The Treasury of Lives

A Biographical Encyclopedia of Tibet, Inner Asia, and the Himalaya

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Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo

b.mid 11th cent. - d.early 12th cent.
BDRC P3816

Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo was an eleventh-century Tibetan translator, author, and exegete of Buddhist literature. Among his translations and commentarial works are important scriptures transmitted as part of the first and second period of Buddhist diffusion in Tibet. He is a seminal figure for the Nyingma, traditionally described as the last translator of the early translation period. His work as a translator and exegete is nevertheless also important to the later translation period and the so-called New Schools of Tibetan Buddhism. His prodigious literary output––including his early and influential commentary on Guhyagarbhatantra and his vociferous defense of Tibet's Dzogchen tradition––affirm his place as the first of the three luminaries of the Nyingma tradition, alongside Longchenpa and Ju Mipam Gyatso.

Tsarong Dasang Damdul was one of the most powerful and wealthy men in Tibet during the first half of the Twentieth Century, holding the posts of Minister, Commander-in-Chief of the Tibetan Army, and head of the Tibetan Mint and Armory. A reformer, he created Tibet's first modern army but was but was prevented from implementing his plans by members of the Tibetan government who perceived the military as independent organization free from governmental oversight and hence a threat.

Kalu Rinpoche was one of the most prominent Tibetan lamas of the twentieth century, active in both exile communities and in the West. As a young man he spent over a decade in isolated retreat, coming out only to serve as retreat master at Tsādra Rinchen Drak. Although never formally enthroned, he was commonly recognized as a reincarnation of Jamgon Kongtrul. In exile he settled in India, where he was a primary teacher to many contemporary Kagyu lamas and served as the main propagator of the Shangpa Kagyu tradition. In the later decades of his life he traveled multiple times to Europe and North America, where he established dharma centers and three-year retreat centers and initiated the translation of Kongtrul's Treasury of Knowledge into English.

Longchenpa is considered one of the greatest philosophers and authors of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In his many writings he brought together disparate strands of Dzogchen teachings, both those based on Indian scriptures and on revelations. He trained in both Kadam and Sakya monasteries before receiving the Dzogchen Nyingtik transmissions from his teacher Kumārarāja and in visions. Briefly banished from Tibet, he fathered children and established teaching lineages in Bhutan.

Chogyam Trungpa was one of the twentieth century's earliest and most influential Tibetan teachers in the West. An advocate of the creation of a Western Buddhist tradition, he was the founder of the Vajradhatu and the Shambhala organizations, and was the author of some of the most widely-read books on Buddhism for Western audiences. Born and trained in Tibet, he fled to India in 1959 and then to England in 1963. Charismatic and controversial, he created institutions that for many were means to traverse the path to liberation, and for others sites of addiction and sexual abuse. After crashing a car in 1967, resulting in life-long physical debilitation, he disrobed and began to adopt Western counter-cultural forms of expression and behavior. In 1970 he moved to North America where he founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, in 1974, and, with Pema Chödron, Gampo Abbey in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1983, as well as many temples and dharma centers around the globe. He died at the age of forty-eight from cirrhosis of the liver brought on by alcoholism.