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.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources (Division of Preservation and Access) awarded The Treasury of Lives a 3-year (2020-2023) implementation grant for the expansion of encyclopedia content and redevelopment of its technical infrastructure to implement the principles of linked open data.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


There are 30 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

b.1888 - d.1961

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

b.1894 - d.1909

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

b.1872 - d.1951

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.

Lama Gendun Zangpo

b.1880 - d.1939

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 Gyelsten Lhalungpa

b.1921 - d.1993

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.

Ani Trinle Chodron

b.1938 - d.1970

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

b.1875 - d.1948

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?

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.

Tenzin Chodrak

b.1924 - d.2001

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.