Jamgon Kongtrul

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Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé

Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé (Tibetan: འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས་Wylie: 'jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha' yas, 1813–1899), also known as Jamgön Kongtrül the Great, was a Tibetan Buddhist scholar, poet, artist, physician, tertön and polymath.[1][2] He was one of the most prominent Tibetan Buddhists of the 19th century and he is credited as one of the founders of the Rimé movement, compiling what is known as the "Five Great Treasuries".[3] He achieved great renown as a scholar and writer, especially among the Nyingma and Kagyu lineages and composed over 90 volumes of Buddhist writing,[1][3] including his magnum opus, The Treasury of Knowledge.

Brief biography

Kongtrül was born in Rongyab (rong rgyab), Kham, then part of the Derge Kingdom.[4] He was first tonsured at a Bon monastery, and then at 20 became a monk at Shechen, a major Nyingma monastery in the region, later moving on to the Kagyu Palpung monastery in 1833 under the Ninth Tai Situ, Pema Nyinje Wangpo (1775-1853).[1][4] He studied many fields at Palpung, including Buddhist philosophy, tantra, medicine, architecture, poetics and Sanskrit.[1] By thirty he had received teachings and empowerments from more than sixty masters from the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism.[3] Kongtrül studied and practiced mainly in the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions, including Mahamudra and Dzogchen, but also studied and taught Jonang Kalachakra.[4] He also went on tour with the fourteenth Karmapa and taught him Sanskrit.[4] He became an influential figure in Kham and eastern Tibet, in matters of religion as well as in secular administration and diplomacy.[1] He was influential in saving Palpung monastery when an army from the Tibetan government of Central Tibet occupied Kham in 1865.[1]

Kongtrül was affected by the political and inter-religious conflict going on in Tibet during his life and worked together with other influential figures, mainly Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892) and also with the Nyingma treasure revealer Chogyur Lingpa (1829–1870) and Ju Mipham Gyatso (1846–1912). Kongtrül and his colleages worked together to compile, exchange and revive the teachings of the Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma, including many near-extinct teachings.[5] This movement came to be named Rimé (Ris med), “nonsectarian,” or “impartial,” because it held that there was value in all Buddhist traditions, and all were worthy of study and preservation.[5] According to Sam van Schaik, without this collecting and printing of rare works, the later suppression of Buddhism by the Communists would have been much more final.[6]

Jamgon Kongtrül's personal hermitage was Kunzang Dechen Osel Ling (kun bzang bde chen 'od gsal gling), "the Garden of Auspicious Bliss and Clear Light", and was built on a rocky outcrop above Palpung monastery.[4] It became a importance center for the practice of three year retreats.[4] This is also where he composed most of his major works. Kongtrül's works, especially his 10 volume The Treasury of Knowledge. has been very influential, especially in the Kagyu and Nyingma schools.[1]

Works by Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé

The Five Great Treasuries

The main corpus of Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye vast scholarly activities (comprising more than ninety volumes of works in all) is known as the Great Treasuries:

1. The Treasury of Encyclopedic Knowledge (shes bya kun la khyab pa'i mdzod), summarizing the entire sutric and tantric paths.
2. The Treasury of Precious Instructions (gdams ngag rin po che'i mdzod), a compendium of empowerments and oral instructions of what he formulated as the "Eight Great Chariots" of the instruction lineages in Tibet.[7]
3. The Treasury of Kagyü Mantras (bka' brgyud sngags kyi mdzod), a compendium of rituals, empowerments and oral instructions for the Yangdak, Vajrakilaya and Yamantaka deities of the Nyingma kama tradition, and the tantra cycles from the Sarma lineages of Marpa and Ngok.
4. The Treasury of Precious Termas (rin chen gter mdzod), a massive compilation of termas.
5a. The Uncommon Treasury (thun mong ma yin pa'i mdzod), which contains Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye's own profound terma revelations.
5b. The Treasury of Extensive Teachings (rgya chen bka' mdzod), which includes various related works, such as praises and advice, as well as compositions on medicine, science and so on.

Other works published in English translation

The Great Path of Awakening : The Classic Guide to Using the Mahayana Buddhist Slogans to Tame the Mind and Awaken the Heart translated by Ken McLeod, Shambhala, 2000. ISBN 1-57062-587-5

Buddha Nature, The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra with Commentary Arya Maitreya, with commentary by Jamgon Kongrul Lodro Thaye and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Snow Lion, 200. ISBN 1-55939-128-6

Cloudless Sky commentary by Jamgon Kongrul the Third. Shambhala, 2001. ISBN 1-57062-604-9

Jamgon Kongtrul's Retreat Manual translated by Ngawang Zangpo. Snow Lion Publications, 1994. ISBN 1-55939-029-8

The Torch of Certainty Foreword by Chogyam Trungpa. Shambhala, 2000. ISBN 1-57062-713-4

Creation and Completion: Essential Points of Tantric Meditation translated by Sarah Harding. Wisdom Publications, 2002. ISBN 0-86171-312-5

The Autobiography of Jamgon Kongtrul: A Gem of Many Colors translated by Richard Barron, Snow Lion Publications, 2003. ISBN 1-55939-184-7

Sacred Ground: Jamgon Kongtrul on Pilgrimage and Sacred Geography Snow Lion Publications, 2001. ISBN 1-55939-164-2

Enthronement: The Recognition of the Reincarnate Masters of Tibet and the Himalayas Snow Lion Publications, 1997. ISBN 1-55939-083-2

The Teacher-Student Relationship Snow Lion Publications, 1999. ISBN 1-55939-096-4

Essence of Benefit and Joy Siddhi Publications, 2000. ISBN 0-9687689-5-4

Timeless Rapture : Inspired Verse from the Shangpa Masters Snow Lion, 2003. ISBN 1-55939-204-5

Light of Wisdom, Vol. 1 by Padmasambhava, commentary by Jamgon Kongtrul, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1999. ISBN 962-7341-37-1

Light of Wisdom, Vol. II by Padmasambhava, commentary by Jamgon Kongtrul, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1999. ISBN 962-7341-33-9

Light of Wisdom, Vol. IV by Padmasambhava, commentary by Jamgon Kongtrul, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2001. ISBN 962-7341-43-6 (restricted circulation)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Jackson, Roger R. The Tibetan Leonardo, 2012, https://www.lionsroar.com/the-tibetan-leonardo/
  2. Ringu Tulku, The Ri-me Philosophy of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great: A Study of the Buddhist Lineages of Tibet 2007
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Jamgon Kongtrul, Kalu Rinpoche translation group, The Treasury of Knowledge: Book One: Myriad Worlds, Translators' Introduction.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Alexander Gardner, "Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye," Treasury of Lives, accessed May 18, 2018, http://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Jamgon-Kongtrul-Lodro-Taye/4358.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Schaik, Sam van. Tibet: A History. Yale University Press 2011, page 165-9.
  6. Schaik, Sam van. Tibet: A History. Yale University Press 2011, page 169.
  7. Kongtrül, Jamgön. "Welcome to the Tsadra Foundation Catalog of the Damngak Rinpoché Dzö - The Treasury of Precious Instructions - gdams ngag rin po che'i mdzod". Tsadra Foundation. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 

Further reading

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