The Third Jamyang Zhepa, Tubten Jigme Gyatso

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The Third Jamyang Zhepa, Tubten Jigme Gyatso b.1792 - d.1855

Name Variants: Jamyang Zhepa 03 Lobzang Tubten Jigme Gyatso; Jigme Gyatso; Labrang Tripa 27 Lobzang Tubten Jigme Gyatso; Lobzang Tubten Jigme Gyatso; Lobzang Tubten Jigme Wangpo De; Shitsang Denrab 01 Lobzang Tubten Jigme Gyatso; Tubten Jigme Gyatso

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Lobzang Tubten Jikme Gyatso, the Third Jamyang Zhepa ('jam dbyangs bzhad pa 03 blo bzang thub bstan 'jigs med rgya mtsho) was born in the village of Nyentok (gnyan thogs) in Rebkong (reb kong), Amdo, in 1792, the water-mouse year of thirteenth sexagenary cycle. His father was named Rinchen Gyatso (rin chen rgya mtsho) and his mother was named Kharmo Kyi (mkhar mo skyid).

At the age of seven he was recognized as the reincarnation of Second Jamyang Zhepa, Konchok Jigme Wangpo ('jam dbyangs bzhad pa 02, dkon mchog 'jigs me dbang po, 1728-1791) by the Third Tukwan, Lobzang Chokyi Nyima (thu'u bkwan 03 blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma, 1737-1802), and he was enthroned at Labrang Monastery. The search party had been organized by the twenty-third throne holder of Labrang Tashikhyil (bla brang bkra shis 'khyil) monastery, Drakpa Gyeltsen (grags pa rgyal mtshan, 1762-1836). It was a complex series of ritual performances, including a Qing-mandated use of the "Golden Urn". Paul Nietupski points out that while the Golden Urn was employed, the child selected was the same that the Tibetans had already determined to be the Third Jamyang Zhepa. The identification was also confirmed via letter by the Eighth Dalai Lama, Jampel Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 08 'jam dpal rgya mtsho, 1758-1804) and the Seventh Paṇchen Lama, Lobzang Pelden Tenpai Nyima (blo bzang dpal ldan bstan pa'i nyi ma, 1782-1853).

The Third Tukwan later gave him the lay (dge bsnyen) vows. He initially studied under a tutor named Lobzang Tendzin (blo bzang bstan 'dzin, d.u).

According to his biography he began to teach at the age of nine, giving simple homilies at the annual Monlam festival based on the life stories of the Buddha and Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa (tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419). He began his education courses in Buddhist philosophy when he was twelve, under instructions from Tendzin Gyatso (bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, d.u) and Khotse Sonam (kho tshe bsod nams, d.u).

At the age of thirteen he received novice vows from the Third Gungtang, Konchok Tenpai Dronme (dkon mchog bstan pa' sgron me, 1762-1823), and received tantric and sutra teachings from the Third Hortsang Sertri, Jigme Rigpai Sengge (hor tshang gser khri 03 'jigs med rigs pa'i seng+ge, 1747-1816).

While still a teenager, he was invited to Gonlung (dgong lung) Monastery, where he gave the lay vows, to the Fourth Tukwan, Lobzang Tubten Chokyi Gyeltsen (blo bzang thub bstan chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1825-1897) together with various empowerments, including the empowerment of Bhairava and longevity deities. During this period, he also gave various teachings to the lay community of the region.

In 1809, at the age of eighteen, he made a pilgrimage to Lhasa and met the Eighth Dalai Lama and Seventh Paṇchen Lama. He enrolled at Gomang (sgo mang) College in Drepung ('bras spung) Monastery where he studied Abhisamayālaṃkāra, Madhyamaka, Abhidharmakośa, Pramāṇavārttika, and Vinaya, the five traditional subjects of the Geluk monastic curriculum under the instructions from Lubum Ngawang Tsultrim (klu 'bum ngag dbang tshul khrims, d.u) and Gome Lobzang Chodzin (sgo me blo bzang chos 'dzin, d.u). He also received teachings from the Dalai Lama and Ngawang Nyendrak, the Sixty-sixth Ganden Tripa (dga' ldan khri pa 66 ngag dbang snyan grags, 1746-1824). At the age of twenty-one he received full ordination from the Seventh Paṇchen Lama together with tantric and sutra teachings from both the Paṇchen Lama and the Dalai Lama.

The following year he returned to Amdo. He gave teachings and empowerments at Sergon (gser dgon), Chubzang (chu bzang), Gonlung, Jakhyung (bya khyung) and other famous monasteries in the region, and he supervised the education of the Fourth Tukwan. He continued to receive teachings, taking empowerments in Mitra Vajra from the Third Gungtang.

At the age of twenty-six he assumed the abbacy of Labrang, and oversaw the completion of the monastic rules and education system. During his tenure at Labrang he visited most of the religious sites in Amdo and gave teachings. He trained many prominent Geluk lamas, including the fifty-first throne holder of Labrang, Sherab Gyatso (shes rab rgya mtsho, 1803-1875); Ngawang Tubten Gyatso (ngag dbang thub bstan rgya mtsho, 1836-1889,); the Eighth Kirti, Lobzang Trinle Tenpai Gyatso (kirti 08 blo bzang 'phrin las bstan pa rgya mtsho, 1849-1904); the Sixth Lamo, or Zhabdrung Karpo, Ngawang Chokdrub Tenpai Gyeltsen (la mo / zhabs drung dkar po 06 ngag dbang mchog grub bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, 1832-1872); the Fourth Zamtsa, Jigme Samdrub Gyatso (zam tsha 04 'jigs med bsam grub rgya mtsho, 1833-1874), and many others.

During the lifetime of the Third Jamyang Zhepa both Manchu and Mongol power in Labrang waned, and Lobzang Tubten Jikme Gyatso strengthened ties to Lhasa. He donated considerable sums to the monasteries and the government there. At the same time he repeatedly toured Labrang's territories and secured on-going support, which enabled Labrang to resist an invasion from Rongwo (rong bo) in 1815. In 1839 he successfully negotiated a settlement between the Manchu forces in Kachu (contemporary Linxia) and Genkya (rgan kya). There were further hostilities between Labrang and Rongwo in 1843-1844, and additional conflicts with Chinese and regional powers, but in all cases Labrang conducted its affairs independently, with the Third Jamyang Zhepa effectively negotiating settlements in Labrang's favor.

He passed away into nirvana 1855, at the age of sixty-four. His relics were put in reliquary in the gathering hall at Labrang Monastery.




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Sonam Dorje
July 2012