37. 1st Jamgon 1813 - 1899

'jam mgon blo gros mtha' yas

“Illusory musician of supreme bliss and emptiness,

Lord Lodrö Thaye, I supplicate you.”

-- “Supplications and Offerings to the Kagyü Gurus”


Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye was prophesied by Buddha Shakyamuni in the Samadhirajasutra and foretold in many Treasure Teachings by Guru Padmasambhava. The following line from the Lankavatarasutra is taken as a prophecy referring to him: “In a later age there will come a great hero, called Lodrö the Guide, a teacher of the five sciences.”


Jamgon Kongtrul was born into a Bönpo family on December 14th in the year of the water-horse in Rong-gyab. This little village is situated near Pema Lhatse, which is one of three sacred mountains in Do-Kham, East Tibet. His father, Yungdrung Tenzin (an illustrious Lama of the Kyunpo clan) was killed in a war that raged in his homeland. Jamgon Kongtrul’s mother, Tashitso, married Sönampäl after her husband’s death. He was a lay practitioner of Bön and transmitted the teachings and rituals of the indigenous tradition of Tibet to his stepson, who would become known and revered until this day and worldwide as one of the most brilliant stars in the galaxy of scholars and saints from Tibet.


In the introduction to Myriad Worlds, Elio Guarisco wrote that the 22 nd Abbot of Bönpo Menri Monastery (the main seat of the Bön Tradition in West Tibet) visited Rong-gyab and gave the two-year-old child the name Yungdrung Tenzin. The boy learned the letters of the Tibetan alphabet simply by seeing them once. When he found a meditation text of White Manjushri at the age of 4, he immediately learned it by heart. As a child he already had great faith in Guru Padmasambhava and told his family and playmates that he was his emanation. Yungdrung Phuntsog from the nearby Bön Hermitage of Tharde became his teacher. By the time he was 8 years old, Jamgon Kongtrul knew all the Bönpo divinities, was proficient in the rituals, and was skilled in religious dance and painting; he could already identify herbs and minerals by the time he was in his teens.


In his Autobiography (quoted in the introduction to Jamgon Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual) he wrote: “Around this time (about the age of 10), I felt great admiration for anyone who was said to have recognized the nature of mind. Like a thirsty person craving water, I yearned to meet a master who could give me instruction concerning the mind, but I was young and weak. My parents wouldn’t help me (find a teacher), so I abandoned the idea. In general my father was extremely strict. When I was studying reading and writing, attending a ritual, or on other occasions, he would beat me severely if I acted even a little childishly, so it was impossible to do anything except to behave myself. I could not even go outside without first asking his permission. He would relate many examples of other persons who fought, ate and drank to excess, stole, lied, etc., and eventually were excluded from society, and he would tell us, ‘You young people will become like them!’ He was always authoritarian and at the time I was anguished, sad, and depressed. Reflecting back, I think my entrance into human society has been due to the kindness of that man, my venerable father. He was exceedingly kind to me and I think it must be hard to find such an honest and conscientious person these days.”


When he was 14, his stepfather and kinsmen were imprisoned for allegedly taking part in a plot to assassinate a government official. In her plight, Tashitso encouraged her son to enter monastic life, which he did. Shortly afterwards, a district official ordered Kongtrul to become his secretary. While visiting the summer residence of the governor of Derge (the capital of the district Kham) together with his new mentor, a teacher at Shechen Monastery was impressed by the youth and suggested that he study at Shechen with Gyurme Thutob Namgyal, which Jamgon Kongtrul did. The Dilgo Khyentse Fellowship recounts: “Shechen Monastery was the heart of a network of nearly a hundred and sixty monasteries. It was founded in 1695 by Rabjam Tenpe Gyaltsen who had been sent by the Fifth Dalai Lama to Kham with the mission to found a Nyingma monastery. When he arrived there, Rabjam Tenpe Gyaltsen had a vision in which the great master Padmasambhava advised him to build a monastery near a white rock in the shape of a leaping lion. He predicted that if it was built, ‘immense benefits for the Buddha's teaching will be the result.’ Shechen rapidly became one of the six principal monasteries of the Nyingma” - the other five being Kathok, Pelyül, Dzogchen, Mindrolling, and Dorje Drak.


By the time he was 18 years old, Jamgon Kongtrul had received many transmissions and instructions from the Lamas residing at Shechen Monastery, specifically the empowerment of White Manjushri, which he recited daily for the rest of his life. Thutob Namgyal gave Jamgon Kongtrul full ordination at Shechen when he was 19 years old.


When he was 20, Wongen Tulku, the Ninth Tai Situpa’s brother, appointed Jamgon Kongtrul his secretary at Palpung Monastery, the main seat of the Kagyü Lineage in East Tibet. Jamgon Kongtrul met His Eminence the Ninth Tai Situpa, Pema Nyingche, there, took the full ordination vows a second time, and was given the name Karma Ngawang Yönten Gyatso Trinley Kunkhyab Pelzangpo, which means ‘Eloquent Ocean of Qualities whose Glorious, Excellent, Enlightened Activity is All-Pervasive.’


Unless recognized as a reincarnation during those times, brilliant monks were ordered to become secretaries of local landlords or politicians. To protect Karma Yönten Gyatso from being snatched away by officials from Derge, the Palpung leading monastics announced that he was the reincarnation of the Eighth Tai Situpa’s servant, whose name was Bamteng Tulku and who had come from the region of Kongpo. And that is how Karma Yönten Gyatso received the name Kongtrul, the ‘Tulku from Kong,’ but he never signed any texts that he composed by using this name. Instead, he signed them with the name Ngawang Yönten Gyatso or simply with Yönten Gyatso. Earlier, Gyurme Thutob Namgyal of Shechen Monastery had proclaimed him to be an emanation of Bodhisattva Vairocana (o ne of the seven first monks ordained in the 8 th century at Samye Monastery in Central Tibet and one of Guru Padmasambhava’s principal disciples). Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (‘Soft Melody, Power of Wisdom and Love,’ who was one of the most complete spiritual masters of the 19 th century and was later to become Kongtrul’s teacher, inspiration, and friend) regarded him as the reincarnation of Ananda (Buddha Shakyamuni’s cousin and one of his closest disciples), Aryadeva (the 3 rd century sage and foremost propagator of Nagarjuna’s philosophy), Kyungpo Näljor (the 11 th century Tibetan master, who travelled a number of times to India in search of instruction in Buddhism and initiated the Shangpa Kagyü Lineage), Taranatha (the 16 th century foremost translator and historian of the Jonang Tradition), and others.


In his Autobiography, Jamgon Kongtrul recounts a dream he had when he was 23 years old and wrote: “Once I walked to the summit of a mountain, then realized that I was dreaming. I wished to go to (the pure land of Guru Rinpoche) Tail-Fan Island, and then flew through the air. Behind many mountains circled like the iron mountains (at the edge of the world) I saw a purple jewel-like mountain that was only half-visible. Its neck was partly visible but its peak was covered by clouds. I thought I should pray as I continued to approach. At that moment it felt as if a tremendous amount of water was pouring down behind me and I forgot that I was dreaming. I panicked and awoke. At that time my devotion to the Ancient Instruction Lineage had slightly relaxed and diminished because I felt, ‘I’m of the Oral Instruction Lineage.’ I was certain that my karmic obscurations were due to this and later I did confession (of this fault) out of regret.”


Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye’s teachers (mainly according to those listed in the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, that offers no details) were Yungdrung Phuntsog, Gyurme Thutob Namgyal (his first teacher at Shechen Monastery), Pema Nyingche Wangpo (the Ninth Tai Situpa), Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Thegchog Dorje (the Fourteenth Karmapa), Tertön Chogyur Lingpa (also referred to as Choling or Chokling), Jigme Mingyur Wangyal (the Ninth Head of the Drugpa Kagyü), Nedön Tenpa Rabgye (the First Dabzang Tulku who founded Tilyag Monastery in Nangchen, East Tibet and who had asked Jamgon Kongtrul to write a treatise on the three systems of Buddhist ethics, the vows of personal liberation, the commitments of the Bodhisattva, and the pledges in Vajrayana), Tsuglag Chökyi Gyalpo, Sönam Lodrö, Karma Thegchog Tenphel, Drubgyüd Tenzin Trinley, Yeshe Nyima, Pema Tenphel, Karma Shenphen Öser, Karma Norbu, Karma Ösel Gyurme, Gyurme Tenzin Phelgye, Rigzin Gyatso, Donag Tenzin, Wangchen Gyerab Dorje, Thubten Gyaltsen, and Mingyur Namke Dorje Tsewang Drubpatsel. The Resource Center added that Jamgon Kongtrul received the Kama transmission of the Gyüd zhi (‘The Four Medical Tantras’) from Dzigar Chogtrul Trinley Lhundrub Tenpe Gyaltsen.


Honouring his teachers, Jamgon Kongtrul wrote The Melody of Complete Success:A General Supplication to All Spiritual Masters (published in Timeless Rapture):

“Illustrious spiritual masters, each of you Buddha incarnate,
In your great, universal compassion, come here,
Sit on a lotus and moon seat in the sky before me,
And consider me, your faithful, devoted child.

In bodies numbering the atoms in all realms, all sentient beings, with me,
Respectfully bow and pay homage to you, in body, voice, and mind.
In melodies that have oceans of musical aspects,
I praise your every form and pray to you.
To you I offer my bodies and possessions, real or imagined,
In a cloud-bank ocean of Bodhisattva Ever Excellent’s (Samantabhadra’s) offerings.
I regretfully acknowledge and vow not to repeat the bad karma, obscurations, faults, and downfalls –
Both natural and in relation to vows – that I have accumulated since time immemorial.
I sincerely rejoice in all virtues, both contaminated and uncontaminated,
That exist in the wheel of life and in states of transcendence.
I request you to turn the wheel of the Three Ways’ Teachings,
In styles suited to the capacity of each of us, for as long as realms of beings exist.
I ask that your enlightened forms remain forever, as firm as vajras,
Within your unceasing, universal compassion.

I dedicate all I have done that is good in the past, present, and future, including this, my prayer,
That my parents and I, sentient beings whose numbers fill all space,
May quickly accomplish the body, speech, mind,
Noble qualities, and enlightened activity of the holy, illustrious spiritual masters.

Spiritual masters, may you nurture me with your compassion!
May I not have a moment’s disrespect or misguided view!
In serving you in many ways, may I reach perfection in the three manners of pleasing you,
That my mind be merged as one with yours.

Noble masters, in all my lifetimes,
May I not be separated  from you even for an instant.
May I see whatever you do as perfect and accept whatever you say as true.
May I become inseparable from my spiritual master’s three mysteries.

By the force of this prayer I make in heartfelt faith,
May I alone replicate in my own life
Every life of freedom of the holy masters,
From Buddha Vajra Bearer until my root teacher.”


When he was 26 years old, Jamgon Kongtrul accompanied the Fourteenth Karmapa, Thegchog Dorje, to Palpung Monastery and during the ceremony that His Eminence Tai Situpa performed to awaken Bodhicitta, Jamgon Kongtrul offered everything he had received from devotees to His Eminence, who on that occasion gave him the name Changchug Sempa Lodrö Thaye, ‘Bodhisattva of Infinite Wisdom.’ Because of his unequalled scholarship, Kongtrul later was called Jamgon , ‘Gentle Protector,’ which is an epithet of Bodhisattva Manjushri, the Bodhisattva who symbolizes higher wisdom.


Three years later, Jamgon Kongtrul was now 29 or 30, Tai Situpa granted Jamgon Kongtrul permission to again enter a three-year retreat at the hermitage he had built for himself (he had left the first retreat early because he had been called to tutor the Fourteenth Karmapa in the Sanskrit language). His hermitage was located above the monastery of Palpung, on “the slope of the third Devakoti,” i.e., one of the three mountainous heights in Do-Kham that is called Tsadra Rinchen Drak, ‘Jewel Cliff that is like Tsari,’ Jamgon Kongtrul wrote: “I had received the empowerment of the Gathering of the Jewels many times but I wanted to receive the particular lineage (of the Tai Situpas), so I requested (and received) the empowerment from the precious lord of refuge. (At that time) he gave the name Kungzang Daychen Ösel Ling, ‘The Ever-Excellent Abode of Radiant Great Bliss,’ to the hermitage. When I went to the hermitage I owned nothing but my tattered clothes, a quarter measure of tea, and five measures of barley and yogurt.” Of the twenty-five areas of sacred ground in East Tibet, it represents the heart of the qualities of enlightenment. It is here that Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye stayed in retreat, lived for the most part of his life, wrote the greater part of his literary works, and guided many disciples. Later he recalled: “It has now been twenty-one years since I moved here. During this time, whatever harmful sicknesses I have experienced due to the arising of the effects of my past negative acts or to the obscuring effect of contact with those who have broken their tantric commitments, etc., have been completely healed through the compassion of the spiritual master and the Three Jewels. Apart from (sickness), no misfortunes whatsoever have occurred; on the contrary, the positive side of my practice has increased.”


A quotation from his Autobiography (in Jamgon Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual): “My 37 th year was a passage particularly full of obstacles and I contracted several diseases. I did many intensive practices. During the time I was doing the intensive practice of the Quintessential Vision of the Spiritual Master, I dreamed I met Guru Rinpochay. With great respect, I bowed and asked for his blessing which he bestowed with some mantras and words. Then he said, ‘I will clear away the obstacles to your life this year. In a few years from now you will meet me in real life and at that time you can gradually learn what you need to know.’ Later, at the age of 40, when I met the great treasure (revealer) Chokgyur Daychen Lingpa for the first time, I felt like a child being reunited with his father.”


After His Eminence Situ Pema Nyingche passed away in 1853, Jamgon Kongtrul asked Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s advice on most matters. In the introduction to The Retreat Manual, Ngawang Zangpo wrote: “The most serious effect of sectarian bias, according to Kongtrul, was that it constituted the highly negative act of the rejection of the Buddha’s teaching. Although every Buddhist must decide what methods of spiritual development are personally meaningful among the ocean of teachings given by the Buddha, rejection or disparagement of other Buddhists’ very different personal choices from among the same teachings is tantamount to rejection of the Buddha’s word. Kongtrul was freed from the last vestiges of sectarian bias at the age of 40 as a result of his contact with Jamyang Kyentsay Wangpo, an incarnate master of the Sakya monastic system, whose expansive non-sectarian vision had a profound influence on Kongtrul.”


Continuing from the introduction to The Retreat Manual: “The relationship of Kongtrul, Khyentse, and Chogling (Terton Chogyur Lingpa) played an important part in the 19 th century cultural renaissance in eastern Tibet. Other teachers, such as Mipham, Kenpo Shenga, Adzom Drugpa, Peltrul Rinpoche, and Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen (one of the most influential Bön teachers of his time, author of many books that are still studied today) made important contributions as well, but undoubtedly the three mentioned above were the chief protagonists of the renaissance. Khyentse was the inspiring force, realized in all aspects; Kongtrul was the saintly scholar who had the capacity to put everything in writing and the power of transmission; and Chogling was the unhindered mystic. (…) Although Buddhist scholars speak of Rime (ris-med), or non-sectarian, movement in connection with Kyentse, Kongtrul, Chogling and other masters of eastern Tibet, it is unlikely that these masters intended to create a movement that encompassed the various Tibetan traditions. These masters were (…) unbiased in their approach to the teachings in that their interests were not directed exclusively toward the traditions to which they belonged. They collected, committed to writing, taught, and thereby preserved, revitalized, and propagated instruction lineages that encompassed every aspect of Buddhist teaching. Significantly, they did so at a time when, as a result of the policy of strict adherence to particular teachings that was followed by various schools and traditions, there was a real danger that many instruction lineages would disappear.” In Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s words:


“No one can estimate the furthest limits of infinite space and of phenomena;

Nevertheless, when a few essential points have been revealed, the nature of all phenomena can be realized.

Thus, in a mere drop of water contained within the vase of an intelligent mind,

The wise taste the sublime flavor of the vast ocean of knowledge.”


In the year when Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was 40, “Chogling recognized him as a Tertön, or treasure discoverer, and gave him the name Chime Tennyi Yungdrung Lingpa, (…) and on many occasions he was requested by Chogling to participate in or perform rites involving the discovery of hidden treasures. For example, when Chogling and Kyentse recovered texts belonging to the three series of the Dzog-chen tradition from the Crystal Lotus Cave in Dzam Nang, Chogling gave Kongtrul a blazing statue of Mahakala, carved by Nagarjuna out of black rock from Cool Grove that bore Nagarjuna’s handprint. In return, Kongtrul gave Chogling an exceptional antique statue of Guru Rinpoche. (…) When Kongtrul decided to compile old and new hidden teachings, he sought the advice of Kyentse, who told him to take as a basis four texts that he himself had composed by collecting scattered hidden teachings, and to write a complete work on the highest tantras and Dzog-chen. In order to be empowered to write such a text, Kongtrul engaged in several retreats, until in 1856 (at the age of 43) he had numerous auspicious dreams in which he found precious pills belonging to the Indian Dzog-chen master Vimalamitra (one of Guru Padmasambhava’s Indian masters who came to Tibet and contributed to the Ancient Instruction Lineage) and some belonging to Yeshe Tsogyel (the Tibetan consort of Guru Padmasambhava and one of his principal disciples). He also dreamed of being seated on a throne reading a scripture written in silver that contained exceptional teachings. He dreamed of the dawning of the sun and moon and of receiving a blessing from a vase that Chogling Rinpoche had discovered. All these signs he took as indications that it was time to begin composing the work (that in its entirety came to be known as The Five Great Treasures). After the completion of each part of the work, Kongtrul was requested by incarnate lamas and meditators to start to confer the empowerments and transmissions that were contained in it. (…) As a result, they developed as had no other teachings. (…) In the second lunar month of 1867 (Kongtrul was then 54 years old) Chogling and Kyentse jointly enthroned Kongtrul, gave him the official title of treasure discoverer, and performed long-life rituals for him.”


In 1863, at the age of 50, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche began composing the root verses of Shecha Dzö, Shes bya kung khyab mdzöd, ‘The Encompassment of All Knowledge,’ while he was in retreat at his hermitage, Kungzang Dechen Ösel Ling. It was the beginning of his immense literary work that, in reliance on Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s prophecy and advice, was given the title mDzöd chen lnga, ‘The Five Great Treasures.’ After the completion of Shecha Dzö, Khyentse praised it as “a treatise for the ages.”


In his introduction to The Retreat Manual, Ngawang Zangpo wrote: “1870 must have been a difficult year for Kongtrul: one of his spiritual masters and main sources of inspiration, Chokgyur Daychen Lingpa, passed away at the age of forty-one. Kongtrul was having to witness the fulfilment of his prediction that he would outlive both Chokling and Kyentse.”


Jamgon Kongtrul often played an intermediary role. In the introduction to Myriad Worlds it is recorded that “A demand had been made by some of the Gelug monasteries of eastern Tibet that the Kagyü monasteries in the area be destroyed; this was demanded of the army of central Tibet, which had come into the region to repel the invading army of Nyarong (a region south of Derge). (…) By exercising his skill as a doctor, Kongtrul was able to cure Dongkam Tulku, the leader of the Dragyab Gelug monasteries, of a serious illness; as a result, Kongtrul succeeded in a covert diplomatic mission to save Palpung and other Kagyu monasteries from being destroyed and their property from being confiscated. Despite the importance that Kongtrul had in the Buddhist Staff in eastern Tibet, at the age of 61, after he had composed many of the works that cause him to be held in highest esteem even today, a few degenerate monks from Palpung Monastery initiated a dispute to discredit both him and Lama Wongen (the Ninth Tai Situpa’s brother). (…) The allegations were found to be baseless and the dispute was resolved,” but Jamgon Kongtrul did not enter Palpung Monastery again for 14 years.


In the introduction to Jamgon Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual, Ngawang Zangpo tells us that “Even years later, in 1892, as he contemplates the life and death of one of his young retreatants, Namgyal Dorjay, his sadness over the incident (at Palpung) lingers.” A quotation from his Autobiography describes the situation: “He (Namgyal Dorje) first came to see me when he was just beginning to talk; he learned how to recite correctly The Seven-Line Invocation of Guru Rinpochay. Later he proved to be bright and naturally inclined to virtuous practice. He completed the four hundred thousand accumulations of the preliminary practices for Great Seal (Mahamudra) and trained in some of the meditation itself. He completed the intensive practices of Ratna Lingpa’s Vajra Dagger meditation as well as that of the Quintessential Secret meditation on Great Compassion. He entered retreat planning to continue to practice and I had hoped that he would be a person who would be of some benefit to himself and others. But due to negative influence of the broken tantric commitments within this monastery (Palpung) before and the general temper of the time now, all of us, myself included, have succumbed to the power of obstacles, no matter how good we are. This young man, for example, was unable to live for more than twenty-three years.”


The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center lists the names of many of Jamgon Kongtrul’s students. They were: Lobzang Chöjor Lhundrub, Mipham Gyatso (who became one of Tibet's most prolific and influential masters), Loter Wangpo, Ngawang Damchö Gyatso, Khakyab Dorje (the Fifteenth Karmapa), Sakya Shri, Thubten Chökyi Dorje, Chökyi Gyatso, Ngawang Legpa, Tashi Öser, Sönam Chödrub, Kungzang Namgyal, Thubten Gyaltsen Öser, Sherab Chökyi Nangwa, Donag Tenzin, Rigzin Gargyi Wangchug, Norbu Tenzin, Orgyen Tenzin, Karma Nedön Nyingpo, Kunga Nedön Zabpa,Mipham Chökyi Jampa, Ngawang Chöphel, Zongbo Kyabgon, Karma Chökyi Nyingche, Thubten Legshe Zangpo, and Tashi Chöphel. Furthermore, he is listed as both a student and teacher of Gyatrul Donag Tenzin.


One of his students, Tashi Öser (who became Abbot of Paljor Monastery at Palpung) wrote in a song of yearning for Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, his Root Guru (published in The Rain of Wisdom):


Only father, the inconceivable compassion of your supreme mind is the embodiment of all the buddhas.

The secret amrita of your profound speech is the embodiment of the holy Dharma of the two truths.

Wearing a monk’s robes, your peaceful body is the embodiment of the Sangha, its intellect and liberation.

You who actually grant me everything, Root Guru, think of me. (…)


If you spoil me, supreme Mahasattva,

Even though you lead all beings to liberation,

You will have to go to a lot of trouble just for me, this untamed one;

From the bottom of the deepest hell,

It will certainly be difficult to get me out; so right now, do not let your compassion be small.

Since there is no other hope than you,

I cannot help but call on you with ardent longing.”


Quoted in the life story offered in Timeless Rapture, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s other close disciple, Tashi Chöphel, described his Root Guru with the words: “There was nothing that he did not learn. (…) An examination of (the complete record of his education) gives the impression that he spent his entire life studying. The extent of his bestowal of empowerments, reading transmissions, and instructions from the Canon and Treasures of the Later and Original Schools gives the impression that he spent his entire life teaching. (…) (This) master’s work furthered the continuity of the Buddha’s entire doctrine when it was about to expire. The extent of his teaching, principally contained in his wonderful Five Treasuries, fills ninety volumes. When we consider this aspect of his life of freedom, we have the impression that he spent his entire life writing. An examination of how he performed the intensive practices of an ocean of meditations from the Later and Original Schools’ discourses and tantras gives us the impression that he spent his entire life (meditating) within a strictly sealed meditation room. Only awakened persons can understand this master’s life of freedom; (to persons like us) it is inconceivable.” In Ngawang Zanpo’s words (translator of Timeless Rapture and The Retreat Manual): “ Abandoning all else, the study, teaching, writing, and meditation he did during his life leaves one breathless.”


The Fifteenth Gyalwa Karmapa praised his Root Guru in a song that he wrote, called The Songs of Khakhyap Dorje (published in The Rain of Wisdom). He began the beautiful song with a verse of homage embedded in the following lines of prose:


“Here is a little song called ‘A Canopy of Fresh Sky Flowers.’ (…)


In the space of Mahamudra, unchanging bliss and emptiness,

By performing the various dances of vajra wisdom, which unify samsara and nirvana,

He (Lodrö Thaye) establishes beings in the great ripening and freeing.

I pay homage at the lotus feet of this vajraholder.


By the great lion’s roar of the glorious voice of the supreme victorious Adityabandhu, the fourth guide in this good kalpa, Lodrö Thaye was proclaimed with praise not merely once in the sutra passages and was prophesied as a great warrior. In the three times, one better than he has not arisen, does not arise, and will not arise. He is chief of the learned, the highest of siddhas, the lord of the entire teachings, the great jetsün who rules in the holy kingdom of Kagyü Vajradhara. The limits of his kindness are immeasurable. His vajra name is very difficult to utter.”


The Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang wrote in the Light of Dharma: “In the last visit by Karmapa Khakyab Dorje to Tsadra Rinchen Drak, the Karmapa and Lodrö Thaye had the feeling that they would not be meeting again in that lifetime. Before the Fifteenth Karmapa departed, he made many offerings of long life to Lodrö Thaye and many wishes that they would meet again. In case that would not be possible, the Fifteenth Karmapa requested Lodrö Thaye that his reincarnation takes rebirth in his family. Lodrö Thaye accepted this request. Soon after, on

January 19, 1899, at the age of 86, he passed away.”



The Five Great Treasures ,

Composed by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye


if (window.showTocToggle) { var tocShowText = "show"; var tocHideText = "hide"; showTocToggle(); } Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye the Great authored and compiled more than ninety volumes of scriptures. They are referred to as “The Five Great Treasures, mDzöd chen lnga.” In the chronological (and not hierarchical) order in which he composed them, they are:

- “Shecha Dzö, Shes bya kung khyab mdzöd – The Encompassment of All Knowledge“ (an extensive compendium that succinctly elucidates the logical progression through the study and practices of the paths taught in Sutra and Tantra and the final fruition);

- “The Kagyü Ngagdzö, bKa’ brgyüd sngags mdzöd – The Treasury of Mantra of the Kagyü School” (a compendium of practices, ancient and new Tantras, accompanied by the completion stage of the Tantra, the rites of empowerment, and various authorizations);

- “Dam Ngagdzö, gDams ngag mdzöd – The Treasury of Precious Key Instructions” (the collected instructions of the Eight Great Lineages practiced in Tibet. These teachings reveal the essence of Jamgon Kongtrul’s open-mindedness since they are a collection of instructions gathered impartially from other sources rather than from his own summary of them);

- “Rinchen Terdzö, Rin chen gter mdzö - The Precious Treasure Teachings” (a collection of the Termas that Jamgon Kongtrul found, gathered, compiled, and arranged for initiations with the help of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Chogyur Lingpa);

- “Gyachen Kadzö, rGya chen bka’ mdzöd - The Treasury of Vast Teachings“ (a collection of writings, such as praises and advice, as well as compositions on medicine, science, and so on).






Kungzang Dechen Ösel Ling,

Jamgon Kongtrul’s Hermitage & Lineage Temple

at Tsadra Rinchen Drak in Derge, Kham

In Light of Dharma, the Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang (situated at the seat of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche at Pullahari Monastery in Nepal) wrote: “Tsadra Rinchen Drak is known as the second Devi Koti (‘The Goddesses’ Palace’), the sacred place of Chakrasamvara (the first Devi Koti being in India, the second in Central Tibet). In 1856, Terton Chogyur Lingpa revealed it as one of the twenty-five sacred places in Eastern Tibet.” In the introduction to Jamgon Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual, Ngawang Zangpo recorded that Chogyur Lingpa wrote a letter to Jamgon Kongtrul in which he stated: “In answer to your request that the area of sacred ground at Palpung, Tsadra Rinchen Drak, be unveiled, I ask that you do as is explained in The Prophecy of the Dakinis of the Three Sources:


“This supreme sacred place, Tsadra, the mind of enlightenment,

Is formed like the eight channel-spokes at the heart.

When the temple of the glorious heruka at the eastern gate is begun

And the local guardian’s shrine and statue are complete,

Then can the sacred ground be unveiled: take great heed!”


Chogyur Lingpa added:


“As is said in these texts, a spiritually advanced person will appear at the center of each of the twenty-five areas of sacred ground, the main sacred areas. If each of these persons constructs a temple, nothing further need be done to ensure the happiness of Tibet and Kham.”


The account offered by the Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang in Light of Dharma tells us: “In 1860, the First Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Lodrö Thaye, established a Shangpa Kagyu Retreat Centre at Tsadra Rinchen Drak. Since that time, Tsadra Rinchen Drak has been the main seat of the Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoches in Tibet.”


Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye concluded The Song of Lodrö Thaye with two verses that summarize the Mahamudra instructions he compiled in this short song for the benefit of his disciples and future generations of students. In the conclusion, he described with a few words his little hermitage:


“E ma! How wonderful and marvellous!

Since the view of Mahamudra analysis does not apply,

Cast mind-made knowledge far away.

Since in the meditation of Mahamudra there is no way of fixating on a thought,

Abandon deliberate meditation.

Since in the action of Mahamdura there is no reference point for any action,

Be free from the intention to act or not.

Since in the fruition of Mahamudra there is no attainment to newly acquire,

Cast hopes, fears, and desires far away.


This is the depth of the mind of all Kagyüs.

It is the only path on which the victorious ones and their sons journey.

Theirs is the upaya that reverses the vicious circle of existence

And the Dharma that brings enlightenment in one life.

Here is the essence of all the teachings, Sutras and Tantras.

May I and all sentient beings pervading space

Together attain the simultaneity of realization and liberation

And attain supreme Mahamudra.


In order not to transgress the command seal of emptiness endowed with the supreme aspects, the one whose knowledge is transcendent and who manifested in the form of the vajraholder, I, the subject of Padma (the Ninth Tai Situpa), the Yönten Gyatso Lodrö Thaye, composed this at Künzang Dechen Ösel Ling on the left slope of the third Devikoti, Tsari-like Jewel Rock. Shubam.”


In the short life story of Jamgon Kongtrul in Timeless Rapture, Ngawang Zangpo tells us: “This center in turn gave birth to another retreat center, at Satsa Monastery; after the reincarnate master of that institution completed a 3-year retreat under Jamgon Kongtrul’s guidance, he founded a similar retreat at his own monastery. That retreat, like the retreat at Tsadra, still functions today.” Furthermore: “In a land where monastic communities could number in the thousands – how large was the retreat center that Kongtrul built, how many Shangpa lamas would he train in each (3-year) retreat? The answer: four. Not four thousand, four hundred, forty, or fourteen. Four. In all, eight persons lived in this small community: a vajra master, five retreatants, a cook, and a woodsman. This, then, was Kongtrul’s vision for the continuation of the Shangpa lineage: four lamas every three and a half years, at most.”


In Light of Dharma: “Among the Sangha in Tsadra Rinchen Drak today is a young tulku, Sherab Tenphel Rinpoche, the reincarnation of Khenpo Chöying Zangpo Rinpoche, a devoted disciple of the Second Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and a great scholar and practitioner. Recognised by His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Sherab Tenphel Rinpoche is now 14 years old. He lives and studies in Tsadra Rinchen Drak.


“The traditional 3-year Shangpa Kagyu retreat continued throughout the lifetimes of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye and Jamgon Kongtrul Palden Khyentse Öser. However, they were abruptly discontinued in 1959, when political changes began in Tibet. Twenty-five years later, in 1984, when the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche visited Tsadra Rinchen Drak for the first time, he inspired the Sangha to rebuild the destroyed retreat centre and to re-establish the tradition of the 3-year Shangpa Kagyu Retreat. The first 3-year retreat resumed in 1986 with 25 monks under the guidance of Lama Karma Namgyal. A devoted disciple of the Very Ven. Kalu Rinpoche, he completed the 3-year retreat in the 1940s in Tsadra Rinchen Drak, under Kalu Rinpoche who was then the retreat master. The activities at Tsadra Rinchen Drak continued under the able guidance of Changdzo Yönten Phuntsok, who was also a qualified Tibetan doctor. This 89-year-old devoted disciple, and General Secretary of the Second Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Palden Khyentse Öser, lived in Tsadra Rinchen Drak for over 70 years. Despite his advanced age, Changdzo Yönten Phuntsok was still very active. Following the instructions of the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, he rebuilt the main shrine hall and retreat centre, both of which were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. He completed the construction of a Tara Shrine room in 1996, as well as three Stupas to enshrine the relics of the First, Second, and Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoches.” His last wish before he passed away in 2004 was to rebuild the Lineage Shrine Room (Ka-Rab Lhakhang) originally constructed by Palden Khyentse Öser.



Tsadra Dzongshö Deshek Dupa Phodrang,

Jamgon Kongtrul’s Tiny Hermitage inPeyu, Kham


In Light of Dharma, the Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang tells us about the hermitage that was founded by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye and that is only accessible by foot or on horseback: “A sacred place, Dzongshö has been blessed by many past great masters who practiced there and left marks of their accomplishments. There are many caves in Dzongshö where Guru Rinpoche, Khandro Yeshe Tsogyel, Lotsawa Vairocana, Rinchen Gyatso Nyingpo, the Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, and other masters have practiced. One can find imprints of their feet and hands, and a large relief of Vajrasattva on the rock-face that dominates the valley. Many signs of spiritual accomplishment can still be seen today.


“It is said that during Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye’s first visit to Dzongshö, he met a nomad as he was approaching the valley. Lodrö Thaye asked for his name. The nomad replied that his family name was Gelotshang. Lodrö Thaye then asked how many animals his family owned. The nomad replied that they had seven very good dzomos (a female breed of yaks). Lodrö Thaye was very pleased. He said that it was ‘a very good sign’ that the nomad’s family was called Gelotshang, meaning ‘Dharma-mind family,’ and they owned seven very good dzomos. Later, the meaning of Lodrö Thaye’s words concerning the ‘very good sign’ was revealed. When the retreat center was completed, Lodrö Thaye selected seven monks to join the first retreat. All of them became highly accomplished and left remarkable signs of attainment when they passed away, each one more marvellous than the one before. The retreats, which had continued uninterruptedly throughout the lifetimes of the First and Second Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoches, were abruptly discontinued in 1959 (…). However, though many of the buildings were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, a part of the original construction from Lodrö Thaye’s lifetime remains today.”


Lodrö Thaye wrote a large part of the Rinchen Terdzö and the prayer Calling the Lama from Afar while in retreat at Dzongshö. All followers and devotees hold Jamgon Kongtrul in their hearts when they sing the song that he composed in which he pays homage to his Root Lama, the early Forefathers of Tibetan Buddhism, and the Lamas of the Practice Lineage while asking for blessings to realize the instructions that he summarized in the song, entitled Calling the Lama from Afar. One verse is:


“Our Lama is actually the appearance of the Buddha himself, but we take him to be an ordinary human being.

We come to forget the Lama’s kindness in giving us profound instructions.

We are upset if we do not get what we want.

We see the Lama’s activity and behavior through the veil of doubts and wrong views.

Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.

Bless us that, free of obscurations, our devotion increases.”


Continuing with Light of Dharma: “Although the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche did not go to Dzongshö when he visited Tibet, he maintained very close ties with the Sangha and devotees, all of whom journeyed to Tsadra Rinchen Drak to meet him during his visits in 1984 and 1991. (…) Rinpoche also arranged for some of the new monks to join the 3-year retreat in Tsadra Rinchen Drak.” During the last retreat, “the monks found the retreat center too far away to manage properly. Therefore, after the first retreat was over, they decided to relocate the building to the original site founded by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, at the sacred cave where Guru Rinpoche had practiced, Yang Dag Phuk Khung Chen Mo. The condition at Dzongshö required improvement and the education of the younger monks and the activities at the monastery needed looking after.” The young monks living there now “undergo training and education guided by the senior monks. The Monastery receives support from the Dzongshö community whose people are devout Buddhists with close connection to Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche.”


May the wonderful presence and magnificent activities of

H.H. the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, and

H.E. the Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Lodrö Chökyi Nyima,

long light the path to liberation from cyclic existence and to realization of Buddhahood!




Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang, The Past Incarnations of H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche,Locations of Monasteries and Retreat Centers - Tsadra Rinchen Drak, & Dzongshö Deshek Dhüpe Phodrang, in: Light of Dharma. A Soothing Song of Spontaneous Fulfilment of Good Wishes, Pullahari Monastery in Nepal, 2004, pages 3-4 & 17-21.

Ven. Bokar Tulku Rinpoche, A Brief Biography of His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, in: Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang, His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche – In Memory, Rumtek, Sikkim, 1992, pages 2-5.

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, Calling the Lama from Afar & The Song of Lodrö Thaye, in: Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang, His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche – In Memory, Rumtek, Sikkim, 1992, pages 42-85.

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, Myriad Worlds, transl. & ed. by the International Transl. Com. founded by the V.V. Kalu Rinpoche, N.Y., 1995. Introduction written by Elio Guarisco, pages 13-39 & 77.

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, Jamgon Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual, translated & introduced by Ngawang Zangpo, Tsadra Foundation, N.Y. & Colorado, 1994, pages 32-55.

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, The Melody of Complete Success, in: Timeless Rapture. Inspired Verses of the Shangpa Masters, compiled by Jamgon Kongtrul, translated & introduced by Ngawang Zangpo, Ithaca , N.Y. , 2003, pages 355-359 & 382-383.

The Autobiography of Jamgon Kongtrul , translated by Richard Barron, Ithaca, N.Y., 2003.

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, The Treasury of Knowledge – Book Six, Part Three: Frameworks of Buddhist Philosophy, translated, introduce, & annotated by Elizabeth M. Callahan, Ithaca, N.Y., 2007, page 303, fn. 5.

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, The Treasury of Knowledge – Book Eight, Part Four: Esoteric Instructions, translated & annotated by Sarah Harding, Ithaca, N.Y., 2007, page 35.

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 91-94 & 102.

The Dilgo Khyentse Fellowship, Shechen Monastery, Kham Tibet (2008).

Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, Biographical Data: Jamgön Kongtrül , N.Y. (2008).






Photo of the Lineage Temple of Tsadra Rinchen Drak in the year 2007 courtesy of Pullahari Monastery in Nepal and photo of the lotus taken & offered by Lena Fong. Aware that it is not possible to gratify the translators & publishers for their immense work except with a fondest “thank you,” compiled & written by Gaby Hollmann, responsible for inadequacies & mistakes. Munich, Sept. 2008. All rights reserved.


Blessings of peace and ease to everyone!

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