Responses to frequently asked questions:
Q: Was the persecution of the Jonang in the mid-17th century in Central Tibet due to philosophical reasons?
A: No. The reason for the Geluk persecution of the Jonang during the mid-17th century in Central Tibet was motivated entirely by political interests. The 5th Dalai Lama was enthroned and backed by the Mongol Army who maintained control of Central Tibet at that time.
Due to conflicting territorial interests and struggles for power among the Rulers of Tsang in Central Tibet, the Jonang tradition found itself in opposition to the political ambitions of the 5th Dalai Lama and the Mongols. Consequently, after the passing away of Taranatha, the 5th Dalai Lama forcefully converted Jonang Damcho Ling Monastery (Phuntsok Ling) and other Jonang monasteries into Geluk monasteries, put a ban on zhentong teachings, sealed Jonang libraries, burnt texts on zhentong, and forced the Jonangpas to relocate away from their establishments in Central and Western Tibet.
Q: Is the Jonang a sub-sect of the Sakya or Kagyu traditions?
A: No. There are five major living traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Jonang mountain hermitage was established by Kunpang Thukje Tsondru, and the Jonang tradition has remained an autonomous tradition of Tibetan Buddhism ever since.
Kunkhyen Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen trained at Sakya Monastery and met with the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, he moved to Jonang in the year 1321 and later assumed leadership of Jonang Monastery, helping to define the Jonang heritage of philosophy and practice.
Q: Were Yumo Mikyo Dorje or Kunkhyen Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen the founders of the Jonang tradition?
A: No. Kunpang Thukje Tsondru established Jonang Monastery in the year 1294, initiating what has become known as the “Jonang” tradition.
Yumo Mikyo Dorje (b. 1027) was a great 11th century yogi, master of the Dro Kalachakra lineage, and a forefather of the Jonang tradition. Among the early Jonang in Tibet, he was among the first Tibetans to fully articulate what later became known as “tantric zhentong” derived from his realization of the Kalachakra. During the time of Yumo Mikyo Dorje, there was no “Jonang” tradition as there is today.
Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (1292-1361) was the 4th Abbot of Jonang mountain hermitage, and one of the great luminary figures of 14th century Tibet. His innovative works elucidating a zhentong view and the Kalachakra Tantra have become emblematic of Jonang thought and practice.