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Dzongpa Lineage


The monastery of Gongkar Choede or Gongkar Dorjeden was founded in 1464 in Tibet by the renowned saint and scholar, Thumi Kunga Namgyal (1432-96), also known as Gongkar Dorjedenpa or just Gongkarwa. Gongkar Dorjeden follows the Dzongpa tradition, a branch of the Sakya tradition, transmitted through two of the eight principal Lamdre students of the great Sakya Master, Lama Dampa Sonam Gyaltsen (1312-1375): Dzongchungwa Zungkyipelwa (1306-1389) and Thegchen Chokyi Gyalpo Kunga Tashi (1349-1425). The Ngorpa branch of the Sakya tradition came through another of Lama Dampa’s main disciples, Khenchen Palden Tsultrim, whose student Drupchen Buddhashri’s main disciple was Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo. Dorjedenpa Thumi Kunga Namgyal, so named because he was a descendent in the genealogical line of Thumi Sambota, was the foremost student of Draktopa Sonam Zangpo, who was himself a chief disciple of Thegchen Choje Kunga Tashi.


Following the tradition of his forefathers, Kunga Namgyal became the Dzongpon (governor) of Gongkar Dzong when he was 15 years old. At that time he received the vows of a lay devotee from his main lama, Draktopa Sonam Zangpo along with many teachings, including the Sakya Lamdre. Kunga Namgyal’s biography reports that he performed the functions of a governor in the daytime and that he meditated in the night on the Lamdre teachings, preventing himself from falling asleep by tying his long hair to a hook on the ceiling. At the age of 27, he received the novice vows from his uncle, Penchen Jampa Lingpa Sonam Namgyal (1400-1475). At the age of 33 he established Gongkar Dorjeden, completing the entire monastery including the paintings, furnishings and statues in one year. This was a remarkable achievement. Genyen Nampar Gyalwa alias Khyentse Chenmo painted the murals and made statues. The monastery was built in the design of the universal mandala with the main building surrounded by four Dratshang (monastic colleges). At the age of 43, Kunga Namgyal received the vows of a fully ordained monk from Penchen Jampa Linpa and established the practice of the 43 mandalas within the four tantric classes. At that time there were probably more than 2,000 monks at Gongkar Dorjeden. Among the many students of Kunga Namgyal was also Dagchen Sonam Gyaltsen, the incumbent throne-holder at Sakya. After remaining in thugdam (samadhi) for two weeks, Dorjedenpa Thumi Kunga Namgyal passed away at the age of 65. Gongkar Choede remained a very large and important monastery and over the centuries the Gongkar Choede lamas received teachings from throne-holders at Sakya and the Sakya throne-holders themselves received initiations and teachings from Gongkar masters in return. Dagchen Kunga Lodroe, for example, received initiations and teachings from five Gongkar Choede lamas.


Gongkar Dorjedenpa Tenzin Jampal Lungtok Namgyal Rinpoche (b. 1977) is the present throne-holder of the Dzongpa branch of the glorious Sakya tradition. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness Sakya Trizin recognized Rinpoche as the true reincarnation of the Dzongpa throne-holder, Dorjedenpa Thumi Kunga Namgyal. Rinpoche studied at Sakya College for nine years, under the excellent tutorship of the late Venerable Khenpo Migmar Tsering (1955-1999) and obtained both Shastri and Acharya degrees.