Biography of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye

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Alak Zenkar Rinpoche

Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye

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A Brief Biography of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye

by Alak Zenkar Rinpoche

The sublime Kongtrul Yönten Gyatso (1813–1899) was born in the hidden valley of Rongyap, which lies in front of Pema Lhartse in Drida Zelmogang in East Tibet, in the Water Bird year of the fourteenth calendrical cycle.

His father, was Tendzin Yungdrung of the royal Khyung clan of accomplished practitioners, and his mother was the yoginī Tashi Tso.

From his fifth year, he studied the basics of the alphabet and so on. Then, from the age of about ten, he began to study on an enormous scale and without sectarian bias, receiving teachings from many spiritual guides of various traditions, including Gyurme Thutob Namgyal of Zechen, Tai Situ Pema Nyinche Wangpo and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. He learned all the common sciences, such as Sanskrit grammar, logic and epistemology (pramāṇa), arts and crafts, medicine and so on, and he studied, reflected and meditated upon all the uncommon topics of learning, including the Madhyamika, Prajñāpāramitā, Vinaya and Abhidharmakośa of the vehicle of characteristics, as well as the tantras, commentaries (āgama) and pith instructions (upadeśa) of the mantra vehicle, from both the kama and terma and both the old and new translation schools.

To provide guidance for fortunate disciples, he composed and edited the ninety-volume collection of texts universally renowned as the ‘Five Great Treasuries’:[1]

  1. The Treasury of Encyclopedic Knowledge, which brilliantly reveals the ground, path and fruition for the whole of sūtra and mantra, from the paths of the common sciences all the way up to Dzogchen Atiyoga, which is the culmination of the nine vehicles in the uncommon approach.

  2. The Treasury of Precious Instructions, which is a compilation of the most profound maturing empowerments and liberating instructions belonging to the eight great chariots of the practice lineage.

  3. The Treasury of Kagyü Mantras, which is a compendium of maṇḍala rituals, maturing empowerments and liberating instructions, such as Yangdak, Vajrakīlaya and Yamāntaka from the Nyingma kama, and the tantra cycles from the new translation lineages of Marpa and Ngok.

  4. The Treasury of Precious Termas, which distills the quintessence of an ocean of profound termas within the Nyingma school.

  5. a) The Uncommon Treasury, which contains the unique secret treasures of his own profound terma revelations.

b) The Treasury of Extensive Teachings, which includes various related works, such as praises and advice, as well as compositions on medicine, science and so on.

In addition, he dedicated his whole life to teaching and spreading the Dharma, by giving empowerments, instructions, advice and reading transmissions for both sūtra and mantra, kama and terma, old and new translation schools, without any sectarian bias.

Finally, at the age of eighty-seven his physical manifestation was absorbed into absolute space.

His students included lineage holders from the Kagyü school, headed by the fourteenth and fifteenth Karmapas and the tenth and eleventh Tai Situpas, as well as masters of the Sakya and Ngor traditions including Jamyang Loter Wangpo and Chöje Kunga Jamyang, holders of the Early Translation teachings including Mipham Jamyang Namgyal and Tertön Lerab Lingpa, and masters from the Riwo Gendenpa tradition, including Gyüme Khenpo Yeshe Gongphel and Drakyab Dongtrul Khechok Ngawang Damchö Gyatso. In short, his disciples were incredibly vast in number and came from all over Tibet, from the provinces of Ü and Tsang in Central Tibet and also from the upper, middle and lower regions of East Tibet.

Written by Thubten Nyima.

| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2005.

Version: 1.5-20231217

  1. For a detailed description of these Five Treasuries see also E. Gene Smith, Among Tibetan Texts, Wisdom Publications, 2001, pp. 262–7 and the appendix to The Autobiography of Jamgön Kongtrul: A Gem of Many Colors, transl. Richard Barron, Snow Lion Publications, 2003.  ↩

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