Literary Genres › Biography
Courtesy of Himalayan Art Resources
Translations of various namthar (rnam thar) or biographical and autobiographical works:
- Radiant Sunlight of the Victors’ Teachings: A Brief, First-Hand Account of the Liberating Life-Story of the Great Emanated Treasure Revealer by Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa
This short autobiography, composed in verse, covers the main events in the great treasure-revealer’s life from 1829, the year of his birth, until 1865, which was five years before he passed away at the age of 42.
- A Short Story of the Life and Liberation of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö wrote this brief autobiography as a supplement to the collected biographies of lineage masters for the Chöd (gcod) practice known as The Whispered Transmission of Machik's Secret Conduct (ma gcig gsang spyod snyan brgyud) or The Whispered Transmission of Thangtong Gyalpo (thang stong snyan brgyud).
Jamyang Khyentse wrote this verse autobiography at the request of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910–1991). Its detailed lists of teachings received, practices accomplished and teachings given later formed the basis of the full biography that Dilgo Khyentse himself wrote.
The late Khenpo Petse Rinpoche wrote this brief autobiography in or around 1997, when he was in his mid-60s. It is primarily a list of what he received from his various teachers, presented with characteristic humility.
- The Excellent Path of Devotion: An Abridged Story of a Mendicant’s Experiences in Response to Questions from Vajra Kin by Sera Khandro
Sera Khandro composed this verse autobiography, which is suitable for daily recitation, in 1929, two years after completing a longer, more detailed account of her life. As with many other biographical works in the Tibetan tradition, the story is itself a Dharma teaching, demonstrating the importance of following one’s heart, persevering in the face of difficulties, and cultivating complete trust and devotion
- The Hook Which Invokes the Blessings: A Supplication to the Life and Liberation of Rigdzin Jalü Dorje by Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje
- The Tambura’s Yearning Song of Devotion: A Prayer Summarizing Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal’s Life and Liberation by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye
Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye composed this beautiful prayer summarizing Samten Lingpa’s famous terma biography of Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal in 1893 at the request of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and the yoginī Doshul Khandro.
- A Prayer Recalling the Life and Liberation of the Great Perfection Adept Rangjung Dorje (‘Naturally Arisen Vajra’), Jigme Lingpa by Jigme Lingpa
Jigme Lingpa wrote this prayer recalling his own life and liberation at the request of the First Dodrupchen, Jigme Trinlé Özer (1745–1821). The prayer includes a summary of his previous lives, as well as his most important accomplishments and qualities, when—as he puts it—he emphasized the positive.
- A Prayer Recounting the Lives and Liberation of the Exalted Ḍākinī Mandāravā revealed by Samten Lingpa
- The Hook of Blessing and Compassion: An Invocation Recalling Briefly the Life and Liberation of the Drukchen Drodül Pawo Dorje, My Loving Supreme Guru by Lhundrup Tso
This short biography of the great master Adzom Drukpa Drodül Pawo Dorje is written in verse in the form of an invocation. It was composed by Lhundrup Tso (1864–1946), the paternal grandmother of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche.
Alak Zenkar's brief biography of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye (1813–1899) summarizes the great master's extraordinary education and activity, especially his remarkable literary output, which resulted in the so-called 'Five Great Treasuries' (mdzod chen lnga).
Alak Zenkar summarizes the remarkable life and liberation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892), showing how he mastered the so-called 'eight great chariots of the practice lineage' (sgrub brgyud shing rta chen po brgyad) and received the seven special transmissions or 'descents' (bka' babs bdun). Zenkar Rinpoche also briefly summarizes Khyentse Wangpo's collected writings, which are divided into nine main categories.
Alak Zenkar Rinpoche offers a concise account of the extraordinary life and teaching career of Dza Patrul Orgyen Jigme Chökyi Wangpo (1808–1887), one of the most influential Tibetan masters of the nineteenth century. The biography has been reprinted a number of times since it was first published in the 1980s, and is included in most recent editions of Patrul's most famous work, Kun bzang bla ma'i zhal lung.
In this brief account, Zenkar Rinpoche summarizes the education and activity of Shechen Gyaltsab Gyurme Pema Namgyal (1871–1926), and outlines the contents of the thirteen volumes of his collected writings.
A brief biography of the Gelugpa geshe Drakkar Lobzang Palden Tendzin Nyendrak (blo bzang dpal ldan bstan 'dzin snyan grags, 1866–1929), who famously debated with Ju Mipham (1846–1912), composed his own Dzogchen treatise, and passed on the transmission for a number of major collections including the Kangyur.
- The Wish-Fulfilling Tree: The Life Story of the Master of Uḍḍiyāna as found in Padmasambhava’s Sevenfold Cycle of Profundity by Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa
This concise biography of the eighth-century master from Uḍḍīyana, Guru Padmasambhava, who established Buddhism in Tibet in the 8th century, was revealed in 1856 by the great treasure-revealer Chokgyur Lingpa as part of the Sevenfold Cycle of Profundity (zab pa skor bdun). The text consists of ten short chapters, each relating to a different aspect of the master’s life and activities.
- Wondrous Light of Lunar Nectar: The Biography of Chatral Kunga Palden, a Yogin of the Supreme Vehicle by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
A brief biography of Kunga Palden (1878–1944), one of the main disciples of Orgyen Tendzin Norbu (1841–1900), from whom he is said to have inherited the 'practice lineage' (while Khenpo Shenga inherited the lineage of study). Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the biography's author, received instruction on tsa-lung yoga and Lama Yangtik from Kunga Palden and also benefitted from the master's kindness after being scalded in a childhood accident.
This seven-chapter biography is a late example of the Kathang (bka' thang) genre, a versified chronicle of Padmasambhava's life as recounted to Emperor Trisong Detsen and his subjects. The text is unusually detailed in its description of Padmasambhava's personal practice, listing dozens of places where he meditated, how long he stayed, which practices he performed, which results he gained, and so on. It concludes with a chapter that includes prophecies and practical advice for the people of Tibet.
This epic of Guru Padmasambhava, as recorded by Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal, was revealed by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye as a “siddhi”. The text consists of ten short chapters, each related to a different aspect of the master’s life and activities.
- Notes on Chögyal Puntsok Rigdzin and Lhatsün Namkha Jigme’s Incarnations by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Brief surveys, taken from Jamyang Khyentse's personal notebook, of the life of Ngadak Sempa Chenpo Chögyal Puntsok Rigdzin (1592–1656) and the lives of the incarnations of Lhatsün Namkha Jigme (1597–1650)
- The Life of Khenpo Pema Vajra by Wangchen Dargye
This brief biography of Khenpo Pema Vajra describes his early studies at Dzogchen Monastery and his path to becoming a teacher at its famous Śrī Siṃha college. It also details his later career at the nearby hermitage in Peme Thang, 'Lotus Plain', where he taught many of the most influential figures of nineteenth century Kham.
This brief account of the life of Böpa Tulku (1898/1900/1902–1959), who is renowned for his Prajñāpāramitā commentaries and his systematic presentations of Ju Mipham's philosophy, was written by his direct disciple, Khenpo Pema Tsewang Lhundrup.
Khenpo Tsöndrü's brief biography of his own teacher Khenchen Abu Lhagang (1879–1955), alias Pema Tekchok Loden, tells how he studied under some of the most illustrious masters of his day before serving as khenpo for eight years at the famed monastic college of Dzogchen Śrī Siṃha and then retiring to a nearby cave in order to focus on meditative practice.
This revelation of Orgyen Lingpa, discovered at Samye Chimphu, provides a brief account of Guru Padmasambhava's life and deeds. Each of its sixteen chapters describes eight features, beginning with Padmasambhava's eight manifestations, his eight life-giving fathers, eight mothers, and so on. The text concludes with a series of prophecies.
- Three Reasons for Confidence: A Work Telling the Life and Liberation Story of the Great Master Padmākara by Tāranātha
Tāranātha composed this biography of Padmasambhava in 1610. It is unique insofar as it does not follow the version of the life-story recounted in numerous terma texts. Instead, it follows the historical perspective of the Testimony of Ba, as well as several Nyingma tantras and their commentaries.