Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
200th Birthday Special Edition
We are also excited to announce that Khyentse Foundation is launching Khyentse Vision Project, a new project to translate the collected works of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo from Tibetan into English.
In celebration of the birth of this great master, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche will teach on Manjushri on July 25, followed by a global recitation on Mañjushri-Nama-Samgiti. We hope that you will join us for this online global event.
“For those of us who have had a little glimpse of emptiness, compassion, and the wisdom of the Buddha, it is inspiring to learn what the great masters of the past have done and how they spent their time and energy. And among these masters, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo shines like the Morning Star. “
In the foreword to Matthew Akester’s English translation of Jamgon Kongtrul’s The Life of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche wrote,
Many of us need much more than books and teachings, no matter how profound they are. We need to have the example of an actual person who truly embodies these books and teachings in all they do – even if that person is someone from the past.
It’s like an engineer whose own life and work are inspired by knowing about the pioneers who created the first airplane, designed the Panama Canal, or sent the first man to the moon.
Likewise, for those of us who have had a little glimpse of emptiness, compassion, and the wisdom of the Buddha, it is inspiring to learn what the great masters of the past have done and how they spent their time and energy. And among these masters, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo shines like the Morning Star.
And who better to record the life of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo than one who was both the great master’s disciple and also his guru—a truly remarkable relationship that already tells us something special.
For all these reasons and more, Matthew Akester’s translation of Jamgon Kongtrul’s The Life of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, now offered by Khyentse Foundation to celebrate the master’s 200th Anniversary, must really be treasured.
Who is Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo?
And why does his life matter?
Before we dive into the biography itself, let’s read what Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche wrote in the introduction (full introduction here) to the Chinese translation of The Life of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, published by Zhang Weiming in 2008.
Hand and footprint of JKW
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Kunga Tenpe Gyaltsen, otherwise known as Pema Osel Dongak Lingpa, is the supreme example of someone who truly lived the Buddha’s teachings, and one of his many remarkable and admirable qualities was his endurance. Throughout his life he sought out more than one hundred and thirteen gurus, requested teachings from them and then, rather than just consigning those teachings and practice methods to notebooks, actually practiced and realized them. Even then he wasn’t satisfied, because he went on to gather and publish these teachings and ensured the continuation of the lineages by passing them on to many of his most trusted disciples, like Jamgon Kongtrul, Mipham Rinpoche, and Jamgon Loter Wangpo.
The purpose behind all this indefatigable activity wasn’t to win himself fame or wealth, but rather it was a response to a deep and overriding anxiety about the future of the dharma, which, during his life, was in decline in Tibet. To that end, he would seek out the holders of rare lineages, and if, for example, they happened to be illiterate, he would teach them how to read, so that he could receive the teachings and empowerments from them and ensure that no lineages would be lost. Many of the teachings of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism are only available to us today thanks to his tireless pursuit of endangered lineages.
On top of that, when he was asked which school he belonged to, he would insist on saying, “I’m a follower of Shakyamuni Buddha!”—rather than a Nyingma, or a Kagyupa, or a Sakya, or a Gelupa—to emphasize his commitment to the spirit of Rimé, which even today is considered to be quite a radical movement that encourages non-sectarianism. In the context of Tibetan history, for him to maintain such an attitude was almost inconceivable.
Actually, to describe this text as a “biography” is in itself a gross understatement, as it contains the complete path of all the yanas. With a little effort, as we listen to its words, we might even be able to realize the true meaning of its title, “rnam thar,” which means “Liberation Upon Hearing.” In any case, my hope is that at the very least some of those who read or hear this text will make a connection with Lord Manjushri himself.
In a recent interview, Matthew Akester shared some insightful stories about his connection with Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and with this book.
KF: What led you to translate the biography?
MA: I am basically a historian rather than a Buddhologist. My interest in Khyentse Wangpo began with another book project, also supported by KF, the detailed study of his pilgrims’ guidebook to central Tibet. In the years I spent researching that short book, I made use of the biography in piecing together his travels and experiences in central Tibet in the 1840s and gained some familiarity with it. When I heard that Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche was encouraging an English translation, and apparently no one else was poised to do a better job, I gulped, and decided to have a go.
There is an assumption among Buddhist practitioners that the value of this work, and the biographies of spiritual masters generally, is to inspire the reader on the path.
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s birthplace: the village of Delgo in the Terlung valley, eastern Derge.
Photo by Matthew Akester 2007
KF: In that case, how should we recommend this book to the casual reader in search of inspiration?
MA: I would say the casual reader could skip some of the laborious lists (of previous incarnations, teachings received, donations, etc.) in the “outer” life, but might enjoy parts of the 5th and 6th chapters, where Kongtrul gives us a moving portrait of the master and his outlook. A lot of 19th-century Tibetan biographical literature tends to be formalistic hagiography, not very readable, but in these passages Kongtrul shows that as well as being a supremely learned yogi and saint, his teacher was also a Khampa man who often spoke directly, even coarsely, and had tempers and impulses not usually associated with sainthood.
Most of all, the “inner” and “secret” lives provide a fascinating account of the mystic and visionary odyssey behind the compilation of the Rimé canon, bringing to life Khyentse’s extraordinary and intimate interactions with the great masters of the past.
Read the full interview. Khyentse Foundation supported the publication of Akester’s English translation and commentary of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s book Guide to Central Tibet (Serindia Publications 2016).
Khyentse Vision Project
Khyentse Foundation is excited to launch Khyentse Vision Project, another major translation project that is closely connected to the Khyentse lineage. The project aims to collect and translate the entire works of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo from Tibetan into English, as a cohesive series, to be published on a single online platform. The Khyentse Vision Project offers here its first translation work, Clouds of Offerings to Delight the Gentle Protector: A Sadhana Based on the Praise to Glorious Manjushri by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, to mark the auspicious launch of the project and in celebration of the master’s 200th birthday.
Project Director Dolma Gunther, a long-time student of both Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche, completed a 3-year retreat in France in 2000. In this interview, Dolma describes the project and discusses what inspired her to be part of this significant endeavor.
DG: Around the world there are many Vajrayana students who feel a powerful connection and devotion to Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and his legacy. As we still have the great fortune to have Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s direct incarnations in our world, it seems especially opportune to have his writings and termas translated as soon as possible, so they can be blessed, transmitted, and taught on by these masters themselves.
The Khyentse Vision Project aims to deliver an online platform where the entirety of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s writings are translated into English and collected in one place. The collection will include the original 13 volumes of Khyentse Wangpo’s writings (which are now in 24 volumes) collected in the Sangbum, and the additional Kabab-dun (Seven Transmissions) termas, instructions, and liturgies from the Rinchen Terdzö, as well as the Tsasum Ösel Nyingthig. An advanced translator training program will also be integrated into the project. Altogether there are about 16,000 Tibetan pages to be translated, which is projected to take between 20 and 30 years to complete.
Many years ago, when I learned how few of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s writings had been translated, I felt deeply inspired to initiate this project, and now, thanks to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s vision and Khyentse Foundation, the project has been made possible. As a robust expression of our profound appreciation for Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, may it be of tremendous benefit, and contribute to the flourishing of the Khyentse lineage and buddhadharma in general!
On July 25 at 4:30 PM IST, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche will give a 30 to 45 minute teaching on Manjushri, followed by a global recitation of Mañjushri-Nama-Samgiti (Chanting the Names of Manjushri). At Rinpoche’s request, we will follow a classical chant in the Newari tradition, which has been specifically recorded for this event. Join us on Zoom or YouTube. May we all make a connection with Lord Manjushri himself.
Zoom Meeting (1,000 capacity)
Meeting ID: 870 4517 8612
IN OTHER NEWS
Translating the works of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo from Tibetan into Chinese
For more than 10 years, Khyentse Foundation has been supporting Dr. John Wu in translating Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s works from Tibetan into Chinese.
Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Sungbum Project
One year ago, on the 60th anniversary of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (1893–1959), scholar and translator Adam Pearcey launched the Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Sungbum Project with support from Khyentse Foundation and the Terton Sogyal Trust. In the first year of this effort, more than 100 individual texts were published, taking the total number of English texts by or about Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö on the Lotsawa House website to more than 150. Phase One of the project aims to translate approximately 500 texts into English over the next 4 years.
Adam Pearcey working with Alak Zenkar Rinpoche, advisor of the project.
Adam is also working with others to translate and make available a number of these texts in Chinese, French, Portuguese, and other languages.
Adam believes that this work not only makes a significant contribution to the Khyentse lineage but has wider relevance as well. For example, the rich and varied compositions of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö offer insight into what it means to be a major lineage holder and prolific author in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, particularly during a turbulent period.
French Translation of The Life and Times of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Completed
With full support from Khyentse Foundation, Anne and Sarah Rinzin Benson of Éditions Padmakara have just completed the translation of The Life and Times of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö by H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Orgyen Topgyal Rinpoche, from Tibetan and English into French. The book, titled La vie et le monde de Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, will be published and be available to purchase from Padmakara in September 2020.
KF also supported the English version of this book, which was published by Shambhala Publications in 2017.
The application window for Ashoka Grants is now open; we are accepting applications from July 15 through Aug 15, 2020. For details, visit the application page.