The title of ‘Khalkha’ was said to be first bestowed by the Fifth Dalai Lama on the Mongolian-born Lobzang Tenpai Gyaltsen (1635-1723) in the year 1642. He was declared as a tulku or reincarnation of the Jonangpa master Tāranātha. This line of incarnations continues up until the late 9th Kalkha Rinpoche.
However, according to one website about Jetsun Dhampa:
Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa has realised incarnations in all the lineages. Prior to his incarnation as Tāranātha, he was known as Jamyang Choje, who helped to establish Drepung Monastery outside Lhasa. In the Nyingma he was known Rongzong Lotsawa Chokyi Gaytsen; in the Kagyu Baromba Dharma Wangchuk; in the Sakya lineage, he was known as Master Kunga Drolchok. It was after this incarnation that he was to be reborn as Tāranātha. But at that time, the mother of Tāranātha was still only a young girl of fourteen; so instead, he took rebirth as the son of an Indian king. He lived so, until he was fourteen years of age. At that time, as he stood one day on the roof of the king’s palace, his dakini mother, whose name was Khadroma Yum Dorje Buka, appeared to him in the sky and bade him come to her. He then took rebirth, as Tāranātha.
Tāranātha’s work is of special interest with respect to the Tantric period of Buddhism in India. Later, while teaching in Tibet, he established Takten Phuntsok Ling Monastery, about three hours outside Shigatse, which had 500 monks and many branch monasteries throughout Tibet. At that time, Tāranātha was said to have given the Kālachakra initiation two or three times each year at his monastery, later renamed Ganden Phuntsok Ling. In his later years, it is said that Tāranātha, who was known for his great wit and humor, had joked during a teaching about where he might take rebirth. It was said that a Mongolian student who was present had spoken out and pleaded, “Oh, please come to Mongolia next time!” It was said that this remark set up the conditions for his next rebirth.
Tāranātha was his 14th notable reincarnation and directly preceded the First Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa. As the 15th reincarnation, the First Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa, became the head lineage lama of the many monasteries throughout Mongolia.
The First Jetsun Dhampa, Tenpei Gyaltsen, Rangjung Yeshe Dorje, was born the son of a king in Mongolia. He was recognized at an early age to be an incarnate lama and, at the age of fourteen, (ca. 1650), he made a pilgrimage to Kumbum, the birthplace of Je Tsong Khapa. From there, he travelled to Central Tibet to visit the Fourth Panchen Lama, Panchen Losang Chogyen, and the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Losang Gyatso. It was at this time that the Fifth Dalai Lama recognized the young tulku to be the reincarnation of the saint Tāranātha, who was greatly respected as a chief lineage of all traditions with reincarnations going back directly to Shakyamuni Buddha. Both the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Fourth Panchen Lama then became Jetsun Dhampa’s teachers and gave to him all the initiations, oral transmissions and commentaries.
On the Jonang Foundation website, there is an interesting discussion by Dr. Michael Sheehy about an:
intriguing and somewhat mystifying narrative that has been popularized about the Tibetan Jonang master Tāranātha (1575-1635). This narrative suggests an account of Tāranāha’s life story in which he traveled to Mongolia from his seat at Takten Damchö Ling Monastery in Central Tibet during the latter part of his life and that while there, he established several monasteries before finally passing away in Ulan Bator, the capital city in the republic of the Mongols.
For more on Tāranātha’s Travels in Mongolia read here.
In 1997, the Dalai Lama appointed Kalkha Jetsun Dampa as the head of the Jonang tradition in exile, based at Takten Phuntsok Ling Monastery in Shimla. In terms of the life story of the 9th Jetsun Dampa, he also received teachings from all the lineage masters:
The Ninth Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa was born at Tromtsikang and then moved to Shol, just below the Potala. His father, Lobsang Jampal, was from Phenpo and his mother, Yangchen was from Kham. At the age of seven, he entered Gomang College, Drepung Monastery, as a simple monk where he studied philosophy for fourteen years, up to the level of Madhyamika. At Gomang he studied primarily with a teacher from Mongolia named Geshe Thupten Nyima. He received his dharma lineages from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
His Holiness the Panchen Rinpoche, Gyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Gyabje Ling Rinpoche, and Gyabje Lhatsun Rinpoche were his teachers in the Gelukpa lineage. H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was his teacher in the Nyingma lineage; Kalu Rinpoche was his teacher in the Kagyu lineage; and Sakya Tenzin Rinpoche was his teacher in the Sakya lineage. At the age of 21, he left Gomang College and Drepung to engage in a series of Chod meditations, living the life of a yogi, while on pilgrimage to the holy sites of Tibet.
At the age of 25, he gave back his monastic vows, and then went to stay at Ganden Phunstok Ling, established by his predecessor Tāranātha, until the age of 29 when the Chinese invasion forced him into exile, along with hundreds of thousands of Tibetans.
In India, he lived with his family in Darjeeling and Mysore, until 1981, and later in Madhya Pradesh in central India until 1990, quietly serving as lama for the Tibetan community in exile throughout that time. During this period of time Rinpoche did many meditations and gave public teachings in the Tibetan settlements several times a year.
Then, in 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the new-found religious freedom felt in Mongolia, many Mongolian monasteries sent their abbots and lamas and ministers to India to request inquiry of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala about the possible location of the Ninth Khalkha Jetsun Dampa. Did His Holiness know where he was, who he is, and could the Dalai Lama recognize him for the peoples of Mongolia?
It was at that time, through the Religious Office of the Tibetan Government in Exile, that the Dalai Lama gave the official stamp of recognition and acknowledgement of the Ninth Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa, the spiritual head of Buddhism in Mongolia. He moved to Dharamsala to be closer to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and in 1991, he was officially enthroned as the Ninth Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa, amid great and joyous celebration.
The 9th Jetsun Dhampa passed away on March 1, 2012, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
In December 2014, HH Dalai Lama also gave advice to Mongolians on what to do in relation to the new incarnation, who he states will be reborn in Mongolia. My translation of which is here. Interestingly, HH quotes the 5th Dalai Lama to support his advice stating that:
If one immediately places the Jetsun Dampa on a high throne, devoid of any education, it is of no benefit. The 5th Dalai Lama often used to say: ‘that other than the qualities and knowledge he got from studying, he did not come to know these by being placed on a high throne without learning.’
The 10th Jetsun Kalkha Dampa re-birth is yet to be discovered (or at least it has not been announced). In 2012, HH the 14th Dalai Lama composed a ‘Supplication for the Swift Return‘ of Jetsun Dampa, an English translation of this is here. Other Lineage lamas and teachers, wrote Aspiration Prayers for the Rebirth of Jetsun Dampa as well. More on that soon!
May the rebirth of Jetsun Khalkha Dampa swiftly return for the benefit of Jonang, Tibetans and Mongolians and the Buddha’s teachings! May this be of benefit!