The life of Jamgon Kongtrul (1813-1899), extraordinary compiler and author of the Treasury of Precious Instructions, is well-known from various sources. Revered as a spiritual emanation of the great eighth-century translator Vairocana, he was born into a Bon family at Rongyab Pema Lhatsé in Drida Zelmogang, within the principality of Dergé. From his eighteenth year onwards, he was introduced to the formal study and practice of Buddhism—initially at Zhechen under the tutelage of Gyurmé Tutob Namgyal (b. 1787) and subsequently at Palpung, which had been founded by Situ Chokyi Jungné (1700-74). In these institutions he twice received the vows of monastic ordination—according to the lower and upper Vinaya lineages respectively. During these formative years, Kongtrul accepted Situ Pema Nyinjé (1774-1853) as his main teacher, receiving the Kagyu and Jonangpa transmissions from him and some sixty other teachers in all.
In 1842, Situ Pema Nyinjé granted Kongtrul permission to leave the monastery and enter into a three-year solitary retreat at Tsadra Rinchen Drak, revered as one of the twenty-five foremost power-places in Kham, specifically associated with the “mind aspect of Padmasambhava’s enlightened attributes” (yon tan gyi thugs). At Tsadra, on a concealed ridge, high above Palpung Monastery, Kongtrul founded the hermitage of Kunzang Dechen Oseling. It was here that he completed his prodigious writings, passed long periods in isolated meditation, and first liaised with his closest associates: Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo of Dzongsar (1820-92), Chogyur Dechen Lingpa of Nangchen (1829-1870) and others, to establish the dynamic and all-embracing non-sectarian (ris med) tradition of eastern Tibet. Together, they sought to preserve and integrate the diverse lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, large and small, without fear of persecution, in an age of increasing strife. Receptive to Padmasambhava’s spiritual revelations, they also mapped out the twenty-five ancient sacred sites of eastern Tibet, which had been imbued with his blessings.
While Kongtrul uniquely juxtaposed the realizations of Tibet’s diverse spiritual traditions, Buddhist and Bon, he had a special affinity with the Jonangpa and Shangpa Kagyu teachings maintained in the lineage of Tāranātha (1575-1634). His writings display a particular penchant for the views and expositions of this multi-talented renaissance figure and later scholars who empathized with his approach—Nyingma masters such as Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu (1698-1755) and Gyurmé Tsewang Chokdrub (1761-1829) of Katok, and Sarma masters including the aforementioned Situ Chokyi Jungné of Palpung.
The collected writings of Jamgon Kongtrul are known as the “five great treasuries” (mdzod chen lnga)—a title prophetically bestowed upon them by Kongtrul’s closest associate Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo, in 1864 when only the first of the five had been composed. That was the Treasury of Knowledge (Shes bya kun khyab mdzod) which, in an encyclopedic manner, covers the entire corpus of the sūtra and mantra traditions, from the ordinary fields of Indo-Tibetan classical learning, all the way up to the uncommon teachings of Atiyoga, which is the culmination of the nine vehicles of Buddhist practice. The other four include the Treasury of Kagyu Mantras (bKa' brgyud sngags kyi mdzod), the Treasury of Precious Spiritual Revelations (Rin chen gter mdzod), the Treasury of Jamgon Kongtrul’s Own Uncommon Revelations (Thun mong ma yin pa'i mdzod), and the Treasury of Precious Instructions (gDams ngag rin po che'i mdzod).
Among these, the Treasury of Precious Instructions draws together teachings associated with the "eight great conveyances forming the lineages of spiritual attainment" (sgrub brgyud shing rta chen po brgyad). In general, this genre of instructions (gdams ngag), whether imparted verbally or in writing, is characterized by an emphasis on practical and pithy “hands-on” advice, in contrast to more formal theoretical teachings, for which reason such instructions are often considered to be esoteric, regardless of whether their content is concerned with medicine, astronomy, worldly matters, or Buddhist meditative practices.
Jamgon Kongtrul appears to have compiled and gradually expanded the Treasury of Precious Instructions between 1870 and 1887. Woodblocks, amounting to ten volumes, were originally carved at Palpung Monastery, but the collection has continued to expand—the Kundeling edition (1971-1972) in twelve volumes, the edition of HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1979-1981) in eighteen volumes, and the most recent Shechen Publications edition (1998), also in eighteen volumes. The last mentioned is the source text for the present volume of translations.
The content of the Treasury of Precious Instructions structures the oral teachings and their transmission according to the “eight great conveyances” or traditions that form the distinct lineages of spiritual attainment. These may be summarised as follows:
(i) The Nyingma tradition derives from the transmissions of Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra during the eighth-century, along with the former’s illustrious twenty-five disciples (rje dbangs nyer lnga) headed by the sovereign Tri Songdetsen.
(ii) The Kadam tradition derives from Atiśa (982-1054) and his Tibetan disciples headed by Dromton Gyelwei Jungné (1004-1063).
(iii) The Sakya tradition, emphasizing the system known as the Path and its Fruition, derives from Virūpa and his Tibetan disciple Drokmi Lotsāwa Śākya Yeshé (992-1072).
(iv) The Marpa Kagyu tradition derives from the Indian masters Tilopā, Nāropā and Maitrīpā along with their pre-eminent Tibetan disciple Marpa Chokyi Lodro (1012-1097).
(v) The Shangpa Kagyu tradition derives from the ḍākinī Nigumā and her Tibetan disciple Khyungpo Neljor Tsultrim Gonpo of Shang (d. ca. 1135). In contrast to the foregoing lineages, the Shangpa had no distinct monasteries but their teachings were traditionally transmitted within the Marpa Kagyu, Jonang, Nyingma and Geluk schools.
(vi) Pacification and Severance derive from Padampa Sangyé (d. 1117) and his female Tibetan disciple, Machik Labkyi Dronma (ca. 1055-1143). As with the Shangpa tradition, these instructions have also been transmitted within the main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
(vii) The Six-branch Yoga of the Kālacakra Tantra derives from Somanātha and his Tibetan disciple Gyijo Lotsāwa Dawei Ozera during the early eleventh century, and was maintained pre-eminently through the lineages associated with Zhalu and Jonang.
(viii) The Service and Attainment of the Three Adamantine Realities derives from the revelations of the female deity Vajrayoginī, compiled by the Tibetan master Orgyanpa Rinchen Pel (1230-1309) during his travels in Oḍḍiyāna.
The origin of this eclectic eightfold classification, with some variation in order, has been attributed to the versified composition of Trengwo Terton Sherab Ozer (1517-1584), the founder of Pelri Monastery in Chongyé. The illustrious upholders of these eight lineages of spiritual attainment are sometimes contrasted with the great masters revered as the “ten great pillars who supported the exegetical lineages” (bshad brgyud ’degs pa’i ka chen bcu).
In the context of Jamgon Kongtrul’s Treasury of Precious Instructions, the eight lineages are structured according to the following arrangement:
Volumes 1-2: The Nyingma tradition of the way of secret mantra (gsang sngags rnying ma) Volumes 3-4: The Kadampa tradition (bka’ gdams) Volumes 5-6: The Sakya tradition: Path and Fruition (sa skya lam ’bras) Volumes 7-10: The Marpa Kagyu tradition (mar pa bka’ brgyud) Volumes 11-12: The Shangpa Kagyu tradition (shangs pa bka’ brgyud) Volumes 13-14: Pacification and Severance (zhi byed dang bchod) Volume 15: Kālacakra and the Ritual Service and Attainment of Orgyenpa (dus ’khor dang o rgyan bsnyen sgrub) Volumes 16-17: Miscellaneous Teachings (khrid skor sna tshogs) Volume 18: The Jonang tradition and the Catalog (jo nang khrid brgya dang dkar chag)
Volume 18: Part One
The first part of Volume 18, translated here, comprises the One Hundred and Eight Guidebooks of Jonang (jo nang khrid brgya) which were compiled by the venerable Kunga Drolchok (1507-1566). This anthology includes terse instructions representing all the eight lineages of spiritual attainment, and was clearly regarded by Jamgon Kongtrul as an inspirational precursor for his own larger compilation, which additionally includes Indic source texts, Tibetan antecedents, and later interpretations. It is clear from the anthology itself that Kunga Drolchok identifies these one hundred and eight guidebooks within the Kadam, Sakaya and Kagyu lineages, and to lesser extent with the Nyingma tradition. Although a few of the transmissions do have connections with earlier masters of Jonang, the author does not distinguish these from the majority that are of Sakya and Kagyu provenance. The appellation “Jonang” in this case points more toward the setting in which the anthology was eventually composed and its later transmission through Kunga Drolchok’s illustrious reincarnation, Tāranātha and the later Shangpa Kagyu succession.
Kunga Drolchok was born in 1507 in Lowo Matang (glo bo sman thang), the capital of the Mustang enclave of north-western Nepal, which lies due south of Drongpa Tradun in present-day Zhigatse prefecture, and functioned as an autonomous kingdom from its foundation in 1380 until its absorption by Nepal in 1795. The rulers of Lowo Matang were for the most part patrons of the Sakya school, and it was this tradition in which the young Kunga Drolchok was raised. In his fifth year (1511) he began his studies at the local Pupak Monastery (phu phag dgon pa), which was under the tutelage of his uncle, Kunga Chogdrub—a disciple of the Sakya master Dakchen Lodro Gyeltsen (1444-1495). In his tenth year (1516) he was ordained as a novice monk by Kunga Chogdrub, who over the next four years, imparted the empowerments and instructions of the Sakya tradition, including the Path and its Fruition.
In his thirteenth year (1519), Kunga Drolchok travelled north from Lowo Matang, accompanied by his elder brother, to study in the great monasteries of Utsang. At Sakya and the nearby retreat center of Khawu Drakdzong, they initially studied under Kunpang Doringpa; and then continued on to Serdokchen, the seat of Paṇchen Śākya Chokden (1428-1507), where they began the study of Sakya epistemology and other fields of classical learning under the guidance of Śākya Chokden's disciple, Donyo Drubpa. A smallpox epidemic soon claimed the lives of nineteen of the twenty-two students there, including Kunga Drolchok's elder brother. To avoid the epidemic, as was the custom, Kunga Drolchok entered into retreat for the next eight months and memorized several treatises of epistemology. But he was admonished by Donyo Drupa who warned him that such scholarship would not result in enlightenment, and instead taught him many meditative practices. After the epidemic had passed, he received further teachings of the Path and its Fruition from Kunpang Doringpa who had come to visit Serdokchen Monastery. Over a five year period he studied all the major and minor fields of classical learning at Serdokchen and also at Ngor and Ngamring.
In his eighteenth year (1524) Kunga Drolchok returned to his native land, where he received the full monastic ordination from Kunga Chogdrub and Lhachok Sengé (1468-1535), the ninth preceptor of Ngor. Enthroned at Pupak Monastery, the deaths of both Kunga Chogdrub and his own father impelled him toward a life of meditative seclusion. Even so, he continued to teach Sakya Paṇḍita’s Treasury of Valid Cognition at Pupak, and then in his twenty-third year (1529)—the year after Paṇchen Jampa Lingpa had passed away, he occupied the latter’s monastic seat where he taught intensively for the next three years, during that time visiting the famous pilgrimage site of Muktinath in Nepal.
In his twenty-seventh year (1533) Kunga Drolchok again travelled north from Lowo Matang to visit Lhasa and Tsurphu, where he received the Kagyu transmissions. On a return visit to his homeland, in his thirty-first year (1537) his mother passed away. Throughout his teaching career he frequently taught the Path and its Fruition, but he also established close connections with the Shangpa Kagyu and Jonang traditions. Specifically, in the course of his peripatetic travels he received the Shangpa Kagyu teachings from Gyagom Lekpa Gyeltsen and others, and encountered the ḍākinī Nigumā in a vision, in consequence of which he widely taught the Six Doctrines of Nigumā. He then served as preceptor of the Jonang hermitage at Cholung Jangtsé, receiving the Six-branch Yoga of Kālacakra from his relative Lochen Rinchen Zangpo (1489-1563). From his fortieth year (1546) Kunga Drolchok occupied the seat of Jonang Monastery, as the twenty-fourth lineage holder, and retained this position until his death in 1566, when he was succeeded on the throne of Jonang by his nephew, Kunga Pelzang (1513-1593).
Kunga Drolchok’s listed writings amount to seventy-nine distinct works, including eulogies, epistles, expositions, travelogues, biographies, mind training, exegeses of empowerments, means for attainment, lineage prayers, guidebooks of instruction, narratives, catalogs, and grammatical writings. There are extant compilations of his writings, including a two-volume collection from Dzamtang entitled Miscellaneous Writings (gsung thor bu), and another one volume collection printed at Gyantsé Dzong. Apart from the One Hundred and Eight Guidebooks of Jonang, extensive autobiographical writings have survived. These include the narratives of Kunga Drolchok’s previous lives as Maitrīpā / Avadhūtipa (’bar ba’i gtso bo), Kṛṣṇacārin (nag po spyod pa), Ratanbhahula, Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo, Barompa Darma Wangchuk, Avadhūti Ozer Pel, Zhang Drukdra Gyeltsen, Nyo Ggyelwa Lhanangpa, Kunkhyen Saṅghabhadra, Jamyang Tashi Palden, and Paṇḍita Chokyi Nyinmor Jepa. More significantly, they include eight distinct texts pertaining to Kunga Drolchok’s outer, inner and secret life, which offer ample resource materials for further research in this genre of Tibetan autobiographical literature, beyond the scope of the present work. These are respectively entitled: (i) The Biography that Guides the Chariot of Faith for those of Good Fortune (rnam thar skal bzang dad pa'i shing rta 'dren byed), (ii) The Continuation of the Biography that Guides the Chariot of Faith for those of Good Fortune (rnam thar skal bzang dad pa'i shing rta 'dren byed kyi ’phros), (iii) The Supplement: A Beauteous Adornment (zur ’debs mdzes rgyan), (iv) The Further Biography: The Inlaid Jewel Ornament (rnam thar yang rgyan nor bu’i phra bkod), (v) The Enhancing Biography: Necklace of Gemstone Ornaments (rnam thar spel rgyan nor bu'i do shal), (vi) The Biography entitled Marvellous Ornament (rnam thar mtshar rgyan), (vii) The Biography of Ordinary Approach entitled Ornamental Flower of Experience (myong ba rgyan gyi me tog ces bya ba thun mong gi sgo’i rnam thar), and (viii) The Biography of Extraordinary Approach entitled Ornamental Flower of Experience (myong ba rgyan gyi me tog ces bya ba thun mong ma yin pa’i rnam thar).
The Compilation of the One Hundred and Eight Guidebooks
In the fourth chapter of the present work Kunga Drolchok describes how he was inspired by Sangyé Pel to seek out the respective lineage holders of the One Hundred and Eight Guidebooks. Commencing in his seventh year (1514) and continuing through to his thirty-eighth year (1545) when he occupied the seat at Jonang, he travelled throughout Utsang, receiving these instructions from many diverse teachers, and sometimes on multiple occasions. The names of the foremost twenty-eight teachers are known from the lineage prayers in Chapter One. Among them, his uncle Kunga Chogdrub (fl. 15th –16th centuries) was the most prolific, transmitting forty-one of the one hundred and eight guidebooks to Kunga Drolchok. These included the Sakya instructions of Parting from the Four Attachments (1), the Path and its Fruition (43), the Inconceivables (44), the Nine Profound Methods (45), the Attainment of Co-emergence (46), the Perfection of the Path of Fierce Inner Heat (47), the Straightening of Crooked Posture (48), the Path of the Female Mudrā (49), the Great Seal Devoid of Letters (50), the Determination of Mind (51), the Mingling of Sūtra and Tantra (52), the Dispelling of Obstacles due to External Demons (53), the Dispelling of Obstacles that Agitate the Physical Elements (54), the Dispelling of Obstacles of Meditative Stability and Mind (55), the Great Seal Dispelling the Three Sorts of Suffering (56), the Clear Recollection of the Innate State (57), the Twenty-nine Essential Visualizations of Self-consecration (59), the Exegesis of the Concealed Path (60), and the Elucidation of the Symbolic Meaning (61). Kunga Chogdrub was also responsible for transmitting Kadam instructions, including the Seven-Point Mind Training of the Great Vehicle (2), the Heart of Dependent Origination (3), the Carrying of Happiness and Suffering on the Path (4), the Mind Training of Sumpa Lotsāwa (5), the Three Essential Points (7), the Three Sorts of Person (8), the Sequence of the Teaching (10), the Sameness of Existence and Quiescence (11), the Great Middle Way (12), the Hidden Guidance of Kadam (13), the Four Deities of Kadam: Munīndra, Acala, Avalokita, and Tārā (14-17), and the Parables of Potowa (18). Furthermore, he transmitted the Five Doctrines of Maitreya (23), the Direct Guidance of Avalokiteśvara according to the Lakṣmī, Candradhvaja and Tsembupa traditions (30-32), as well as The Unelaborate Practice of Red Yamāri (64), the Four-Stage Yoga (65), and the Gradual Path of Padmasambhava (105).
Lowo Khenchen Sonam Lhundrub (1456–1532) was responsible for transmitting ten of the one hundred and eight guidebooks, including the Six Descents of the Transcendent Perfection of Wisdom (20), the Three Stages of Meditation (22), the Three Purities (58), the Mental Focus on the Horns of Bhairava (66), the Central Channel Dependent on the Male Deity Cakrasaṃvara (67), the Central Channel Dependent on the Female Deity Vajravārāhī (68), the Five Stages according to Ghaṇṭhāpāda (69), the Four Stages according to Kṛṣṇacārin (70), Kharamukha Cakrasaṃvara, (74), and the Six Meditations of Vajravārāhī (75).
The remaining guidebooks were received from lineage holders outside his native Lowo Matang, among whom Changlungpa Zhonu Chodrub (fl. 15th–16th centuries) transmitted ten instructions including the Five Paths of Pacification (21), White Tārā (28), The Direct Guidance of Cakrasaṃvara and Hevajra (34-35), the Ritual Service and Attainment of the Three Adamantine Realities (42), the Six Doctrines of Sukhasiddhi (81), the Fivefold Great Seal (84), the Four Syllables of the Great Seal (85), the Cycle of Pagmodru Densatel (95), and the Nature of Mind: The Wish-fulfilling Gem (108).
The Shangpa Kagyu master Gyagom Lekpei Gyeltsen (fl. 15th–16th centuries) transmitted six instructions including the Direct Guidance of Avalokiteśvara according to the Kyergangpa tradition (33), the Six Doctrines of Nigumā (77) , the Amulet Tradition of the Great Seal (78), the Three Aspects Carried on the Path (79), the Deathlessness of One’s Own Mind (80), and the Lineage of the Emanational Navel Cakra (82), the last of which is sometimes substituted by the Inner Guidance of Nairātmyā.
As for the Marpa Kagyu traditions, Kunga Drolchok received five instructions from Ngok Lodro Pelzangpo (fl. 15th–16th centuries) including the Four Adamantine Seats (72), the Great Magical Emanation (73), the Six Doctrines according to the Sekharma Tradition (88), the Mingling and Transformation of the Three Poisons (89), and the Four Scrolls of the Aural Instruction (90), and a further four from Trewo Chokyi Gyatso ((d. 1547) including the Guidance on Amitāyus (27), the Six Doctrines of Nāropā (76), the Indivisibility of Subtle Energy and Mind (87), and the Six Doctrines of the Accomplished Masters (104).
His relative Lotsāwa Rinchen Zangpo (1489–1563) who was affiliated to Jonang, transmitted a further four instructions including the Six-branch Yoga of Kālacakra (40), the Aural Transmission of Kālacakra (41), the Six Doctrines of Liberation through the Upper Gate, according to the Aural Lineage of Cakrasaṃvara (91) and the Doctrinal Cycle of Nirdehaḍākinī (92).
Rabsel Dawa Gon (fl. 15th –16th centuries) transmitted Vajrapāṇi in the form Caṇḍa (37), the Five Stages of the Secret Assembly (62), and the Vital Essence of Liberation (63). Taklung Tulku Namgyel Tashi (1524–1563) transmitted the Unique Enlightened Intention (96), the Six Doctrines according to Taklungpa (97), and Four-armed Mahākāla in the form Kurakma (101). The latter’s associate Ngawang Tulku of Taklung (fl. 15th–16th centuries) transmitted the Elaborate Guidance of Zhang Tselpa (93) and Lorepa’s Fivefold Capacity (99).
Kunpang Chokyi Nyima (1449–1524) transmitted Resting in the Nature of Mind (8) and Vārāhī in the form Kurmapādā (38). Paṇchen Amogha Donyo Drubpa (fl. 15th– 16th centuries) transmitted the View of Intrinsic Emptiness (24) and the Trilogy of Spiritual Songs (103). Yigdruk Sherab Peljor (b. 15th century) transmitted the instructions on Severance (6), and the Collected Injunctions of the King (106).
In addition, there were a further fourteen teachers responsible for transmitting a single guidebook. Among them, Avadhūtipa Namgyel Drakpa (1469–1530) transmitted the Sixteen Spheres of the Heart (19), Pelden Tsultrim transmitted the View of Extraneous Emptiness (25), Zelmo Drakpa Drakpa Yeshé (fl. 15th–16th centuries) of the Bodong lineage transmitted the Concealed Meanings of Yogatantra (26), Trariwa Rinchen Gyelchok transmitted White Amitāyus (29), Tashi Namgyel (1490–1518) of Ngor transmitted Vajrapāṇi in the form Mahācakra (36), Gugé Paṇchen Sonam Lhundrub (fl. 15th–16th centuries) transmitted Kurukullā (39), Muchen Sangyé Rinchen (1450–1524) transmitted White Cakrasaṃvara (71), Drukchen Ngawang Chokyi Gyelpo (1465–1540) transmitted the Co-emergent Union of the Great Seal (83), Karma Trinlepa (1456–1539) transmitted the Introduction to the Three Buddha Bodies (86), Paṇchen Donyo Sengé (fl. 15th– 16th centuries) transmitted the Six-branch Yoga according to Pelchen Ga Lotsāwa (94), Ngawang Chogyel (1465–1540) transmitted the Means for Attainment of the Teacher, Auspicious Circumstances and Common Savor (98), Sonam Gyelchok (fl. 15th–16th centuries) transmitted the Six Primary Essentials for Mountain Retreat (100), Lhachok Sengé (fl. 15th–16th centuries) transmitted the Inner Guidance of Glorious Pañjaranātha (102), and Norbu Rinchen (fl. 16th century) transmitted Norbu Rinchen’s Liberation by Seeing (107).
After the death of Kunga Drolchok, the transmission of the complete collection was handed down within the Jonang and Shangpa Kagyu lineages through his own acknowledged reincarnation Drolmei Gonpo Tāranātha (1575–1634), as well as Rinchen Dorjéma Ratnavajriṇī (1585–1668), Katok Tsewang Norbu (1698–1755), Zhalu Lotsāwa Losal Tenkyong (b. 1804), and Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo (1820–1892). Among these later lineage holders, Tāranātha authored Chapter Six of the present text, entitled Supplementary Historical Anecdotes, and Losal Tenkyong authored Chapter Two: Supplementary Prayer to the Lineage and Chapter Twelve: Methods for the Conferral of the Empowerments. All the other nine chapters are the work of Kunga Drolchok himself.
The Jonang tradition
The Jonang tradition is not included among the eight lineages of spiritual attainment in that it was considered an affiliate of Sakya, probably on account of the background of its fourth incumbent, Dolpopa Sherab Gyeltsen. It is clear from Kunga Drolchok’s own analysis of the structure and content of the One Hundred and Eight Guidebooks (Ch. 10) that the Sarma texts within the collection are recognized to be either of Sakya, Kagyu or Kadam provenance. On the other hand, it was after receiving all these instructions that Kunga Drolchok compiled them in textual form while occupying the seat of Jonang Monastery. So the importance of Jonang and the Shangpa Kagyu lineage for the subsequent transmission of the collection cannot be overestimated.
Jonang (Jomonang) is said to have been founded in 1294 by Kunpangpa Tu-jé Tsondru (1243-1313), a lineage-holder of Yumo Mikyo Dorjé who had received the instructions on the Six-branch Yoga of Kālacakra from the Kashmiri paṇḍita Somanātha in the 11th century. Previously the upper and lower meditation caves of Mt. Jomo Nagyel (5,744 m) had been frequented by Guru Padmasambhava and his disciples, such as Nub Namkei Nyingpo during the eighth century, and later by the accomplished master Darchar Rinchen Zangpo. According to legend, Kungpangpa was invited to reside there by the local protector deity Jomo Ngak Gyelmo. He and his immediate successors, Jangsem Gyelwa Yeshé and Khetsun Yonten Gyatso are collectively known as the three original teachers of the Jonangpa lineage. The fourth incumbent, the illustrious Dolpopa Sherab Gyeltsen (1292-1361) was a prolific commentator on the sūtras and tantras, integrating the philosophical perspective known as extraneous emptiness (gzhan stong) which is based on the third turning tathāgatagarbha sūtras and their commentaries by Maitreya, with the Six-branch Yoga of Kālacakra. In 1354, near his own hermitage, he constructed the 20 meter high Kumbum-style stūpa named Tongdrol Chenmo, which is octagonal in shape with seven storeys. The extant murals are said to reflect the provincial Lato style, which represents an early synthesis of Newar and indigenous Tibetan elements, incorporating fewer Chinese-inspired features than the better known paintings of Zhalu or Gyantsé.
When Kunga Drolchok occupied the monastic seat as the twenty-fifth incumbent in 1545, he resided at Cholung Jangtsé, where all but three of the texts forming the One Hundred and Eight Guidebooks of Jonang were composed. His incarnation, the twenty-seventh incumbent Drolmei Gonpo Tāranātha (1575–1634), founded the grand monastery of Takten Phuntsoling in 1615, and refurbished the Tongdrol Chenmo under the patronage of the king of Tsang, Phuntsok Namgyel, who at that time ruled Tibet from his fortress in Zhigatse. Tāranātha is respected as one of Tibet’s greatest writers and polymaths, his Collected Works (2008 edition) amounting to 45 volumes. His successors, the twenty-eighth incumbent Sangye Gyatso and the twenty-ninth Kunga Rinchen Gyatso ensured the continuity of his legacy, but in consequence of Jonang’s support for the vanquished Tsangpa faction in the civil war of the seventeenth century, the monastery, along with its local branches, was taken over by the Gelukpa establishment during the lifetime or after the death of the thirtieth incumbent Lodro Namgyel (1618-1683), and renamed Geden Phuntsoling. Although philosophical differences between the Jonangpa view of extraneous emptiness and the prevailing view of intrinsic emptiness are sometimes cited as a pretext for the closure of Takten Phuntsolung, and the writings of Dolpopa on that subject were proscribed, the Gelukpa in fact absorbed many of the Jonang teachings, particularly concerning the Six-branch Yoga of Kālacakra. During this period of Gelukpa ascendancy, Ngawang Trinlé (1657-1723), a nephew and disciple of Lodro Namgyel, who had also studied under the Fifth Dalai Lama, established Jonang teachings, particularly those concerning Kālacakra, within the curriculum of Drepung and Ganden. Having lived for years as a hermit, he became renowned throughout central Tibet for his nonsectarian approach, transmitting the Shangpa Kagyu and Jonang empowerments in Gelukpa circles, as well as to Mokchok Tulku.
Rather than doctrinal schism, the actual reasons for the Gelukpa suppression of the Jonangpa appear to have been political. Not only were they allied with the Kagyu traditions to the Tsangpa faction during the civil war, there were genuine fears the Jonangpa would have increasing influence in Mongolia, especially after Tāranātha’s reincarnation was discovered to be Zanabazar, the son of Tushiyetu Qan, the prince of Central Khalkha. Tushiyetu Qan and his son were of Borjigin lineage (the imperial clan of Genghis Qan). When the young boy was declared spiritual leader of all of Mongolia, the Gelukpa acted to take control of the Jonangpa monasteries, along with others of Kagyu persuasion.
Ngawang Trinlé also taught widely in the Jonang monasteries of the remote grasslands of north-eastern Tibet which were beyond the political jurisdiction of the Ganden Palace. Peljam in his Abridged History of the Abbatial Succession of the Jonangwa recounts the origins of the Jonang monasteries that survived and prospered in the Amdo grasslands. Their expansion in the region began in the mid-thirteenth century during the lifetime of Dolpopa, and spread to Dzamtang in the fourteenth century. Three encampments or monastic communities were established there, including Choje Dratsang, Tsechu Dratsang, and Tsangwa Dratsang. The last of these has been maintained since the seventeenth century in a line extending from the aforementioned Lodro Namgyel and Ngawang Trinlé, through the latter’s disciple Ngawang Tenzin Namgyel, and so on down to the fifty-third incumbent, Khentrul Jampel Lodro. The same source identifies a further eighteen Jonang monasteries and hermitages in Amdo, along with nine in Ngawa, seventeen further south in Gyarong, and fifteen in Golok. The final three chapters of this work pertain to Jonangpa activities in mainland China, Mongolia and the United States.
The content of the One Hundred and Eight Guidebooks of Jonang
The collection divides neatly into three components: History (Chs. 1-6), Practice (Chs. 7-9), and Supports (Chs. 10-12).
The historical section includes prayers dedicated to the lineage of the One Hundred and Eight Guidebooks with a supplement composed by Losal Tenkyong (Chs. 1-2). The versified Life-Sustaining Prayer (Ch. 3) is followed by an Autobiographical Record of Teachings Received (Ch. 4), and historical anecdotes written by Kunga Drolchok himself up to the end of the seventy-fourth guidebook, and thereafter by Tāranātha (Chs. 5-6).
The practice section includes two chapters concerning the discusrsive preliminaries and the extraordinary accumulations of the refuge, the enlightened mind, the purification of negativity, and the offering of the maṇḍala (Chs. 7-8). Following these prerequisites, it then proceeds to the main content of the collection, the actual one hundred and eight guidebooks (Ch. 9).
The final supporting section includes Kunga Drolchok’s important analysis of the structure and content of the guidebooks (Ch. 10), along with lists of their corresponding protector deities and empowerments (Ch.11), and a method for the conferral of blessing through the empowerment rite of the sacred book containing the One Hundred and Eight Guidebooks, the last of which was composed by Losal Tenkyong. Throughout this translation the pagination of the Tibetan text (Shechen edition) has been retained in angled brackes for the benefit of Tibetan readers who may wish to access the original.
Each chapter is introduced by a short preamble, summarising its content and drawing attention to certain technical issues. Readers should note that in Ch. 9 the endnotes and corresponding bibliography entries frequently differentiate between the primary Tibetan sources that Kunga Drolchok accessed when writing his terse summaries, and the corresponding original Indic sources or Tibetan antecedents. In some cases, later interpretations of Tāranātha and Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo have also been referenced.
I would like to thank Eric Colombel of the Tsadra Foundation who asked me to participate in this project and who provided generous funding as I translated and annotated the One Hundred and Eight Guidebooks of Jonang, working on a part-time basis from April 2016. I am also grateful to Ringu Tulku who carefully reviewed my list of obscure points, and to Sarah Harding, Cyrus Stearns and Steven Gethin with whom I discussed specific topics. My wife, Xiaohong, helped with the preparation of the bibliography. My old friend Martin Boord read through the entire manuscript with his customary and methodical attention to detail. Finally, heartfelt thanks are due to Nikko Odiseos of Shambhala Publications, and to Michael Wakoff, our in-house editor.
Gyurme Dorje Crieff, June 2019