Part Two: Kagyu masters of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage of Dro/Jonang Kālacakra

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye (1813-1899) was a lineage holder of the unbroken lineage of the Dro and Jonang Kālacakra that was passed down from Dro Lotsawa, to the Jonang and Dagpo Kagyu masters. As I wrote about in a previous post, ‘The Dakpo Kagyu Lineage masters of Dro and Jonang Kālacakra’ , Kongtrul received the full Jonang Kālacakra transmission from Kagyu lama, Karma Osel Gyurme, and then later from Jonang lama, Ngawang Chophel. Kongtrul then passed the lineage onto the 11th Tai Situpa who then passed it onto the 16th Karmapa, which is where the unbroken lineage through the Dagpo Kagyu masters appears to end.

In recently published (yet untranslated) book on Kālacakra, The Blue Sapphire Jewel:  History of Kālacakra[1], by contemporary Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu Kālacakra teacher, Khenpo Donyo Lodro Rinpoche, not only gives this account of the Dagpo Kagyu lineage holders of Dro Kālacakra but also, after that, he then discusses the other lineages that came off from Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye.

The names of the lineage masters that got the lineage from Kongtrul are:

  • Khenchen Tashi Ozer (1836 – 1910).
  • Dorlob Lama Kagyu Tenzin and Drubwang Norbu Dondrub (1880/1-1954?)
  • Kalu Rinpoche, Karma Rangjung Kunkhyab Palzangpo (1905–1989)
  • 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche (1954-1992)
  • Bokar Rinpoche, Karma Ngedon Chokyi Lodro (1940 – 2004)

Below I give a little biographical information about each master and how they received and transmitted the Kālacakra.

Khenchen Tashi Ozer (1836 – 1910)

Khenchen Tashi Ozer (mkhan chen bkra shis ‘od zer), apparently also known as Shiwai Nyingpo (zhi ba’i snying po), was an important student of Jamgon Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.  According to Khenpo Donyo (pp.555-56): At age eighteen he went to the Palpung monastery of the Tai Situ Rinpoches and met with Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, from whom he received lay vows and the name Tashi Ozer Lodro Gyepe De (bkra shis ‘od zer blo gros rgyas pa’i sde).  He received the entire transmissions of both the Karma Kagyu and Shangpa Kagyu lineages from Kongtrul and also those of the Sakya, Zhalu, Bodong and Jonang. In particular, he received various streams of Kālacakra transmissions, as well as the instructions on the completion stage, six Vajra-yogas. His primary students included the 11th Tai Situpa (Pema Wangchok Gyalpo, 1886-1952), the 9th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, 15th Karmapa and Lama Norbu Dondrub.

Dorlob Lama Kagyu Tenzin and Drubwang Norbu Dondrub (1880/1-1954?)

Khenpo Donyo states (p.558) that he has not seen a biography for Dorlob Lama Karten (Kagyu Tenzin) and so cannot go into detail about his life. However, he writes that since Lama Karten relied on lamas like Jamgon Kongtrul and Khenchen Trashi Ozer, he was an expert in the sutras and tantras, including the generation and completion stages of Kālacakra.

Then, Lama Norbu Dondrub (grub dbang nor bu don grub, 1880/1-1954?) requested him, Kagyu Tenzin, for the transmissions. Dondrub was also one of Kalu Rinpoche’s root lamas and retreat masters during his three-year retreat at Tsadra Rinchen Drak in Tibet. Lama Norbu Dondrub had first been a monk at Palpung Monastery. Then, because of his great qualities as a practitioner, he was appointed by the 11th Tai Situpa as retreat master, a function which he held for 12 years.  According to Khenpo Donyo Lodro (pp. 558-559): Dondrub received the Kālacakra empowerment from Jamgon Kongtrul and then from Khenchen Tashi Ozer and became a great expert in the ritual practice. In the retreat centre, Dondrub received from Karma Kagyu Tenzin, the complete Kālacakra empowerment, the empowerments for the nine deities, the innate Kālacakra, the instructions on the deities of the generation stage and on the completion stage of the six Vajra-yogas.  Then, Lama Norbu Dondrub passed the entire transmission on to Kalu Rinpoche. According to the Shangpa Foundation website:

During the funeral ceremonies [for Norbu Dondrub], which were presided over by Kalu Rinpoche, his heart was not burned by the fire and was later enshrined in a stupa. Besides the relic pills and the rainbows, a rain of flowers occurred…..The facts that Lama Norbu Töndrub’s body got so small as to reach a child’s size, and that rainbows appeared in the sky over the funeral pyre, show clearly that he had actually attained the rainbow body. According to the present Situ Rinpoche, this was not uncommon in Tibet but rains of flowers were really exceptional “like a white elephant” he said.

Kalu Rinpoche, Karma Rangjung Kunkhyab Palzangpo(1905–1989)

Kalu Rinpoche, Karma Rangjung Kunkyab (kar ma ran byung kun khyab, 1905–1989) had his hair tuft cut at the age of three, by Kenchen Tashi Ozer, one of the lineage masters cited here. Khenpo Donyo (pp. 561-562) states that when Kalu was sixteen years old, while in a 3 year retreat at Tsadra Rinchen Drag (the retreat place founded by Jamgon Kongtrul near Palpung monastery) he received the complete lineage transmission of the generation and completion stages of Kālacakra. He also got the collected works of Jonang from the first Palpung Khyentse Rinpoche (1890-1946). At the age of thirty-seven, Kalu Rinpoche returned to Palpung and assumed duties as retreat master of the three-year retreats at the two retreat centers, Naroling and Niguling. He bestowed the nine-deity Kālacakra transmission and empowerment on Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1893-1959). According to Khenpo Donyo:  At the age of 40, when the Tibetan Sikyong, Radreng Rinpoche and his assistant, Sera Kador Rinpoche, went to the Jonang Tagten Ling monastery, he became sad and cried. When asked why he was sad, he said that he was remembering Tāranātha’s mother Dorje Buga Lhamo and how the previous widespread Tāranātha’s teachings had become nothing more than his name. When thinking about the deterioration of the teachings, his mind became depressed. As a result of generating this wish to repair and amend that situation in relation to the definitive teachings of great Jetsun Tāranātha, Radreng Rinpoche and his assistant received the  complete works of Tāranātha from Kalu Rinpoche. He also bestowed the great empowerment of Kālacakra to the monks of Jonang Tagten Phuntshokling and not only restored the teachings of Jonang but helped the flourishing and increase of their the listening, contemplation and meditation on these teachings.

In 1964, Kalu Rinpoche also bestowed the complete Shangpa Kagyu and Kālacakra empowerment to the 9th Jetsun Khalka Dhampa (1936-2012) the head of Jonang, as recognised by HH 14th Dalai Lama (I have translated the long-life prayer composed for Jetsun Kalkha Dampa here).

HH 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, recognized Kalu Rinpoche as the activity emanation of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye.

3rd Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche (1954-1992)

3rd Jamgon Kongtrul, Karma Lodrö Chökyi Senge, who was considered to be a tulku of Khyentse Ozer, was born in Lhasa, Tibet on 1 October 1954. He moved into exile in India in 1959 in the aftermath of the 1959 Tibetan uprising and grew up at Rumtek Monastery under the care of Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa. According to Khenpo Donyo Lodro, at the age of thirteen he got the Kālacakra empowerment and transmission from Kalu Rinpoche.  Bokar Rinpoche’s biography of Kongtrul the 3rd states that after the 16th Karmapa passed away, Kongtrul also gave the Kālacakra empowerment to devotees in India and Tibet (see

In 1990, Kongtrul gave the great Kālacakra empowerment to the monks and lay people of Rumtek, Sikkim and donated funds to start a yearly Kālacakra practice session. In 1991, Jamgon Rinpoche returned to Tibet and visited Derge Gonchen where he gave an empowerment, reconsecrated the old and new Derge Printing House, and made donations to them. Thereafter, he journeyed to Palpung Monastery and gave the great Kālacakra initiation to about 550 lamas and tulkus of the area, including Sangye Tendzin of Japa Gonzhab Surmang Tentrul, Dodrak Tulku, and many others. He also gave getsul and gelong ordinations to about 550 people. Next he travelled to Damkar Monastery in Nangchen where he again gave the Kālacakra empowerment to about 1,000 Sangha members, including lamas and tulkus, such as Shangu Tulku, Kyodrak Tendzin, Salga, Drukpa Tulku, Demon Tulku, and many others.

For more see: Kālacakra and the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul: record of an empowerment and teaching

Bokar Rinpoche, Karma Ngedon Chokyi Lodro (1940 – 2004)

Bokar Rinpoche, Karma Ngedon Chokyi Lodro (skyabs rje ‘bo dkar rin po che karma nges don chos kyi blo gros kyi) was born to a nomadic family in Western Tibet. He was recognized at age four by HH 16th Karmapa as the reincarnation of the previous Bokar Rinpoche. Rinpoche left Tibet at age twenty and at that time met the great meditation master Kalu Rinpoche. He received many transmissions from Kalu Rinpoche, including the Kālacakra empowerment and transmission and the entire Shangpa Kagyu transmission.  Khenpo Donyo Lodro states that in 1960, Bokar Rinpoche received the Jonang Rinjung Gyatsa and Atisha tradition of Kālacakra empowerment from Kalu Rinpoche.  Bokar then later got the full Jonang Kālacakra transmission from Jonang master, Khenpo Kunga Sherab Rinpoche.  Former student, and translator, of Bokar Rinpoche, Edward Henning states that:

Largely because of the difficulty of finding the necessary texts, before he passed away, Kalu Rinpoche was not able to pass the complete tradition of the six yogas over to Bokar Rinpoche. Bokar Rinpoche therefore felt that the tradition he held, although extensive, was to some extent incomplete. In order to correct this, he recently invited from Dzamthang in Tibet, the Jonang master Khenpo Kunga Sherab Rinpoche to pass on the full transmission of the Jonang six yogas to Bokar Rinpoche himself, Khenpo Lodro Donyo, and some of Bokar Rinpoche’s monks. (I am told that H.H. Dalai Lama also recently requested the same transmission because he felt that his lineage for the six yogas had also been broken.)

This took place over a period of ten days during April and May 2004. This was just before the annual Kālacakra ceremonies (pūja) at Bokar Monastery, Mirik, in the Darjeeling district. This transmission was a very important event for Bokar Rinpoche, and for his plans for the future of his monastery.

A new main monastic building is in the process of being built at Mirik, and Bokar Rinpoche spoke in April of his plans to build within this a temple dedicated to Kālacakra. This will include a three dimensional representation of the Kālacakra maṇḍala palace.

For more information and photos taken by Henning of this transmission, see here.

Here is a photo of Bokar Rinpoche and Khenpo Donyo with the Jonang master, Khenpo Kunga Sherab Rinpoche, when he gave the Jonang Kalackara six vajra-yogas transmission in 2004 (published by Henning).

Khenpo Donyo (R) with Bokar Rinpoche (L) and Khenpo Kunga Sherab Rinpoche (C) in 2004.

For more on Bokar Rinpoche and  the Kālacakra stupa at Bokar Monastery, see here: Karma Kagyu Kalacakra Masters and the Bokar Rinpoche Kalacakra Stupa.

Interestingly, Kagyu lineage master, Gyaltsab Rinpoche (1954-present) is not cited as a direct lineage holder in Khenpo Donyo’s book. The reason for that is not clear. Gyaltsab Rinpoche recently gave the Kālacakra empowerment at Ralang monastery in 2018. I am assuming that he got the empowerment from Kalu Rinpoche but perhaps not the full transmission.

HH Gyalwang Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Kalu RInpoche, Bokar Rinpoche and Khenpo Donyo and Kagyu Monlam, Bodh Gaya, 2001


[1] bde bar gshegs pa’i ring lugs spyi dang bye brag rgyud thams cad kyi rgyal po dpal dus kyi ‘khor lo’i chos skor gyi byung ba brjod pa thub bstan mdzes par byed pa’i rgyuan in+dra nI la’i phra tshom (Published in 2005, Bokar Monastery Publications (‘bo dkar nges don chos ‘khor gling gi bla spyi spar bskrun zhus) TBRC W00EGS1016994).