WHO IS KHALKHA JETSUN DAMPA AND WHY IS HIS RECENT RECOGNITION CONTROVERSIAL? The 5th Dalai Lama/Gelugpa forceful and violent takeover and suppression of Jonang (and other lineages) in Tibet, and their ongoing recognition of the Jonang and Shangpa Kagyu lineage master, Tāranātha

“In 1642, eight years after Tāranātha’s death, an alliance of Mongol armies led by Gushri Khan defeated the U-Tsang rulers and enthroned the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (Nga-dbang-blo-bzang-rgya-mtsho) (1617–1682). According to most historical accounts, in the year 1650, the Fifth Dalai Lama sealed and banned the study of Jonang Empty-of-Other texts, prohibiting the printing of such texts throughout Tibet. Then in 1658, the Jonang Tagten Dam Choling (rTag-brtan-dam-chos-gling) Monastery (built by Tāranātha near the original site of Jonang) was forcibly converted into a Gelugpa Monastery — officially initiating the demise of the Jonangpa in U-Tsang.” –from Introduction to Tāranātha’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra (tr. Adele Tomlin)

“As for this very person, the wanderering vagabond Tāranātha, in the minds of some I am held to be both insane and impure, or so it appears. It seems that others say to themselves, ‘Isn’t he a learned one!’….Absolutely all of them fail to agree in what they utter and as for these many unreliable viewpoints which are quite extraordinary and foul-smelling, you yourselves will have to decide whether or not they apply to a sleeper like myself.” –from Tāranātha’s Autobiographical Life-Story

“Do not think that there are contradictions in the intention among those who see the profound. They speak differently to different disciples due to perceiving different trainees and needs.”

Tāranātha, Twenty-One Differences Regarding the Profound Meaning


On 8th March 2023, HH 14th Dalai Lama was pictured recognising a young Mongolian boy born and raised in the USA, as the 10th Khalkha Jetsun Dampa, over ten years since the 9th one passed away. The Khalka lineage, were first recognised by the 5th Dalai Lama (without the genuine consent of the Jonang lineage) as the incarnation of the Jonang and Shangpa Kagyu lineage master, Jetsun Tāranātha since their violent and forceful takeover (with the help of Gushri Khan) of Tibet in  early 17th Century (more on that below).

Some Tibetans have claimed that this recent recognition of the boy is what provoked a Chinese-led attack on the Dalai Lama’s character regarding his ‘inappropriate’ kissing an Indian boy on the lips and asking him to his  ‘suck his tongue’.  This claim is too simplistic and inaccurate though, as the source of reports about the video clip were from Tibetans, and Indians, not western or Chinese ones, more on that in another article perhaps! [1]

Returning swiftly to the topic of Khalkha Jetsun Dampa though, it was with interest (and surprise) to read about this new recognition. as I did my postgraduate degree on the Jonang master, Tāranātha (there is a whole section on the website dedicated to research and translations on him here). I will also be writing more about Tāranātha’s Collected Works and my new website dedicated to that very soon. In particular, I translated Tāranātha’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra, a Zhentong (Empty-of -Other) presentation of the Heart Sutra and why it also teaches the Zhentong view ( originally published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives).  For more on the book and translation, see here

In this brief article, I give the historical background to the life of Jetsun Tāranātha, the historical accounts of the Gelug persecution of Jonang, Kagyu and Nyingma, and their hostile critique of the philosophical views of Tāranātha and his Jonang predecessor, Dolpopa. I conclude with some information about the Khalka Jetsun Dampa lineage and why it is still a controversial tulku and recognition inside and outside Tibet. As Tibetans do not want the Chinese to pick and choose the next Dalai Lama, according to most of the historical accounts, the Jonang never really requested the Dalai Lamas to take over their monasteries and pick the incarnations of Jetsun Tāranātha. The main point here being not about who is the actual incarnation of Tāranātha, but that the Dalai Lamas and Gelug (from the 5th Dalai Lama onwards) had no legitimate right to interfere with and choose the Jonang tradition’s monasteries, texts and lineage choices/tulkus. How would they like it if another lineage head did that with the Dalai Lama lineage?

That is why, despite the 14th Dalai Lama’s 2001-penned Aspiration Prayer for the Flourishing of Jonang and the Empty-of-Other view, to personally pick a new incarnation over ten years after the 9th Khalkha Jetsun Dampa passed away is seen by some as controversial and political. For more on contemporary Jonang masters, inside and outside of Tibet, the official head of whom is Jigme Dorje Rinpoche, see here.

Music? The Eyes of Truth by Enigma, “It takes many lives til we succeed, to clear the debts of many hundreds of years”, I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and  Blow Me One Last Kiss by Pink.

May truth, honesty, love and compassion reign supreme! Dedicated to the Jonang lineage and teachings, and the flourishing of all the other main lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 18th April 2023.

Historical background to the origin of the lineage of Khalkha Jetsun Dampa
  1. Jetsun Tāranātha (1575–1634)  
Jetsun Tāranātha (1575–1634) – lineage holder and master of Jonang and Shangpa Kagyu

For many who are not aware of the historical background the Dalai Lama/Gelug political and spiritual domination and power in Tibet, I have reproduced the section in my book on Jetsun Tāranātha’s life, here below.

Tāranātha (1575–1634) is viewed as second in importance to Kunkhyen Dolpopa in the Jonang tradition and as responsible for the ‘widespread revitalization’ of the Empty-of-Other (zhentong) theory in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Tibet. He is also one of the foremost scholars, translators, historians, and statesmen of seventeenth-century Tibet. According to Matthew Kapstein, Tāranātha:

…should be regarded as one of the greatest contributors in any time, place, or methodological tradition to the study of tantrism and yoga.

Born in Karag in 1575, to a family descended from the famous eleventh-century Buddhist translator Ra Lotsāwa Dorje Drag (Rwa-lo- tsā-ba-rdo-rje-grags) (1016–1128), at the age of four, Tāranātha was recognized as the re-embodiment of Kunga Drolchog.  Cyrus Stearns states that like Kunga Drolchog:

Tāranātha also practiced and taught a wide variety of tantric teachings from different lineages, and was also nonsectarian (ris med) in his approach to realization. He was also one of the last great Tibetan translators of Sanskrit tantric texts. Tāranātha was respectful of all forms of authentic Buddhism, including the tradition of Bu-ston, and that of the Gelug, which were antagonistic toward the Jonang school. He also emphasized the practice of the Sakya teachings of the Path and Result as the esoteric instructions of the Shangpa Kagyu, as had Kunga Drolchog, but he focused on the explication of the Kālacakra and the practice of the Six-branch Yoga as the most profound of all the teachings given by the Buddha.

Though Tāranātha’s Tibetan name was Kunga Nyingpo (Kun- dga’-snying-po: meaning ‘Essence of Total Joy’), at a young age, he had a vision wherein an Indian adept bestowed on him the name Tāranātha (sGrol-ba’i-mngon-po), which means ‘Liberating Protector’. He adopted this as his personal name for the rest of his life. According to the Treasury of Lives:

“When Tāranātha was fourteen years old, the Indian adept Buddhaguptanātha  arrived  in  Tibet.  This  master  became  one   of Tāranātha’s most important teachers, passing  to  him  count-  less transmissions of tantric initiations and esoteric instructions. Tāranātha stated that his understanding of the secret mantra teach- ings was due to the kindness of Buddhaguptanātha alone.

Several other Indian yogins and scholars, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist, came to Tibet during Tāranātha’s lifetime, such as Bālabhadra, Nirvāṇaśrī, Purnananda, Purnavajra, and Kṛṣṇabhadra. They gave him instructions, taught scholarly topics, and  joined  him in translating Sanskrit manuscripts into Tibetan. Several of Tāranātha’s translations are now included in the Tibetan canonical collections of the Kangyur and Tengyur.

In 1588 Jedrung Kunga Pelzang, who had followed his uncle Kunga Drolchok as holder of the monastic seat of Jonang Monastery, enthroned Tāranātha at Jonang, although a formal ceremony of investiture did not occur until 1595. Tāranātha took upon himself the responsibility of causing Dolpopa’s insights to once again reach a wide audience. He was determined to revive what he saw as a price- less transmission lineage in danger of being lost.”

Tāranātha’s life was not only inspiring and highly influential on a spiritual and intellectual level, but (towards the end of his life) also one filled with political turmoil and power struggle:

“In 1604, after a decade of efforts to revive the original Jonang teachings, all of Tāranātha’s work was threatened by serious political conflict between the regions of Jang (Byang) and Tsang. Jonang Monastery itself was in immediate danger of being attacked by hostile armies.”

In terms of Tāranātha’s reaction to these violent events, Templeman (2008: Chapter 2) notes that:

“In Tāranātha’s autobiography written in 1633, just a few years before his death, we find some expressions of relatively mild concern and regret at the number of deaths which occurred in the ongoing fighting, but not much else. Rather than opposing the indiscriminate slaughter openly and vociferously, potentially a strategic disaster were he to have attempted this, Tāranātha’s writings instead display a tendency to extemporize poetically about topics such as the moral duties of good rulers who found themselves in such situations. He rarely criticizes any individual directly, or indeed any of their policies but occasionally writes pointedly about the correct way to fulfill ones spiritual and temporal duties. Tāranātha couches his thoughts within overarchingly vague Buddhist sentiments and these restrained and mild comments, veiled to the extent of being almost lost within Buddhist allegories, had the effect of removing the events themselves from the world of real suffering…What does in fact become clear from this ‘soft opposition’ is that Tāranātha preferred to see good, or at least the potential for good, on the side of both the Tsang pa and their enemies. Ultimately, it becomes clear that his presence was utterly ineffective in reducing either the prosecution or the ferocity of the war.

After his death in 1634, Tāranātha was considered by the Gelug to have been reborn as the Mongolian reincarnate known as Jetsun Dampa (rJe-btsun-dam-pa). Although many scholars consider this to have been a political ploy by the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Mongolian Gushri Khan. According to legend, Tāranātha’s mortal remains are said to be enshrined at Dzingchi (rDzing-phyi) about 65 miles east of Lhasa.”

At the end of his autobiography, the Liberation Account of the Wanderer: Tāranātha (rGyal khams pa tā ra nā thas bdag nyid kyi rnam thar) written in 1633, Tāranātha paints a wry and rather tragic portrait of himself and contradictory and diverse views about him:

“As for this very person, the wanderering vagabond Tāranātha, in the minds of some I am held to be both insane and impure, or so it appears. It seems that others say to themselves, ‘Isn’t he a learned one!’

Absolutely all of them fail to agree in what they utter and as for these many unreliable viewpoints which are quite extraordinary and foul-smelling, you yourselves will have to decide whether or not they apply to a sleeper like myself.” [2]

It is humbling to read that even such a great master as Tāranātha faced such personal issues! [3]

For an intimate account of comments that Tāranātha made before his death to his principal consort (or some say, sister), and fellow gzhan stong lineage holder, Jetsunma Kunga Trinley Wangmo (rJe-btsun-ma Phrin- las-dbang-mo (1585–1688), regarding omens he had about the forthcoming demise of the Jonang and his monastery, see Sheehy 2010. For allegations that Tāranātha may even have been the father of the Fifth Dalai Lama (and Jetsunma Trinley Wangmo the mother), see Templeman 2015. For more on Jetsuma Trinley Wangmo’s autobiography, see here.

After Tāranātha’s death  – the violent takeover of Tibet led by the Mongolians, the enthronement of the 5th Dalai Lama and the suppression and takeover of Jonang monasteries and texts
Güshi Khan (1582 -1655) was a Khoshut prince and founder of the Khoshut Khanate. In 1637, Güshi Khan defeated a rival Mongol prince Choghtu Khong Tayiji, a Kagyu follower, near Qinghai Lake and established his khanate in Tibet over the next years. His military assistance to the Gelug school enabled the 5th Dalai Lama to establish political control over Tibet.
Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (Nga-dbang-blo-bzang-rgya-mtsho) (1617–1682)

In 1642, eight years after Tāranātha’s death, an alliance of Mongol armies led by Gushri Khan defeated the U-Tsang rulers and enthroned the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (Nga-dbang-blo-bzang-rgya-mtsho) (1617–1682). According to most historical accounts, in the year 1650, the Fifth Dalai Lama sealed and banned the study of Jonang Empty-of-Other texts, prohib- iting the printing of such texts throughout Tibet. Then in 1658, the Jonang Tagten Dam Choling (rTag-brtan-dam-chos-gling) Monastery (built by Tāranātha near the original site of Jonang) was forcibly converted into a Gelugpa Monastery — officially initiating the demise of the Jonangpa in U-Tsang. The carving of the blocks came to an end, the printing of impressions from the blocks stopped, and the recogni- tion of the re-embodiment of the Jonang Jetsun prohibited. All of the Jonang monasteries and hermitages in central Tibet were seized and the remaining Jonang masters in the area began an exodus to previously established monasteries in the remote regions of Tibet.

Takten Puntsok Ling was established by the Jonang master Tāranātha with support from kings of Tsang in 1619. It was the center of Jonang activity in Tibet until Tāranātha’s death. It was converted to Geluk by order of the Tibetan government in 1650 and renamed Ganden Puntsok Ling. Within several years Jonang teachings were officially banned. As a Geluk institution it was affiliated with Tashilhunpo during the time of Seventh Dalai Lama. https://treasuryoflives.org/institution/Takten-Puntsok-Ling-

David Maher (2010) takes a more definite (and less diplomatic) view of these events:

“It is one thing to deploy Buddhist imagery and narratives to justify the defense of the interests of Buddhists being persecuted by some malevolent non-Buddhist oppressor; it is quite another to legitimize sectarian conflicts between Buddhists. The [5th] Dalai Lama has a heightened sensitivity to this question, and he downplays the intrareligious basis of the most substantial warfare that took place leading up to the culmination of events in 1642. The battle against Chog thu and the Beri chief were minor sideshows compared to the decisive battles that took place in U (dbU) and Tsang (gTsang) between partisans of the Buddhist Gelug and Kagyu schools. When the Dalai Lama reaches this part of the story, he merely mentions that Gushri deployed billions of troops and subjugated the land, but he makes no mention of who was defeated. He further obfuscates matters when he concludes by remarking that the kings and ministers of Tibet had to learn to bow humbly to Gushri Khan in 1642. The Dalai Lama attempts to convey a tone of neutrality among Buddhists.

This tone is in stark contrast to the manner in which this series of events was perceived by others at the time and in the decades and centuries that followed. In the eyes of non–Gelugpas, Gushri Khan’s conquests and the ascendancy of the (Fifth) Dalai Lama as the paramount political force in the country were both permeated with sectarian agendas. Monasteries were seized and converted, land estates were reassigned to support Gelug institutions, the Karmapa was driven into exile, and the entire symbolic universe was reconfigured to feature the institution of the Dalai Lama at its core. The Fifth Dalai Lama wrote ‘Song of the Queen of Spring’ in an attempt to influence the way people perceived these conquests soon after they took place.”

Statues of the Fifth Dalai Lama and (apparently) Gushri Khan seen by Johann Grueber in the lobby of the Dalai Lama’s palace in 1661

Historical accounts also claim that the Drugpa Kagyu were suppressed in Tibet and Ladakh, leading to one Drugpa Kagyu master Zhabdrung fleeing into Bhutan and forming a new country there. For more on the invasion and attempt to takeover Ladakh from the Ladakhi Kings, by the Dalai Lamas and Ladakh, see here. It is said that afterwards the Dalai Lamas and Gelug have not been allowed to visit Bhutan, and there are no Gelug monasteries there either.

Philosophical or political conflict or both? The Shentong view of the Jonang, Kagyu and Nyingma
Kunkhyen Dolpopa, influential master of the Jonang tradition, and some say founder of the important view of Zhentong (Empty-of Other).

The answer as to whether these actions were predominantly motivated by philosophical or political differences is not clear. According to Newland (1992: 30–31):

“Tibet’s intersectarian conflicts were almost always driven by motives more political than “purely philosophical”, indeed, the Jonang-pas were allies of the king of Tsang (gtsang), the main political and military adversary of Gelug in the first half of the seven- teenth century. On the other hand, for more than two hundred years before they destroyed the Jonangpa order, the Gelugpa had been denouncing Sherab Gyeltsen (Shay-rap-gyel-tsen)’s [Dolpopa’s] philosophy as something utterly beyond the pale of Mahāyāna Buddhism…While the immediate occasion for the persecution of Jonang was its defeat in a power struggle, proscription suggested itself as a penalty in the context of a long history of substantial and deeply felt philosophical differences. This hostility is reflected in the banning of Dolpopa’s major books from the premises of Gelug monasteries more than 150 years prior to his order’s extinction.”

Je Tsongkhapa

In terms of the refutation of the Empty-of-Other view by Gelugpa masters such as Tsongkhapa (Tsong-kha-pa),  Sparham (2009: 23–24) notes that:

“Regardless of the exact content of the Jonangpa doctrines, and a more detailed analysis of them need not concern us, it is certain that Ma-ti Paṇ-chen, Jonang-pa Chogle Namgyal (Phyogs-las-rNam-rGyal), and Nyabon Kung Pel (Nya dBon- kun dGa’-dPal), all famous students of Dolpopa, Sherab Gyeltsen (Dol-po-ba Shes-rab-rGyal- mtshan) were themselves teachers of Tsong-kha-pa (1357-1419), the saint who later Gelugpas identify as the originator of their sect, and around whose works was built up the distinctively Gelugpa version of Buddhist orthodoxy. This historical fact is most striking in view of some later Gelugpa writers’ explanation of the necessity of suppressing Jonang doctrines in terms of upholding the correct teaching of Tsong-kha-pa, a teaching, they insist, that is the sole door to liberation.”

Tsongkhapa, particularly in his Legshe Nyingpo (Legs bShad sNying po), like the Shākyapa writer Buton Rinchen Drub and others before, did devote much space to a detailed refutation of the Jonang position, but there is no trace in any of his works of the opinion that the Jonangpa view is any more or less than a legitimately mistaken understanding of Buddhist truth. Since Tibetan writers, like their Indian mentors before them, could be extremely cutting in their presentation of the view of other opponents, even the strong words of Tsong-kha-pa’s foremost  disciples  Gyeltsab Darma Rinchen (rGyal-tshab-dar-ma-rin-chen)  and  Khedrub Pal Zangpo (mKhas-grub dPal bZang-po) should not be taken as any more than a forceful intellectual rejection of Jonangpa views.

The later suppression of the Jonangpa school in general, and of Tāranātha’s works in particular, by the emergent Gelugpa under their leader the fifth Dalai Lama cannot be traced to any injunction in the works of Tsongkhapa or his immediate disciples. One suspects the consolidation of power over central Tibet and the need to retain the undivided loyalty of powerful Mongolian backers better explains why it occurred.”

Gelug censorship and banning of books in Tibet up until 21st Century
Works by Jamyang Choje (1379-1449), the founder of the famed Gelug monastery of Drepungn was banned by the 5th Dalai Lama/Gelug government as espousing the Empty-of-Other view

For more on the censorship and banning of books in Tibet, particularly those of Jonang, during the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama, see Smith 2004. Smith states it was not just the Jonang who were affected by such draconian measures though:

“Most examples of Tibetan banned literature involved controversies in philosophical teachings beginning in the 11th century. Philosophical positions such as the gZhan stong became regarded as heretical and many of the greatest masters of the dGe-lugs tradition were branded as proponents and their works set aside and not permitted to be read or copied.

Great teachers such as Jamyang Choje, the founder of the famed Gelug monastery of Drepung and Lotro Rinchen Senge, the founder of Sera Je, were banned. The early Gelugpa school slowly calcified and core syllabi replaced honest debate and disputation. It was, however, only in the 17th and 18th century that there was a wholesale ban placed on the most famous writings of traditions, such as Jonang, Sakya, Kagyu, and Nyingma, by the princes of the ruling Gelug tradition.

The texts of 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje was also banned and sealed by the Dalai Lamas/Gelug governments

A survey of the existing blocks in Central Tibet was undertaken by the Tagdra regent in 1956. This notes the existence of printing blocks, many of which were sealed, by order of the Government of the Ganden Podrang. The list of the banned books included the works of such philosophical masters as Dolpopa, Tāranātha, the Five Patriarchs of the Sakya, and 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje. Prohibitions against the striking of impressions of the Tagten Puntsogling Monastery of the Jonang was only lifted in the mid-19th century through the efforts of the the scholar Losal Tenkyong.”

David Templeman told me that when the Fifth Dalai Lama’s private library was discovered in the early twenty-first century many of Tāranātha’s texts were found within it.

Who is the Jetsun Kalkha Dampa? And why is his recognition by the Dalai Lamas controversial?
HE 9th Jetsun Khalka Dhampa (1930-2012)

So who is the Jetsun Kalkha Dampa? The title of ‘Khalkha’ was said to be first bestowed by the 5th Dalai Lama on the Mongolian-born Lobzang Tenpai Gyaltsen (1635-1723) in the year 1642. Cyrus Stearns (1999: 71–73) says:

Although the Jonang school itself certainly did not accept this enforced recognition of its great master as a new Gelug teacher who demanded the conversion of Jonang monastery into a Gelug establishment, they had no choice in a country now ruled by Gelug political administration and Mongolian military might.

However, despite this forced consent, this line of incarnations recognised by the Dalai Lamas has continued up until this most recent 10th one. I have been informed that even now, the Jonang in Tibet do not accept the lineage or incarnations. So, it is not just about the Chinese at all.

In terms of the life and recognition of the most recent 9th Kalkha Dampa, in an obituary about the 9th Jetsun Kalkha Dampa it says, which mispells Jonang as Janang:

Ninth Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa was born in Trontsikhang, northern part of Lhasa in 1932 to his father Lobsang Jamphel and mother Yangchen Lhamo. At the age of four, Reting Rinpoche, the regent, many high lamas and state oracles recognized him as the reincarnation of the Eighth Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa. When he was seven years old, he entered Gomang college of Drepung Monastery and received Rabjung vow from Reting Rinpoche.  Khalkha Jetsun studied philosophy in Gomang College for fourteen years. At the age of 21, he left Gomang 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 his monastic vows and went to stay at Ganden Phunstok Ling, established by his predecesor Taranatha. After four years, Khalkha Jetsun left Tibet and came into exile when China occupied Tibet in 1959.”

He passed away in India at the age of 80. The 10th incarnation was recognised by the 14th Dalai Lama in March 2023:

An eight-year-old boy is recognised as the tenth Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche by the 14th Dalai Lama in a ceremony in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, India, on 8 March 2023 (Tenzin Choejor/The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

So to conclude this short review, the 10th Kalkha Jetsun Dampa recognition, over 10 years after his passing away, is controversial and provocative, not just because the Chinese communist government do not accept the recognitions of the 14th Dalai Lama, but because the Jonang inside Tibet do not, and have been forced to do so for centuries.

For that reason, although the 14th Dalai Lama did compose an aspiration prayer for the flourishing of the Jonang and the Empty-of-other view (which I translated and published in my book on Tāranātha’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra, see here), it is surprising he made the recognition now, instead of taking the opportunity to look at past history and resolve and make amends for some of the Dalai Lama/Gelugpa political ‘mistakes’  and forced consent of the Jonang to the recognition.  For more on contemporary Jonang masters, inside and outside of Tibet, the head of whom is HH Jigme Dorje Rinpoche, see here.


[1]The Dalai Lama incident with a young Indian boy is a sensitive topic, and defences and attacks on both sides of the debate have been lacking in wisdom, love, compassion and reason. I have been reluctant to comment on it, because I know that when emotions are high, people tend to ‘shoot the messenger’ rather than listen to the message. I may write a more ‘balanced’ perspective from within the Tibetan Buddhist community about that incident  next month.

However, in brief, although generally I respect and admire the Dalai Lama for his Dharma activities, I do not think his action or words were ‘appropriate’ and he was right to have apologised for them.

One of the main concerns about the subsequent Tibetan ‘cultural defence’ of the Dalai Lama incident, is that being a cultural norm (if it is) is not a sufficient reason in itself to justify an act. It is important to remember it happened to an Indian boy in India. It is not some Chinese/western concocted thing as some are saying. In addition, I have lived for almost 15 years on and off with the Tibetan community in exile, I speak and understand Tibetan very well, and I have never seen even once an adult male do or ask that of a child or adult in public.  I have seen them stick their tongues out when making a joke, which I now do, but never this.

Even it were a Tibetan cultural norm (which is disputable, it is still not appropriate for an adult man (regardless of who they are) to kiss a child on the lips and ask them to suck their tongue. Being a cultural norm is not an adequate defence in any case. There were other examples of cultural norms, such as denying women the vote, which have now been declared illegal. In fact, watching the video, it is clear the boy was visibly pulling away and did not want to comply for most of it and felt pressured to do so. As the 17th Karmapa, and others have reminded us, as it is the Dalai Lama, a great Bodhisattva, who is also elderly, we can be more understanding about it, as it is very likely that it was done in a pure and loving way. However, in any other context, with any other person, it would be seen as invasion of bodily privacy and harassment.  

Many Tibetans themselves seem to be clearly biased towards defending him, which is understandable, but it does not mean their biased and emotional analysis or defence of the situation is the correct one either. He is the Dalai Lama so it is likely his intentions were pure and loving, and it does not follow that he is a child abuser, but the act and words were strange and inappropriate indeed, even to an insider of the Tibetan community.

Also to his credit, the Dalai Lama humbly apologised and said he regrets it, which is a lot more than can be said about other Tibetan Buddhist teachers (or religious men) who have done far worse to women and children, and hide behind a deafening silence, cover-ups, lies or denials.

[2] The rest of the quote says:

“And yet when other people speak they say, ‘He is a stubborn-headed logician!’ Yet others say, ‘He is confused and has become slack!’

Some people say that when they look at the situation, it is true that I am indeed one who does not incline towards the tenets of one group or another. Yet others say that when they look at the situa- tion, [it seems] I am one who is partial to the tenets of one particular group and adhere to those views alone.

When some look at me, they see a person whose idle babble splits the Dharma. Others when they regard me, see [only] one who spends his time dwelling in a state of purity and virtue.

 Some people say that I am just an ordinary sort of person filled with both attachment and aversion, while other people say that I am a fully realized and powerful person.

Some people say of me that I am one who possesses a wrong view of the world, and others say that I am one who perceives things as they really are, that is, with the utmost clarity.

When some speak of me they say of me that I am just a worldly person with a bad outlook, and yet others say of me that I am one whose one-pointed focus is always upon the Dharma.

Some say of me that I am one who has seen the demonic forces in the flesh, and yet others say of me that I have perceived the Buddha himself in the flesh!

As for some, they say that I make bad predictions and yet others say of me that my view of the future is both good and complimentary.”

[3]Tāranātha apparently composed one of his texts, Ornament of Empty-of-Other Madhyamaka as a result of having a vision of Dol-po-pa (from Stearns 1999: 69):

In 1604, Tāranātha became despondent, and, seeing all his efforts about to be wiped out and the tradition itself perhaps destroyed, wished only to go into retreat far away from all the troubles created by deluded and impassioned individuals. At this point, Dol-po-pa himself appeared to Tāranātha in a vision, encouraged him to continue as before, and assured him his efforts would not be fruitless. The next night, Tāranātha prayed to Dol-po-pa, and experienced another vision, of a bodhisattva who spoke a quattrain of verse. As a result of these events, Tāranātha said he gained realization of Dol-po- pa’s true intentions as expressed in his gzhan stong teachings, and all his uncertainties and doubts were completely removed. He felt that a great key had been placed in his hands to open the doors of all the Buddha’s teachings.

For more on Tāranātha’s life story and historical background in which he worked, see Templeman 1981a and 1981b, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2015, Baker 2005, Hopkins 2007 and Stearns 1999: 68–70. There is also an online biography at Treasury of Lives, here. According to Templeman (2008):

…there are two versions of Tāranātha’s gestation and birth contained within his Collected Works.  One version is found in his Autobiography [Liberation Account of the Wanderer, Tāranātha] and the other version is entitled Tāranātha’s Biography to 4 Years Old. The latter work was written by  an otherwise unknown disciple and is an account purporting to represent Tāranātha’s life up to his fourth year.


Maher 2010                 “Sacralized Warfare: The Fifth Dalai Lama and the Discourse of Religious Violence” in Buddhist Warfare. Ed. by Michael Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Newland 1992                    The Two Truths: in the Mādhyamika Philosophy of the Ge-luk-ba Order of Tibetan Buddhism. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion, 1992.

Sheehy 2010                       Id.,  “The  Jonangpa  after  Tāranātha: Auto/biographical Accounts of the Transmission of Esoteric Buddhist Knowledge in Seven- teenth Century Tibet.” In Bulletin of Tibet- ology, 45.1 (2010).

Smith 2004                         E. Gene Smith, “Banned Books in the Tibetan-Speaking Lands” in 21st Century Tibet Issue: Symposium on Contemporary Tibetan Studies: Collected Papers. Taipei: Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission (2004) 364–381.

Sparham 1992                    Gareth Sparham, “Indian Altruism: A Study of the Terms bodhicitta and bodhicittotpāda”. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 15.2 (1992) 224–243.

Sparham 2009                    Id., (tr.) Long History of the Yamantaka-Tantra-Raja Cycle [Called Causing] Wondrous Belief. By Tāranātha. Unpub- lished, 2009.

Stearns 1999                      Cyrus Stearns, The Buddha from Dolpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999.

Templeman 1981a             David Templeman, (tr.) The Origin of the Tārā Tantra. By Tāranātha. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1981.

Templeman 1981b            Id., “Tāranātha the Historian”. Tibet Journal 6.2 (1981).

Templeman 1983               Id., (tr.) The Seven Instruction Lineages. By Tāranātha. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1983.

Templeman 1989               Id., (tr.) Tāranātha’s Life of Kṛṣṇācārya/ Kāṇha. By Tāranātha. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1989.

Templeman 2008               Id., Becoming Indian: A Study of the Life of Tāranātha. PhD dissertation, 2008 (Monash University).

Templeman 2012               Id.,  “Tāranātha’s  Self-Vision  Based  on  his Autobiography and Secret Autobiography” in This World and the Next: Contributions on Tibetan Religion, Science and Society, ed. by Charles Ramble and Jill Sudbury. In the Eleventh Seminar of the International Asso- ciation for Tibetan Studies (2012) 107–148.

Templeman 2015               Id., “Revisiting Tucci’s Sixteenth to Seventeenth Century: New Data on Tibet’s Civil War (1603–1621)” in Asian Horizons: Giuseppe Tucci’s Buddhist, Indian, Himalayan and Central Asian Studies. Ed. by Angelo Andrea di Castro and David Templeman. Melbourne: Monash University Publishing, 2015.

Obituary of 9th Khalkha Jetsun Dampa, Tibet.net (2012)

Dalai Lama Sparks Fury After Child Kissing Video Goes Viral, Hindustan Times (April 10th 2023) 

Tomlin, Adele:

THE GREAT WISDOM MOTHER (YUM CHENMO) NEW ART, BOOK EDITION AND WEBSITE: TĀRANĀTHA’S COMMENTARY ON THE HEART SŪTRA. Second edition of book with original Tibetan calligraphy artwork and new project/website dedicated to Tāranātha’s Life and Works


The 14th Dalai Lama on the Jonang Kālacakra Six Yogas and Shentong; English translation

Contemporary Jonang Kalacakra Masters and Dharma Centres

4 thoughts on “WHO IS KHALKHA JETSUN DAMPA AND WHY IS HIS RECENT RECOGNITION CONTROVERSIAL? The 5th Dalai Lama/Gelugpa forceful and violent takeover and suppression of Jonang (and other lineages) in Tibet, and their ongoing recognition of the Jonang and Shangpa Kagyu lineage master, Tāranātha

  1. Thank you very much for this veryvery interesting text- The first one I have shared in this context. It is impossible for someone like me to say anything on such complex matters, but while reading it, the whole story seemed to echo events on our time here, for me mainly since . Trulshik rinpoche, who came to us in. Finland 2002, is regarded as having appeared ,among others as. Taranatha. Trulshik rinpoche never fails to move me in the depths.. thank you. Sincerely. Pema dorje j o mallander

    1. Welcome. I think the main point to remember here is not who is the actual incarnation of Taranatha but that the Dalai Lamas and Gelug (from the 5th Dalai Lama onwards) had no legitimate right to interfere with and choose the Jonang tradition’s monasteries, texts and lineage choices/tulkus. How would they like it if another lineage head did that with the Dalai Lama lineage?

      1. That is a prblem,obviously – perhaps T h e Problem almost everywhere….. Thank You
        with best wishes for Your work in this world jom (for short)

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