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The Life of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

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The Life of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
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The Life of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

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Item Code: NAP117
Author: Jamgon Kongtrul
English Translated by Matthew Akester
Publisher: Shechen Publication
Language: English
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788174721976
Pages: 295 (13 Colors Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 9.5 inch X 6.5 inch
weight of the book: 585 gms


Jamyang Khyentse Wangro’s heritage was central to Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s very being, spiritual practice and enlightened activity. At a young age, Tashi Paljor (the name him by Lama Mipan Rinpoche)had been recognized by several eminent masters, Jamyang Loter Wangpo and Shechen Gyaltsap Gyurme Pema Namgyal in particular, as an emanation of Khyentse Wangpo.

Five incarnations were recognized altogether, who were respectively the emanations of Khyentse Wangpo’s body, speech, mind, qualities, and activity, Dilgo Khyentse Ringpoche recounts how his root teacher, Shechen Gyaltsap Ringpoche, who was living in a hermitage above monastery, formally enthroned him as the “mind incarnation” of the great master:

“On the morning of the enthronement I climbed up the path to the hermitage. Inside, a large throne had been set up. Shechen Kongtrul was holding incense, and Shechen Gyalsap was dressed in his finest clothes. They told me to sit the throne. Only a few people were in the room. Gyaltsap Rinpoche performed the ceremony. As a symbol of the Buddha’s body, he gave me images of Buddha Sakyamuni that had belonged to Mipam Rinpoche and Jamyang Khyetse. As a symbol of speech, he gave me many volumes of their writing. As a symbol of mind, he gave me the Vajra and bell that Mipam Rinpoche had used throughout his life As a symbol of qualities, he gave me all the implements needed for giving empowerments. Finally, as a symbol of Activity, he gave me Mipam Rinpoche’s seal. Then he presented me with a written document. This said:”Today I recognize the son of the Dilgo family as the re-embodiment of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. I name him Gyurme Tekchok Tenpe Gyaltsen, immutable Victory Banner of the Supreme Vehicle. I entrust him with the teachings of the great masters of the past. Now, if I die I have no regret.”

During this period, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche received many teachings from Shechen Gyaltsap, together with Dzongsar Khyntse Choki Ladro, who was the incarnations of Kyentse Wangro’s activity and who was to become Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s second main root teacher.

Throughout his life, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche endeavoured to perpetuate the spiritual legacy of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Activity and who was to become Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s second main root teacher.

Through his life, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche endeavored to perpetuate the spiritual legacy of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. On several occasions he gave the transmissions of the master’s collected writings and bestowed the empowerments of his revealed treasures. He also wrote texts to complement some of Khyentse Wangpo’s writings, such as manuals for giving empowerments, lineage prayers, and meditation instructions.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche wrote for instance a two hundred-page instruction manual on the practice of the vima Lhadrup (Bi ma lha sgrub), a sadhana focused on Vimalamitra, Srisimha and Guru Padmasambhava, which is a part of Khyentse wangpo’s Chime Pakme Nyingatik mind treasure (‘Shi med ‘phags ma’i snying thig).Upon completing the composition of the this commentary, Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche told us that this was his main Dzokchen (Great Perfection) teachings. He would also often give transmission and teachings upon the Chetsun Nyingtik (Ice btsun snying thig), and commented that the Vima Lhadrup represented the “vast” aspect and the Chetsun Nyingtik the “profound” aspect of Khyentse Wangpo’s Dzogchen the sadhana focused on king Trisong Detsen (Chos rgyal tshangs pa lha’I me tog lha sgrub) and on Avalokitesvara in the form of Semnyi Ngalso (Sems nyid ngal gso), two of Kyentse Wangro’ treasures.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo was one of the “Five King-like Terton –s”, or treasure rediscoveres, the four others being Nyangre Nyima Oser, Guru Choki Wangchuk, Dorje Lingpa, and Padma Lingpa. But Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche often reminded and said that Khyentse Wangpo had once confided that he had a vision in which he could see clearly the locations of all the Terma hidden in Tibet and the Himalaya by Guru Padmasambhava for the sake of future generations.

Normally, only the Terton who was meant to find the Terma is able to decipherthe Dakini script in which it is written. According to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, other Terton s may be able to get a general idea of the teaching from the script, such as whether it is a Guru Sadhana or a Dzokchen teaching, for instance. He added that Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, who was an emanation of King Trisong Detson and had been entrusted with all of Guru Rinpoche’s teachings, was able to understand all Dakini scripts. Such great Tertons are also the ultimate arbiters of the authenticity of Terma revealed by others. It is therefore customary for a Terton to present his revelation to such an enlightened master and ask him to confirm whether his discovery is genuine and will benefit beings, or whether it should be discarded.

It may also happen that two or three Terton-s have been entrusted with the same treasure by Guru Rinpoche and discover it either together or simultaneously in different places. This was sometimes the case, for instance, with Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Jamgon Kongtrul and Chokgyur Lingpa. Once, Chokgyur Lingpa came to show Khyentse Wangpo the treasure of the Sampa Lhundrup cycle (The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Aspirations) that he had just revealed. Khyentse Wangpo not only confirmed its authenticity, but added that he had revealed exactly the same treasure, almost word for word, and that there was now no need for him to put it into writing, since Chokgyur Lingpa had already done so.

On a few occasion, these three masters revealed Terma in public. Jamyang Kyentse wangpo once revealed a Terma from the cliff at Karmo Taksang hermitage, in front of a large crowd. A few months earlier, in November 1866, at the nearby Seng-ngu Yustso Lake, Chokgyrur Lingpa revealed a treasure in the prsenceof KhyentseWangpo, the king of Derge and some hundred followers. According to the account that was passed down, the lake was frozen except at its centre, where the ice opened like a widow, around which the company gathered in a circle. It was there that the Naga, the guardian snake-spirit of the lake, presented to Chokgyur Lingpa a gold reliquary containing precious teachings as well as some gold powder of exceptional quality that was later used in the frescoes adorning the temple walls at Dzongsar monastery.


Jamgon Kongtrul’s biography of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo is the definitive accountof giant among of a giant among spiritual master, composed by his closet friend and colleague. It is one of the most informative sources there is on what has become colleague. It is one of the most informative sources there is on what has become known as the Ri-me movement in 19th century eastern Tibet, and in it’s stylistic combination of artful organisation, scholastic acuity and earthy directness, could be considered as one of the literary manifestoes of that movement.

The name Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (Kunga Tenpe Gyeltsen, 1820-92) commands a degree of respect and awe almost unrivalled in the Tibetan world in his lifetime or since. He is generally described in superlatives: the greatest, the most accomplished, master of all branches of the teachings, omniscient, unsurpassed. A mere assessment of his contribution would be a formidable challenge, and the intention here is just to provide the reader with the most elementary signposts towards that end.

Khyentse Wangpo is renowned in the first place as the guiding lights and inspiration of the Ri-me movement, a first-among-equals with extraordinary contemporaries, Jamgon Kongtrul (1813-99) himself and the great treasure master Chokgyur Lingpa (1829-70), the trio that became synonymous with this movement and it’s most exalted achievement. What did Ri-me (literally ‘non-aligned’) actually mean? There have been advocate of non-sectarianism and compilers of the teachings of neglected lineages ever since the appearance of sectarianism in Tibetan Buddhism (Trengpo Terton Sherab Oser (1518-84) and Jetsun Tarantha (1575-1635) were particularly admired by Khyentse and Kongtrul), while encyclopaedic and syncretic innovations in religious thought belonged more to the age than to any particular school of practitioners . Nonetheless, the self-conscious preservation and revival of all authentic Vajrayana tradition and deliberate relocation of this activity in formerly peripheral territories of eastern Tibet amounted to an eclectic intellectual movement, which coalesced through the charismatic influence of these three masters within their lifetime. They did not use the term Ri-me to mean rather a reaction to the perceived degeneration of Tibet’s spiritual heritage under the impact of global events, which had taken shape within the turbulent political and cultural milieu of the 18th century.

That period saw devastating Mongol invasions and civil wars, the entrenchment of religious intolerance and supremacism, and eventual imposition of Manchu imperial control. The evolution of a xenophobic ‘Lamaist ‘theocracy and corporatization of the dominant Gelukpa a rigid intellectual conformism, at least in central Tibet and the major constituencies of the east of the coutry.

The kingdom of Dege, which had emerged from the 17th century political reformation era of the strongest in eastern Tibet, was also among the more enlightened, and provided for many notable exponents of excellence and ecumenicalism in religion and the arts that time. In view of their scrupulous literary compilations, reinvigoration of the ‘mundane’ disciplines such as Sanskrit, a grammar, medicine and the arts, and championing of persecuted or neglected religious tradition, Shuchen Tsultrim Rinchen (1697- 1774), Situ Panchen Choki Jungne (1700-74) and Ka-tok Rikdzin Tsewang Norbu (1698-1755), leading representatives of (respectively) the Ngorpa (Sakyapa], karma (Kagyupa), and Nyingma schools that flourished in Dege, are some of the more obivious forerunners of the Ri-me movement. Intellectual currents and personalities within each of this school can be identified as formative influences on Khyentse Wangpo’s life and times.

First of all Dege had become a major field of activity for the Lama-s of Ngor (in central Tibet), which at that time was the academic powerhouse of the Sakya tradition, several of whom were non-sectarian scholars as well as masters of the Lamdre teachings. Perhaps the most celebrated of all was Khenchen Palden Chokyong (1702-60), and among this successors, the Tartse Khenchen Champa Namka Chime (1765-1820), of whom Khyentse was considered the immediate reincarnation. His main teacher had been the Sakya throneholder (Tri-chen) Kunga Lo-dro (1729-84), a noted Nyingmapa practitioner and advocate of the estranged Tsarpa branch of the Sakya tradition, to which Kyentse Rinpoche was greatly devoted. The Tsarpa masters Morchan Kunga Lhundrup (1654-1726) and Nesar Kunga Lekpe Jungne(1704-60) were inspirational figures for all of the above.

Kyentse Wangpo was less involved with the karma Kagyati than either Kongtrul or Chokling, but certainly influenced by the three greatest masters of that school in his day, the successors of Situ Panchen, all of whom were the 9th Situ incarnation Pema Nyinche Wangpo (1774-1853) and his protégés, the 14th Karmapa Tekchok Dorje (1798-1868) and the Dabsang Tulku Ngedon Tenpa Rabgye (1808-67).

On the Nyingma side, It is Rikdzin Jikme Lingpa (1703-98), the last grandmaster of the tradition to appear in central Tibet, who came to be regarded as Khyentse Wangpo’s most significant predecessor of all transmission of his Longchen Nyingtik teachings to eastern Tibet, and consequent Nyingmapa revival there, was the work of the greatest names of the previous generation, especially the Doe Drupchen Jikme Trinle Oser (1745-1821), Tama Drupchen Jikme Gyelwe Nyugu (1765-1843) and the Ka-tok Mahapandita Gyurme Tsewang Chokdrup (1761-1829), and of Khyentse’s contemporaries, Doe Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (1800-66) and Dza Paltrul Jikme Choki Wangpo (1808-87). In addition to the visionary re-embodiment of the omniscient Longchenpa, JikmeJikme Lingpa’s scholastic and antiquarian persuasions were clearly mirrored in KhyentseWangpo’s career. In this connection, there was at least one other important intermediary figure, Gyelse Shenpen Taye of Gemang (1800-55), who travelled extensively in central Tibet seeking out the last traces, texts and transmissions, of the Nyingma ‘Ka-ma’ teachings, a quest typical of the Ri-me masters, pursued by no-one more diligently than the young Khyentse.

Progressive and syncretic trends within the contemporary Gelukpa tradition, mostly in the Dome region of north-east Tibet-the scholastic work of Tuken Losang Choki Nyima (1737-1802), Kungtang Konchol Tenpe Dronme (1762-1823) and Walmang Pandita Konchok Gelek Gyeltsen (1726-1803] and his disciple Shabkar Tsokdrunk Rangdrol (1781-1851)-could be considered another source of influence. Khyentse Rinpoche studied with several representatives of this school, Dragon Konchok Tenpa Rabgye (1801-66) in particular, Sokpo Lhatsun Yeshe Drondrup (1792-1855), and Geshe Champa Puntsok of Litang (b.1812).

The syncretist and reformist movement within the Bon tradition (sometimes referred to as ‘New Bon’) that emerged in eastern Tibet during the 18th century, also partly in response to sectarian persecution, was an allied phenomenon. Sanggye Lingpa (1705-35) and Kundrol Drakpa (1700-66?) are acknowledge as the pioneers of this school which was later upheld by such figures as Terton Tsewang Drakpa (1833-93), sang- ngak Lingpa (b.1864) and Shardza Tashi Gyeltsen (1859-1934), younger contemporaries of Kyentse and Kongtrul, who gave it their explicit endorsement.

As Kongrul emphasis,the activity of great spiritual masters in beyond the understanding of ordinary minds, and even among them, Kyentse Wangpo was an uncommonly transcendent figure. For the pedestrian purpose of this introduction, his career can be considered figure. For the pedestrian purpose purposes of this introduction, his career can be considered in at least five aspects, broadly corresponding with it’s temporal progression: they are the poet and grammarian, the pilgrim scholar, the encyclopaede, the stateman, and the treasure-revealer and visionary.


Introduction XIII
The essential biography 1
The condensed biography from Kongtrul 's 'Lives of the Hundred Terton-s' 9
The 'Fabulous grove of udumbara flower's biography by Jamgon Kongtul 21
The outer life 31
1) How his apperance in the world was foretold in authentic prophecies 31
2) How he took rebirth in accordance with his spiritual determination and aspirations 37
3) How he entered into the precious teachings of the enlightened ones 44
4) How he then accomplished the stages of listening to and reflecting on the teachings in dependence on qualified spiritual teacher 48
5) How, after absording their important, he attained realisation 82
6) How he consequently served the teachings and living beings 99
7) How in addition he accumulated merit in diverse ways 108
8) How after reaching the completion of his activities he dissolved into the expanse of space 118
The inner life 125
The secret life 135
1) Direct oral transmissions 135
2) Physical revelations 149
3) Revelation of reconcealed treasures 147
4) Profiund mental revelations 169
5) Revelations through consequent recollection 172
6) revelations in visions 172
7) Oral transmissions similarly received 173
Notes 181
Bibliography 259
Index of names 264

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