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Longdol Lama Ngagwang Lobzang
Longdol Lama Ngagwang Lobzang (1719-1794, klong rdol bla ma ngag dbang blo bzang) was born at Wenphu Doti (dben phu mdo thi), a place near the Jampaling Monastery in Chamdo (chab mdo byam pa gling) in 1719, on the full-moon day of Go dawa (go ldza ba; the eleventh lunar month) in the earth-pig year of twelfth sexagenary cycle. His father Ngagchang Wang Boom (sngags 'chang dbang 'bum) was a tantrika and belonged to a noble family, and his mother was named Jangsa Boomkyi ('jang sa 'bum skyid).
Ngagwang Lobzang received his pre-novice (rab byung) vows at the age of seven from Gelong Lobzang Gendun (dge slong blo bzang dge 'dun) at the hermitage of Phuta Lago (phu ta la mgo'i ri khrod) in Chamdo. Because of his intelligence and interest in dharma it was suggested that he was the reincarnation of the Third Zhiwa Lha, Zhiwa Zangpo (zhi ba lha 03 zhi ba bzang po, 1625-1717), but he adamantly rejected the identification. From the age of four to seventeen Ngagwang Lobzang was taught reading and writing, memorizing prayer-texts and other root-verses of important sutra and tantra texts by his father.
When Ngagwang Lobzang was twelve, the great Sera lama Phurchok Ngagwang Jampa (phur lcog ngag dbang byams pa, 1682-1762) granted him novice vows at Chamdo Jampaling. Because of a drought in the Chamdo region when he was eighteen, he and his family moved to the Tsawarong (tsha ba rong) region in a vain attempt to escape starvation. There Ngagwang Lobzang survived in a remote hermitage but his parents lost five other children due to hardships and illness.
At the age of twenty Ngagwang Lobzang returned to Chamdo Jampaling and enrolled in the monastery's Lingto Sangdu Dratsang (chab mdo gling stod gsang 'dus drwa tshang) where he mastered the rituals easily as he already had memorized the ritual-prayer texts. Subsequently, he was supervised by Drayak Chubar Lama Gedun Tashi (brag gyab chu dbar bla ma dge 'dun bkra shis, d.u.). This scholar believed that Ngagwang Lobzang was the reincarnation of his late lama, Litang Khenchen Nyakri Lobzang Chodrak (li thang mkhan chen nyag ri blo bzang chos grags, b. 1626), and saw to it that the identification was officially confirmed.
Following the confirmation Lama Gedun Tashi escorted Ngagwang Lobzang to Drayak Chubar Monastery where he continued his education. Gedun Tashi soon decided to send the young man to Lhasa for further studies, but he dies in 1741 and a relative arranged for Ngagwang Lobzang's travel to U-Tsang in the following year, with eight assistants.
Upon his arrival at Lhasa, after a brief pilgrimage Ngagwang Lobzang matriculated in the Lhopa House of Serje College of Sera Monastic University, where he shared accommodations with the Fourth Zhiwa Lha, Phagpa Geleg Gyaltsen (zhi ba lha 04 'phags pa dge legs rgyal mtshan, 1720-1799), and the Sixth Chakra Tulku Ngagwang Trinle Palzang (ngag dbang 'phrin las dpal bzang, 1730-1794). He started his study under Tsondu (brtson 'grus) as his tutor and studied so hard and kept so isolated that other monks called him the "Crazy Monk of Lhopa." Recitation of the praise-verses and prayers to the Twenty-One Taras was his main daily practice. It was said that he had a clear dream of Tara who gave him a few verses of instructions for his meditation that significantly aided him.
At the age of thirty Ngagwang Lobzang was granted the vows of the fully ordained monk by Purchok Ngagwang Jampa Rinpoche (phur lcogs 01 ngag dbang byams pa rin po che, 1682-1762), from whom he received teachings, initiations and empowerments, and instructions on a numerous topics of sutra and tantra and also repeated teachings on certain topics such as Lamrim, Delam, and Yamantaka, Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, Chod and so forth.
In 1749 Ngagwang Lobzang went on pilgrimage in the Tsang region with some of his companions including the Fourth Zhiwa Lha. He received an audience with the Third Panchen Lama, Lobzang Palden Yeshe (paN chen bla ma 03 blo bzang dpal ldan ye shes, 1738-1780) from whom later he received teachings and empowerments. They also met with Gelong Yeshe Taye (dge slong ye shes mtha' yas, d.u.) and Zhalu Riphug Lama Jampal Chochok (zha lu ri phug bla ma 'jam dpal chos mchog, d.u.) and received teachings and transmissions from them. He returned to Lhasa after visiting several additional monasteries in Tsang.
Later Ngagwang Lobzang received many initiations and empowerments on several tantric deities including Hayagriva and Mahakala from the Fourth Zhiwa Lha. He also received numerous teachings including commentarial transmission on Tsonkhapa's Lamrim Chenmo (lam rim chen mo) and Madhyamika commentaries from the Seventh Dalai Lama, Kalzang Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 07 bskal bzang rgya mtsho 1708-1757). In the meantime he received the degree of "Kachu" (dka' bcu) at Sangphu (gsang phu), the Tsang region's equivalent of a Geshe degree.
At the age of thirty-eight Ngagwang Lobzang again went on pilgrimage with some of his companions, including Trehor Geshe Tenphel (tre hor dge bshes bstan 'phel, d.u.) in the Phenpo ('phen po) region. They returned to Sera via Samyas (bsam yas) and resumed his study in philosophy. He successfully completed his studies in Madhamaka, Abhisamayalankara, and Vinaya in fifteen years in Sera, and then enrolled in the Upper Tantric College (rgyu stod drwa tsang) and studied advanced tantra intensively under Lama Chuzang NgagwangChodrak (bla ma chu bzang ngag dbang chos grags, d.u.) for several years. He also received a number of empowerments, initiations and esoteric instructions on several deities from Changkya Rolpai Dorje (lcang skya rol pa'i rdo rje ,1717-1786), a principle Buddhist teacher in the Qing court in China during the later's visit to Tibet.
Ngagwang Lobzang later received empowerments and teachings on tantra from Takphu Lobzang Tenpai Gyaltsen (stag phu blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, d.u.), Ngakrampa Lobzang Chophel (sngags ram pa blo bzang chos 'phel, d.u.), and Kachen Tabkhe Gyatso (dka' chen thabs mkhas rgya mtsho, d.u.). He is said to have studied with and received teachings from over forty masters: other illustrious names include Yongzin Yeshe Gyaltsen (yongs 'dzin ye shes rgyal mtshan, 1713-1793); the Second Jamyang Zhepa Konchok Jigme Wangpo ('jam dbyangs bzhad pa 02 dkon mchog 'jigs med dbang po, 1728-1791); and the Fifty-fourth Ganden Tripa, Ngagwang Chokden (dga' ldan khri pa 54 ngag dbang mchog ldan, 1677-1751). Yet while his scholarship, particularly on tantra, was known to be outstanding he largely lived as a recluse in retreat.
Ngagwang Lobzang moved to Nyetang Mokchok (mnyes thang rmog lcog) and sat an intensive meditation retreat for three years. He subsequently moved to Nyetang Longdol Hermitage (mnyes thang klong rdol ri khrod) and spent an extended period of time taking practicing Lamrim. This hermitage originally belonged to Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje (gtsang pa rgya tras ye shes rdo rje, 1161-1211), the founder of the Drugpa Kagyu tradition. It was said that previously the hermitage had a poor water supply, and that Ngagwang Lobzang used his supernatural abilities to open a spring close to the site. Because of his being a long time resident of Longdol, he gained the title Longdol Lama, by which he is most commonly known.
Due to health problem, Longdol Lama had to move to a warmer place near the Rato Monastery (rwa stod drwa tshang) in Drayab where a comfortable residence was built and offered to him by a local resident devotee, Guru Chodrak, the father of Drayab Chetsang (brag gyab che tshang sprul sku'i yab gu ru chos grags). He lived there from the age of fifty until his nirvana, spending most of his time in meditation and retreat but also making visits to other places for teachings and dharma performances.
Longdol Lama travelled to Lhasa to receive teachings from the Sixtieth Ganden Tripa, Lobzang Tenpa (dga' ldan khri pa 60 blo bzang bstan pa, b. 1725) and blessings of the Eighth Dalai Lama Jampal Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 08 'jam dpal rgya mtsho, 1758-1804) at Drepung. While there he was appointed to the office of official patron-lama by the Gyaltsab Demo (rgyal tshab de mo) the then Regent of Tibet, but he resigned and vanished from Lhasa. Later he was found in Lhodrak (lho brag) making significant offerings to the family of Jetsun Marpa and praying for realization of the view of Madhyamika.
Longdol Lama Rinpoche spent most of his life in the practice of dharma ? meditations, retreats, rituals, and receiving and giving teachings, empowerments, initiations, transmissions, and so forth. Knowledge of his accomplishments spread widely across Tibet, even into Mongolia, and he attracted a great number of disciples and followers. Some of the renowned disciples include The Second Jamyang Zhepa, Tulku Lobzang Tenzin Gyatso (sprul sku blo bzang bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, d.u.); Tongkor Lobzang Tenzin Gyatso (stong skor blo bzang bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, d.u.); the Third Takphu Lama, Lobzang Chokyi Wangchuk (stag phu 3 blo bzang chos kyi dbang phyug, 1765-1792); The Second Tsotri Tulku, Lobzang Gyaltsen (gtsos khri sprul 02 blo bzang rgyal mtshan seng ge, 1757-1849); Lingtul Lobzang Tenpai Gyaltsen (gling sprul blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, 1770-1845); and both the Senior and Junior Denma Ra-Nyak Tulkus ('den ma ra nyag sprul sku che chung gnyis).
Sources mentioned that there were two volumes of Longdol Lama's written work covering some important topics of sutra and tantra, and also some texts on common subjects. Other sources mentioned that there were three volumes of his works that include poetry works, biographies, catalogues, list of Gelugpa lamas and monasteries, and so forth totalling ninety-six texts in three volumes. It was said that the texts were carved into traditional wooden-blocks for printing in Kundeling Lhundup Dechen (kun bde gling lhun grub sde chen). However, the extant of the blocks of the entire volumes of the texts are not known; about thirty-two treatises are currently available.
In 1794, at the age of seventy-six, on the second twenty-fourth day of the fifth month of the wood-tiger year of the thirteenth sexagenary cycle, Longdol Lama passed into nirvana. His death year is also recorded as the wood-hare year in other sources. He was not cremated, but his body was fed to the vultures in a traditional "sky burial" ritual. The bones, however, were collected and burnt into ashes and used for making statues. A reliquary stupa was built and installed in the porch-ground of Rinchen Ling. A statue of this lama containing his head was also built by the Eighth Tatsag Lama, Yeshe Tenpai Gonpo (rta tshag bla ma 08 ye shes btsan pa'i mgon po, 1760-1810). Extensive nirvana-prayer was organized by his disciples.
Byams pa chos grags. N.d. Chab mdo byams pa gling gi gdan rabs. Chamdo: Chab mdo par 'debs bzo grwa par btab, pp. 436-449.
Don rdor and Bstan 'dzin chos grags. 1993. Gangs ljongs lo rgyus thog gi grags can mi sna. Lhasa: Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang, pp. 786.
Dung dkar blo bzang 'phrin las. 2002. Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, pp. 126-127
Ko zhul grags pa'byungs gnas and Rgyal ba blo bzang mkhas grub. Gangs can mkhas sgrub rim byon ming mzhod, Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun khang, ISBN 7-5421-0200-1 pp. Ka 79-81.
Biographies of Longdol Lama are listed in Sonam Dondrub's catalog of Tibetan biographies, nos. 0132-0137. See: Bsod nams don grub. 2000. Bod kyi lo rgyus dpe tho. Lhasa: Bod ljongs Mi dmangs Dpe skrun khang.
Samten Chhosphel, September 2010
[Extracted from the Treasury of Lives, Tibetan lineages website. Edited and formatted for inclusion on the Himalayan Art Resources website. September, 2010].