Jetsun Tāranātha on the meaning of ‘three confidences’

New post on this website about the meaning of the ‘three confidences’ (yi ches ldan gsum) according to Jetsun Tāranātha.  With exclusive new excepts from his his major commentary on the Kālacakra tradition and practises, A Hundred Blazing Lights: A Supplementary Commentary on Meaningful to See, Instructions on the Profound Path of Vajra-yogas. See here.

May it be of benefit!

Do not buy E-Edition/Kindle of ‘Taranatha’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra’ or ‘Chariot that Transports to the Four Kayas’

It has been kindly brought to my attention today that several people who bought the e-edition/Kindle on of Taranatha’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra (LTWA, 2017) were dissatisfied with the legibility and typesetting in the book. I am sorry to hear this as I have not seen or have any input or responsibility for this electronic edition. This is the responsibility of the publisher, the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. As they are the publisher of this e-edition, I have now written to them and asked them to remove it from publication and sale until it is amended and improved to an acceptable and professional standard. I have also asked today to remove it from my Amazon author/translator page.

Although I am very grateful to the LTWA for the publication of this text, I am planning to do a new published second edition of this text, as not only has the first edition almost sold out,  but I wish to correct small publication errors and typos in the hard copy edition too. I will update this website and Facebook page of news when that happens. For now, until then,  I would advise people not to buy ANY online/Kindle edition of my work, unless advertised by me as being authorised by me, and to purchase only the paperback copy edition. Also, please do contact the LTWA Publications Department about any issues you have had with the current e-edition.

For the record, I receive no royalties or payment from the LTWA or, for the sales of this work. I had agreed that all royalties and profit would go to the publisher, LTWA.

Thanks for the feedback!

PART ONE: The Dagpo Kagyu unbroken lineage of Dro/Jonang Kālacakra

New research on the unbroken Dagpo Kagyu lineage of Dro/Jonang Kalacakra. I am currently translating a ‘Supplication to the Kālacakra Lineage’ by Kagyu and Rime Tibetan Buddhist master, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye.  Kongtrul himself was considered to be an incarnation of Jonang master, Jetsun Tāranātha, as was his great friend and teacher, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Therefore, I was very happy to come across a recently published (yet untranslated) book on Kālacakra, The Blue Sapphire Jewel:  History of Kālacakra, by contemporary Tibetan Kagyu Kālacakra teacher, Khenpo Donyo Lodro Rinpoche. It details the unbroken lineage that passed the Kālacakra down to the Dagpo Kagyu via Jonang masters, such as Tāranātha, to Jamgon Lodro Thaye to the present day.

Part one is the unbroken Dagpo Kagyu lineage. Part two is the lineage that came from Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye.

For more information see here.



As an offering to the guru, I newly translated this long-life prayer for HH 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, this afternoon after receiving the text for the first time today at Gyuto Monastery, Dharamsala, India at the 17th Karmapa’s birthday commemoration.

It was composed at the request of Rumtek, Sherab Ling and Ralang monasteries, by HH 14th Dalai Lama in 1997.

May it be of benefit and may HH 17th Gyalwang Karmapa’s life be long and stable and his activities be free of obstacles! All mistakes are mine…..

Free .pdf download here.

New Translation: ‘Supplication to the Kālacakra Lineage’ by Jetsun Tāranātha

Happy to announce this new, and first-time published, English translation of Jetsun Tāranātha’s Supplication to the Kālacakra lineage (dus kyi ‘khor lo’i brgyud ‘debs),  that has been transmitted to, and maintained predominantly by, the Jonang and Kagyu tradition to this day. This text will also be included in a new e-book publication ‘The Kālacakra History and Lineage by Jetsun Tāranātha’, Adele Tomlin, 2019 (information about this will be posted on the site soon).

Tāranātha wrote three such lineage supplications, one to the Kālacakra lineage, one to the six-yogas lineage and another to the Empty-of-Other (gzhan stong) lineage. The six-yogas supplication was previously translated by Michael Sheehy in 2006 (see but it is shorter and a list of names, and the footnotes and are not extensive.

This supplication is slighter longer and more detailed, and I have also given  extensive footnotes on the main lineage masters, up to the section of text written by Tāranātha.  The Tibetan script is included for those who wish to read it in the original language. The text I used for the translation is a beautifully illustrated Dzamthang edition, of which I have included a picture within the text itself.

It is available for free download, here: Supplication to Kalacakra Lineage by Jetsun Taranatha.

May it be of benefit and may the Kālacakra lineage and teachings flourish!


On the meaning and translation of Shentong – a modern debate?

A modern, scholarly debate?

I was recently involved in an online ‘debate’ with two renowned scholars of Tibetan Buddhism,  Michael Sheehy and Klaus-Dieter Mathes, regarding their translation of the philosophical term, shentong (gzhan stong) as ‘the other-emptiness’, see here and here. This translation is given as the title of their forthcoming collection on this topic.  Sheehy had asked people to comment on the cover of the book and so I decided to comment on the title of it as being a an unsuitable translation. This led to a message exchange between myself and Mathes, in which he defended the translation.  Mathes informed me that:

I have never seen something better. You seem to miss the profundity of translation. Stong can be sometimes short for Stong Nyid , which is the case when you conceive of gzhan stong as a noun. The boundary between adjective and noun are more fluent in agglutinating ergative languages than in Indo European languages. Moreover there is a tendency to shorten groups of four syllables to groups of two in Tibetan.  In his Bden gnyis gsal ba’i nyi ma, Dol po pa distinguishes rang stong and gzhan stong with reference to MAV I.20 (Nagao 1964:26): “The non-existence of a person and phenomena is emptiness with regard [to the first 14 types of emptiness]. The true existence of their non-existence is another emptiness.” (pudgalasyātha dharmāṇām abhāvaḥ śūnyatātra hi / tadabhāvasya sadbhāvas tasmin sā śūnyatā parā).  So here you have your “other emptiness” (śūnyatā parā).

Even though I don’t agree that settles the matter, it is a clear, reasoned defence of ‘the other emptiness’ as a direct translation. However, a couple of days later, the co-editor, Sheehy told me (unaware it seems of Mathes’ thoughts about the title) to tell me and everyone lese that the title was a ‘play on words’ and that it was not intended to be a direct translation of shentong:

It is a play on words. Kinda cheeky. A reference to it being other than the normative presentations, i.e. rangtong.

Which is all well and good but that directly contradicts what Mathes said about it.   When I then responded that Mathes had defended it as a direct translation, and never even mentioned it as a ‘play on words’, Mathes told me to check his messages again and that he had not said it was a direct translation.  As a result of my then sharing his defence of the translation, I was subsequently unfriended by Mathes.

The translation of shentong as ‘the other emptiness’ was also used as the title by Lama Tony Duff in his 2014 book, see here.

Shentong as meaning ‘empty-of-other’

Although I am no great scholar at all, and I respect much scholarly work that has been done on this topic (in particular that of Mathes), I wanted to write a short note, as to why I think the  translation ‘the other-emptiness’ is not suitable as a direct translation of shentong.  I will base my explanations on the studies I have done on the subject since 2014, which culminated in the publication ‘Tāranātha’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra (2017), a shentong commentary.  Generally speaking, my Tibetan sources are Jonang (Tāranātha and Dolopopa) or Kagyu (the Karmapas and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye).

The Tibetan word Shentong (ghzan stong) is composed of two terms shen (gzhan) meaning ‘other’ and tong (stong) meaning empty. The word ‘emptiness’ in Tibetan is tongpa nyi (stong pa nyid), the nyi adding the ‘ness’ or ‘itself’ onto the adjective.   In terms of the explanations of shentong by  great shentong masters, such as Dolpopa, Tāranātha and Jamgon Kongtrul, the meaning is clear. ‘Other’ means ‘all dualistic, conditioned, impermanent phenomena of the five aggregates’; as in all the phenomena that are considered to be empty-of-self (rang tong: rang stong).  ‘Self’ there means ‘inherent identity/existence’.

As Tāranātha states clearly in his Shentong commentary on the Heart Sutra, there are five passages in the Heart Sutra that clearly teach the shentong view.  According to Tāranātha, the famous passage : ‘form is empty, emptiness is form (gzugs stong pa’o/ stong pa nyid gzugs so/) ’ refers to the shentong view and shows how relative conditioned phenomena (ie form) are empty of any inherent existence (empty-of-self) yet the ultimate nature/tathagata garbha/emptiness is not empty of itself; and thus is [the origin of] ‘form’ but is not ‘form’ in its own essential identity/self. The ultimate nature is ‘empty of ‘other’ – that ‘other’ referring to all phenomena that are empty-of-self but is not empty of its essential nature itself, that ‘self’ being all the Buddha Nature qualities.

Of course, much more can be said and quoted about this, however, for this short post, I assert that to translate shentong as ‘the other-emptiness’ is misleading to say the least. I can understand why Sheehy wanted to defend it as a ‘play on words’ because it bears no relation to the actual meaning of the term.  The use of  ‘the’ turns ‘other emptiness’ into a noun. Yet, in many texts on the subject, shentong is not used to describe a ‘type of emptiness’ but as an adjective that describes what the subject (the conventional or ultimate nature) is empty of. In addition, the Tibetan term used is ‘empty’ (stong) not ‘emptiness’ (stong pa nyid).

There are other translations of this term (excuse the pun, ha ha), such as Petitt (1999), who translates it as ‘extrinsic emptiness’, or ‘other emptiness’, and am also puzzled as to how these translations accurately get across the stated meaning of the term.


In any case, whether I am intellectually right or wrong, is actually not the main issue. The more important issue is one of having open and intelligent debate on the translation of such terms without being unfriended or blacklisted from activities and events for doing so. I had recently been invited by Mathes to attend and participate in a forthcoming Buddha Nature conference in Vienna, but have yet to hear back about it since this online discussion.  This may not have been the only issue. I also stated my concern to see that only two female contributors had been included in their forthcoming collection, and was told by Sheehy that  ‘We need more women scholar philosophers & historians of zhentong, for sure!’, incorrectly giving the impression that there aren’t any currently available. I have written a little about the denigration and ignoring of good quality work by female scholars in this post here. Needless to say such responses and reactions are hardly inspiring, or what one would expect, from two adult men, let alone from two ‘leading scholars’ in the field.

Nonetheless, as a mere ‘kinda cheeky’ woman with only an MA and book to my name, I stand by my assertion that shentong should not be translated as ‘the other emptiness’.  In fact, Mathes himself has previously translated the term as ‘empty of other’ in his 2016 article ‘The History of the Rang stong/Gzhan stong Distinction·from Its Beginning through the Ris-med Movement’. So, even if it was meant to be a ‘play on words’ it is still potentially misleading in relation to the generally accepted meaning of this important philosophical term. Debate on this is welcome!



  • Mathes, Klaus-Dieter (2016) The History of the Rang stong/Gzhan stong Distinction·from Its Beginning through the Ris-med Movement’, Journal of Buddhist Philosophy, Volume 2, 2016.
  • Pettit, John Whitney (1999), Mipham’s Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, Boston: Wisdom Publications.
  • Stearns, Cyrus (1999),The Buddha from Dolpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen, State University of New York Press.
  • Tāranātha(auth.), Jeffrey Hopkins, (trans.) The Essence of Other-Emptiness. Wisdom Books (2007).
  • Tāranātha, Jetsun (2008). The Essence of Zhentong. Translation based upon the ‘Dzam thang edition of the ‘Gzhan stong snying po’. Jonang Foundation’s Digital Library: Ngedon Thartuk Translation Initiative.
  • Tomlin, Adele (2017), Tāranātha’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, India.








Jetsun Tāranātha and the Shangpa Kagyu

Several great Kālacakra six Vajra-yogas masters of Kagyu, Nyingma and Jonang were also Shangpa Kagyu lineage holders and practitioners.  For example, most people associate Jetsun Tāranātha as being a master of the Jonang lineage, however, he was also one of the most important lineage holders of Shangpa Kagyu. This brief article gives an overview of the Shangpa Kagyu, its connection to Jonang, Tāranātha’s connection to the lineage, as well as my compiled catalogue of the extant texts composed by Tāranātha on the Shangpa Kagyu.

Shangpa Kagyu’s female founders – Niguma and Sukhasiddhi

Even though the Shangpa Kagyu are considered to be one of the eight great practice lineages[i] (of which Kālacakra  is also one), few scholars have written about this relatively unknown school , see bibliography below.  Contemporary masters of the lineage include Bokar Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche and Tenga Rinpoche.  The Treasury of Lives states:

The Shangpa Kagyu (shangs pa bka’ brgyud) tradition was initiated in the eleventh century by Khyungpo Neljor, who received the Mahāmudrā teachings in India from Niguma, the wife or sister of Nāropa. He established the monastery of Zhangzhong Dorjeden in the Shang valley in Tsang. A single line of transmission, said to have been initiated by the Buddha Vajradhara and taught first to Niguma, and which passed from Khyungpo Neljor through Mokchokpa, Wonton Kyergangwa Chokyi Sengge, Nyenton Rigung Chokyi Sherab, and Sanggye Tonpa Tsondru Senge, was known as the transmission of the seven precious Shangpa. In the thirteenth century Sanggye Tonpa passed the lineage on to multiple disciples and the Shangpa teachings were written down. The Shangpa lineages were largely absorbed into the institutional organizations of the Marpa Kagyu, Geluk, Sakya and Jonang, although it was partially revived in the nineteenth century by Jamgon Kongtrul; his two personal hermitages, Tsadra Rinchen Drak and Dzongsho Deshek Dupa are both Shangpa Kagyu institutions. The Shangpa teachings are known as the Five Golden Doctrines, which include the Nigu Chodruk, a grouping similar to the Nāro Chodruk of the Marpa Kagyu.

For more detailed and scholarly works on the origin of Shangpa Kagyu and the life story of its ‘founder’ Khyungpo Neljor, see Matthew Kapstein (1980 and 2005).


In terms of Niguma, she was also called Yogini Vimalashri, or Vajradhara Niguma, or Jñana (wisdom) Dakini Adorned with Bone (ornaments) or The Sister referring to her purported relationship to Buddhist mahasiddha, Naropa. She was also sometimes called Nigupta, which is explained by Taranatha as follows (from Harding, 2011:7) :

The name Nigu accords with the Indian language, which is Nigupta, and is said to mean ‘truly secret’ or ‘truly hidden.’ In fact, it is the code-language of the dakinis of timeless awareness.

Most sources agree that she was born into a rich Brahmin family in the town (or monastery) of Peme in Kashmir in the 10th or 11th century. Her father was named Santivarman (Zhi ba’i go cha) and her mother was called Shrimati (dPal gyi blo gros ma). According to different sources, Niguma was either the sister or consort of Naropa. Her family relationship with Naropa is not entirely clear from the existing sources. Harding (2011) discusses the available evidence and concludes that Niguma was Naropa’s older sister, not his wife or consort.[ii]

Sukhasiddhi and Shangpa Kagyu lineage masters

Sukhasiddhi is also one of the female founders of Shangpa Kagyu and root lamas of Kungpo Neljor.   She was born in west Kashmir to a large, poor family and was the mother of three sons and three daughters. Once she gave a beggar the only food in the house and was expelled from home. She traveled to Oḍḍiyāna, thought to be the land of dakas and dakinis, and there she met Virupa, a mahasiddha who became her guru. Very quickly Sukhasiddhi became completely realized. According to one biographer[iii]

Sukhasiddhi was one of the five root lamas of Khyungpo Naljor. She bestowed the four complete empowerments for the Uncommon Secret Practices, Six Doctrines’ secret practices and the Three Fold Oral Instructions. Then Sukhasiddhi gave him all of the mother tantra instructions, which cause enlightenment in a matter of mere years or months. Among Khyungpo Naljor’s root Lamas, the other four of whom were Niguma, Rahula, Maitripa and Vajrasanapa, Sukhasiddhi certainly was the kindest, said he. She promised to guide and protect all future lineage masters and followers, and indeed there are many instances in the biographies of later Shangpa masters in which she appeared to them in visions and gave guidance and profound instructions to them, some of which are included in the collected Shangpa texts (shangs chos). Such occurrences are indeed reported to the present day.

Modern Masters – The White Hat Karmapa, Tsa Tsa Drupgon Rinpoche and Kalu Rinpoche

According to Wikipedia:

In the west, the principal teacher of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage was the first Kalu Rinpoche. He received the lineage teachings in the early 1940s when he went for training at Tsa Tsa Monastery in Eastern Tibet. He trained with the Abbot of the monastery, the 8th Tsa Tsa Drubgen, Yizhin Norbu, also called Karma Singhe and the White Crown Master. The Karma Kagyu regent Tai Situpa described Yizhin Norbu as “one of the most learned and accomplished Kagyu masters now living.”

There, Kalu Rinpoche received the complete cycle of the Shangpa teachings during a closed retreat. Tsa Tsa monastery is also a major Dakpo Kagyu Centre and preserves the Rimé movement. The Tsa Tsa Drubgen Yizhin Norbu died in the middle of June, 2005. The Shangpa traditions are currently held by his regent and successor the second Gyalten Thongwa Rangdrol.

After the first Kalu Rinpoche died his student Bokar Tulku Rinpoche became the main lineage holder. After Bokar Tulku Rinpoche died, Yangsi Kalu, a young tulku who finished a Shangpa three-year retreat in September 2008, became the holder of the seat of the lineage (the monastery of Sonada in northern India). The other current holders of the Shangpa lineage are the lamas who have been entrusted by Vajradhara Kalu Rangjung Künchab, for example Norla Rinpoche, Denys Rinpoche, as well as Ven Mogchok Rinpoche currently living and teaching in France. A list of Kalu Rangjung Kunchab contemporary heirs is available on Shangpa Resource center web Site

Wangchen Rinpoche is a current lineage holder, who was recognized by Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche as “Kalu the Younger”, his meditation companion in Tibet.

However, after publishing this, French translator, Thierry Karma Sangye Tenzin, published a short piece of research in response to this challenging the Wikipedia version of Kalu Rinpoche’s transmission. He states that according to Tibetan primary sources on the life of Kalu Rinpoche, in particular, he relies on a text on the history of Kalacakra, written by Bokar Khenpo and master, Khenpo Donyo, and concludes that Kalu Rinpoche did not get the Kalacakra or Shangpa Kagyu transmission from Tsa Tsa Rinpoche but rather from Norbu Dondrub of Jamgon Kongtrul’s Tsadra monastery, Tibet. I publish it in full below for reference.

In terms of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage of Tsa Tsa Drupgon Rinpoche in Tibet, according to one biographical source, the first Tsa Tsa Rinpoche was a student of the 7th Karmapa and was given a white hat by the 8th Karmapa, similar to the black one worn by the Karmapa. For more information about the hat and his lineage see here.   Regarding the Tsa Tsa monastery in Tibet:

Tsatsa Monastery is the principal temple in the Lingtsang region of Kham, Tibet (Dege, Sichuan, China). Very close to this location is the birth place of Ling Gesar – within walking distance. Although the region of Lingtsang is now included within the greater Dege region, in the past Lingtsang was the principal kingdom with the Lingtsang Gyalpo as the King of the entire region.

In the past there have been eight Tsatsa incarnate Lamas. Recently the 9th was recognized as a small child in the area of Lingtsang, Kham. The 7th Tsata Drubgon lived during the exciting time of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul in the 19th century. From the time of Kongtrul the 7th and 8th Drubgon have maintained the history, teachings, initiations and special precepts of the Shangpa Kagyu Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism according to the teachings of Jamgon Kongtrul. During tha last half of the 20th century, in India Kalu Rinpoche maintained the Shangpa Tradition and in Tibet Tsatsa Drubgon maintained the Shangpa Kagyu. Today in the region of Lingtsang and Kangdze there are both monasteries and retreat centers following the Shangpa Tradition albeit under the overall supervision of the Karma Kamtsang Tradition to which Jamgon Kongtrul belonged.

This is an excerpt from this online article on the ‘White Hat Karmapa’.

There are two Shangpa Kagyu retreat centres in Eastern Tibet set up by the first Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye: Tsandra Rinchen Drak in Dege founded in 1859, and Dzongsho Deshek Dhupe Phodrang in Peyul, in 1867.  Sheehy (2014) has produced a map of Shangpa sites in Tibet here.

The Jonang and Shangpa Kagyu

  1. Kunga Drolchok (1507-66)

Two Jonang masters in particular were important holders of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage. The first was Kunga Drolchok, (Kun dga’ grol mchog, 24th Jonang head ).  According to one biographer:

Kunga Drolchok was especially devoted to the practices of the Shangpa Kagyu (shangs pa bka’ brgyud) tradition, which he received from the master Gyagom Lekpa Gyeltsen (rgya sgom legs pa rgyal mtshan, d.u.) and other teachers. He met the ḍākinī Niguma in a vision and taught the Shangpa transmission of the Six Dharmas of Niguma (ni gu chos drug, d.u.) more than one hundred times to many masters from different traditions.

Michael Sheehy also reports(2009):

The Jo nang lineage of the Shangs pa is alive and well among the Jo nang pa. The major figure to accumulate and synthesize the instructions of this lineage was Kun dga’ grol mchog (1507-1566). However, the intersection between these lines occurred several generations prior to him. The lineage tree suggests that the 13th century master Khyung po Tshul khrims mgon po received transmission from Mkhas grub Gtsang ma Shangs ston (1234-1309) who was four generations removed from Khyung po rnal ‘byor. Kun dga’ grol mchog then received the Bsam sdings, ‘Jag pa, and Thang lineages, as well as instructions in the visionary presence of the wisdom dakini Niguma. By the time of Kun dga’ grol mchog’s disciples, such as the master ‘Gyur med bde chen (1540-1615), practices and instructions associated with the Shangs pa were deeply embedded within the Jo nang tradition. One question that needs further exploration is to what extent these exchanges were made or at least initiated during the lifetime of Thang stong rgyal po (1361-1485)?

2. Jetsun Tāranātha

The second main Jonang master and Shangpa Kagyu lineage holder is Jetsun Tāranātha (rje btsun tA ra nA tha, 1575-1634). Many of Tāranātha’s texts are still used for Shangpa Kagyu empowerments and sadhanas, see previous post on that here and catalogue of his Shangpa works below.  According to the Shangpa Kagyu Foundation, most of the Shangpa transmissions Tāranātha received from Chöku Lhawang Drakpa (chos sku lha dbang grags pa)[iv], who himself had received the entire Shangpa tranmssion from Kunga Drolchok.

Kunga Pelzang (25th Jonang lineage holder and nephew of Kunga Drolchok) was also a Shangpa Kagyu lineage holder and important master for Tāranātha.  Pelzang’s biography states that:

In about 1588 he invited the young Tāranātha, who had been recognized as the reincarnation of Kunga Drolchok, to Jonang. There he passed the monastic seat of Jonang to Tāranātha and gave him many teachings, such as the six-branch yoga of Kālacakra, the great Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakra Tantra, and the Shangpa teachings of the Six Dharmas of Niguma (ni gu chos drug).

Michael Sheehy asserts, however, that the later Jonang master, Bamda Gelek Gyatso, was the first Jonang master to write about the Shangpa Kagyu lineage with ‘erudition and creativity’. His reasons for saying this are not given though:

As inheritor of Kun dga’ grol mchog’s legacy and throne at Jo nang, Tāranātha (1575-1635) took a keen interest in the Shangs pa, writing numerous commentaries and expanding the core practice texts of the tradition. Although the lineage continued uninterruptedly for the next several generations after Tāranātha, and was received by Jo nang masters in Amdo, it was not until the ‘Dzam thang master ‘Ba’ mda’ dge legs (1844-1904) came onto the scene that this practice lineage would be commented on within the Jo nang tradition with any degree of erudition or creativity. ‘Ba’ mda’ Lama wrote several works related to the Shangs pa, including an extensive explanation of the Six Teachings of Niguma that is considered the authoritative work for Jo nang pas. This lineage then passed onto ‘Jam mgon kong sprul (1813-1899), and in more recent times was represented by such great masters as the late Kalu Rinpoche and his disciple Bokar Rinpoche.

However, I could only find two specific texts from the Niguma tradition in the Dzamthang edition of Bamda Gelek’s Collected Works on TBRC (W23899). These texts, as well as some on the practice of the Shangpa Kagyu mandala of the five deities, are in Volume 18.  One of his compositions ‘The Garland of the White Lotus‘, an instruction text on the five deities of Shangs pa, (rgyud sde lnga’i gtso ‘dus mngon rtogs kyi khrid yig padma dkar po’i phreng ba) is also included in a newly published book,  ‘Ornament of the Enlightened Intention of the practice of the six yogas of Niguma’, an anthology of Shangpa instructions and poems on the Six Dharmas of Niguma by various Jonang authors (2010). (ni gu’i chos drug grub pa’i dgongs rgyan, jo nang brtse chen mtho slob rtag brtan lnga rig dar rgyas gling, TBRC W1KG5786).

Tāranātha’s Works on the Shangpa Kagyu lineage

For those interested in the works Tāranātha composed on Shangpa Kagyu lineage practices, here is a catalogue I have compiled of extant texts available on TBRC, see below.

Apart from Niguma’s text entitled Mahamudra as Spontaneous Liberation, the school’s teaching and practice is centered around the so-called Five Tantras (Mahakala-, Chakrasamvara-, Hevajra-, Mahamaya-, and Guhyasamaja Tantra), and the five golden dharmas of the Shangpas (Tshangs pa gser chos lnga); a group of teachings envisioned as forming a tree:

  1. root: Niguma’s Six Yogas, Nigu Chosdrug (rtsa ba ni gu chos drug)
  2. trunk: Amulet-box Precept of Mahamudra (phyag chen ga’u ma)
  3. branches: Three Ways of Carrying Realisation on the Path (yal kha lam khyer rnam gsum)
  4. flowers: Red and White Khechari (me tog mkha’ spyod dkar dmar)
  5. fruit: Deathlessness and Non-deviation (‘bras bu ‘chi med chugs med)

From the Collected Works of Tāranātha (Tagten Phuntshog Ling edition)[v]

  • A practice text on the 5 deity mandala of the Cakrasamvara according to the system of ni gu ma and the shangs pa bka’ brgyud pa. ni gu lugs kyi bde mchog lha lnga’i mngon rtogs. TBRC W22277. 11: 355 – 366.
  • An empowerment text on the abhiseka of the 5 deity mandala of cakrasamvara according to the system of ni gu ma and the shangs pa bka’ brgyud pa. ni gu lugs kyi bde mchog lha lnga’i dbang chog. TBRC W22277. 11: 367 – 397.
  • Instructions on the 6-fold teachings of ni gu ma according to the shangs pa bka’ brgyud pa. zab lam ni gu chos drug gi ‘khrid yig zab don thad mar brdal ba zhes bya ba bklags chog ma. TBRC W22277. 11: 399 – 506.  ·
  • Condensed instructions on the 6-fold teachings of ni gu ma. ni gu’i ‘khrid yig bsdus pa TBRC W22277. 11: 507 – 520.  ·
  • Supplement to the instructions on the 6-fold teachings of ni gu ma; zab lam ni gu chos drug gi gzhung ‘khrid ma mo’i lhan thabs kha skong. TBRC W22277. 11: 521 – 554. ·
  • Instructions on the yogic practices associated with the 6-fold teachings of ni gu ma.  ni gu’i ‘khrul ‘khor rtsa ‘grel. TBRC W22277. 11: 555 – 568.·
  • Sadhana of hayagriva according to the shangs pa bka’ brgyud. dpal khro bo’i rgyal po rta mchog rol pa’i las byang dregs pa kun ‘dul. TBRC W22277. 7: 889 – 912.       

From the Collected Works of Tāranātha (Peking edition)[vi]:·

  •  Compilation of essential biographical and historical works from the shangs pa bka’ brgyud tradition. dPal ldan shangs pa’i chos skor gyi ‘byung khungs yid kyi mun sel/ rgyal ba’i bstan pa rin po che spyi’i rnam bzhag las ‘phros pa’i dpal ldan shangs pa’i chos skor gyi ‘byung khungs yid kyi mun sel. TBRC W1PD45495. 34: 226 – 317.·
  • Collection of various instructions from the shangs pa bka’ rgyud lineage. Grub thob shangs pa bka’ rgyud kyi thabs lam gser gyi phung po. TBRC W1PD45495. 38: 279-303.·
  • Instructions from the indian yogini ni gu ma. phyag rgya chen po ga’u ma’i rang babs rnam gsum zhes bya ba’i khrid yig. TBRC W1PD45495. 39: 213-225.·
  • Instructions on the preliminary practices according to the lineage of the indian yogini ni gu ma, and a supplication to the Kālacakra  lineage.  ye shes mkha’ ‘gro ni gu’i dbang bka’ che chung rnams kyi sngon du ‘gro ba’i chos bcu dang lngar dbye ba’i khyad par. TBRC W1PD45495. 39: 226-235.·
  • Supplication to the lineage of the indian yogini ni gu ma. nai gus brgyud ‘debs a yig chos ‘byung ma. TBRC W1PD45495. 39: 236-241. ·
  • Work on the practice associated with the deities of the mandala of mayakaya-mahesvara, a teaching of the shangs pa bka’ brgyud. sGyu lus dbang mo che bskur tshul gyi lag len. TBRC W1PD45495. 39: 243-259.·
  • Essential instructions on the mahamudra of the indian yogini ni gu ma. gser chos phyi ma bzhi’i snying po. TBRC W1PD45495. 39: 260-262.
  • Instructions on practices associated with a dakini during the sampannakrama according to the shangs pa bka’ brgyud. mkha’ ‘gro rnam gsum gyi gdams pa. TBRC W1PD45495. 39: 308-317.
  • Advice and explanation on practices associated with a dakini during the sampannakrama according to the shangs pa bka’ brgyud. mkha’ ‘gro rnam gsum gyi zhal gdams gung bsgrigs te nyams su len bde ba. W1PD45495. 39: 318-324.
  • Song to Niguma. ni gu’i mgur in Ni gu’i chos drug grub pa’i dgongs rgyan, jo nang brtse chen mtho slob rtag brtan lnga rig dar rgyas gling, TBRC W1KG5786: 184.

For a talk on Shangpa Kagyu by Translator/scholar Lama Sarah Harding, see this video here.


  • Dung dkar blo bzang ‘phrin las. 2002.Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo. Beijing: Krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, pp. 433-434.
  • Gtsug lag ‘phreng ba. 1986. Chos ‘byung mkhas pa’i dga’ ston. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, vol. 2, pp 546.4 ff.
  • Ni gu’i chos drug grub pa’i dgongs rgyan, jo nang brtse chen mtho slob rtag brtan lnga rig dar rgyas gling, TBRC W1KG5786. ‘Ornament of the Enlightened Intention of the Practice of the Six-yogas of Niguma’, an anthology of Shangpa instructions and poems on the Six Dharmas of Niguma by various Jonang authors (2010).
  • Sarah Harding Niguma, Lady of Illusion. Ithaca, New York, USA, 2011
  • Kalu Rinpoche. 1970. Shangs pa gser ‘phreng. Leh: Sonam W. Tashigangpa.
  • Matthew Kapstein, “The Shangs-pa bKa’-brgyud: an unknown school of Tibetan Buddhism”. In Studies in Honor of Hugh Richardson, ed. Michael Aris and Aung San Suu Kyi. Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1980 pp. 138-144.
  • Kapstein, Matthew T. 2005. “Chronological Conundrums in the Life of Khyung po rnal ‘byor: Hagiography and Historical Time.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, vol. 1, no. 1.
  • Roerich, George, trans. 1996.The Blue Annals. 2nd ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, pp. 728-
  • Smith, Gene. 2001. “The Shangs pa Bka’ brgyud Tradition.” InAmong Tibetan Texts. Boston: Wisdom Publications, pp. 53-57..
  • Riggs,Nicole,  Like an Illusion: Lives of the Shangpa Kagyu Masters, Dharma Cloud Pr, 2001.
  • Sheehy, Michal, On the Shangpa and Jonangpa, Jonang Foundation website, 2009.
  • Timeless Rapture: Inspired Verse of the Shangpa Masters, compiled by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, translated and introduced by Ngawang Zangpo, Snow Lion, 2003.
  • 2nd Dalai Lama. Tantric Yogas of Sister Niguma, Snow Lion Publications, 1st ed. U. edition (May 1985),


[i] Eight Practice Lineages aka the Eight Great Chariots of the Practice Lineage (sgrub brgyud shing rta chen mo brgyad) — the eight principal traditions which ‘transported’ the Buddhist teachings from India to Tibet. They are:

  1. Nyingma—the teachings of the kama, terma and pure vision traditions within the Nyingma School of Ancient Translations, which had come down in an aural lineage transmitted by countless learned and accomplished masters, all thanks to the kindness of Khenpo Shantarakshita, Guru Padmasambhava and the Dharma-King Trisong Deutsen.
  2. Kadam—the divine teachings of the Old and New Kadam traditions, founded by the incomparable and glorious Lord Jowo Atisha and further developed through the magnificent efforts of Lobsang Drakpa, who was Manjushri in person.
  3. Lamdré/Sakya—the essential instructions of the ‘Path with its Result’ (Lamdré), the heart-essence of the mahasiddha Virupa, which came down to the glorious Sakyapa founders and their heirs, and were then passed on by the various lineages including those of Sakya, Ngor and Tsar (sa ngor tsar gsum).
  4. Marpa Kagyü—the four streams of teachings within the Kagyü tradition that stems from Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa, and branched into the four major and eight minor Kagyü lineages.
  5. Shangpa Kagyü—the golden doctrine of the dakini Niguma from the glorious Shangpa Kagyü, which comes from the learned and accomplished Khyungpo Naljor.
  6. Kalachakra/’Six Branch Practice of Vajrayoga’ (sbyor drug)—the ‘Six-Branched Application’, which emphasizes the Vajra Yoga of the perfection stage of the splendid Kalachakra, and which came to Tibet from the noble Dharma-kings of India and others such as Kalapada in early, intermediate and later phases, and developed into seventeen traditions, which were then brought together and passed on by the renunciate Tukjé Tsöndru and others.
  7. Shyijé and Chö—the noble teachings of the ‘Pacifying of Suffering’ Tradition coming from Padampa Sangyé together with the profound teachings on the objects of severance, or Chö, which were passed on by Machik Lapdrön and others.
  8. ‘Approach and Accomplishment of the Three Vajras’—the teachings bestowed on the mahasiddha Orgyenpa Rinchen Pal by the mother of the buddhas, Vajrayogini herself.

The Jonang and Gelug schools are not part of this list because they formed within Tibet. See

[ii] Harding (2011) explains:

“The elusiveness of Niguma is typical of the lore of the dakini, the very embodiment of liminal spiritual experience. Additionally the difficulty of pinpointing historical information may well be due to the lack of ancient sources from India and the lack of concern about such mundane matters by the Tibetan masters who encountered her in dreams and visions and maybe in person. After all, when confronted with the blazing apparition of the resplendent and daunting dark dakini bestowing cryptic advice, a background check would be rendered irrelevant. Indian Buddhist hagiographies are virtually unknown, whether of men or women. In Tibet, where hagiography became a prolific genre in its own right, those of women are extremely rare, for all the usual reasons. It is in the experience of those heroes who encountered the dakini that one finds the most information, and these experiences are invested with the value of spiritual meaning.”

[iii] Biography by Sherab Drime (Thomas Roth) at Rangjung Yeshe Wiki,

[iv] “Lhawang Drakpa was born in Tö, Western Tibet. At first he received training in the Upper Drukpa Kagyü tradition as well as in the Oral Tradition of Rechungpa. He also received the teachings of the Nyingma school. Later, after he had met with Jetsün Künga Drölchok and attended upon him, he received the transmissions and teachings of the Jonang and Sakya schools. All of these teachings he received in their entirety, with nothing whatsoever left out. Most importantly however, he received from Künga Drölchok the complete transmission of the teachings and practices of the Shangpa Kagyu, which were closest to his heart. Putting these teachings into practice, he truly erected the victory banner of accomplishment. Experiences and realisations were overflowing from within, and he fully mastered the practices of channels and subtle energies. He attained the deathless vajra-body and lived for more than 120 years. Where the Sakya, Kagyü, Jonang and Shangpa traditions are concerned, he had many students who came to study and practice these under him. In particular, he passed on the Shangpa tradition in its entirety into the hands of its owner, the All-knowing Jetsün Jonang Tāranātha, and invested him with the responsibility of its continuation. Shortly after this, he passed away into other realms. The majority of his precious remains were enshrined in a golden reliquary in Draktö called Tashi Öbar. For as long as it remains as a support for the offerings of beings, it will be a cause for their rebirth in the pure realms.  Chöku Lhawang Drakpa later manifested as one of the masters of Droggé monastery (jo nang ‘brog dge dgon nges don bsam ‘grub gling), which is to the present day one of the largest and most important Jonang monasteries in Amdo.” (Taken from Shangpa Kagyu Network and Foundation website).

[v] Collected Works by Taranatha (1575-1634). Scanned from reprints acquired from Takten Puntsok Ling Monastery. Pages and orderions are missing from the example printed. Includes Dolpopa’s commentary on the Uttaratantra in vol. 17. gsung ‘bum/_tA ra nA tha (rtag brtan phun tshongs gling gi par ma.  TBRC W22277. c. namgyal & tsewang taru, leh. 1982-1987. Block Print.

[vi] Collected Works by Taranatha (1575-1634). Combines versions from the Dzamtang and Ladakh printings. jo nang rje btsun tA ra nA tha’i gsung ‘bum dpe bsdur ma. Published by krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang 2008.  TBRC W1PD45495.

Kālacakra as the ‘ultimate pinnacle’ of all the tantras: Jetsun Tāranātha and 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje

The Kālacakra is often stated to be the ‘ultimate pinnacle’ of all the tantras in various traditions, and it claims so itself.

A new post here on this website, details the reasons for that assertion given by Jetsun Tāranātha and 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje. Includes exclusive, new excerpts from Tāranātha’s Kālacakra masterpiece ‘A Hundred Blazing Lights’.

“However, even compared to other Unexcelled Highest Yoga Tantras, the greatest and most supreme is the glorious Kālacakratantra; the only tantra of the ultimate, profound meaning of the vajra-yogas. It is the ‘ultimate’ or ‘pinnacle’ of all the vehicles of path and result, since it contains the results of the six branches of vajra-yoga, the ultimate pinnacle of all the vehicles of the Tripitaka teachings of the Buddha, is the glorious Kālacakratantra.”
– Jetsun Tāranātha, ‘A Hundred Blazing Lights: Commentary on ‘Meaningful to See’
For full article on this see here.

New Translation: ‘Eight Swirling Spears’ by Gotsangpa, with commentary by HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche

As an offering to the gurus on this Dakini Day, I publish for the first time, a new translation of a ‘song’ by Tibetan master, Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje ( rgod tshang pa mgon po rdo rje) (1189-1258), a series of short verses that he calls ‘Eight Swirling Spears’ (mdung skor brgyad); together with a compiled commentary on the text by HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. The small booklet, with introduction and footnotes, can be downloaded for free, here: The Eight Swirling Spears in Space.

Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje

Gotsangpa was a mahasiddha of the Drukpa Kagyu school, well known for his songs of realisation and said to have been an emanation of Milarepa. He founded the branch of the Drukpa Kagyu school known as the Upper Drukpa (stod ‘brug). His students included Orgyenpa Rinchen Pal[i], who is considered to also be a great Kalacakra lineage master. According to the Nyingma master, Patrul Rinpoche when he was asked who were the two greatest practitioners in Tibet, of Shantideva’s Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, he said one was Gotsangpa[ii].

Gotsangpa states this ‘song’ was composed at a place called ‘White Garuda’ (khyung dkar) [iii] between the years 1233-1236.  These ‘eight spears’ he refers to in the text, represent the view, meditation, conduct, fruition, samaya, compassion, dependent origination, and enlightened activity.   Gotsangpa sings about how each ‘spear’ has three aspects. When these three aspects are all present, then the spear swirls freely in space, without obstruction. Meaning that particular ‘spear’ is accomplished, complete and free. In English, we might say ‘flying free like a kite’.

This commentary on the text here by HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche is an edited compilation of two public teachings Rinpoche gave on this text. The first was a teaching he gave in English in three sessions in Germany in 2011. I have transcribed and edited that teaching and included it here. The second teaching is from the pre-Kagyu Monlam teachings Rinpoche gave in Bodh Gaya in January, 2019. The teaching in Bodh Gaya was in Tibetan and the translation of that produced here is largely based on the English oral translation by David Karma Chophel, a transcript produced by Michele Martin and my own notes and additions, where the Tibetan had not been translated and so on.

The only English translation I have seen of the root text verses was by Jim Scott[iv], a student and translator of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist yogi master who regularly taught this text. HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche told me that he also received teachings on this text from Khenpo Rinpoche, when he was a student at Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim, India. I have done a new translation of the text, which is closer to the Tibetan original. I have also included the Tibetan script and phonetics for those who like to chant such songs in the Tibetan.

Out of respect for these two great masters who taught this text I have also included in this publication, two new translations of long-life prayers written by HH 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje. The first prayer is for 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche and the second for Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche.

Any errors are all mine, a simple woman. May it be of benefit!

[i] Orgyenpa Rinchen Pel (o rgyan pa rin chen dpal) (1229 -1309) also known as Orgyen Nyendrub, was also a teacher of the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje. According to his biography: ‘For twelve years Orgyenpa studied Kālacakra, mainly in the traditions of Dro Lotsāwa (‘bro lo tsA ba) and Chak Lotsāwa (chag lo tsA ba), and the major Kagyu doctrines with Gotsangpa.’ Orgyenpa, who was also a disciple of Karma Pakshi, 2nd Karmapa Lama, became a great siddha who traveled to Bodhgaya, Jalandhar, Oddiyana and China. In Oddiyana he received teachings related to the Six Branch Yoga of the Kalachakra system known as the “Approach and Attainment of the Three Adamantine States” (rdo rje gsum gyi bsnyen sgrub) and, after returning to Tibet, founded the Orgyen Nyendrup tradition and wrote many works including a famous guide to the land of Oddiyana.  See

[ii] This story was told by HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche in some mind-training teachings he gave in Nepal in April, 2014. He became known as Gotsangpa after meditating for several years at a cave near the border of Nepal called Gotsangpa cave. See also Gotsangpa’s biography translated by Dan Martin at

[iii] This place name where Gotsangpa states he composed this text is called khyung dkar. I asked Dan Martin, who translated Gotsangpa’s biography, when Gotsangpa was there and he helpfully sent me chronologies from the following source:  Rare Tibetan texts from Lahul: Narrative Accounts of Rgod tshang pa Mgon po rdo rje, Chos rgyal G.yu sna Legs pa’i don grub & Sras Gu ru Chos kyi dbang phyug. LMpj 015,893. SB 5097. Set X.  The biography contained here, on pp. 1-325, has no specific title, but the colophon title is as follows (318.2):  Chos rje rgod tshang ba’i stod pa nyi shu rtsa lnga’i sgo gnas stod pa rnam par thar pa yon tan kun bsal zhes bya ba. It states that he was at that place for three years until age 38: de nas khyung dkar dang spang dkar gnyis su lo gsum te so brgyad / 1233-1236.

There is also a similar passage in Rgod tshang pa Mgon po rdo rje, 1189-1258, The Collected Works of Rgod tshang pa Mgon po rdo rje, the founder of the Upper Tradition (Stod) of the ‘Brug pa Dkar brgyud pa, Tango Monastic Community (Thimphu 1981).  5 vols.   LMpj 014,572.  Set VIII.  This also states that Gotsangpa was there for three years (1233-1236), de nas shri ri khyung dkar du lo gsum.


Sakya and Kālacakra: the Galo, Śākyaśrī and Vajrayogini lineages and contemporary master, Chogye Rinpoche

The Sakya and Kālacakra: Lineage teachers of many Jonang masters, including Dolpopa. Also, holders of the most direct lineage of Kālacakra in the world today, given directly by Vajrayogini, the Sakya have a strong history and connection to Kālacakra.

In this short blog post, I discuss the Kālacakra lineages of Sakya, contemporary masters and post some photos of my recent visit to the late Sakya Kālacakra master, Chogye Trichen Rinpoche’s monastery (Jamchen Lhakhang) in Boudha, Nepal and his small kudung stupa housed in his former personal residence there.

Considering that much has been written the tradition of Kālacakra in relation to HH 14th Dalai Lama and Gelugpa and more recently, the Jonang, I have sought to balance this out, by writing about the Kālacakra traditions and masters in Kagyu: see here and here,  and Nyingma: see here and here.

The Sakya Lineages

The Sakya lineage are also important holders in the history of the Kālacakra tradition. As Jetsun Tāranātha writes in One Hundred Blazing Lights, there are seventeen identifiable lineages of Kālacakra that were brought from India to Tibet by Indian mahasiddhas. These were compiled by the Jonang master Kunpang Chenpo; see post about these lineages here.

Two of these lineages, distinct from the Dro and Rwa lineages that are mainly practised today, are clearly identifiable Sakya lineages. These are:

  • The six-branch yoga of the Hevajra mother tantra that Galo [Ga Lotsāwa  (1105/1110 – 1198/1202) was a great siddha and translator who visited India; also known as Palchen Galo [‘Galo’ is an abbreviation of Ga Lotsāwa, or “the translator of the Ga clan”] gave to the great Sakyapa Lama Kunga Nyingpo.[1]
  • That which the great Kashmiri Pandit Śākyaśrī[2] also gave to the Lord of Dharma Sakya Panchen[3], distinguished by the Six Vajra Verses of the hearing lineage.

In addition, Kunkhyen Dolpopa (1292-1361), one of the main Jonang master and founders, who was also considered to be an accomplished practitioner of Kālacakra, got the original transmission and instructions on it from Sakya lineage masters. As his Treasury of Lives biography states:

In 1309 he traveled to Mustang (glo) to study the treatises on the vehicle of the perfections, epistemology, and abhidharma with the master Kyiton Jamyang Drakpa Gyeltsen (skyi ston ‘jam dbyangs grags pa rgyal mtshan, d.u.). Kyiton soon left Mustang and went to teach in the great monastery of Sakya (sa skya) in the Tsang region of Tibet, and Dolpopa followed him there in 1312.  Dolpopa received many teachings from Kyiton at Sakya, the most important of which were the Kālacakra Tantra, the Bodhisattva Trilogy (sems ‘grel skor gsum), the ten Sutras on the Buddha-nature (snying po’i mdo), the five Sutras of Definitive Meaning, and the Five Treatises of Maitreya. He became an expert in the Kālacakra tradition he received from Kyiton and served as his teaching assistant for several years. He also received teachings and initiations from other masters at Sakya, such as the Sakya throne-holder of the Khon (‘khon) family, Daknyi Chenpo Sangpo Pel (bdag nyid chen po bzang po dpal, 1262-1324). From Kunpang Drakpa Gyeltsen (kun spangs grags pa rgyal mtshan, d.u.) he again received the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakra Tantra.

In terms of contemporary Sakya masters, there appears to be few today alive who practise or give empowerments of it. I attended a Kālacakra empowerment in London in 2012, given by HH 41st Sakya Trizin, who has given the empowerments several times in different countries.

The only other contemporary Sakya master who practised and gave empowerment of it was Chogye Trichen Rinpoche (bco brgyad khri chen) aka Ngawang Khyenrab Thupten Lekshé Gyatso (ngag dbang mkhyen rab thub bstan legs bshad rgya mtsho) (1920-2007), who was also the root lama of one of the main scholars and translators of Dolpopa and the Jonang lineage, Dr. Cyrus Stearns. Chogye Rinpoche was the head of the Tsarpa branch of the Sakya school. He was born in Tsang in 1920 and was recognized by the Thirteenth Dalai Lamas the reincarnation of the previous Chogye Rinpoche of the Nalendra Monastery. For a more extensive biography of Rinpoche see this blog post here.

Chogye Trichen Rinpoche

Chogye Rinpoche and the direct lineage of Kālacakra from Vajrayogini

According to biographies, the previous Chogye Trichen Rinpoches, Khyenrab Choje (1436–97), beheld the sustained vision of the female tantric deity Vajrayogini at Drak Yewa in central Tibet, and received extensive teachings and initiations directly from her. Two forms of Vajrayogini appeared out of the face of the rocks at Drak Yewa, one red in color and the other white, and they bestowed the Kālacakra initiation on Khyenrab Choje. When he asked if there was any proof of this, his attendant showed the master the kusha grass that Khyenrab Choje brought back with him from the initiation. It was unlike any kusha grass found in this world, with rainbow lights sparkling up and down the length of the dried blades of grass.

This direct lineage from Vajrayogini is the ‘shortest’, the most recent and direct, lineage of the Kālacakra empowerment and teachings that exists in this world. Not much as been written or studied about this lineage, I am thinking of writing another post soon about this lineage and transmission in more detail, if the materials are easily accessible.

In addition to being known as the emanation of Manjushri, Khyenrab Choje had previously been born as many of the Kings of Shambhala as well as numerous Buddhist masters of India. These are some indications of his unique relationship to the Kālacakra tradition.

Chogye Trichen Rinpoche is the holder of six different Kālacakra initiations, four of which, the Bulug, Jonang, Maitri-gyatsha, and Domjung, are contained within the Gyude Kuntu, the Collection of Tantras compiled by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and his disciple Loter Wangpo. Rinpoche has offered all six of these empowerments to Sakya Trizin, the head of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism.

Rinpoche has given the Kālacakra initiation in Tibet, Mustang, Kathmandu, Malaysia, the United States, Taiwan, and Spain, and is widely regarded as a definitive authority on Kālacakra. In 1988 he traveled to the United States, giving the initiation and complete instructions in the practice of the six-branch Vajrayoga of Kālacakra according to the Jonangpa tradition in Boston.

Chogye Rinpoche has completed extensive retreat in the practice of Kālacakra, particularly of the six-branch yoga (sadangayoga) in the tradition of the Jonangpa school according to Jetsun Taranatha.  According to one report, when Chogye Rinpoche was young, one of his teachers dreamed that Rinpoche was the son of the King of Shambhala, the pure land that upholds the tradition of Kālacakra. (See biography of Chogye Trichen Rinpoche in “Parting from the Four Attachments”, Snow Lion Publications, 2003.)

Cyrus Stearns, who translated for Chogye Rinpoche when he was in the USA for the teachings on the six vajra-yogas, told me that:

As far as I know, the Kālacakra and six yogas (Sbyor drug) are not practiced at all in the Sakya tradition these days. Chogye Rinpoche was the only Sakya lama who taught the six yogas and had a special interest in that practice. Early six yogas texts from India and Tibet, some of the later ones such as Taranatha’s Mthong ldan, Rtags tshad yi ge, etc., and more recent works by Kongtrul are included in the Gdams ngag mdzod and Rgyud sde kun btus collections. Chogye Rinpoche was the main holder of the Rgyud sde kun btus collection, which he passed to HH the Sakya Trizin. Other lamas were also present when Rinpoche gave the empowerment and taught the Mthong ldan, and gave the lung for all the six yogas texts in the collection and the Kālacakra Tantra, and all the other related texts in the Kangyur.

I recently visited Chogye Trichen Rinpoche’s monastery in Boudha, Nepal and went up to see his small stupa and personal room at the monastery, which is normally closed to visitors.  I spoke to an old lama, Lama Wangdu (who according to Stearns was always with Rinpoche and was his personal assistant during the Kālacakra empowerments and teachings), who stated, confirming what Stearns said, that there were no other Sakya lamas who could give the transmission of the six yogas text in Nepal. The Kālacakra six-yogas tradition appears to be dying out within the Sakya lineage. The 42nd Sakya Trizin gave the Kālacakra empowerment last year in the USA.

Since Chogye Trichen Rinpoche passed away in 2007, his two assistants, Chogye Shabdrung and Gar Shabdrung have been working together.  The Chogye Shabdrung Rinpoche is now the 26th Chogye Trichen.

See below some photos I took of the stupa and room of Chogye Rinpoche at his monastery in Nepal.

The kundung stupa at Chogye Rinpoche’s former personal residence at his monastery in Boudha, Nepal.

Special thanks to Lordshri Gurung for his helpful suggestion to visit this monastery.

Photo below of Chogye Rinpoche with the 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, HH 41st Sakya Trizin and HH 14th Dalai Lama.


[1] Sakyapa Lama Kunga Nyingpo (1092 – 1158) was the first Sakya throne holder and the founder of Sakya monastery.

[2] Śākyaśrī Bhadra (1127­- 1225), whose immense learning was incomparable even in India, was head of the famed dharma universities of Vikramaśilā  and Nalanda, and  who was continually blessed with visions of the mother of the buddhas, Arya Tara, was the last of the great Indian panditas to visit Tibet.

[3] Sakya Paṇḍita Künga Gyeltsen (chos rje sa skya paṇḍita kun dga’ rgyal mtshan (1182- 1251)) was a Tibetan spiritual leader and Buddhist scholar and the fourth of the Five Sakya Forefathers (sa skya gong ma lnga). Künga Gyeltsen is generally known simply as Sakya Paṇḍita, a title given to him in recognition of his scholarly achievements and knowledge of Sanskrit. He is considered to be the fourth Sakya Forefather and sixth Sakya Trizin and one of the most important figures in the Sakya lineage.