“By the great lion’s roar of the glorious voice of the supreme victorious Adityabandhu, the fourth guide in this good kalpa, Lodro Thaye was proclaimed with praise not merely once in the sutra passages, and was prophesied as a great warrior. In the three times, one better than he has not arisen, does not arise, and will not arise. He is chief of the learned, the highest of siddhas, the lord of the entire teachings, the great jetsun who rules in the holy kingdom of Kagyu Vajradhara. The limits of his kindness are immeasurable. His vajra name is very difficult to utter.”
—15th Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje from a song he wrote and dedicated to Jamgon Kongtul Lodro Thaye ( tr. from Rain of Wisdom: Vajra Songs of the Kagyu Masters (Shambhala Publications, 1980:102). For more on the song, see here.
Here is a page for new research and translations on the Jamgon Kongtrul incarnation line that began with the first Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye (1813-1899), a master of Pelpung Monastery who was one of the most influential figures and prolific writers in the Tibetan Buddhist world. He was also one of the founders and important proponents of the 19th Century nonsectarian movement (Ri-mey) that flourished in eastern Tibet. Tragedy and major challenges have been faced by all of them. For example, the First Jamgon Kongtrul faced serious murder plots and black magic attacks on his life , see here. He was a major fan of Jonang and Shangpa Kagyu master, Jetsun Taranatha and a lineage holder and accomplished practitioner of Jonang transmissions, such as Dro Kalacakra, see here. Information about the other incarnations is below.
‘A CANOPY OF FRESH SKY FLOWERS’, 15th KARMAPA’S SONG FOR HIS STUDENT (AND GURU) 1st JAMGON KONGTRUL from THE OCEAN OF KAGYU SONGS (KAGYU GURTSO): Birthday offering for 4th Jamgon Kongtrul
MELODIOUS SONG OF THE DEMON-DESTROYING VAJRA (Dujom Dorje Luyang): Jamgon Kongtrul’s Vajrakīlaya Supplication, Text, Lineage, Three Aspirations and Four Kīlas plus full transcript of teaching by 8th Garchen Rinpoche
‘GOLDEN TEACHINGS’ OF KAGYU TANTRA: Marpa the Translator and student Ngog, the Seven Ngog Mandalas, Thirteen Tantras of Marpa, Kongtrul’s ‘Treasury of Kagyu Mantras’, 17th Karmapa’s birthday teaching and Drikung Kagyu ‘Mar-Ngog’ activities
3rd Jamgon Kongtrul, Rumtek Monastery Parinirvāṇa ritual and Kālacakra
UNBEARABLE GRIEF LIKE EATING THE FLESH OF ONE’S OWN CHILD: Jamgon Kongtrul the Great, Yogi Drugpa Kunleg and 17th Gyalwang Karmapa on abandoning meat; love and compassion more important than scriptures and logic
Anniversary of Marpa Lotsāwa: Jamgon Kongtrul’s Praise in ‘Marpa’s Guru Yoga’
NEW TRANSLATION: Karmapa’s Midnight-Blue ‘ Dākinī Hair’ Crown: Praise, Source and Benefits by 8th Karmapa and 1st Jamgon Kongtrul
Kālacakra and the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul: a stunning record of empowerment and teaching
Murder plots, omens, black magic and Kālacakra: Tantric hero Jamgon Kongtrul’s dangerous first trip to Jonang monastery
Kagyu masters of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage of Dro/Jonang Kālacakra
The ‘nature’ and ‘meaning’ of mantra, tantra and the ten-syllables in Kālacakra by Jamgon Kongtrul
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye (1813-1899) and Kālacakra, PLUS new English language translation of Kongtrul’s ‘Innate Kālacakra’ text
Oral transmission and instructions by HE Garchen Rinpoche on new English translation of Innate Kalacakra sadhana text by Jamgon Kongtrul the First (6th October, Portugal 2018)
New Translation of ‘Calling the Lama from Afar’ by Jamgon Kongtrul the First.
Second Jamgon Kongtrul, Khyentse Ozer (1902-1952)
The Second Jamgon Kongtrul, Palden Khyentse Ozer, Karse Kongtrul (kar sras kong sprul, 1904-1953), alias Jamgön Palden Khyentse Özer (‘jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i ‘od zer), was reborn as the son of the 15th Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje who identified and enthroned him (age twelve), in 1902, in Samdrub Choling at Dowolung Tsurphu. He resided at Tsadra Rinchen Drak, the seat of his predecessor in eastern Tibet. He received the full education and lineage transmission from the Karmapa. Among his other teachers were Zurmang Trungpa Chokyi Nyinche. He attained realization of the ultimate lineage, was one of the most renowned Mahamudra masters and transmitted the innermost teachings to the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. Many times over, he gave teachings, empowerments, and reading transmissions from the old and new traditions, such as the Rinchen Terdzo, and he rebuilt the retreat center of Tsadra Rinchen Drak (his residence above Palpung Monastery). He passed away aged 49 years, on the tenth of May, 1952.
Third Jamgon Kongtrul (1954-1992)
The Third Jamgon Kongtrul, Lodro Chokyi Senge (1954-1992) died aged 38 in a car accident (which some assert was not an accident), see here. Here is a biography by Bokar Rinpoche and also a Guru Yoga for the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul, here. It is said the ‘Guru Yoga’ ‘practice was transformed by the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul, Karma Lodro Chokyi Senge, into one where his name in Sanskrit is included in the mantra, and so it is filled with blessing.’ Like the first Kongtrul, he was an accomplished Kalacakra master and gave empowerments in his lifetime, see here.
One of the best (and fullest) online resources for videos of 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul teachings is the Jamgon Kongtrul Archive of Valerio Albisetti, see here. Much gratitude to Albisetti for preserving and sharing them with us all.
Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul (1996 – )
The Fourth (and present) Kongtrul. Lodro Chokyi Nyima (1996- ) was identified as the incarnation of the third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in 1996, when he was a nine-month-old baby. In 2012, Kongtrul gave his first public teachings on the famous Kongtrul text, Calling the Lama From Afar see here.
Later, when he was 20 years old, he announced his abdication of his monastic vows and responsibilities on an emotional Facebook post, see here. He has not taught publicly since then. In 2017, HH 17th Karmapa gave a moving speech about this event, see here.
In 2006, I had the good fortune to meet Kongtrul in Bodh Gaya and sit in a puja with just him and his attendants at Vulture’s Peak, Rajgir and afterwards, visit Nalanda monastery ruins. I have also studied and done a short retreat at one of his seats, Pullahari Monastery, Nepal.
Multiple other incarnations of Lodro Taye were identified, including the Dzogchen Kongtrul line based at Dzogchen Monastery, the Zhechen Kongtrul based at Zhechen Monastery, Dzigar Kongtrul, based at Tsokha Monastery, and Kalu Rinpoche, based at Tsādra Rinchen Drak. For more on his life and teachings see ‘Further Reading/Sources’ below.
Kongtrul, Lodro Thaye, (2003) Autobiography of Jamgon Kongtrul: A Gem of Many Colours, tr. Richard Barron. (Snow Lion Publications).
Gardner, Alex, (2019) The Life of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great (Snow Lion Publications).
Jamgon Kongtrul Treasury of Lives Biography
Vimeo channel of Valerio Albisetti: https://vimeo.com/user65376770