Introduction to Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö

From Khyentse Lineage - A Tsadra Foundation Project

Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö was recognized by Jamgön Kongtrul as one of the reincarnations of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo due to a request by the Third Katok Situ Chökyi Gyatso, the nephew and disciple of Khyentse Wangpo, who wished to install a Khyentse incarnation at Katok Dorje Den Monastery in eastern Tibet. Thus when Chökyi Lodrö was seven years old he was enthroned at Katok and taken under the care of Katok Situ who oversaw his education. However, when the Khyentse Tulku installed at Khyentse Wangpo's primary seat at Dzongsar Tashi Lhatse Monastery passed away at the age of thirteen, Katok Situ was compelled to allow Chökyi Lodrö, fifteen years old at the time, to be installed as his replacement. Thereafter he came to be known as Dzongsar Khyentse and would go on to become one of the most highly revered Tibetan masters of the twentieth century.

      Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö was one of five incarnations of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo recognized by Jamgön Kongtrul. By the time he was approached by the Third Katok Situ Chökyi Gyatso, Kongtrul had already identified incarnations of Khyentse Wangpo's body, speech, and mind, therefore he sought out the incarnation of his master's enlightened activity. Based on the information provided by Kongtrul, the child was located to the south of Derge within what would have been considered walking distance by the Tibetan standards of the time from both Katok and Dzongsar monasteries. In his eighth year the child was brought to Katok where he was enthroned and given the name Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö by Katok Situ. If circumstances had not intervened he would likely have been stationed at the monastery for the remainder of his life and would have continued to be known as Katok Khyentse, a title indicative of high tulku status without the administrative responsibilities of the primary seat of his tulku title's namesake. He may very well have spawned a line of Katok Khyentse tulkus, similar to the Katok Situ incarnation line. However, with his move to Dzongsar in his sixteenth year he would assume the primary seat of Khyentse Wangpo and with it the title of Dzongsar Khyentse. Though this development was not without controversy, he would prove himself to be remarkably adept at handling the administrative duties of his new position. He expanded Dzongsar, establishing a retreat center (sgrub grwa) and founding the highly influential monastic college (bshad grwa) Khamje Shedra Shedrup Dargye Ling (khams bye bshad grwa bshad sgrub dar rgyas gling). Established in 1918 and initially helmed by the famed Khenpo Zhenga, the curriculum of the college built upon Zhenga's many years at Dzogchen Monastery's Śrī Singha Shedra (shrI sing ha bshad grwa) and was structured around his renowned exegesis of the thirteen major works of the Indian Buddhist tradition, gzhung chen bcu gsum. After the passing of Katok Situ, Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö assumed administrative duties at Katok Monastery as well, with the relative proximity of the two institutions allowing for him to divide his time between them. He is remembered at Katok for not only his completion of Katok Situ's unfinished construction projects, but as a strict disciplinarian that instituted new and demanding guidelines for the monastic community. There is no doubt that even in his twenties Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö was a rather formidable figure capable of instigating large scale projects and commanding the respect necessary to officiate two major monastic institutions.

      In terms of his education, Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö benefited greatly from his status at Kotak and Dzongsar Monasteries, arguably the most prestigious Nyingma and Sakya institutions, respectively, in all of eastern Tibet. Like Khyentse Wangpo before him, he studied with a remarkable amount of masters- more than eighty by his own reckoning. Of these, he would consider five of the most preeminent masters of the time to be his root teachers, including one Sakyapa, Jamyang Loter Wangpo, and four Nyingmapas, the Third Katok Situ Chökyi Gyatso, Shechen Gyaltsap Gyurme Pema Nyamgyal, the Third Dodrupchen Jigme Tenpai Nyima and Adzom Drukpa, all of whom had been close disciples of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, among other illustrious figures, and were all remarkable masters in their own right. Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö would thus become the standard bearer of the ris med movement in the last decades of old Tibet and helped ensure the continuity of the monumental work of his predecessors. He presided over the transmissions of the great collections of Tibetan teachings, including those gathered together by Kongtrul and Loter Wangpo, and as an accomplished scholar and prolific author he composed supporting materials to ensure the ease of their comprehension and the effectiveness of their ritual enactment. In turn he became the teacher to many of the next generation of esteemed Tibetan teachers. Though he passed away in Sikkim in 1959, and therefore did not live to see the reestablishment of the many storied monastic institutions by the Tibetan exile community, and their eventual restorations back in Tibet proper, his legacy was deeply felt among the early generations of the Tibetan diaspora and still is.

      Though Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo certainly left some incredibly large shoes to fill, Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö came about as close to filling them as humanly possible. Though in his writings he often lamented the burden of his recognition, he undeniably rose to the challenge of upholding the Khyentse lineage and the numerous responsibilities this entailed. Even though he was by no means the only rightful claimant to the Khyentse title, he is often referred to as the Second Khyentse. As Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche put it in his oral teaching on The Life of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö,

"All these incarnations [of Khyentse Wangpo] emulated their predecessor in their unparalleled qualities of learning, experience, realization and enlightened activity. But of them all, the one who stands out like a jewel ornamenting the top of a great banner of victory was Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö."
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Further Reading[edit]

  • Khyentse, Dilgo. The Life and Times of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö: The Great Biography by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and other stories. Translated by Drubgyud Tenzin Rinpoche, Khenpo Sonam Phuntsok, and Janine Schulz. Boulder: Shambhala Publications, 2017.