The first-ever extensive biography of Tibet's most famous nonsectarian Buddhist lama
Known as the “king of renunciates,” Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye (1813–1899) forever changed the face of Buddhism through collecting, arranging, and disseminating the various lineage traditions of Tibet across sectarian lines. His extensive treasury collections of profound Buddhist teachings continue to be taught and transmitted throughout the Himalayas by all major traditions and represent the breadth and profundity of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and practice.
Jamgon Kongtrul was a polymath, dedicated retreatant, ritual expert, writer, and teacher from the eastern Tibetan kingdom of Derge. During the nineteenth century, while central Tibet experienced extreme sectarian divides, Jamgon Kongtrul, along with Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Chokgyur Lingpa, set about collecting, teaching, and transmitting the major practice traditions found in Tibet. Their activity—much of which did not adhere to the traditional divides of the Tibetan “schools” and included both tantric lineages coming from India as well as Tibetan treasure (terma) lineages—is one of the finest examples of Tibetan ecumenism, or Rimay, and Jamgon Kongtrul is perhaps the most famous among Tibet’s Rimay masters.
This is the most accessible work available on Jamgon Kongtrul’s life, writings, and influence, written as a truly engaging historical biography. Alexander Gardner provides an intimate glimpse into the life of one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist teachers to have ever lived.
About the Author
ALEXANDER GARDNER is Director and Chief Editor of the Treasury of Lives. Alex completed his PhD in Buddhist Studies at the University of Michigan in 2007.
“Jamgon Kongtrul’s life is a living example of a truly nonsectarian, or Rimay, master. He was dedicated to his own lineage and, at the same time, preserved and propagated all other lineages with the same degree of respect and care. His biography has been a source of inspiration and guidance throughout my life.”—Ringu Tulku, author of The Ri-me Philosophy of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great
“A monumental biography of Tibetan Buddhism’s towering figure. Alex Gardner has given us a meticulously researched and utterly engaging history of one of Tibet’s most important intellectuals, immersing us in this epic life of politics, tradition, and visionary innovation. If you want to understand the historical roots of contemporary Tibetan Buddhism in all its richness, begin here.”—Kurtis Schaeffer, Professor of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, University of Virginia
“Jamgon Kongtrul is one of the towering figures of recent Tibetan intellectual and religious history. In this groundbreaking biography, by turns funny, moving, and beautiful, Alex Gardner has opened up the life and work of an extraordinary individual and his fascinating time and place. Readers meeting Kongtrul for the first time will be gripped by this vividly written life story, while scholars of Asian studies, Buddhism, and Tibetan studies will find this book indispensable.”—Annabella Pitkin, Assistant Professor of Buddhism and East Asian Religions, Lehigh University
"...a reverent and human portrayal of Kongtrul. Readers interested in the formations of Tibetan Buddhism will take great interest in Gardner’s in-depth reconstruction of Kongtrul’s life."—Publishers Weekly