The Treasury of Lives




Khyenrab Wangchuk Drakpa Zangpo

b.late 14th cent. - d.mid 15th cent.

Drakpa Zangpo was an early Geluk master born in Markham and active in central Tibet where he taught widely. He briefly studied with Tsongkhapa, but mostly trained at Sangpu, imbibing that monastery's ecumenical culture.

Śākya Chokden

b.1428 - d.1507

Śākya Chokden was one of the most important thinkers of the Sakya tradition. His teachers were Rongton Sheja Kunrik, Donyo Pelwa and Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo. A thinker who accepted both the rangton and zhentong, or  "self-empty" and "other empty" views of Madhyamaka, Śākya Chokden's seat was at Serdokchen Monastery near Shigatse in Tsang. Influential and controversial in his own day, his writings fell out of favor over time and many were banned in the seventeenth century.

Jigme Kelzang was one of the foremost disciples of Dodrubchen Jigme Trinle Ozer and an important master in his own right. He spread the Longchen Nyingtik teachings in areas of Amdo and the Chinese border region. Following accusations from sectarian rivals he was imprisoned upon the orders of the Chinese emperor. Maksar Paṇḍita Kunzang Tobden Wangpo arranged for him to be freed, but what happened to him afterwards remains something of a mystery. Tradition holds that he ultimately sacrificed his life when he was executed in place of an unknown criminal in China. His writings include a popular guide to the generation and perfection stages of Vajrayāna practice.

Sonam Chopel

b.1595 - d.1658
TBRC P4436

Desi or Depa Sonam Chopel, also known as Sonam Rabten, exercised secular power over all or most of Tibet as the Fifth Dalai Lama's Desi. As the former Treasurer of the Fourth Dalai Lama, Sonam Chopel became the Chakdzo, Manager and Principal Attendant of the Fifth Dalai Lama from the time of his investiture, and in 1642 he became the Dalai Lama's Desi, or viceroy, regent or prime minister. Under Sonam Chopel's leadership and thanks to both Mongol military assistance and the pre-eminence of the Fifth Dalai Lama as a religious leader, the Geluk tradition rose to govern most of Greater Tibet. Subject to intermittent interference from neighboring countries, the government Sonam Chopel helped to found continued to rule at least the main area of central Tibet for over 300 years.

Dondrub Rinchen

b.1309 - d.1385
TBRC P1558

Choje Dondrub Rinchen was a Kadam master from Amdo who, after studying in central Tibet, established Shadrung and Jakhyung monasteries. He was Tsongkhapa's first teacher, the man who gave him his novice vows as well as the ordination name of Lobzang Drakpa,  and he remained a major source of guidance and inspiration throughout the latter's life.