts of the complete Guru sadhana, Dzogchen, and Avalokitesvara practices of the great treasure revealers."

Kongtrul appears to have had some hesitation regarding his decisions of which texts to include in the Treasury of Revealed Scripture. In 1857, during the consecration of Tsadra Rinchen Drak, he turned to Chokgyur Lingpa for assistance, asking for the young treasure revealer's opinion. Chokgyur Lingpa advised that it was best to ask the question to Padmasambhava and that, since he was then on his way to reveal a few treasures, he would do so on Kongtrul's behalf. Jamgon Kongtrul recorded in his autobiography that Padmasambhava gave Chokgyur Lingpa many lines of verse, the meaning of which was that he, Kongtrul, was permitted to include whatever he wished. Kongtrul worked on the Treasury of Revealed Scripture for close to thirty years, finishing only in the 1880s. He reports giving the transmission to the young Fifteenth Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje (karma pa 15 mkha' khyab rdo rje, 1870-1921) in 1888.

In early 1862 Kongtrul was asked by Dabzang Tulku to compose a treatise on the Three Vows (sdom gsum), a popular genre of religious history describing the three main divisions of the Buddhist teachings according to the Tibetan tradition: Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Dabzang Tulku proposed that Kongtrul write the main text, for which he would then write a commentary. Kongtrul was uninterested in the commission, remarking that "everyone has a treatise on the Three Vows," and instead suggested that he compose a treatise "that addressed all the classifications [of knowledge]." Thus instead of a composition on the Three Vows, Jamgon Kongtrul composed a concise treatise on the Three Trainings – discipline, concentration and discriminating knowledge. This became the core of the Treasury of Knowledge (shes bya kun khyab) after Khyentse Wangpo insisted that Kongtrul himself write the commentary. He completed the text in late summer 1863, and in 1873 printing blocks were carved in Derge with support from the Steward named Pelek (pad legs).

The Treasury of Precious Instructions (gdams ngag mdzod), the fourth of his Five Treasuries, which was written in the last decade and a half of his life, originally numbered ten volumes. "Precious instructions" (gdams ngag) is a Tibetan genre of speech or writing given by a teacher to his or her student on either general conduct or a specific topic such as meditation or correct view. Kongtrul gathered the compositions of scores of Tibetan authors, both famous and lesser-known, and included earlier compendiums of precious instructions as well. The fifth collection, the Expansive Treasury (rgya chen bka’ mdzod) otherwise known as his Collected Works, comprises twenty volumes on an extensive number of topics.

As a group these works represent one of the finest literary outputs of a Tibetan individual. They illustrate the life of a great Tibetan intellectual and the remarkable flourishing of Tibetan culture in eastern Tibet in the nineteenth century. They served to collect, codify, and preserve a great deal of texts and traditions in danger of being lost. And they played a significant role in the creation of Kagyu identity following Kongtrul's life.

Later Life: War and Exile from Pelpung

Jamgon Kongtrul built a second hermitage, Dzogsho Deshek Dupa Podrang (rdzong shod bde gshegs 'dus pa'i pho brang), on a ridge between the Terlung (gter klung) and Dzin ('dzin) valleys, around the same time that he developed Tsadra. He began the process in 1856 with a short retreat with eleven students, and consecrated it in 1867 with Khyentse Wangpo and Chokgyur Lingpa. During that ceremony the two other masters sat Jamgon Kongtrul on a stone throne and formally invested him with a treasure revealer’s name: Chime Tennyi Yungdrung Lingpa ('chi med bstan gnyis g.yung drung gling pa), urging him to reveal treasure texts. Soon thereafter, in response to Chokgyur Lingpa's insistence, he brought forth a "treasure casket" from a place called Pema Shelri (padma shel ri) and offered it to his two colleagues. He never described its contents.

In 1858 he went to central Tibet, where he visited Samye; Tsurpu Monastery (mtshur phu dgon), seat of the Karmapa who was then in residence; Mindroling Monastery (smin 'grol gling dgon); and the holy sites of Lhasa. He returned to Kham in 1859.

For three decades, from the early 1830s to the mid 1860s, Jamgon Kongtrul contended with the events of the Nyarong War, which caused the displacement and destruction of entire monastic communities. This conflict erupted due to the militant expansion of the Nyarong warlord Nyake Amgon Gonpo Namgyel (nyag skad a mgon mgon po rnam rgyal, 1799-1865) from the Nyarong (nyag rong) valley in central Kham. Gonpo Namgyel invaded and occupied Derge in 1862. The royal family requested Tibetan intervention, and soon after the central Tibetan government sent an army which drove him out and defeated him. At that time Derge was officially part of the Qing Empire of China, even if it was a de facto independent kingdom. Lhasa took the opportunity to assert control and occupied much of Kham for the next few decades. Throughout all of this, Jamgon Kongtrul was ordered to minister to both Gonpo Namgyel and the Tibetan army, in addition to the Derge court that was caught in the middle. In his autobiography he expresses hesitation and anxiety, but emphasizes that he had little choice but to serve whomever called for him.

Kongtrul was first summoned by Gonpo Namgyel in 1860, at the same time that the young Tenth Tai Situ Pema Kunzang Chogyel (ta'i si tu 10 padma kun bzang chos rgyal, 1854?-1885) and the Fourteenth Karmapa, who was then visiting Pelpung, were also called. This took place before the warlord had appeared to be a threat to Derge and the lamas returned without incident. The following year Kongtrul was again summoned to Derge, this time to perform long-life empowerments for the Queen, Choying Zangmo (chos dbying bzang mo, 1815-1892) and two princes, Pelden Chime Takpai Dorje (dpal ldan 'chi med rtags pa'i rdo rje, 1840-1898?) and an unidentified brother. These were the widow and sons of King Damtsik Dorje (dam tshig rdo rje, 1811-1852/3), and they were preparing to flee the impending invasion of Derge by Gonpo Namgyel. Gonpo Namgyel was kidnapping lamas and members of local nobility, presumably to prevent local resistance. Kongtrul narrowly avoided becoming a hostage. The Queen and her sons, however, failed to escape and were taken captive, as was Kongtrul's friend Wontrul and the Tenth Tai Situ.

In 1864, after the Tibetan army arrived in Derge and began its direct confrontation with Gonpo Namgyel's forces, Kongtrul was summoned by the Tibetan army. The leader of the Drayab ('brag yab) contingent, the Dongka? Triwa (gdong kaM khri ba, d.u.), who was a Geluk incarnation named Ngawang Damcho Gyatso (ngag dbang dam chos rgya mtsho, d.u.), fell ill and asked for Kongtrul to come cure him. Kongtrul did so, and as a result was forced to remain with the Tibetans to provide divinations. He did so despite considering himself unqualified for the work–he wrote that when requested to provide information he simply "spoke whatever came to mind." Fortunately for him his predictions proved accurate, and he was rewarded with a guarantee that Pelpung would not be harmed by the army or converted to Geluk. Following the conflict, he also received some estates from the Derge court and other rewards from the leadership at Pelpung.

Although Kongtrul was well rewarded for his role in liberating Derge and possibly saving Pelpung from the reprisals of the Tibetan army, a decade later he fell out of favor with the ruling lamas. Thus, from 1874 until about 1888 he did not set foot at the monastery. The reasons for this are unclear. The reasons involved a conflict with the Tenth Situ and other unnamed lamas of the monastery. It appears that the young Situ was not inclined to support Jamgon Kongtrul as actively as the previous incarnation did. In 1873 Kongtrul, Khyentse Wangpo, and Wontrul urged the Tenth Situ to enter retreat, which did not suit the Situ. He soon left, furious at Kongtrul and Wontrul for putting him into the retreat, and at the Derge Court for permitting it. The next year Wontrul, who seems to have protected Kongtrul from Situ, passed away, and Kongtrul found himself without a patron. He spent the majority of the next fourteen years either at Tsadra or traveling the Derge region, continuing to work on his compositions and compilations, and giving teachings and empowerments.

Kongtrul taught scores of lamas at institutions across Kham belonging to multiple traditions. To name only a few not mentioned above: Jamyang Loter Wangpo ('jam dbyangs blo gter dbang po, 1847-1914), Ju Mipham Gyatso ('ju mi pham rgya mtsho, 1846-1912), Shakya Sri (shAkya shrI, 1853-1919), the Third Dodrubchen Jigme Tenpei Nyima (rdo grub chen 03 'jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma, 1865-1926), the Fifth Dzogchen Drubwang, Tubten Chokyi Dorje (rdzogs chen grub dbanag 05 thub bstan chos kyi nyi ma, 1872 -1935), the Fifth Shechen Rabjam, Pema Tekchok Tenpai Gyeltsen (zhe chen rab 'byams 05 pad+ma theg mchog bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, 1864-1909), Jigdrel Choying Dorje (dgu rong 03 o rgyan 'jigs bral chos dbyings rdo rje, 1875-1932), and Ayu Khandro Dorje Peldron (a g.yu mkha’ ’gro rdo rje dpal sgron, 1839 -1953).

Jamgon Kongtrul passed away at the age of eighty-seven, on January 19, 1899, on the twenty-eighth day of the eleventh month of the earth-pig year of the fifteenth sexagenary cycle.

Five reincarnations of Jamgon Kongtrul were identified. A similar division of incarnations occurred after Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo's death, along the lines of the categories of the lama's body, speech, mind, activity, and qualities. In effect this was a result of the lamas' popularity – having been active in so many institutions, these institutions requested to maintain the lama's presence, which was accomplished through the tulku system.

The main line of Jamgon Kongtrul incarnations was continued in the person of Pelden Khyentse Ozer ('jam mgon kong sprul 02 dpal ldan mkhyen brtse 'od zer, 1904-1952), the son of the Fifteenth Karmapa, and who was enthroned at Pelpung. A second incarnation was Lodro Rabpel (blo gros rab 'phel, 1901?-1958), who was based at Dzigar Chogar Monastery ('dzi sgar chos sgar) and took the title Dzigar Kongtrul ('dzi sgar kong sprul). Pema Drime Lekpai Lodro (pad+ma dri med legs pa'i blo gros, 1901-1960) was based at Shechen and took the title Shechen Kongtrul (zhe chen kong sprul). Gyurme Konchok Gyeltsen ('gyur med dkon mchog rgyal mtshan, 1901-1952) was based at Dzogchen Monastery and took the title Dzogchen Kongtrul (rdzogs chen). The fifth was Kalu Rinpoche Karma Rangjung Kunkhyab (kar lu rin po che karma rang byung kun khyab, 1905-1989), who was identified as the activity incarnation and was based at Tsadra.

Alexander Gardner is Executive Director of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation and the Director and Chief Editor of the Treasury of Lives. He completed his PhD in Buddhist Studies at the University of Michigan in 2007.

[Extracted from the Treasury of Lives, Tibetan lineages website. Edited and formatted for inclusion on the Himalayan Art Resources website. September 2015]


Bkra shis chos 'phel. 2002. 'Das rjes rnam thar. In Rgya chen bka' mdzod, vol. 10, pp. 739-783. New Delhi: Shechen. TBRC W23723. See also TBRC W21808.

Blo gros don yod. 2005. Blo gros mtha' yas kyi rnam thar. In Dus 'khor chos 'byung in+dra nI la'i phra tshom, vol. 1, pp. 524-536. Mirik: 'Bo dkar nges don chos 'khor gling gi bla spyi spar bskrun zhus. TBRC W00EGS1016994.

Gardner, Alexander. 2019. The Life of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great. Snow Lion (Shambhala publications). Boulder, Colorado.

Gardner, Alexander. 2009. “The Twenty-five Great Sites of Khams: A Native Map of an Imperiled Place.” In Studies on the History of Eastern Tibet. Wim van Spengen and Lama Jabb, eds. Leiden: Brill, pp. 97-132.

Grags pa yongs 'dus. 1993. 'Jam mgon dang blo gros mtha' yas kyi rnam thar. In Kam tshang gser phreng gi rnam thar kha skong, pp. 135-212. New Delhi: Topga Yulgyal. TBRC W19988.

'Jam mgon kong sprul yon tan rgya mtsho. 1973. Phyogs med ris med kyi bstan pa la ’dun shing dge sbying gi gzugs brnyan ’chang ba blo gros mtha’ yas kyi sde’i byung ba brjod pa nor bu sna tshogs mdog can. Bir: Tibetan Khampa Industrial Society. TBRC W20880. See also TBRC W23723.

Jamgön Kongtrul. 2003. The Autobiography of Jamgön Kongtrul: A Gem of Many Colors. Richard Barron, trans. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications.

'Jigs bral ye shes rdo rje. 1996. 'Jam mgon yon tan rgya mtsho blo gros mtha' yas. In Bdud 'joms chos 'byung, vol. 538-550. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W20827.

Karma nges don chos kyi blo gros. 2007. 'Jam mgon gong 'og gsum gyi rnam thar. In Dpal spungs thub bstan chos 'khor gling gi lo rgyus, pp. 182-187. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W1GS75024.

Mi nyag mgon po, et. al. 1996. Kong sprul yon tan rgya mtsho'i rnam thar mdor bsdus/ (1813-1899). In Gangs can mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rnam thar mdor bsdus, vol. 2, pp. 320-322. Beijing: Krung go'i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang. TBRC W25268.

Smith, Gene. Jamgon Kongtrul and the Nonsectarian Movement. In Among Tibetan Texts. Boston: Wisdom Publications, pp. 235-272. The original essay is here: TBRC W1KG12962.

Ye shes rdo rje. 1996. Gangs can mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rnam thar mdor bsdus bdud rtsi'i thigs phreng. Vol. 2, pp. 320-322. Beijing: Krung go'i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang. TBRC W25268.

Read more at TBRC