19. Jampal Zangpo 1427-1489

kun mkhyen 'jam dpal bzang po
„Greatly intoxicated by the joy of Manjushri, Lord Bengar Künkhyen, I supplicate you.”

-- “Supplication to the Kagyü Gurus”


Bengar Jampäl Zangpo (approx. 1427-1489) was born in Damshung ( East Tibet?) to the family of accomplished practitioners known by the name Nyemo Dzongpa; they were descendants of Chöje Drunpa, who was a teacher of the First Gyalwa Karmapa. In the instructions he presented in Qinghai, Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche taught that Bengar Jampa Zangpo’s father’s name was Wang Jawa and his mother’s name was Chökyi Dolma. He began studying and practicing under the guidance of his father at a very young age. When he was 20 years old, he took up his studies of the Sutrayana and Vajrayana scriptures under the tutelage of his uncle, Chöje Rongton. He received the ordination vows from Mahasiddha Samten Zangpo and at that time was given the name Bengar Jampa Zangpo. He received all the Shije Transmissions and Teachings from Lha Purba and the full Kagyü Lineage transmissions and teachings of Mahamudra and the Six Dharmas of Naropa from his Root Guru, the Sixth Gyalwa Karmapa. He followed the instructions one-pointedly and became a Mahasiddha, a great scholar and saint who Kagyü practitioners worldwide continue revering and holding in their hearts.


In all great and smaller Kagyü monasteries and centers, devoted disciples recite “The Short Dorje Chang Lineage Prayer.” There is a reason why practitioners of the Karma Kagyü Lineage recite this prayer every day. In the instructions he presented in Halifax, Thrangu Rinpoche tells us: “’The Short Dorje Chang Lineage Prayer’ was written by Bengar Jampäl Zangpo. Because it is so important, Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche translated it into English as ‘The Supplication to the Tagpo Kagyü’ so that pupils could recite it as a part of their daily practice. The reason this prayer has such a great blessing is because its author, Bengar Jampäl Zangpo, received all his Dharma instructions from the Sixth Gyalwa Karmapa. Then he went to a place in the north of Tibet in order to meditate the instructions he had received.”


Thrangu Rinpoche offered students a further detailed account and said: “To describe the location where he went, there is the great Zangpo River that flows through Tibet and reaches down through India as the Brahmaputra River. The Nagchu River flows behind the Brahmaputra and into Burma. Between the Zangpo and Nagchu Rivers lies the very impressive Nangchen Thaklha Mountain Range, which in Dharma terms is the residence of Nangchen Thaklha, the deity bound through oath by Guru Rinpoche to protect and guard the Dharma teachings in that area, specifically the Karma Kagyü Teachings. The Nagchu River flows behind the Nangchen Thaklha Mountain Range. At its source is the great lake Namtso Thungmo, which is the residence of Nangchen Thaklha’s consort. So, there is the great lake behind the Nangchen Thaklha.


“Two local deities are revered most highly in East Tibet. The seat of one is located at Nangchen Thaklha and the seat of the other is at Nagyäl Pumra Mountain, the place where the Nagchu River bends and separates, one river flowing into China where it is called the Yellow River. The Nagyäl Pumra is seen as a local deity and guardian of the teachings, so one supplicates him too. There are two very important mountain ranges and therefore two very important mountain deities, Nangchen Thaklha in Upper Tibet and Nagyäl Pumra in Lower East Tibet. And so, having received instructions from the Sixth Gyalwa Karmapa, Bengar Jampäl Zangpo crossed the Nangchen Thaklha Mountain Range and arrived at the shore of Namtso.


“ Tibet is far away from any ocean; there are only lakes, so there is no expanse like an ocean. The largest lake in Tibet is Namtso. Nam means “sky” and tso means “lake,” therefore Namtso means “the lake that is vast like the sky.” There was a little island in the middle of the lake, called Tsenmodo, “Fingernail-stone,” its name describing how tiny the island was, almost like a little hill. In the past, it is said that this island was in the middle of the lake; nowadays it is near the shore because the lake is drying up. In the winter the lake would freeze and meditators and masters would walk over to the little island. In the summer the ice would melt, so they could stay there and practice for many months in solitude, until the lake froze again and they were able to return home the next winter.


“Many Lamas went to Tsenmodo Island to meditate and it is said that some of them did have a hard time. There was a Drukpa Kagyü master whose name was Lorepa. He went there, took enough food along to do a retreat, and everything went quite well for a year. When the lake froze the next year, his pupils were able to visit him and receive instructions from him. He took an attendant along after he had completed his first retreat and both had enough provisions to last for a while. But the following winter the lake didn’t freeze, so they had to stay another year without enough to eat. They thought, ‘What should we do?’ They had leather belts, cooked them, and drank the broth for a while. When they ran out of that source of nourishment, the Lama performed a sacred feast. The next day the local deities responded by washing the corpse of a deer to the shore of the tiny island. The attendant found the corpse, so they could live on the deer for a while. But the lake still didn’t freeze the following winter. The attendant was really worried and told the Lama, ‘We will die here.’ He had an idea and thought, ‘If I die, it’s all right. The Lama can eat me.’ He went to the Lama and asked, ‘You know, a human body has been washed ashore. Is it all right for us to eat it?’ The Lama answered, ‘Yes, that’s fine.’ So the attendant ran to the lakeside and was about to kill himself. Lama Lorepa came running after him, reached the shore, and stopped him, saying, ‘No, you may not do that. I am happy to die while practicing the Dharma. That’s fine with me. You may not kill yourself. We will just carry on with our practice.’ That night the attendant had a dream that many Dakinis appeared in the sky and said, ‘Everything will be all right. Don’t worry. Tomorrow you will be able to leave.’ When they woke up the next morning, they found that the lake had frozen and they could cross it. So, it wasn’t always easy for Lamas to meditate there.”


Thrangu Rinpoche continued: “Bengar Jampäl Zangpo did a retreat on that island for eighteen years and didn’t have any problems. Some say it wasn’t difficult for him because Nangchen Thaklha fed him; others say he lived on the food of meditation. In any case, he didn’t have any problems and stayed there in retreat for eighteen years. At the end of this time, on the basis of his realisations from practicing on the tiny island, he composed the ‘ rDo-rje-‘Chang-Thung-ma. On an ordinary level, it is said that it is a very special prayer, because it is the result of eighteen years of experience. In Dharma terms, it is said that it has a great blessing, because it is a prayer resulting from eighteen years of sincere and deep meditation.”


rDo-rje-‘Chang-thung-ma - The Short Dorje Chang Lineage Prayer” written by Bengar Jampä Zangpo is:


Great Vajradhara, Tilo, Naro, Marpa, Mila, Lord of Dharma Gampopa,

Knower of the Three Times, omniscient Karmapa,

Holders of the four great and eight lesser lineages –

Drikung, Tag-lung, Tsalpa, these three, glorious Drukpa and so on –

Masters of the profound path of Mahamudra,

Incomparable protectors of beings, the Takpo Kagyü,

I supplicate you, the Kagyü Gurus,

I hold your lineage; grant your blessings so that I will follow your example.


“Revulsion is the foot of meditation, as is taught.

To this meditator who is not attached to food and wealth,

Who cuts the ties to this life,

Grant your blessings so that I have no desire for honour and gain.


“Awareness is the body of meditation, as is taught.

Whatever arises is fresh – the essence of realization.

To this meditator who rests simply without altering it

Grant your blessings so that my meditation is free from conception.


“Devotion is the head of meditation, as is taught.

The Guru opens the gate to the treasury of oral instructions.

To this meditator who continually supplicates him

Grant your blessings so that genuine devotion is born in me.


“The essence of thoughts is dharmakaya, as is taught.

Nothing whatever but everything arises from it.

To this meditator who arises in unceasing play

Grant your blessings so that I realize the inseparability of samsara and nirvana.


“Through all my births may I not be separated from the perfect Guru

And so enjoy the splendour of Dharma.

Perfecting the virtues of the paths and bhumis,

My I speedily attain the state of Vajradhara.”


In the foregoing life-story of Thongwa Dönden in this website, we read the supplication prayer of longing that Bengar Jampäl Zangpo wrote while he was residing at Karma Gonpo Monastery, built by the First Karmapa, and during which time he saw the signs that his Root Guru, the Sixth Karmapa, had passed into Parinirvana. Since his mind was inseparable with the Gyalwa Karmapa, he saw the place and names of the parents of his next incarnation.


Having taken birth for the benefit of all living beings, at the age of twelve, the Seventh Karmapa arrived at Karma Gon Monastery, where Bengar Zangpo was staying. Kungkhyen Bengar Jampäl Zangpo sang a song of great joy and offered profound teachings when he was together with the Sixth Karmapa’s reincarnation. This spiritual song of rejoicing and realization, in “The Rain of Wisdom,” is:



When this monk arrives on an empty mountain, he sings a long song.

The reason I sing is that in the meadows and dales of experience,

The plants of my mind’s realization have grown.

Kind lord, now I am joyous and happy!


“I am a son who pleases the guru.

I present this experience of realization as a gift to the jetsün.

I remember the lord and supplicate him again and again.

Grant your blessings to this longing son.


“Outwardly, this body, free and well-favored, is adorned with the monastic discipline.

Inwardly, I make vivid the mandala of the two bodhicittas.

I have entered into the highway of the two stages.

Kind lord, now I am joyous and happy!


“Attachment to this ordinary body is cast far away.

The various dhatus, skandhas, and ayatanas

Arise in the form of the divine and victorious yidam.

Kind lord, now I am joyous and happy!


“Speech joined with prana brings one into the essence.

It is watered by the mantra recitation of the three vajras.

The moment of karmaprana arises in the avadhuti.

Kind lord, now I am joyous and happy!


“The mahamudra of bliss and emptiness

Is ornamented with coemergent luminosity.

This is resplendent in the realm of dharmakaya.

Kind lord, now I am joyous and happy!


“I have trusted in the three jewels.

I request a place of refuge both now and in the future.

Whatever I desire will therefore be fulfilled.

Kind lord, now I am joyous and happy!


“I have felt revulsion for the wealth of material goods.

By not listening to the speech of those who lead men down,

This mendicant’s stubbornness has delivered him from these obstacles.

Kind lord, now I am joyous and happy!


“I remember with longing the kindness of the kind father.

Through rejoicing, this speech has escaped from my mouth;

However, I do not really possess these attainments.

Now, grant your blessings so that I may quickly attain all these.”


Kungkhyen Bengar Jampäl Zangpo was the Root Guru of the Seventh Karmapa, Gyalwa Chödrag Gyatso, and imparted the full transmission and training of the Kagyü Practice and Whispering Lineage and the monk’s ordination vows to the reincarnation of his own Root Guru during his last life.


Bengar Jampäl Zangpo passed into Parinirvana in South Tibet at the age of 62. He didn’t only leave relics in different colors for the benefit of his disciples after his cremation, but continues being a source of inspiration and refuge for sincere devotees and earnest practitioners of the Kagyü Lineage. He is indivisible with the Glorious Karmapas – the continuous emanations and incarnations of the unfailing wisdom and compassion of all Buddhas.



Kagyu Office of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, “The Golden Rosary” (2008).

“The Rain of Wisdom. The Vajra Songs of the Kagyü Gurus,” transl. under the direction of Chögyam Trungpa by the Nalanda Translation Com., Boston & London, 1980, pages 124-125.

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, “Instructions on ‘rDo-rje-‘Chang-Thung-ma - The Short Dorje Chang Lineage Prayer,’ by Bengar Jampäl Sangpo,” presented at the Shambhala Center in Halifax, 2000, transl. by Peter Roberts, transcribed. & ed. by Gaby Hollmann, in: “Teachings in English,” Karma Lekshey Ling Institute, Nepal, 2007.

Thrangu Rinpoche, “Lodrö Nyima Rinpoche,” Thrangu Tashi Chöling Monastery, Qinghai, 2006.

Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, “Lineage History,” N.Y. (2008).


“It is uncertain when I will die and become a corpse. Since it is only the Dharma that can benefit me at that time, I must practice now with diligence.” – One of the four contemplations in ”The Preliminary Practices of Mahamudra”


(Compiled & written for English speaking students & visitors of Karma Lekshey Ling Institute in Nepal by gh, solely responsible for inadequacies & mistakes, August 9, 2008, copyright.)

© Karma Lekshey Ling Shedra, Post Box No.8435, Swoyambhu, Kathmandu, Nepal