The Treasury of Lives

The National Endowment for the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources (Division of Preservation and Access) awarded The Treasury of Lives an 18-month (2017-2019) grant to support planning for the long-term sustainability of The Treasury of Lives. The planning project supported enhancements in data management, editorial standards, refinement of dynamic map and geodata, search optimization and public engagement for the online encyclopedia.

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There are 100 biographies Sponsored by National Endowment for the Humanities

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.

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.

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.

The Sixth Ling Rinpoche, Tubten Lungtok Namgyel Trinle, was one of the most renowned and respected Tibetan Buddhist masters of the twentieth century. He was a student of the Second Pabongkha and of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, in whose administration he served. In 1941 he became a tutor to the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and, in 1964, he was elevated to the position of the Ninety-Seventh Ganden Tripa, the first man to hold the position in exile. During his tenure he supervised the reestablishment of Geluk institutions in India. Ling Rinpoche traveled extensively to Europe, the Americas, and East Asia.

Pawo Wangchuk Tengpa was the most celebrated Tibetan guerilla commander in the Gyeltang region of south-eastern Tibet. His fame evolved through civil and military leadership from 1927 through 1964, including over two decades of active armed resistance that ended with the People Liberation Army's annexation of Tibet. After a violent standoff with the PLA and his surrender in exchange for ransom and peace in the region, he assumed civil leadership under Communist Chinese rule and was respected by Chinese Communists and Tibetans, including his fellow guerilla members in Tibet and exile.

Khyentse Chokyi Wangchuk was a reincarnation of his uncle, Jamyang Chokyi Wangpo. He studied with Adzom Drukpa and Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, who would replace him as the Khyentse incarnation of Dzongsar. He was also a disciple of Kunga Pelden, with whom he resided in that lama's later years. Although he revealed several treasure cycles, none survived the chaos of the Communist takeover of Tibet. Khyentse Chokyi Wangpo died in Chinese prison.

Tokden Orgyen Tenzin was a Chod practitioner who lived most of his life in caves around the Derge region during the first half of the twentieth century. He was a student of Adzom Drukpa and the paternal great-uncle and teacher of Namkhai Norbu.

Jamyang Chokyi Wangpo was one of the multiple simultaneous reincarnations of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Identified by Loter Wangpo, he was enthroned at Dzongsar in 1897. He studied there and at Adzom Gar and Dzogchen Monastery. He died at the age of fifteen.

Shatra Peljor Dorje was a twentieth-century Tibetan government official who was involved in international relations between Tibet, Britain, Russia, and Qing China. He was one of the few high-ranking officials who was familiar with the foreign affairs in the government during this period. While anti-British sentiment was dominant in Lhasa at the turn of the twentieth century, he attempted to pursue a more conciliatory policy on the relations with British India. He briefly fell from power during the Younghusband invasion, but regained his status and accompanied the Thirteenth Dalai Lama to India in 1910. Amid the rising tension between Tibet and Republic of China, he was appointed as a main Tibetan negotiator at the Simla Conference and collaborated with Henry McMahon on the border of Tibet and eastern India.

Tubten Lhundrub

b.1906 - d.1955
TBRC P3542

Tubten Lhundrub was a medical doctor and astrologer who was educated and taught at the Mentsikhang in Lhasa. A monk, he served as the personal physician of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and traveled with him to Beijing in 1954.

Khyenrab Norbu

b.1883 - d.1962

Khyenrab Norbu was one of the leading Tibetan physicians of the Tibetan medical tradition in the twentieth century. He was the dean of Chakpori Tibetan Medical Institute and Lhasa Mentsikhang and has served as the personal physician of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. He trained disciples who later served as personal physicians to the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

Ngawang Nyima was Dezhung Rinpoche's paternal uncle and first caregiver and teacher at Tarlam Monastery. He spent most of his life in retreat at Dzinda Hermitage.

Dampa Rinpoche Ngawang Lodro Zhenpen Nyingpo served as the Sixty-Fifth Ngor Khenchen, from around 1922 to 1924, and again from 1926 to 1927. He was a student of Khenpo Zhenga at Dzogchen Monastery, and was a primary transmitter of the Compendium of Sādhanas and the Compendium of Tantras of Loter Wangpo.

Ngawang Yonten Gyatso, known as the Bhutan Khenpo and Lakha Khenpo, was a lama from Gawa, northwestern Kham, who served as the Sixty-Ninth Ngor Khenchen. He was the nephew of two famous Sakya lamas of the region, Ga Lama Jamyang Gyeltsen and Lama Gendun. During his tenure at Ngor, from 1933 to 1936, and in the decades following, he was an ardent crusader against the worship of Dorje Shugden, and he successfully banned the cult in Ngor-affiliated monasteries across northwestern Kham. He died in Chinese prison around the year 1963.

Ga Lama Gendun was a Sakya monk from Gapa, northwestern Kham. He was the brother of Jamyang Gyeltsen and a teacher of Dezhung Rinpoche. He assisted his teacher Khenpo Zhenga set up the monastic college at Jyekundo Monastery and served as the abbot of the college at Ngor.

Nyiga Kunga Nyima was a teacher and hermit at the Dzinda Neseb retreat center near Tarlam Monastery, where he lived for some sixty years. He gave monastic ordination to the Third Dezhung Rinpoche in 1912.

The Sixteenth Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpai Dorje, was one of the most influential Tibetan teachers of the Twentieth Century. Trained in Tibet, he established his seat in exile at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. He was a lover of animals who was particularly fond of birds, and is said to have liberated many of them upon death. Known for his personal presence and ritual mastery, he was a central figure in the transmission of Karma Kagyu teachings to contemporary society, both Tibetan communities in exile and the wider global population, through countless ritual transmissions and multiple tours of Asia and the West.

Jampa Gyeltsen Lhalungpa was the eldest son of Gyeltsen Tharchin Lhalungpa, who served as the Nechung oracle in the early twentieth century. He began his education with his younger brother, scholar Lobsang Phuntsok Lhalungpa, in the secular schools of Lhasa. He later became a monk affiliated with the Gyelrong Khamtsen of Drepung Loseling, and a monk-official in the Tibetan Government in 1938. As a member of Lhalu Tsewang Dorje's staff in Kham, he fought against oncoming Chinese troops and was briefly imprisoned. In 1959 he took part in resistance to the Chinese occupation of Lhasa and was sentenced to twenty-two years of hard labor. Released in 1981 in Lhasa, he suffered from the lasting physical effects of his imprisonment. He worked as a caretaker on the grounds of the Lukhang, where he organized an unsanctioned Tibetan school for children, which became so popular that as many as one hundred students attended each day.

Karma Chopel

b.1930 - d.1999
TBRC P6324

Karma Chopel was a doctor of traditional Tibetan medicine who trained under Khyenrab Norbu at the Mentsikhang in Lhasa, where he later served as head of the medical research department. He taught in the Tibetan Medicine Department at the Tibet University and traveled internationally to speak on Tibetan medicine.

Takla Norbu

b.1889 - d.1958
TBRC P1271

Takla Norbu was a twentieth-century Tibetan doctor. He was trained at Dodrubchen and Pelpung monasteries and practiced mainly in the Golok region. Famous for his miraculous cures, he is credited with introducing moxibustion to the region.

Trinle Chodron, better known as Nyemo Ani, was a nun from a large tenant family that lived on a Lhalu estate in central Tibet. After a period of illness, she sought the assistance of a local lama and became empowered to act as a medium. She often channeled Ani Gongme Gyelmo, a spirit from the Gesar of Ling pantheon. She became known for healing and divinations at the same time as pervasive dissatisfaction with Communist reforms in her village led to factional conflict between two groups, known as Nyamdrel and Gyenlok. Becoming allied with Gyenlok, which opposed the existing Party structure, she encouraged resistance and armed attacks on local cadres that culminated in a period of violent attacks in June of 1969. She was eventually captured by PLA forces and executed in Lhasa in 1970.

Samten Gyatso was a maternal uncle and the main teacher of Tulku Urgyen. He was one of the main compilers and propagators of the revelations of Chokgyur Lingpa, his maternal grandfather. He transmitted the revelations to the Fifteenth Karmapa, and was briefly a tutor to the Sixteenth Karmapa.

The Third Belmang was a Geluk lama based at Labrang Monastery in Amdo. He served as abbot of Amchok and Shitsang monasteries as well as two monastic colleges at Labrang.

The Fourth Belmang was a Geluk lama based at Labrang Monastery in the early twentieth century. His elder brother was the Fifth Zhamyang Zhepa, and his family used their status to gather power and influence in the region.

Tsongkha Lhamo Tsering was a Tibetan militant in anti-Communist activities, initially on behalf of the Nationalist Government and later for Tibetan resistance organizations such as the Four Rivers Six Ranges Force. He was trained by the CIA and largely based in Darjeeling. His history of the anti-Communist campaigns was published in eight volumes with the English title Resistance

Lobzang Mingyur Dorje, often credited as L.M. Dorje, was a scholar, teacher, and translator. He collaborated on major projects with Indian and Western Tibetologists including Sarat Chandra Das, George Roerich, and W.Y. Evans-Wentz, although his contributions for the most part failed to be acknowledged in print. Trained from childhood at Yiga Choling in Ghum, Darjeeling, he studied with its founder Abbot Sokpo Sherab Gyatso. He was Head Lama of Darjeeling High School, teaching there for thirty years before retiring in 1930. In 1931 he joined the staff of the Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute where he collaborated on numerous projects with George Roerich. In his later years he was a Lecturer in Tibetan at Calcutta University. A second edition of L.M. Dorje's Tibetan Primer was published in 1938 and his Tibetan Reader in three volumes was published in 1969, both by Calcutta University.

Konchok Peldron

b.1850? - d.1930?
TBRC P8LS76436

Konchok Peldron was a renowned practitioner of the revelations of her father, Chokgyur Lingpa, and is credited with preserving most of the chant melodies for the traditions' rituals. She married Orgyen Chopel, a scion of the influential Tsangsar family in Nangchen. Her four sons were all prominent holders of Chokgyur Lingpa's revelations: Samten Gyatso, Lama Sangngak, Tersey Tulku, and Chime Dorje, the father of Tulku Urgyen.

Tulku Urgyen

b.1920 - d.1996
TBRC P9901

Tulku Urgyen was considered one the greatest Dzogchen and Mahāmudrā meditation teachers of the twentieth century, and was the premier holder of the revelations of Chokgyur Lingpa, his great-grandfather. He founded Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling, one of the main Tibetan Buddhist exile monasteries in Kathmandu, where he welcomed scores of Western students alongside many Tibetans. A student and close colleague of the Sixteenth Karmapa, his main teacher was his uncle, Samten Gyatso. He was the father to four contemporary teachers: Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tsike Chokling Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and Mingyur Rinpoche.

Lobzang Wanggyel was a Tibetan medical doctor who trained in Lhasa under Khyenrab Norbu in the mid twentieth century. He married into the Kundeling family, joining the Lhasa aristocracy, and, partly as a result, spent ten years in a Communist prison. He practiced medicine during his incarceration and in Lhasa on his release until leaving Tibet in 1983. In India he served in the administration of the Dharamsala Mentseekhang and as a senior personal physician to the Dalai Lama.

Doctor Tenzin Chodrak was a Tibetan doctor who practiced in Tibet and exile for over seventy years. He was trained at the Lhasa Mentsikhang in the 1940s and later served as the personal physician of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. The PRC government imprisoned him from 1959 to 1975. Upon coming to exile in India, Tenzin Chodrak was accredited for conferring the textual transmissions and practical instructions on the traditional Tibetan ways of refining mercury to physicians outside Tibet. In the 1980s, he contributed to strengthening the Mentseekhang Institute in Dharmasala. He also traveled internationally and gave lectures on Tibetan medicine.

Khandro Tsering Chodron, known to many simply as Khandro-la, was the wife of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. Following their marriage in 1948 she lived at Dzongsar and received instruction from tutors and lamas including Khyentse Chokyi Lodro himself. She accompanied Chokyi Lodro when he left Dzongsar in 1955 and travelled to Lhasa and then into Sikkim and India. After Khyentse Chokyi Lodro's death in 1959, she lived for more than four decades in the presence of his reliquary stūpa, at the Royal Chapel in Gangtok, Sikkim, in simple conditions. She moved to France in 2006 and remained there until her death in 2011, after which a golden-domed memorial stupa was constructed to house her relics. Even though she never formally taught or gave empowerments, she was widely revered, even among senior Tibetan Buddhist teachers, for the sanctity of her presence, and for her humility, devotion, and playful humour.

Samten Gyatso

b.1921 - d.1979

Samten Gyatso was a scholar from Amdo who played a major role in the modernization of Tibetan language, education, and publication before and after the Cultural Revolution. He significantly contributed to the preservation of the Tibetan language during the politically troubled years of the 1960s and 1970s. Despite the success of his 1978 New Tibetan Dictionary, which was revised and expanded in 2015, his contributions remain overlooked in Western scholarship on Tibetan culture.

Pelden Chime Takpai Dorje was the forty-fifth king of Derge and one of the last to rule the kingdom. He was enthroned following the Nyarong War, and was indebted to Lhasa for Tibetan intervention. He lost the support of his local chieftains as Derge fell into factional fighting, during which his Tibetan wife and younger son attempted to supplant him. The factionalism ultimately resulted in his abduction, alongside his wife and two sons, by the Qing governor-general of Sichuan. He died in 1898 either in custody in Chengdu or soon after being released.

Jampel Rinchen was the son of the Derge king Pelden Chime Takpai Dorje and his Tibetan wife Tseten Dolkhar. In 1896 he was abducted together with his family by the governor-general of Sichuan, during which time his parents died. On his return to Derge around 1898, his elder brother Dorje Sengge was named king. Jampel Rinchen was assigned the abbacy of the royal monastery, Lhundrubteng, but spent the next three decades in armed conflict with his brother in an attempt to claim the throne. He ultimately fled to Lhasa where he was given a place in the Tibetan aristocracy, and accompanied the Thirteenth Dalai Lama to India in 1910.

Dorje Sengge

b.1877 - d.1919
TBRC P8LS76450

Dorje Sengge, known as Aja, is numbered by standard histories of Derge as the forty-sixth king. The eldest son of Pelden Chime Takpai Dorje, he defended his claim to the throne against his brother Jampel Rinchen for several decades. In 1908 he was deposed by the Chinese general Zhao Erfeng and sent to Batang, later briefly returned to Derge, and was taken to Lhasa, where he passed away.

Dokhar Tsewang Norbu was a Lhasa aristocrat and civil servant in the Lhasa government, who served as cabinet minister, or kalon, from 1871 to 1890. His family, Dokhar, was also known as Rakashar. According to Shakabpa he was a general during the Nyarong War, although he is not identified as such in Petech's account of his career. His daughter, Tseten Dolkhar, married the Derge king Chime Takpai Dorje in 1870.

Jago Tobden

b.1898 - d.1960
TBRC P8LS76452

Jago Tobden was a Derge aristocrat who was a major political leader in Kham during the first half of the twentieth century. Educated in an elite school in Lhasa while his family was in exile in central Tibet, he returned to Derge with the Tibetan army in 1918 and spent the next three decades building his family's power. A shrewd opportunist, he forged temporary alliances with every political power in the region, including the Tibetan aristocrats, the Tibetan occupying army, the Derge court, the Chinese warlord and Nationalist Liu Wenhui, and, finally the Communist leadership, all the while building his own power base in the Yilhung region of Derge. 

Jigme Tsewang Dudul was the last king of Derge. He was the son of Dorje Sengge, who competed with his brother for the throne of the kingdom over the course of several decades. He was four years old when his father passed away, and during his infancy the Eleventh Situ served as regent. He was enthroned in 1926, and married Jamyang Pelmo, a Nangchen princess, in 1938. Their son, Orgyen Kyab, was born in 1940. Over the course of his short life, control of Derge, its internal administrative structures drastically weakened by his father and uncle's civil war, passed between Lhasa, the Chinese warlord Liu Wenhui, and Republican and Communist China.

Orgyen Kyab

b.1940 - d.1992
TBRC P8LS76457

Orgyen Rigdzin Jigme Garwang Dorje, also known as Orgyen Kyab and Lhase Uga, was the son of the last king and queen of Derge. When he was about eleven years old the kingdom was abolished and absorbed into the People's Republic of China. He was thus never enthroned.

Jamyang Pelmo was the last queen of Derge. Her father was a king of Nangchen. She married Tsewang Dudul, the last king of Derge, in 1938, and gave birth to their son, Orgyen Kyab, in 1940. Following Tsewang Dudul's death in 1942 she assumed control of the Derge government, receiving titles from the Chinese Communist government when they established control of Derge in 1950.

Jago Tsewang Drolma was a Derge aristocrat who participated in the civil war between two Derge princes in the early twentieth century. She followed the losing brother, Jampel Rinchen, to Lhasa where she raised her two sons as Tibetan aristocrats. When Lhasa forces took control of Derge in 1918 she restored her family to their former status there, ensuring the appointment of her son Jago Tobden to the government office held by his father and grandfather. 

Chokyi Wozer

b.1889 - d.1960
TBRC P5941

Chokyi Wozer was a founding teacher and the second abbot of Khamshe College of Dzongsar Monastery, serving from 1920 to 1929. He was a close disciple of the college's first abbot, Khenpo Zhenga, having studied with him for decades before helping him establish Khamshe. He also taught at Pelpung and at Wonto, where he established the monastic college and where Namkhai Norbu was one of his students.

Dezhung Chopel Jamyang Kunga Namgyel was the fifth abbot of Khamshe College, from 1935 to 1940. 

Dosib Tubten Gyeltsen was the seventh abbot of Khamshe, the monastic college of Dzongsar Monastery. He served from 1943 to 1950.

Khangmar Rinchen Dorje was the sixth abbot of Khamshe, the monastic college of Dzongsar Monastery, from 1940 to 1943.

Damcho Wozer

b.1908? - d.1960?
TBRC P9907

Damcho Wozer was the eighth abbot of Khamshe, the monastic college of Dzongsar Monastery, from 1951 to 1955.

Khyenrab Sengge

b.1911 - d.1970
TBRC P9906

Khenrab Sengge was the ninth abbot of Khamshe, serving from 1955 to 1958, when the college was destroyed.

Pema Kunzang Rangdrol was a twentieth-century lama who spent decades receiving teachings and transmissions until he held almost every lineage available in his lifetime. The record of all that he received ran to around 400 pages. His main teacher was Adzom Gyelse Gyurme Dorje, but he studied with several other teachers mainly from the Nyingma school. He began to pass on some of what he received but was soon caught up in the turmoil of the late 1950s and eventually imprisoned for twenty-two years. Upon his release, he remained mostly in retreat in his hermitage of Karma Lhateng near Muksang, but he also taught for a while at Dzogchen Monastery’s Śrīsiṁha College. His writings address a variety of topics and include a nonsectarian history of the Dharma.

Lobzang Dorje

b.1893 - d.1983
TBRC P9371

Akong Khenpo Lobzang Dorje of Dartang Monastery was one of very few people to meet and receive teachings from Dodrubchen Jigme Tenpai Nyima after he had retired to his hermitage. He also studied with the four great khenpos of Dodrubchen Monastery and received a thorough training in Geluk philosophy at Amchok Tsenyi. In later life he became renowned for ordaining more than a thousand monks and for his monumental The Circle of the Sun, a commentary on Śāntideva’s classic, the Bodhicaryāvatāra, for which he took Patrul Rinpoche's outline as a basis. He lived to the age of ninety.

Tsatrul Rinpoche was a twentieth-century Geluk monk and scholar of Tibetan language and poetics. He was a member of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama's entourage when the Tibetan leader was in China and India and played a significant role in Tibetan state affairs as the Dalai Lama's confidant at the beginning of the twentieth century. He visited Japan in 1911 and stayed there for approximately one year on the Dalai Lama's orders and thereby established close relations with Japanese monks from Nishi Hongan-ji Temple.

Khangsar Dechen Wangmo was the ninth chieftain of Kandze, one of the few female political leaders in the history of Kham.

Chime Drolma was a daughter of the powerful Gyari family in Nyarong who was active in anti-Chinese activities during the first half of the 1930s.

Khangsar Yangchen Drolma was a female chieftain in early twentieth-century Kham. The seventh chieftain of the Khangsar family based in Kandze, she expanded the family's influence and wealth.

Drayab Tubten Zangpo

b.1891? - d.1930?

Drayab Tubten Zangpo was a student of Khenpo Zhenga and a teacher at multiple monastic colleges in central Tibet during the 1920s and 1930s, including Sakya, Ngor, Dreyul Kyetsel, and Samye.

Dezhung Rinpoche is considered one of the most highly learned Tibetan lamas of his generation. He was knowledgeable in doctrine and history, and taught both extensively, most famously at the University of Washington in Seattle. Trained in pre-Communist Tibet, he moved almost constantly among monasteries to receive teachings from multiple traditions, mainly in the Sakya. His incarnation line's seat was in Litang, but trained primarily in the Jyekundo and Derge regions. Chief among his many teachers was Gaton Ngawang Lekpa. In the 1950s his niece Jamyang Dagmola married Dagchen Rinpoche and together they settled in Seattle in the early 1960s. Among his many American students were Gene Smith, David Jackson, Janet Gyatso, Elisabeth Benard, and Cyrus Stearns. After retiring from the University he taught at dharma centers across North America. At the end of his life he reestablished one of his monastic seats, Tharlam Monastery, in Boudanath, Kathmandu, where he passed away in May 1987.

Drumpa Namgyel Gyeltsen

b.1898 - d.1930

Drumpa Namgyel Gyeltsen was the nephew of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. He began his military career at a young age, training with the British at Gyantse in 1915. He was later named assistant commander-in-chief of the army working alongside General Tsarong. After Tsarong was removed, he was appointed commander-in-chief in 1925 but was dismissed in 1929. He died shortly after in 1930.

Tsewang Yishey Pemba

b.1931 - d.2011

Dr. Tsewang Yishey Pemba, born into a Tibetan family that worked for the British Mission in Tibet, was a surgeon in London and a fellow of the British Royal College of Surgeons. He also served at the Central School for Tibetans, the new Tibetan refugee school, and helped found a hospital in Bhutan. His professional accomplishments were matched by his literary accomplishments. He wrote Idols on the Path, an early English-language Tibetan novel, and an autobiography titled Young Days in Tibet.

Sonam Dekyi


Sonam Dekyi of the Marlampa family grew up in Nyemo on her family's estate and also in Lhasa, where she lived with her uncle, a government official. In her youth she studied at the Nyarongsha School and also worked with her older sister managing the crops on their estate. She married Trinle Namgyel of the Dekhar family, which was headed by Lukhangwa Tsewang Rabten, a prominent government official who served as acting prime minister in the early 1950s.

Lobzang Tashi

b.19th cent. - d.1904/1909
TBRC P6682

Langdung Lobzang Tashi was the older brother of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. He began his career as a monk official and later disrobed, marrying into the household of the Drumpa family, which owned estates in Dakpo and a home in Lhasa. He served as a guide for Qing Amban Wen Hai, likely on his travels to Pari and southern Tibet.

Pema Dolkar was born into the aristocratic Tsarong family in Lhasa. After her father, Tsarong Wangchuk Gyelpo, and brother, Tsarong Samdrub Tsering, were murdered, she married Tsarong Dasang Damdul as means of continuing the family's bloodline. Along with her own two children, she cared for the children of her husband's marriages to her sisters, and also managed the grand Tsarong mansion located in the outskirts of Lhasa. She was host to many foreign dignitaries and explorers throughout the early twentieth century including Charles Bell, Frederick Spencer Chapman, Heinrich Harrer, and Theos Bernard.

Lhalung Gyeltsen Tarchin

b.1893 - d.1962?

Lhalung Gyeltsen Tarchin served as the Nechung Oracle, the state oracle of Tibet, in the early twentieth century. From a young age, he was immersed in the rituals of Nechung under the tutelage of his uncle, Shākya Yarpel, the eleventh Nechung Oracle. His formal religious education was at Drepung Deyang Dratsang. He was dismissed from his post following an investigation into the management of funds at Nechung. Although he was invited to return to his position, he declined and started a family, taking over the estates of the Drumpa family. He was known as a highly learned and pious man who embraced teachings of a variety of traditions. By 1962 he was imprisoned in a Chinese labor camp. Refusing to give a false confession, he remained in detention and died in the early 1960s.

Chime Dorje

b.1884 - d.1948

Chime Dorje was the father of Tulku Urgyen. Although recognized as an incarnation, his mother, Konchok Peldron, refused to allow him to be enthroned and so he lived as a householder. A Barom Kagyu lama by paternal inheritance, like his mother and three brothers he was a primary transmitter of the treasure revelations of his maternal grandfather, Chokgyur Lingpa, during the first half of the twentieth century.

Lama Sangngak

b.1885 - d.1949?

Lama Sangngak was a grandchild of Chokgyur Lingpa and an uncle of Tulku Urgyen. Like his mother, Konchok Peldron, and his three brothers, he was a main promoter of the revelations of Chokgyur Lingpa during the first half of the twentieth century.

Tersey Tulku

b.1889 - d.1956

Tersey Tulku was a son of Konchok Peldron, the daughter of Chokgyur Lingpa. He was a disciple of Shākya Shrī. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo identified him as the rebirth of his uncle, Konchok Peldron's brother Wangchuk Dorje. Like his mother and three brothers, he was one of the main propagators of his grandfather's treasure revelations.

Tashi Chime

b.late 19th cent. - d.mid 20th cent.

Tashi Chime was a female practitioner in Kham in the first part of the twentieth century who served as an administrator of her family's monastic estate. Her mother, Konchok Peldron, and four brothers were active in propagating the revelations of her maternal grandfather, Chokgyur Lingpa. Tulku Urgyen was her nephew.

Damcho Tsomo

b.1850? - d.1923/1926
TBRC P4822

Damcho Tsomo was the mother of the Ninth Paṇchen Lama. She was a shepherd on the estate of an aristocratic family in Dakpo when she became pregnant, possibly by a son of the family, whose identity was initially concealed. Although she could read and write, she was by all accounts unable to speak or hear. She was ordained on the same day as her eldest son and lived at Tashilhunpo until her death in 1923 or 1926.

The Ninth Paṇchen Lama, Tubten Chokyi Nyima, played a significant role in the tumultuous relationship between Tibet and China in the early twentieth-century, at a time when both Britain and Russia were increasingly influencing Tibetan policy. Unwilling to submit to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama's demands that his seat monastery of Tashilhunpo pay a substantial cost of Tibet's military modernization, the Paṇchen Lama fled to China and never returned. For the last fifteen years of his life, he served as religious teacher to Mongols and Han Chinese alike, and he performed multiple Kālacakra initiations to audiences of tens of thousands, including initiations in Beijing and Hangzhou. Much of his time was spent in Inner Mongolia ministering to the leadership and populace there, and advocating on their behalf to the Chinese Republican government, first for real autonomy within the Chinese state, and then for defense against the invading Japanese. In the mid-1930s he was employed by the Chinese government to spread Nationalist ideology to the Tibetan people, and opened offices in many borderland cities such as Xining and Dartsedo. Despite accepting this formal role, he never abandoned his conviction that Tibet deserved to be ruled by its lamas, and not from Nanjing. Negotiations for his return to Tibet were unsuccessful, as the Tibetan government was wary of his Chinese mission. The Paṇchen Lama passed away in Jyekundo, still hoping to return to Tashilhunpo.

Kunzang Tendron

b.1927 - d.2008

Jetsun Kunzang Tendron was a nun who served as abbess of Rinding Monastery near Nalendra in the 1950s. After fleeing Tibet in 1959 she worked as a schoolteacher in the exile community from the late 1960s to 1975, when she moved to her brother Chogye Trichen Rinpoche's monastery in Lumbini. She spent most of the remaining thirty years of her life in meditation.

Chime Dolkar

b.1885 - d.1966

Chime Dolkar was the mother of Chogye Trichen Rinpoche. She was born into the prominent Drangti and Rakashar families that had close ties to Sakya monasteries in central Tibet. She married Sonam Sengge Wangchuk of the Zhalu Kushang family, another important patron of Sakya monasteries.

Sonam Sengge Wangchuk

b.1873 - d.1928

Sonam Sengge Wangchuk was a member of the Zhalu Kuzhang family, prominent patrons of several Sakya monasteries in central Tibet. He was a nephew, brother, and father to abbots of Ngor and Nalendra, most famously his youngest son, the Eighteenth Chogye Trichen.

Nun of the Cemeteries

b.late 19th cent. - d.late 20th cent.

The practitioner known as Nun of the Cemeteries was a twentieth-century Tibetan itinerant practitioner. She was an outstanding disciple of Lama Ngaklo.

Sonam Drolma

b.mid 19th cent. - d.early 20th cent.

Sonam Drolma was a laywoman who was a member of the prominent Drangti family who were patrons of Ngor Monastery. She was the maternal grandmother of Chogye Trichen.

The Eighteenth Chogye Trichen was one of the most influential Sakya masters of the twentieth century. Born into a family that sent many sons into leadership positions at major Sakya monasteries in central Tibet, he was the abbot of Nalendra Monastery before going into exile in 1959. In India and Nepal, he worked in religious affairs for the Tibetan government and helped restore Sakya monasteries in Mustang, where his elder sister had married the king. He built two major Buddhist monasteries in Nepal: his main seat in Lumbini and the Maitreya Temple in Boudhanath. As one of the few lineage holders of many Sakya teachings in exile he was constantly moving across Tibetan communities to perform transmissions and empowerments. Among the main recipients of these was the Forty-First Sakya Trizin. In his final decades he traveled frequently in East Asia and made one visit each to North America and Europe.

Tsering Wangmo

b.1923/1925 - d.2022

Pema Tsering Wangmo of the Lakar family was the elder sister of Khandro Tsering Chodron and the mother of both Sogyal Rinpoche and the Seventh Dzogchen Rinpoche. Together with her husband Tsewang Paljor, she accompanied Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro on his long journey from eastern Tibet to Lhasa and then into exile in Sikkim. She remained in Sikkim for many years and then in later life moved to southern France, where she became a beloved and respected member of the community at Lerab Ling. She was widely regarded as a ḍākinī and recognized by Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang as an emanation of the deity Uṣṇīṣavijayā.

Ngawang Lodro Nyingpo was the fifty-ninth abbot of Ngor Monastery. He was considered to be the reincarnation of Ngawang Lodro Tenzin, the fifty-second Ngor abbot. With his nephew, the sixtieth Ngor abbot, he is credited with bringing Shukden worship to the Derge region. He was the paternal great-uncle of Chogye Trichen.

Ngawang Khyenrab Jampel Nyingpo was the sixtieth abbot of Ngor Monastery. He was the paternal uncle of Chogye Trichen.

Jampa Kunzang served as the seventy-first abbot of Ngor for only a few months before passing away. He was an elder half-brother of Chogye Trichen, and a close friend of Dezhung Rinpoche.

Tartse Khenpo Jamyang Kunzang Tubten Chokyi Gyeltsen served as the sixty-seventh abbot of Ngor Monastery. He served two tenures, from 1927 to 1930, and again from 1940 to 1942. He was a maternal uncle of Chogye Trichen.

Tartse Zhabdrung Namkha Zangpo

b.mid 19th cent. - d.early 20th cent.

Tartse Zhabdrung Namkha Zangpo was the maternal great-grandfather of Chogye Trichen.

Wara Zhabdrung Tenpai Nyima

b.1870? - d.early 20th cent.

Wara Zhabdrung Tenpai Nyima was a monk of the Tartse Labrang at Ngor Monastery. He was a disciple of Jamyang Loter Wangpo and a teacher to Jamyang Chokyi Lodro. His maternal nephew was Chogye Trichen.

Wara Zhabdrung Jamyang Namkha Gyeltsen

b.1930? - d.early 20th cent.

Wara Zhabdrung Jamyang Namkha Gyeltsen was an abbatial candidate of Ngor Monastery from the Tartse Labrang who spent most of his long teaching career in Kham, based at Wara Monastery, where he passed away before the year 1919. Little is known about him other than that he was a teacher and student of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.

Rigdzin Chodron

b.1893? - d.1939?

Rigdzin Chodron was a member of the Delek Rabten family by birth and joined the Tsarong family in marriage. She was widowed at a young age when her husband, Samdrub Tsering, the eldest son of the Tsarong family, was murdered along with his father. To continue the Tsarong family she married to Dasang Damdul Tsarong. She did not have any children of her own, although she was very involved in the care of her nieces, nephews and sisters-in-law. By the 1920's she had taken religious vows and lived on one of her family's estates in the Shigatse region until her death in the 1930s.

Sungrab Gyatso

b.1896 - d.1982
TBRC P1642

Sungrab Gyatso was a prominent Tibetan scholar who contributed significantly to the preservation of the Tibetan language through his work on contemporary dictionary projects, language textbooks, newspapers, radio programs, and teachers' training schools. He initiated many of the Tibetan-language projects developed under China’s occupation of Tibet, yet his legacy remains overlooked in both Tibetan and Western scholarship.

Jampa Rinchen Khyentse Wangpo was the seventeenth Chogye Trichen, the head of the Chogye Labrang and abbot of Nalendra Monastery. He was a member of the Zhalu Kuzhang family, and a paternal uncle to the Eighteenth Chogye Trichen.

Gepel Tulku was a Sakya lama from Kandze, Kham. He was renowned for his mastery of grammar and poetics, which he taught to Chogye Trichen in the 1930s at Nalendra Monastery.

Jampa Ngawang Kunga Chopel

b.1884 - d.1951

Kunga Chopel was a disciple of the Seventeenth Chogye Trichen of Nalendra Monastery and a tutor to the Eighteenth Chogye Trichen.

Lama Ngawang Lodro Rin chen, known as Lama Ngaklo, was a teacher at Nalendra Monastery in the first half of the twentieth century. He was an important teacher to Chogye Trichen. In 1949 he performed rituals at Sakya Monastery that were partially credited for the birth of the Forty-First Sakya Trizin

Jamyang Kunzang Tenpai Gyeltsen was the sixty-third abbot of Ngor Monastery, serving from 1904 to 1916/20. He was the maternal great-uncle of Chogye Trichen, to whom he gave lay vows in 1925 or 1926.

Nyendrak Tarpa

b.late 19th cent. - d.early 20th cent.

Nyendrak Tarpa was a lama of Nalendra Monastery in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He was a teacher of the Fifth Zimwok Tulku and of the Eighteenth Chogye Trichen.

Pende Khenchen Ngawang Khedrub Gyatso served as abbot of Ngor Monastery from 1936 to 1939, and from 1948 to 1951. A native of Gato, in northern Kham, he was identified as a reincarnation of the sixty-second abbot of Ngor and trained at Tarlam and Ngor. He fled Tibet in 1959 and settled in Rajpur.

Khyenrab Jigme Gyatso, also known as Won Rinpoche, was assigned in youth to the position of Chogye Zhabdrung, abbatial candidate of Nalendra from the Chogye Labrang, but he was deemed unsuitable and returned to his family. He was an elder half-brother to the Eighteenth Chogye Trichen, Lekshe Gyatso.

The Fifth Zimwok, Jampa Ngawang Kunga Tenzin Trinle was one of the major lamas of Nalendra. He was a disciple of the Seventeenth Chogye Trichen and a teacher to the Eighteenth Chogye Trichen.

Lama Gyurdrak


Lama Gyurdrak or Gyurme Drakpa was a son of Yilhungpa Sonam Namgyel, who is credited with attaining the rainbow body. After some time at Yakze Monastery, Gyurdrak became a disciple of Gyarong Khandro and Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, whom he accompanied into exile. He was the first tutor of Sogyal Rinpoche and a teacher of the American Harold Talbott, who went on to edit many books by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche. Lama Gyurdrak was also responsible for publishing several rare and important texts related to the Nyingma tradition.

Pema Tseden

b.1969 - d.2023
TBRC P1KG12950

Pema Tseden was an author and filmmaker who made an indelible mark in the world of modern Tibetan cinema with masterpieces such as Old Dog and Tharlo. Not only did he bring Tibetan voices to the attention of international cinema, but he also influenced, inspired, and supported a generation of Tibetan filmmakers. He skillfully navigated government involvement in his films, managing to highlight issues of Tibetan cultural importance. A prolific artist whose works included three collections of short stories and twenty films, Pema Tseden died suddenly in 2023 of heart failure while filming near Yamdrok Yumtso.

Kelzang Chodron

b.1901 - d.1963

Kelzang Chodron was a daughter of the prominent Zhalu Kuzhang family that provided abbots to Nalendra and Ngor monasteries. Her brother was Chogye Trichen. In 1917 she married the king of Mustang, Jampel Tenzin Dradul and lived in Mustang for the rest of her life.

Jampel Tenzin Dradul

b.1900 - d.1964

Jampel Tenzin Dradul was king of Mustang from 1913 to his death in 1964.

Yilhung Sonam Namgyel

b.1881 - d.1952/1953
TBRC P8689

Yilhungpa Sonam Namgyel was a layman who attained the rainbow body in the early 1950s. Although he lived an ordinary life in his youth, even hunting animals, later in life he received Dzogchen teachings from Yakze Terton Garwang Tekchok Lingpa and the Fifth Dzogchen Rinpoche and practiced meditation secretly at night before taking up residence in caves around the Manigango area of Kham, where he also carved mantras and buddha images in stone. Following his death in 1952/53 his body shrank. After a week only his hair and nails remained, and the tent was filled with rainbow-colored light. This attainment of the so-called rainbow body was confirmed by senior lamas in Kham and has since been reported many times, including in the autobiography of Chogyam Trungpa, who visited the scene of the event in 1954

The Third Penor Rinpoche was the head of Pelyul Monastery in Tibet and a leader of Nyingma religious activity in exile. He was trained at Pelyul and Dartang monasteries, and built Namdroling Monastery in Bylakuppe, India, after leaving Tibet in 1959. He trained scores of Nyingma teachers and clerics and built dharma centers around the world.

Horkhang Sonam Pelbar was a Tibetan aristocrat who served both the Tibetan government in Lhasa and the Chinese Communist government that replaced it in 1959. He was a dedicated career official who was also well trained in Tibetan language, culture, history, and music. A friend of Gendun Chopel's, he gathered that scholar's surviving papers and published them in 1988.

Gyarong Khandro Dechen Wangmo

b.19th cent. - d.mid 20th cent.

Gyarong Khandro Dechen Wangmo was an imposing female tantric practitioner and treasure revealer, whom Khyentse Chokyi Lodro relied upon for protection from black magic. She is credited with reopening the sacred place of Khyungtak and revealing a Vajrakīla practice there. The years of her birth and death are unknown, as are many of the details of her life, but some of her compositions and revelations survive