Jamgon Kongtrul was a prominent Tibetan Buddhist teacher (lama) and is also the name shared by members of a lineage held by tradition to be his subsequent reincarnations (tulku).
The first Jamgon Kongtrul, Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, was one of the preeminent scholars in 19th century Tibet. Tibetan Buddhists believe that he had multiple simultaneous emanations; only one of these, Khyentse Özer, was called the second Jamgon Kongtrul. The recognition of the fourth Jamgon Kongtrul is presently in dispute, complicated by the ongoing controversy regarding the recognition of the genuine reincarnation of H.H. the 17th Karmapa.
The Jamgon Kongtruls are honored as lineage-holders of all the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, although they are primarily identified with the Karma Kagyu lineage. The Jamgon Kogtruls have had a profound influence on many teachers and masters of the different schools.
The First Jamgon Kongtrul (1813-1899)
The first Jamgon Kongtrul, named Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye was one of the most prominent Buddhist masters in Tibet
in the 19th century. He is credited as one of the founders of the Rime movement
of Tibetan Buddhism and he compiled what is known as the Five Great Treasuries. He achieved great renown as a scholar and writer, and authored more than one hundred volumes of scriptures.
Subsequent Jamgon Kongtruls
The 15th Karmapa
's biography mentions that he had a vision in which he saw 25 simultaneous emanations of the master Jamgon Kongtrul. Preeminent among these was Karsey Kongtrul
(1904-1953), who was said to embody Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye's mind. Karsey Kongtrul was born as the son of the 15th Karmapa
means "son of the Karmapa"; his formal religious name was as Jamgön Palden Khyentse Özer ().
The third Jamgon Kongtrul, a tulku of Khyentse Özer, was born in 1953. He fled to India in 1959 in the aftermath of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and grew up at Rumtek Monastery under the care of the 16th Karmapa. Following the Karmapa's death, the third Jamgon Kongtrul was actively involved in the search for his successor. However, he died in a car accident in 1992 before the search could be completed.
The recognition of the fourth Jamgon Kongtrul is presently in dispute, complicated by the ongoing controversy regarding the recognition of the genuine reincarnation of H.H. the 17th Karmapa. There are two candidates both of whom are listed below:
The first recognition occurred in August 1996 and was formally tonsured by Urgyen Trinley Dorje later that year with the name Chokyi Nyima. He had been born on November 26, 1995 near Chushur Dzong in Central Tibet. In 1997, he travelled to India and has since lived at the monastery established by the previous Jamgon Kongtrul in Lava, West Bengal. This recognition was confirmed by H.H. the Dalai Lama, H.H. Sakya Trizin, the head of the Sakya sect, and H.H. Mindroling Trichen, now the recently deceased head of the Nyingma sect. All three performed hair-cutting ceremonies and bestowed names, as is traditional.
The second recognition occurred in December 1996, when Thaye Dorje named Jamgon Yangsi as Karma Migyur Drakpa Senge Trinley Kunkhyab Palzangpo. He had been born the son of His Eminence Beru Khyentse Rinpoche on the 17th of December, 1995 in the Kathmandu valley, Nepal on the anniversary of the birth of Tsongkhapa (the 25th of the Tibetan month). When Thaye Dorje first visited Bodhgaya on the 23rd December 1996, Yangsi Rinpoche despite his young age was able to spontaneously pick up some rice and toss it into the air as a mandala offering, signifying the auspicious connection between Karmapa and Jamgon Kongtrul. In 1997, at H.E. Beru Khyentse Rinpoche's request, H.H. Dalai lama performed the hair-cutting ceremony for Jamgon Yangsi in Bodhgaya. In the year 2000, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, then head of the Nyingma sect, again reconfirmed Jamgon Yangsi as the genuine reincarnation of the Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye.
Other tulkus of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye
In addition to Karsey Kongtrul Khyentsé Özer (1904-1953) (the principal incarnation), there were four other reincarnations of the first Jamgon Kongtrul: Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
, Dzogchen Kongtrul Rinpoche
, and Shechen Kongtrul Rinpoche
. Kalu Rinpoche
, also recognized post-facto as the incarnation of Lodrö Thaye's activity
, was never enthroned as such.
Works by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye
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:
- The Treasury of Encyclopedic Knowledge (shes bya kun la khyab pa’i mdzod), summarizing the entire sutric and tantric paths.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Treasury of Precious Termas (rin chen gter mdzod), a massive compilation of termas.
- The Uncommon Treasury (thun mong ma yin pa’i mdzod), which contains Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye’s own profound terma revelations.
- 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.
The Treasury of Knowledge
Of the Five, the Treasury of Knowledge was Jamgon Kongtrul's magnum opus
, covering the full spectrum of Buddhist history, philosophy and practice. There is an ongoing effort to translate it into English. It is divided up as follows:
- •Book One: Myriad Worlds (Snow Lion, 2003. ISBN 1-55939-188-X)
- •Book Two: The Advent of the Buddha (parts 2, 3, and 4 forthcoming)
- Part One: The Teacher’s Path to Awakening
- Part Two: The Buddha’s Enlightenment
- Part Three: The Buddha’s Twelve Deeds
- Part Four: Enlightenment’s Bodies and Realms
- •Book Three: The Buddha’s Doctrine—The Sacred Teachings
- Part One: What Are the Sacred Teachings?
- Part Two: Cycles of Scriptural Transmission
- Part Three: Compilations of the Buddha’s Word
- Part Four: Origins of the Original Translations’ Ancient Tradition (Nyingma)
- •Book Four: Buddhism’s Spread Throughout the World
- Part One: Buddhism’s Spread in India
- Part Two: How Buddhist Monastic Discipline and Philosophy Came to Tibet
- Part Three: Tibet’s Eight Vehicles of Tantric Meditation Practice
- Part Four: The Origins of Buddhist Culture
- •Book Five: Buddhist Ethics (Snow Lion, 2003. ISBN 1-55939-191-X)
- •Book Six: The Topics for Study
- Part One: A Presentation of the Common Fields of Knowledge and Worldly Paths
- Part Two: The General Topics of Knowledge in the Hinayana and Mahayana
- Part Three: Frameworks of Buddhist Philosophy (Snow Lion, 2007. ISBN 1-55939-277-0)
- Part Four: Systems of Buddhist Tantra (Snow Lion, 2005. ISBN 1-55939-210-X)
- •Book Seven: The Training in Higher Wisdom
- Part One: Gaining Certainty about the Keys to Understanding
- Part Two: Gaining Certainty about the Provisional and Definitive Meanings in the Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma, the Two Truths and Dependent Arising
- Part Three: Gaining Certainty about the View
- Part Four: Gaining Certainty about the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind
- •Book Eight: The Training in Higher Meditative Absorption (Samadhi)
- Part One, Two: Shamatha and Vipashyana; The Stages of Meditation in the Cause-Based Approaches (forthcoming)
- Part Three: The Elements of Tantric Practice
- Part Four: Esoteric Instructions, A Detailed Presentation of the Process of Meditation in Vajrayana (Snow Lion, 2008. ISBN 1-55939-284-3)
- •Book Nine: An Analysis of the Paths and levels to Be Traversed (forthcoming)
- Part One: The Paths and Levels in the Cause-Based Dialectical Approach
- Part Two: The Levels and Paths in the Vajrayana
- Part Three: The Process of Enlightenment
- Part Four: the Levels in the Three Yogas
- •Book Ten: An Analysis of the Consummate Fruition State (forthcoming)
- Part One: the Fruition in the Dialectical Approach
- Part Two: The More Common Attainment in the Vajrayana
- Part Three: The Fruition in the Vajrayana
- Part Four: The Fruition State in the Nyingma School
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)