The Sixth Tongkhor, Jampel Gendun Gyatso

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The Sixth Tongkhor, Jampel Gendun Gyatso b.1754 - d.1803

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Jampel Gendun Gyatso, the Sixth Tongkhor (stong 'khor 06 'jam dpal dge 'dun rgya mtsho) was born in Mokri (rmog ri) 1754, the wood-dog year of the thirteenth sexagenary cycle. His father, Rinchen (rin chen), was a practitioner of divination and was known to have hand copied a version of the Prajñāpāramitā sutra in silver on blue paper. His mother was named Dolma Tar (sgrol ma thar).

He was recognized by the Second Lingtrul, Gendun Tenpai Gyeltsen (gling sprul 02 dge 'dun bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, 1728-1790) as the reincarnation of the Fifth Tongkhor, Ngawang Sonam Gyatso (stong 'khor 05 ngag dbang bsod nams rgya mtsho, 1684-1752). At the time Gendun Tenpai Gyeltsen was on his way to Mongolia.

The recognition was controversial, as another boy, Ngawang Jamyang Tendzin Gyatso (ngag dbang 'jam dbyangs bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, 1753-1798) was also recognized as the reincarnation of the Fifth Tongkhor and installed at Tongkhor Monastery in Xining.

Gendun Tenpai Gyeltsen's father, Rinchen, petitioned the Third Changkya, Rolpai Dorje (lcang skya 03 rol pa'i rdo rje, 1717-1786), who was then in Dartsedo (dar rtse mdo) on his way to China. Rolpai Dorje declined to affirm or deny the recognition, but suggested to Rinchen that he put the matter to the Sixth Paṇchen Lama, Lobzang Pelden Yeshe (paN chen 06 blo bzang dpal ldan ye shes, 1738-1780). Both the Paṇchen Lama and the First Purchok, Ngawang Jampa (phur lcog 01 ngag dbang byams pa, 1682-1762) affirmed his identity as the reincarnation of the Fifth Tongkhor.

He was installed at Tongkhor Tashilhunpo (bkra shis lhun po) near Kandze, which founded by the First Tongkhor, Dawa Gyeltsen (zla ba rgyal mtshan, 1476-1556). At the age of six he learned reading and writing. When he was eight he received his novice and renunciation vows from Teuzen Lama Sonam Dargye (the'u zan bla ma bsod nams dar rgyas, d.u), who gave him the name Jampel Gendun Gyatso.

As the turned eleven he received invitations from various areas in Kandze, and gave various empowerments and Buddhist teachings. Back at Tongkhor he memorized the Abhisamayālaṃkāra and Madhyamakāvatāra.

He received permission from Beijing to go to Lhasa at the age of twelve. He was able to met with the Eighth Dalai Lama, Jampel Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 08 'jam dpal rgya mtsho, 1758-1804), but the Tibetan Government in Lhasa had officially backed the other candidate for the Sixth Tongkhor, and thus he did not receive a warm reception.

With the support of the Sixth Paṇchen Lama, however, he enrolled in Sera Monastery and studied under Tsangpa Drakpa Trinle (gtsang pa grags pa 'phrin las, d.u.). There he received teachings from the Sixth Paṇchen; Yeshe Gyeltsen (ye she rgyal mtshan, 1713-1793); Kelzang Dargye (skal bzang dar rgyas, d.u); the thirteenth throne holder of Labrang Tashikhyil (bla brang bkra shis 'khyil), Lobzang Nyendrak (blo bzang snyan grags, 1718-1800); and Ngawang Gyatso (ngag dbang rgya mtsho, d.u), who was the incarnation of Drati Geshe Rinchen Dondrub (bra ti dge bshes rin chen don grub, d.u). During his time at Sera he received full ordination from the Six Paṇchen Lama. At the age of twenty-two he was awarded the degree of Geshe Rabjampa (dge bshes rab 'byams pa).

Back in Kandze, he accepted an invitation from a merchant named Khentar (khen thar) to visit Beri (be ri) Monastery. For the next two years he dedicated himself to the repair and expansion of Tongkhor Monastery. He introduced ritual dancing and other ceremonies from the Tashilhunpo (the Paṇchen Lama's seat) tradition.

In 1779, at the age of twenty-six, at Kumbum, he met the Sixth Paṇchen Lama, who was on his way to Beijing together with the Third Tukwan, Lobzang Chokyi Nyima (thu'u bkwan 03 blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma, 1737-1802). He returned to Tongkhor via Dzoge (mdzod dge), Muge (dmu dge), Tsakho (tsa kho), Trokyab (khro skyabs), Dartsedo (dar rtse mdo), Tau (rta'u) and Drango (brag 'go).

In 1782 he went to Beijing where he met with the Third Changkya and the Qianlong Emperor (乾隆 r. 1735-1796). He returned to Tongkhor via Mongolia.

He passed away at the age of fifty in 1803, in water-pig year of the thirteenth sexagenary cycle. Woodblocks for his collected works were carved under the sponsorship of the Ninth Tongkhor, Lobzang Tubten Jikme Tsultrim Gyatso (stong 'khor 09 blo bzang lhun grub 'jigs med rgya mtsho, 1908-1934/1946). It is not clear whether the blocks or any prints survive.




Anon. 2005 (1930). Stong 'khor zhabs drung drug pa dge 'dun rgya mtshor skyes pa'i rabs kyi le'u. In Stong 'khor zla ba rgyal mtshan sku phreng rim byon gyi rnam thar. Bejing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, pp. 249-280. TBRC W2CZ7868.


Sonam Dorje
September 2012