Tangpoche Kunga Bum

thang po che kun dga' 'bum
Birth: 1331
Death: 1402

Tangpoche, who was one of Dölpopa’s fourteen major disciples, was first educated mainly in the Sakya tradition. He was initially inspired to meet Dölpopa after seeing a copy of his General Commentary on the Doctrine. He received a vast number of teachings from Dölpopa and gained exceptional experience through the practice of meditation. Tangpoche became an active teacher of the Kalacakra Tantra and the Vimalaprabha. Tangpoche was born in upper Ling (gling stod). At seven years of age he went to Sangpu (gsang phu) Monastery and became a monk. At the age of twelve he traveled to Gungthang Chökhor Ling (gung thang chos ‘khor gling) Monastery and studied the vehicle of the perfections and epistemology for four years under the master Döndrup Pal (don grub dpal). Then Tangpoche traveled to the great monastery of Sakya (sa skya) in the region of Tsang (gtsang), where he studied the vehicle of the perfections, epistemology, abhidharma, and the monastic code under the master Jamyang Drakpa (‘jam dbyangs grags pa). At the Sakya hermitage of Khau (kha’u) up the valley from Sakya monastery, he received many tantric transmissions from the master Yeshe Pal (ye shes dpal, 1281–1365), such as the Vajrapanjara Tantra and the Samputa Tantra of the Hevajra Tantra cycle, the esoteric instructions of the protector Caturmukha (zhal bzhi pa), the Six Dharmas of Niguma, and the Six Dharmas of Naropa. He also received numerous teachings on the perfection of wisdom literature and the abhidharma from the Dharma lord Dzumpa (chos rje ‘dzum pa) at Dzum Chölung (‘dzum chos lung). During this period Tangpoche saw a copy of the Dharma lord Dölpopa’s supplication entitled A General Commentary on the Doctrine (bstan pa spyi ‘grel) and felt deep devotion toward him, realizing that Dölpopa was a great pandita. At the age of twenty-two Tangpoche traveled to Jonang monastery and met Dölpopa. When they had some conversations, it seemed that Dölpopa had opened the door to the treasury of the Dharma, and Tangpoche felt like an anthill in the presence of Mount Meru. He thought, “I have not understood the Dharma!” Tangpoche then remained with Dölpopa constantly, first receiving the great initiation of Kalacakra in 1355, as well as other initiations such as the Sakya tradition of Hevajra and the Ra (rwa) tradition of Vajrabhairava. When he received all the various guiding instructions, such as the six-branch yoga of Kalacakra, exceptional experiences arose, and he beheld the forms of the eight tathagatas and the pure realms of the buddhas. He also had visions of many deities, such as Vajrabhairava, and remained immersed in meditative concentration for five days focused on the forms of emptiness that manifested in the shape of mountains and valleys. Then he received countless further teachings from Dölpopa, such as the Bodhisattva Trilogy, the Tantra Trilogy of Hevajra, and the treatises of the vehicle of the perfections, epistemology, and abhidharma. At the age of forty-eight Tangpoche traveled to Tanak (rta nag) Monastery, where he assumed the monastic seat and gave profound teachings such as the great Vimalaprabha commentary on the Kalacakra Tantra for the next six years. At the age of fifty-seven he was invited to the Yarlung (yar lung) region in Central Tibet, where he was given a monastery and constantly taught the Vimalaprabha. When Tangpoche passed away at the age of seventy-two, his body remained immobile for five days as he rested in clear light. Various miraculous signs occurred at the time of his death and after the cremation wonderful relics manifested on his bones. This summary of Tangpoche’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, 602–605. 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, 34. Koko Nor: Krung go’i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, 1992.