Menchukhawa, who was one of Dölpopa’s fourteen major disciples, studied extensively as a youth at Sakya and other monasteries. While he was studying at Sakya, the goddess Vajravarahi appeared to him in a dream and urged him to meet Dölpopa. Menchukhawa then received countless teachings from Dölpopa and some of his other major disciples. In later life Menchukhawa mostly lived and taught in Central Tibet, spreading the Jonang view and the teachings of the Kalacakra tradition. Menchukhawa was born in Kyishö Tölung (skyid shod stod lung) in Central Tibet. Up to the age of eight years he studied Tibetan opera, art, sculpture, and reading and writing. When he was thirteen years old he went to Sangpu (gsang phu) Monastery, where he received ordination as a novice monk. He studied epistemology, the vehicle of the perfections, and the monastic code in various monasteries in Central Tibet. Then Menchukhawa traveled to the great monastery of Sakya (sa skya) in Tsang, where he studied subjects such as grammar, poetics, epistemology, abhidharma, the monastic code, and the Hevajra Tantra under the master Jikmey Drakpa (‘jigs med grags pa). He remained there for five years. During that time the Sakya master Jamyang Zhitokpa (‘jam dbyangs bzhi thog pa) invited the Dharma lord Dölpopa to teach at Sakya. The evening before Dölpopa’s arrival, Menchukhawa had a dream of the tantric goddess Vajravarahi (rdo rje phag mo), who spoke to him: An emanation of the Kalki, the glorious Jonangpa, the omniscient being who has been your master through many lifetimes, is coming tomorrow. My son, Lodrö Gyaltsen Pal, you must receive Dharma from him! Early the next morning about 10,000 men on horseback gathered, along with thousands of monks who lined the road holding incense, victory banners, and musical instruments. They welcomed the Dharma lord Dölpopa to Sakya, inviting him to the Genden Temple (dga’ ldan gyi lha khang). Menchukhawa then received countless profound teachings from Dölpopa, including the Kalacakra initiation, many Indian scriptures of the Kalacakra cycle, the Bodhisattva Trilogy, about a dozen different traditions of the six-branch yoga, and gained special experience and realization from the practice of these teachings. He also received many explanations of the perfection of wisdom literature, madhyamaka philosophy, Severance (gcod), and the transmission of the Doha (do ha) instructions. At the age of forty-eight, Menchukhawa received profound teachings from Dölpopa’s major disciple Kunpang Chödrak Palsang (kun spangs chos grags dpal bzang, 1283?–1363?), such as the Hevajra initiation, the teachings of the Path with the Result (lam ‘bras), the Tantra Trilogy of Hevajra, and the great Vimalaprabha commentary to the Kalacakra Tantra. He also requested the Bodhisattva Trilogy and many other teachings from Dölpopa’s major disciple Jonang Lotsawa Lodrö Pal (jo nang lo tsA wa blo gros dpal, 1299–1354). Menchukhawa then studied with Dölpopa’s major disciple Choley Namgyal (phyogs las rnam rgyal, 1306–1386), especially receiving many initiations from different traditions of Guhyasamaja and Cakrasamvara. In 1358 he also traveled with Choley Namgyal to Central Tibet, and, as they were returning to Tsang, Menchukhawa was offered the hermitage of Menchu (sman chu). Choley Namgyal convinced him to accept the offer and stay in Central Tibet to teach. One evening during a period when he was focused primarily on meditation practice, Menchukhawa had a dream of the buddha Maitreya on a white lion, surrounded by the sixteen arhats, and heard him speak the Five Treatises of Maitreya. The next morning the blowing of a conch shell was heard, and Dölpopa’s major disciple Sasang Mati Panchen (sa bzang ma ti paN chen, 12941376) arrived riding a white hybrid yak-cow, accompanied by sixteen monks. Menchukhawa thought this was an exceptional omen in accordance with his dream and felt that Mati Panchen was Maitreya himself. At Menchukhawa’s insistence, Mati Panchen stayed at Menchu hermitage for one month and taught the Five Treatises of Maiteya and many other subjects, such as the Five Stages (rim lnga) of the Guhyasamaja and of the Cakrasamvara traditions. In 1369 the great Sakya master Lama Dampa Sönam Gyaltsen (bla ma dam pa bsod nams rgyal mtshan, 1312–1375) came to teach at Nyetang (snye thang) monastery in Central Tibet. On that occasion some adherents to a nihilistic view (chad lta) proclaimed that there was no emptiness beyond an emptiness of self-nature (rang stong) and maintained that ultimate reality was an absolute void (gshis lugs la cang med). Menchukhawa arrived at Nyetang and, citing authentic scriptures as witnesses, debated with them for seven days in a great display of scriptural knowledge and reasoning, destroying all their bravado. At the end of these discussions, Lama Dampa, the master Tashi Senge (bkra shis seng ge), Yakde Panchen (g.yag sde paN chen nam mkha’ bsod nams, 12991378), and other great experts were delighted and bestowed many gifts upon Menchukhawa. In 1370 Menchukhawa traveled to Babrim (‘bab rim), where he gave many teachings such as the Vimalaprabha. In 1371 he returned to the hermitage of Menchu, and also taught at the Kagyu monastery of Drigung (‘bri gung) and other monasteries in Central Tibet. In 1378 he heard that his friend Choley Namgyal (phyogs las rnam rgyal, 1306–1386), who was a major disciple of the Dharma lord Dölpopa, was again visiting Central Tibet. They met at Nyetang monastery and, at Choley Namgyal’s insistence, Menchukhawa taught in depth about Buddhist philosophical tenets. Wonderful events occurred when Menchukhawa passed away in Menchu hermitage, and there were marvelous signs during the cremation and many special relics manifested in his bones. This summary of Menchukhawa’s life is based on the work of the Jonang abbot Gyalwa Josang Palsangpo (rgyal ba jo bzang dpal bzang po): Brilliant Marvels: Abbreviated Biographies of the Great Omniscient Dharma Lord, the Spiritual Father, and His Fourteen Spiritual Sons. Chos kyi rje kun mkhyen chen po yab sras bco lnga’i rnam thar nye bar bsdus pa ngo mtshar rab gsal, 605–611. This text is included in the ‘Dzam thang dbu can edition of Dölpopa’s Gsung ‘bum, vol. 1: 559–629. The same work has also been published in Jangsem Gyalwa Yeshe (byang sems rgyal ba ye shes), Biographies of the Masters in the Lineage of the Jonangpa Tradition of Glorious Kalacakra. Dpal ldan dus kyi ‘khor lo jo nang pa’i lugs kyi bla ma brgyud pa’i rnam thar, 143–209. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2004. The following work was also used: Ngawang Losang Drakpa (ngag dbang blo gros grags pa). Moonlamp Illuminating the Glorious Jonangpa Dharma Tradition. Dpal ldan jo nang pa’i chos ‘byung rgyal ba’i chos tshul gsal byed zla ba’i sgron me, 35. Koko Nor: Krung go’i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, 1992.
Period: Early Masters (13th–16th)