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Jonang Kunga Drolchog

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Kunga Drolchok (kun dga' grol mchog) was born in 1507 in Lo Montang (glo smon thang), the capital of the Mustang (glo) region of present-day Nepal. His main teacher as a youth was his uncle, the Sakya master Drungpa Choje Kunga Chokdrub (drung pa chos rje kun dga' mchog grub, d.u.), who was a disciple of the great Sakya master Dakchen Lodro Gyeltsen (bdag chen blo gros rgyal mtshan, 1444-1495).

Kunga Drolchok received ordination as a novice monk from Drungpa Choje when he was ten years old, and stayed with him constantly for the next four years, receiving many initiations and teachings of the Sakya tradition, including Lamdre three times.

In 1519, when Kunga Drolchok was thirteen years old, he traveled with his elder brother to U and Tsang for further studies. They first went to the great monastery of Sakya and the nearby retreat center of Khau Drakdzong (kha'u brag rdzong), where they received teachings from the master Kunpang Doringpa (kun spangs rdo ring pa, d.u.).

Then they proceeded to the Sakya Monastery of Serdokchen (gser mdog can), the monastic seat of Paṇchen Shākya Chokden (paN chen shAkya mchog ldan, 1428-1507), where they began the serious study of epistemology and other scholastic subjects under the guidance of Shākya Chokden's disciple and successor, Donyo Drubpa,

known by the Sanskrit version of his name, Amoghasiddhi (a mo g+ha sidd+hi, don yod grub pa, d.u.). But tragedy soon stuck. A smallpox epidemic claimed the lives of nineteen of the twenty-two students, including Kunga Drolchok's elder brother.

The grief-stricken Kunga Drolchok went into retreat for the next eight months. During this time he memorized several basic treatises of epistemology. But then his teacher Amoghasiddhi came into the retreat and severely scolded him, warning him that sterile scholarship did not result in enlightenment, and taught him many profound techniques of meditation practice.

When the smallpox epidemic had passed, Kunga Drolchok emerged from retreat to again receive many Lamdre teachings and other traditions from the master Kunpang Doringpa, who

had come to visit Serdokchen Monastery. He continued to study all the major and minor fields of knowledge for the next five years at Serdokchen and other monasteries such as Ngor and Ngamring (ngam ring).

Kunga Drolchok then returned home to Mustang, where he received full ordination and many more teachings from his old teacher Drungpa Choje and the ninth abbot of Ngor monastery, Lhachok Sengge (lha mchog seng ge, 1468-1535), who was visiting from Tibet. Drungpa Choje installed Kunga Drolchok as his successor on the

throne of Pupak (phu phag) Monastery and passed away soon after. Then Kunga Drolchok's father also passed away. The deaths of his teacher and his father affected him deeply, and with the realization that no composite phenomena are lasting, Kunga Drolchok went into seclusion and lived as a hermit.

He did not wish to attend the summer retreat of the monks that year, but at the insistence of the abbot he left seclusion and gave various teachings, such as the great Sakya Paṇḍita Kunga Gyeltsen (sa skya paNDi ta kun dga' rgyal mtshan) Treasury of Epistemology (tshad ma rigs gter). In 1528 another of Kunga Drolchok's

teachers in Mustang, Paṇchen Jampa Lingpa (paN chen byams pa gling pa, d. 1528), passed away. Kunga Drolchok occupied the monastic seat at his teacher's monastery for the next three years, which was a period of further intense study and teaching. On one occasion he went to visit the

famous pilgrimage site of Muktinath in Nepal, where he spoke with and taught to the non-Buddhist Indian yogins using the Nepalese and Indian vernacular, to their great delight.

In 1534, when he was twenty-seven years old, Kunga Drolchok again traveled northeast into Tibet, visiting Lhasa and then the great Karma Kagyu monastery of Tsurpu ([[mtshur

phu]]), where he received the complete transmission of the Kagyu teachings. He would later travel several more times back and forth between Mustang and central Tibet. At some point he served as abbot ofCholung Jangtse Monastery (chos lung byang rtse)

Kunga Drolchok was especially devoted to the practices of the Shangpa Kagyu (shangs pa bka' brgyud) tradition, which he received from the master Gyagom Lekpa Gyeltsen (rgya sgom legs pa rgyal mtshan, d.u.) and other teachers. He met the ḍākinī Niguma in a vision and

taught the Shangpa transmission of the Six Dharmas of Niguma (ni gu chos drug, d.u.) more than one hundred times to many masters from different traditions. He also frequently taught Lamdre and other precious instructions of the Sakya tradition throughout his career.

Kunga Drolchok was a master of the Jonang tradition's six-branch yoga of Kālacakra (dus 'khor sbyor drug), which he received from Lochen Ratnabhadra (lo chen ratna bha dra, 1489-1563), who seems to have been the most important of his many teachers.

For about the last twenty years of his life Kunga Drolchok was the twenty-fourth holder of the monastic seat of Jonang Monastery, retaining this position until his death in 1566. He was succeeded on the Jonang throne by his nephew, Kunga Pelzang (kun dga' dpal bzang, 1513-1593).