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Teacher: Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo Biography

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Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo Biography

Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo, 1382-1456 [P1132], (ngor chen kun dga' bzang po) was born in 1382 at Sakya monastery in Tibet. His father was Drupa Yonten (grub pa yon tan) and his mother was Sonam Palden (bsod nams dpal ldan).

At age six Kunga Zangpo (kun dga' bzang po) began his formal studies and at nine he took lay and novice monastic vows from his early teacher, Yeshe Gyaltsen (ye shes rgyal mtshan, d. 1406). Under Yeshe Gyaltsen's guidance, Kunga Zangpo went on to take full monastic, bodhisattva, and mantrayana vows, and became an expert in both sutra and tantra. He had an especially strong grasp of the rituals and practices particular to Sakya and became Yeshe Gyaltsen's principle disciple.

At age twenty-five, after Yeshe Gyaltsen passed away, Kunga Zangpo traveled to Shang Chokor Gang (shangs chos 'khor sgang) to study with Kyabchog Palzang (skyabs mchog dpal bzang, d.u.). During the same period, Kunga Zangpo studied with Buddhashri (bu d+ha shrI, 1339-1420) aka Sangye Pal (sangs rgyas dpal) at She monastery (zhe dgon). After Kunga Zangpo had completed his training with these masters, he returned to Sakya monastery where he studied with Lama Shonnu Lodro (gzhon nu blo gros, 1358-1412/24). In addition to the masters mentioned above, Kunga Zangpo's teachers included Palden Tsultrim (dpal ldan thsul khrims, 1333-1399), Kunga Gyalsten (kun dga' rgyal mtshan, d.u.), and Tashi Rinchen (bkra shis rin chen, d.u.).

When Kunga Zangpo was twenty-nine, he went to Sazang monastery (sa bzang dgon) and took up a position of authority, offering his students a broad range of religious instruction including commentaries on texts, empowerments and reading transmissions, and ordination ceremonies. He remained at Sazang for nineteen years.

In 1430, at the age of fifty-two, Kunga Zangpo established Ngor Ewam Chodan Monastery (ngor e waM chos ldan), which subsequently developed into the seat of the Ngor sub-tradition, one of the three main divisions of the Sakya tradition. The next year he established hermitages at Zapug (bza' phug) and Samling (bsam gling). The curriculum at Ngor was based directly on the Sakya lineage, oral instructions, and the four classes of tantra. At the new monastery Kunga Zangpo oversaw the construction of a main temple as well as many statues and other material supports for religious practice. He also a created a monastic college and commissioned a Kangyur written in gold. His biographers assert that Kunga Zangpo passed his entire life working for the sake of others.

Kunga Zangpo's many students included Shakya Chogdan (shakya mchog ldan, 1428-1507), Panchen Bumtrag Sumpa (paN chen 'bum phrag gsum pa, 1432/3-1504), Kunga Paljor (kun dga' dpal 'byor), Gorampa Sonam Sengge (go rams pa bsod nams seng ge, 1429-1489), Kunga Wangchug (kun dga' dbang phyug, 1424-1478), Lodro Wangchug (blo gros dbang phyug, b. 1402), the second Ngor Abbot Konchog Gyaltsen (dkon mchog rgyal mtshan, 1388-1469), and Markam Dragpa Zangpo (smar khams pa grags pa bzang po d.u).

Kunga Zangpo was extremely prolific, and his collected works contain nearly two hundred titles. Due to his many written works, the teachings he gave, his accomplishments as a practitioner, and the major monastic institution he established, Kunga Zangpo is included among the famous Sakya masters who came to be known as the Six Ornaments of Tibet.

Dkon mchog rgyal mtshan. 1457. Rje btsun bla ma dam pa kun dga' bzang po'i rnam par thar pa. Manuscript.

Dung dkar blo bzang 'phrin las. 2002. Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo. Beijing: China Tibetology Publishing House.

Sangs rgyas phun tshogs. 1688. Rgyal ba rdo rje 'chang kun dga' bzang po'i rnam par thar pa legs bshad chu bo 'dus pa'i rgya mtsho yon tan yid bzhin nor bu'i 'byung gnas. Dege blockprint.

Sangs rgyas phun tshogs. 1976. Dpal kye rdo rje'i phyi nang bskyed rim nyams len gnad kyi gsal byed snyan brgyud bstan pa rgyas pa'i nyin byed. New Delhi: Trayang and Jamyang Samten.

Grags pa 'byung gnas. 1992. Gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod. Lanzhou: Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun khang, pp. 449-450.

Mu po. 2002. Gsung ngag rin po che lam 'bras bla ma brgyud pa'i rnam thar kun 'dus me long. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, pp. 55-60.

Dominique Townsend, April 2010 [Extracted from the Treasury of Lives, Tibetan lineages website. Edited and formatted for inclusion on the Himalayan Art Resources website. April, 2010].

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