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3rd Jamgon Kongtrul, Rumtek Monastery Parinirvāṇa ritual and Kālacakra

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For Dakini Day today, I offer a short post on the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul, one of the main lineage holders of Karma Kagyu and the Non-Sectarian movement in Tibet (Rimey), heart-son of 16th Karmapa and Kālacakra master (who passed away suddenly in a car crash in 1992).

Rumtek Monastery Parinirvana anniversary puja

Yesterday, Rumtek monastery uploaded some photos (see here) of the commemoration of the parinirvāṇa anniversary puja of 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul, which is annually conducted at Rumtek, Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist studies and Pal Karmae Jamyang Khang School. It says that: “On the 4th May of this year

all the abbots, teachers and students of the Institute performed Red Avalokitesvara puja in morning and Mahakala puja at evening. At night an introduction of the event and biography of the Rinpoche was told and listened. Thus the event was concluded by conducting philosophical debate and chanting the Calling the Lama from Afar and Butter Lamp prayer with dedication at end.”

Born in Tibet, Exile to Sikkim, Renovations in Tibet, Death by Car Crash

Born in 1954 in Lhasa, Tibet, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was recognized as an incarnation of the previous Jamgon Kongtrul by the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje. At the age of six, the young tulku left Tibet to join the Karmapa at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim where he was raised by the Karmapa as one of his four “heart sons.”

One online biography explains:

“During his lifetime, Rinpoche made two trips to Tibet, one in 1984 and one in 1991. During these trips he gave empowerments and teachings to hundreds of monks, tulkus, and lay people of Tibet; he obtained

permission for the restoration of Tshurphu Monastery (the seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa) in Eastern Tibet; at Palpung Monastery he ordained about 500 monks; he visited Derge Gonchen where he inspired

the reconstruction of the traditional Tibetan Derge Printing House; and he gave the precious Kalachakra empowerment at Damkar Monastery in Nangchen. Rinpoche has also given the Kalachakra empowerment in Europe,

Canada and Asia and he gave the Kagyu Ngakdzo empowerment (considered the heart of the Kagyu yidam transmissions) in February 1992 to the monastic community and lay people at Rumtek Monastery, seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage in India. In the late 1980s, Rinpoche completed one of his most outstanding projects: Shri Nalanda Institute for higher Buddhist studies in Rumtek, India.”

Passed Away in Car Crash

Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche died in a mysterious car accident in the Kalimpong District of Darjeeling, India, on April 26, 1992. A new BMW car swerved off the road and crashed. He was thirty-seven years old. The accident took place near the site of Rinpoche’s monastery and the residential school that he founded for young monks and orphans. The driver of the vehicle as well as Lama Kunga, the head of the school, were also

killed. Tenzin Dorje, Rinpoche’s closest assistant was the sole survivor of the crash. There are mixed views of the cause of the car crash, some saying it was not an accident and planned, see one account here and also, Mick Brown’s Dance of Seventeen Lives.

According to a follower of Beru Khyentse

Beru Khyentse reported that the 16th Karmapa had given protective neck strings both to Jamgon Kongtrul and Beru Khyentse, saying that it was very important to wear it . Some years ago, Beru Khyentse was travelling in a car that had a terrible crash yet nobody was hurt. Beru Khyentse commented that the 16th Karmapa neck string blessing saved the passengers, Rinpoche included. According to Beru Khyentse, compassion led the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul to give the 16th Karmapa neck string to his assistant (the sole survivor) and it was the lack of that neck string that caused a lack of protection for Jamgon Kongtrul in the car accident.”

I have been unable to confirm the truth of this statement with any other independent or verifiable sources.

Jamgon Kongtrul and Kālacakra

As my own simple offering for the life and time of the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul, I re-post again a previous article on the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul’s connection to Kālacakra and the teachings and empowerment he gave in Spain 1989, shortly before he tragically passed away (see here). As I wrote:

“I was delighted to find out yesterday, that film-maker Valierio Albisetti had uploaded onto Vimeo for free download, his documentary film of a Kālacakra empowerment in the Spanish town of San Sebastian in August

1989, given by Jamgon Kongtrul the 3rd, only three years before he tragically passed away in a car accident in April 1992 (although many suspect it was a politically motivated assassination). It is not clear who gave the 3rd Kongtrul the Kālacakra empowerments and transmission, but it seems likely that it would have been from Kalu Rinpoche, himself a great Kālacakra lineage holder, as I have written about here.

The 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul was an accomplished Kālacakra lineage master who gave several great Kālacakra empowerments during his lifetime. As well as this one in Spain, afterwards, in 1990, he also gave the great Kālacakra empowerment to the monks and laypersons of Rumtek, Sikkim and donated funds to initiate the

conducting of the Kālacakra puja there on an annual basis. In 1991, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche returned to Tibet and as part of his trip, journeyed to Palpung Monastery and gave the great Kalachakra initiation to about 550 tulkus and lamas of the area, including Sangye Tendzin of Japa Gonzhab Surmang Tentrul, Dodrak

Tulku, before a crowd of about 10,000 laypeople. Next he travelled to Damkar Monastery in Nangchen where he again gave the Kālacakra empowerment to about 10,000 sangha members, including lamas and tulkus such as Shangu Tulku, Kyodrak Tendzin, Salga, Drukpa Tulku, and Deymon Tulku

May the Kālacakra teachings and lineage flourish in the Karma Kagyu and all lineages as before, and may all attain that state!

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 6th May 2021.