Kunga Drolchok

Finding the Original Jonang Monastery

The Jonangpa have longstanding historical and cultural ties to locality. [1] So much so that their very identity is derived from and enmeshed within their place of origin. The term “Jonang” is an abbreviation of “Jomonang,” the name of the valley where the first Jonangpas settled. [2]

Jonang historical texts as well as biographies of early Jonangpa masters reference this first settlement simply as, "Jonang Monastery" ( jo nang dgon pa ). These sources specify this as the founding site of the Jonang tradition.

Where Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (1292-1361) lived and constructed the...

The Quintessence of Rangtong

jf_sky2_diego_2022.jpg Sky over Tibet

A long time coming, actually a year to the day since my last January 13th posting, The Quintessence of Zhentong from the collection of 108 Quintessential Instructions , I thought to revisit these instructions with a complimentary post.

Each of these instructions was meant to act as a pith directive to the practitioner about how to cultivate a particular outlook on the nature of reality through contemplative experience. These 108 Quintessential Instructions of the Jonang continue to be taught and transmitted within the living tradition, and the range of these instructions is testament to the diversity of Buddhist practices preserved within Tibetan literature. [1]

On the Shangpa & Jonangpa

0452.jpg Dakini Niguma

Commentators on earlier posts have asked or made reference to relationships between the Shangpa lineage and the Jonangpa. [1] In response, I thought to sketch some of the overlapping threads among Shangpas and Jonangpas in order to draw a few historical connections.

The Shangpa lineage, as Tibetologist Matthew Kapstein has described, is like "some vine that adorns a whole forest without being able to stand by itself" so much so that it "may strike one who follows its twists and...

A Ngor Kalachakra Mandala

Ngor Kalachakra Mandala Kalachakra Mandala Mandala

One of my favorite themes in tantric Buddhism is the mandala. The replicated symmetry of a perfected space and the implicit dialogue between the deity and the various facets of its environment have always fascinated me.

Recently, I had a chance to look closely at one specific mandala of the Kālachakra, one that is unlike the typical depiction. [1] This particular mandala was commissioned by Lhachok Sengé (1468-1535) from Ngor Evam Choden Monastery, and is one of...

Kongtrul's Jonangpa Connections

799.fpx&obj=iip,1.0&wid=637&hei=1100&rgn=0.0,-9.107468E-4,1.00000000,1_0.jpg Jamgon Kongtrul

One of the most fascinating figures in Tibetan history, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thayé (1813-1899) is also one of the most studied Tibetan masters. In addition to several articles on his life and works, numerous volumes of his writings and compendiums have now been translated into English and other European languages, including his autobiography, A Gem of Many Colors . [1] Though his works are well known and he is often considered a reviver of Tibetan traditions including the Jonang, his connections with Jonangpa masters have not been made explicit. In order to reveal some of these connections, I recently started to sift through his record of received transmissions ( gsan yig ), and I thought to jot a few notes here. [2]

The Quintessence of Zhentong

Thinking about this well structured collection of 108 instructions, I thought to pick a few and post them. Feeling predictable, I wanted to start with what you may expect to find on this blog, the instructions on zhentong (#25). However, as we read through this instruction, its presentation is perhaps less obvious than expected (or maybe not).

What makes this particular instruction so interesting is that it seems to be the only surviving fragment of the writings attributed to the Tibetan master Tsen Khawoché (b. 1021), a major figure in the transmission of zhentong and the Five Treatises of Maitreya .” [1] Again, we...

108 Quintessential Instructions

IMG_0011_3.JPG Kunga Drolchok Master Image

As I've recently been reading through the collection of 108 Quintessential Instructions that was arranged by the Jonang master Kunga Drolchok (1507-1566), I've been thinking through the seemingly simple question, "What is the purpose of scholarship?" [1]

Though people tend to think of the conventional notion of scholarship as being based on a model of a relatively narrow-minded insistence on reiterating a specific doctrine or set of principles for the sake of furthering erudition, there are alternative models. In the case of Drolchok, as well as numerous other representatives in the Tibetan scholastic tradition, the role of scholarship was primarily that of preservation. More specifically, scholarship was seen as a mode of operating in a way that would further conserve those ideas and practices that in one way or another were considered to be efficacious in promoting the spiritual optimization of individuals. It is on this model that the 108 Quintessential Instructions were compiled.