Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Tāranātha and Nyingma lineage texts on Kālacakra

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo ((‘jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse’ dbang po, 1820 – 1892) had a very strong connection with Tāranātha and the Kālacakra teachings via his deep friendship and connection with Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye (‘jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas, 1813-1899).

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo was a major treasure revealer—the last of the Five Sovereign Tertöns—and one of the most eminent masters of the nineteenth century. He was regarded as the combined reincarnation of Vimalamitra and King Trisong Deutsen.

According to his biographers:


”Khyentse Wangpo met Jamgon Kongtrul at the end of 1840, when he went to Pelpung to receive teachings from the elder lama on Chandragomin’s grammar. They met again before Jamyang Khyentse went to Tibet the second time. Khyentse Wangpo’s beloved elder brother, Gyurme Dondrub had passed away in Tibet, and it appears that in his grief Khyentse Wangpo turned to his growing friendship with Jamgon Kongtrul for companionship. He went to Pelpung for an extensive transmission of Jonang teachings, including the complete works of Tāranātha and the Kālacakra. Jamgon Kongtrul continued his transmission of Jonang teachings to Khyentse Wangpo after the latter returned from Tibet in the early 1850s, giving Tāranātha’s Drubta Rinjung (sgrub thabs rin ‘jung). At the time Khyentse Wangpo gave Jamgon Kongtrul a complete set of Tāranātha’s writings…..

Jamgon Kongtrul presided over the funeral of Khyentse Wangpo, in early 1892, washing his body and preparing them for cremation. He performed a five-day Vajrakila rite in his presence, and, with the aid of the Tartse Khenpo and Loter Wangpo, performed three weeks of additional rituals. Jamyang Khyentse’s brother Kelzang Dorje, the head steward of Dzongsar, paid for much of the funeral. An elaborate reliquary was installed in Dzongsar, recently reconstructed together with much of the monastery.”

Recently, I came across a passage in the ‘Secret Autobiography of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Jamyang Chokyi Lodro’, (1896-1959) (the reincarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo), where he mentions a dream vision he had in 1943 of the Jonang master, Tāranātha who bestowed on him a Kālacakra empowerment in the dream. As a result of this experience he states that great faith in Tāranātha arose.

Jamyang Chokyi Lodro (1896-1959)

The passage from the Secret Autobiography of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro regarding his dream of Tāranātha  རྫོང་སར་མཁྱེན་བརྩེའི་ཆོས་ཀྱི་བློ་གྲོས་གསང་བའི་རྣམ་ཐར་ལ་ཏཱ་ར་ནཱ་ཐའི་སྐོར་ལ་གསུང་པ་རེད

I presented this section of the text recently to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in person at the Deer Park Institute in Bir together with my recent publication and study of Tāranātha’s Heart Sutra Commentary.  Chokyi Lodro also stated in a shorter biography that he gave transmissions of Kalacakra to students both from the Jonang and Zhalu (Buton Rinchen Drub) lineages.  Although, I have not done much research on the Nyingma and it’s connection to the seventeen lineages of Kalacakra, the Nyimgma lineage appears to also generally follow the Dro lineage passed down by Tāranātha to Jamgon Kongtrul.

The Nyingma lineage master, Mipham Gyatso (‘ju mi pham rgya mtsho, 1846 – 1912) who considered Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo to be his main teacher) also wrote major several texts on Kālacakra and the Six Yogas. Here is a provisional catalogue of his Tibetan extant texts below. Another main person in the Nyingma lineage who wrote several texts on Kālacakra is Katog Rigdzin Tshewang Norbu (1698 – 1755). More on him and his texts in another post soon!

Mipham Gyatso’s works on Kālacakra

W23468 mi pham gsung ‘bum

dus ‘khor lhan skyes sgrub thabs sogs rgyud bshad kyi skabs su

dpal dus kyi ‘khor lo’i rgyud kyi tshig don rab tu gsal byed rdo rje

dus ‘khor nang gi le’u’i ‘grel pa

dus ‘khor dbang le’i ‘grel pa

dus ‘khor sgrub thabs le’u’i ‘grel ba

dus ‘khor ye shes le’u’i ‘grel pa

dus ‘khor sgrub thabs snying por rab gsal

dus kyi ‘khor lo’i dkyil ‘khor mchod pa’i cho ga bsod nams gter mdzod

sdom bzung

dus ‘khor zur byang

dus ‘khor rtsa sngags

W1PD76231 mi pham gsung ‘bum las gzhung ‘grel skor/

dpal dus kyi ‘khor lo’i rdzogs rim rdo rje’i rnal ‘byor gyi dgongs gnad gsal byed baiDUr+ya’i me long /

dus ‘khor lhan skyes sgrub thabs sogs rgyud bshad kyi skabs su nye bar mkho ba/

dpal dus kyi ‘khor lo’i rgyud kyi tshig don rab tu gsal byed rdo rje nyi ma’i snang ba/

dus ‘khor nang gi le’u’i ‘grel ba/

dus ‘khor dbang le’i ‘grel ba/

dus ‘khor sgrub thabs le’u’i ‘grel ba/

dus ‘khor ye shes le’u’i ‘grel ba/

May the current Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s connection with Tāranātha and Kālacakra flourish in this life too!

‘Innate Kālacakra’: a new Translation Project

Inspired by the forthcoming Innate Kalacakra empowerment in Portugal, I am delighted to announce that I have begun a new translation project to collect and translate into English the extant Innate Kalacakra (dus ‘khor lhan skyes) sadhanas of the various Tibetan Buddhist lineages. The project translations will be made available either as a book or here (with restricted access to those who have the requisite empowerments and permissions).

The Innate Kalacakra practise is the first of the two uncommon preliminaries in the Kalacakra Six Yogas tradition. It involves visualising a simple two-armed figure of Kalacakra with a two-armed consort deity, Visvamata. See image below. One short and beautiful Sadhana text by Jamgon Kongtrul was written for those who wish to practise the Completion Stage Yogas but who do not like extensive, elaborate rituals. Good news!

I first got the Kalacakra empowerment from HH Sakya Trizin in London in 2010. Later, I got the empowerment and permission to practise the Innate Kalacakra from Jonang lama, Khenpo Chokyi Nangwa Rinpoche in India, in October 2016. As a result of the deep and lasting impression that had on me, I began working on translating two major Kalacakra texts by Jonang masters, Taranatha and Bamda Gelek Gyamtso. I have now completed both of these up to the five Common Preliminaries and these will be published soon. The Innate Kalacakra commentary sections of these texts will be started and completed next year.

The Innate Kalacakra sadhana can be found in the Tibetan Tengyur (the commentaries on the Buddha’s teachings). After that, several Tibetan Buddhist masters have collected and compiled their own versions of the sadhana, some concise and some short. Though in essence they remain generally the same. I am not sure if they are available in the original Sanskrit. I have asked a Sanskrit scholar to look into this.


The painting appears to follow the Palpung Monastery style of painting and can be dated, based on the last two figures at the bottom of the composition, to sometime between 1770 and 1798. At the top center is Vajrasattva, white in colour embracing the consort Vajragarvi, holding a vajra scepter in the right hand and a bell in the left cradled to the side. Seated at the immediate left side is an Indian teacher and below that is Taranata both wearing monastic robes. Seated on the viewer’s right is Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen. Below that is Katog Tsewang Norbu (1698-1755), dark skinned and wearing a cap. At the bottom left is the 8th Situ, Chokyi Jungne (1700-1774), depicted as a portrait created in old age, grey hair, wrinkles, wearing the typical red hat. (Note the cloud ornaments on the side of the hat – trailing to the back). The two hands are placed in the lap supporting a blue wish-fulfilling jewel. At the right side is the teacher Dragpo Dorje Tsal (1740-1798), the 4th Dzigar incarnation , a student of the 8th Situ. He wears the robes of a monk, adorned with a lotus hat. The right hand upraised holds a golden vajra and the left extended to the side strikes downward with a kila decorated with a black scorpion. The left leg is stretched slightly forward assuming a wrathful gesture with the entire body imitating the posture of the deity Guru Dragpo – a meditational form of Padmasambhava.

All the Tibetan Buddhist lineages hold the Innate Kalacakra practise via the transmission of the Kalacakra itself. I will focus mainly on those held in Jonang and Kagyu to start with. Eventually I will compile these into a book for publication with the two sections on it from the Jonang commentaries by Bamda Gelek and Taranatha. The sadhanas I will focus on to start with are by Jetsun Taranatha and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, two great Tibetan Buddhist masters of Kalacakra and Shentong.

I am also preparing a catalogue of all the extant Tibetan texts about Innate Kalacakra. Watch this space for more details! If anyone has any particular requests for an Innate Kalacakra text they would like translated, please contact me here.

Shentong and Kālacakra lineage holder and master, 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche bestowing major empowerments in Bodh Gaya, November 16-29 (English translation).

The Tai Situ lineage have a long history and strong connection not only with the view of Shentong Madhyamaka but also the Jonang tradition.

In particular, the 8th Tai Situ Rinpoche, Chökyi Jungne (chos kyi ‘byung gnas (1700-1774), a student of the 12th Karmapa, Jangchub Dorje (byang chub rdo rje) (1703-1732). A great master and prolific writer. He was not only an exceptionally accomplished master, but also a great scholar, who produced 13 volumes of writings, and famous for his travels. He visited Nepal on two occasions and was praised there by the Indian scholar Jayamangala for the depths of his learning and understanding. On his second visit there, in 1748, he met again with Kathok Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu and received from him many transmissions of the Jonang tradition, especially on the view of Shentong. Situ and Tsewang Norbu helped revive the teachings of the Jonangpa in Central and Eastern Tibet.

The 8th Tai Situpa was also a direct lineage holder of the Dro and Tsami Kalacakra Six Yogas lineages (see the Seventeen Lineages of the Six -Yogas of Glorious Kalacakra here) and thus the Tai Situpas hold the direct lineage of Kalacakra as passed down from the Indian masters. The Jonang follow mainly the Dro Lineage and that of Vibhuticandra.

It is therefore with great pleasure to share here the announcement that HE 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche, who is also one of the heart-sons and main teachers of HH 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, will be besowing several major Vajrayana empowerments and teachings at Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, November 16-26, 2018.

12th Tai Situ Rinpoche

The English translation of the schedule (see below in Tibetan) is as follows:

16th Vajravahari (Dorje Phagmo) empowerment and teachings.

17th a.m. Chakrasamvara (Demchog) preparations before empowerment. p.m. The Protector Berchen (Mahakala) torma empowerment.

18th a.m. The actual empowerment of Chakrasamvara. p.m Preparations for the Gyalwa Gyatso (a form of Chenrezig)

19th The actual empowerment of Gyalwa Gyamtso. p.m The preparations for Hevajra.

20th Hevajra empowerment.

21st Pema Vajra teachings and empowerment.

22nd Guru Dorje Drolo (wrathful emanation of Padmasambhava) teachings and empowerment.

23rd Long-Life Union Method (tshe sgrub thabs shes kha sbyor) – terma revealed by Yongs dge gter ston mi ‘gyur rdo rje.

24th Holiday Break.

25th – 26th Guiding Instructions on the Preliminaries of the Ocean of the Mahamudra of Definitive Meaning


Letter of thanks from the Office of HH Dalai Lama regarding translation of his Shentong and Jonang teachings

Today I received this letter from the Office of HHDL regarding the recent translation I did of his compilation of teachings on Jonang and Shentong.

It is dated 20th June, before HH left for Ladakh, so it took a while to get it. I offered the translation to his personal assistant at the end of a recent teaching HH gave here for foreigners in Dharamsala. Due to HH’s busy schedule I did not expect to get any reply but wanted to offer it nonetheless as a sign of respect and gratitude.

It was certainly a lovely and unexpected reply as it is always nice to have one’s efforts acknowledged and to know that HH was presented with the translation directly. May it be of benefit!

A True Ri-Med Master of All Traditions- Jonang Bamda Thubten Gelek Gyatso

Bamda Gelek


Reading and translating Ngawang Lodro Gyatso’s biography of Jonang master, Bamda Gelek Gyatso (thub bstan ‘ba’ mda’ dge legs rgya mtsho), to include in the forthcoming publication of my translation of his major text ‘The Chariot that Transports One to the Four Kayas’,  is an awe-inspiring exercise and lesson in realising how many teachings and how many great masters he served and got teachings from. He literally was a master of all the traditions, not just in name but in knowledge and practise.

Bamda Gelek Gyatso was considered to be a tulku master, teacher and practitioner in all the Tibetan Buddhist lineages such as Kalacakra, the Six Yogas of Naropa (which he studied with the great non-sectarian master, Jamgon Kongtrul the First), Gelugpa philosophy and debate, Dzogchen (he studied with various Dzogchen masters) and more.

There are very few living masters who have the same kind of breadth of knowledge and mastery of all the Tibetan Buddhist traditions as Bamda Gelek.

Here is an excerpt from Jose Cazebon’s condensed biography of Bamda Gelek Gyatso, from Treasury of Lives:

Biographies tell us that throughout his life Bamda Gelek accumulated 1.3 billion mantra repetitions, including 600 million repetitions of the Mañjuśrīarapatsa mantras, and 100 million repetitions of the Kālacakra hakṣa mantra. As a result of these practices, he is said to have had dream visions of deities such as Mañjuśrī and Sarasvatī (both associated with learning and scholarship). Many individuals claim to have witnessed the powers he achieved through tantric practice. For example, his biographer Lodro Drakpa (blo gros grags pa, 1920-1975) reports that he could “clearly remember details of his past life at Labrang Monastery, could read the minds of his present disciples, know what they were up to, and accurately predict what happiness or suffering they would encounter in the future.” Several of the demonstrations of Bamda Gelek’s magical powers have to do with Ju Mipam Gyatso (‘ju mi pham rgya mtsho, 1846-1912). On one occasion, during a funerary ritual that he was performing with Mipam, the water in a ritual vase is said to have miraculously bubbled up and overflowed. On another occasion he supposedly engaged in a competition of magical powers with Mipam. Mipam caused powerful hail to fall, and Bamda Gelek caused the sun to shine and made it melt. Mipam then praised him. “I have met many scholars,” he said, “but in this day and age, to meet a scholar of the highest rank is rare. Dzamtangpa Gelek is such a scholar.”

Toward the end of his life, Bamda Gelek had a vision of Mañjuśrī who told him that, “Even though you have not been of extraordinary benefit to others in your own lifetime, you will be of great benefit in the next one, when you will be reborn in the northern kingdom Shambhala as one of its rikden (rigs ldan) kings.” It is noteworthy that Bamda Gelek should have been perceived (whether by Mañjuśrī or anyone else) as not having lived to his full potential in his own lifetime – noteworthy but not really surprising, for despite his great erudition and reputation as a tantric master, he never held a position of authority until the very end of his life, and then never in any of the institutions of his own Jonang tradition (never at Dzamtang, for example). Was this because of his affinity for the “emptiness of self” (rang stong) view found in the writings of Candrakīrti and the Geluk, in contrast to the Jonang position of “emptiness of other” (gzhan stong)? Did it have to do with his irascible temperament? Whatever the case, it is not surprising to find the claim in his biographies that he did not have the impact that he could have in his own lifetime.

So the lesson is? One can never have enough teachers or teachings when it comes to the Buddha Dharma, but most importantly of all one must do the practises!

May it be of benefit!

Tāranātha on having ‘Confidence in a Teacher’

Translator snippet this Saturday…..

In his Introduction of the major text on the Kalacakra Six Yogas, the One Hundred Blazing Lights, a Supplementary Commentary on Seeing the Meaningful, Tāranātha states one must have ‘three confidences’ on the path. These are ‘confidence in the tantras’; ‘confidence in the teacher’ and ‘confidence in oneself’. So why is confidence in the teacher important?

Tāranātha uses the word ‘yid ches’ in Tibetan, which means ‘belief’ or ‘confidence’. It is different from ‘faith’ which is ‘dad pa’ in Tibetan. It is a confidence based on reasoning and experience.

The second point is confidence in the teacher. [The teacher] must be from a lineage, whose direct source begins with the Shakyamuni Buddha, that has been transmitted directly from one teacher to another up until one’s own root lama. Also it must be [a teacher] in which the blessings have not deteriorated and the experiential realisations are continual without interruption. There are [teachers] who are ‘words-only’, have degenerated vows and samaya commitments, and carry, or are mixed, with bad spirits and demons. If someone is an actual lineage lama, yet has entered into the obstacles of a demon or is carrying a negative spirit, even though one practises all the Dharma from this lineage, a large amount of obstacles will arise. If the source is a famous lineage lama who has broken samayas, even if one practices the Dharma of that lineage, no excellent qualities will arrive. Afflictive emotions will rise up and overflow. Everything connected to [the teacher and the practise] will be inauspicious, bad luck and misfortune. Not only that but if the [teacher] has also lost even the ‘words-only’ transmission, after requesting and meditating on [their teachings], experiential realizations will never arise at any time. Whether one meditates or not, it will be the same [result].

So the message is clear! Make sure you follow an authentic lama whose samaya with their lineage and root lamas is not broken and who does not have degenerated vows. Even though they may act and look like a lineage lama, with a big or small following, you will be wasting your time……….

My English translation of this magnificent text (up to the five common preliminaries) is almost finished. I will update here when it is published.

Here is the Tibetan for those who like…..