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Buddhism Jonang
by
Michael Sheehy

Introduction

Jonang (also known as jo nang, jo nang pa, or Jonangpa) is a distinct order of Buddhism in Tibet. Early forefathers of the Jonang include Tsen Kawoché (b. 1021) and the Kālacakra master Yumo Mikyo Dorje (b. 1027). The term Jonangpa first occurred in reference to those who settled in the surrounding caves in the Jomonang (jo mo nang) valley in south-central Tibet, starting with the arrival of Kunpang Tukjé Tsöndru (b. 1243–d. 1313) in the year 1294. By the early 14th century, with the presence of Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (b. 1292–d. 1361) at the Jonang mountain hermitage, the Jonangpa community of hermits and yogis had grown to form a distinct identity with their own scholastic tradition and esoteric lineage transmissions. Dolpopa became renowned in Tibet for his innovative exegesis on Indian Buddhist philosophical literature, most notably on the Prajñāpāramitā and Kālacakra Tantra. Interpreting Buddhist sutras and tantras, Dolpopa’s works enunciate a view that qualifies relative reality to be empty of inherent existence, termed rangtong (self-empty, rang stong), juxtaposed to zhentong (other-empty, shentong, gzhan stong), that which is empty of everything other than the ultimate enlightened essence or tathāgata-garbha. These teachings on zhentong sparked historic controversy in Tibet and became a hallmark of the Jonang contemplative and philosophical tradition. By the 16th century, the Jonang order played an integral role in the religious, intellectual, and cultural life of Tibet, having established nearly thirty monasteries and formed institutional relations with the Sakya, Kagyü, and Kadampa Buddhist orders. Much of this was due to Kunga Drolchok (b. 1507–d. 1566), who assumed leadership at Jonang for nearly twenty years, and undertook the nonsectarian project of recording essential practice instructions from Tibet’s disparate Buddhist lineages. With Kunga Drolchok’s successor, the renaissance figure Tāranātha (b. 1575–d. 1635), the Jonangpa were at their historical apex, and the newly founded Takten Phuntsok Ling Monastery became the center for Jonangpa activity. Patronized by the governor of Tsang, Tāranātha’s power-seat became a political target during the rise of the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Mongol army. After Tāranātha’s death, Phuntsok Ling Monastery, along with each Jonang monastery in central Tibet, was forcefully confiscated by the Geluk order. Sequestered from their homeland, the Jonangpa made their way across the Tibetan plateau and resettled in the remote valley of Dzamthang. During the mid- to late-19th century, the Jonangpa underwent a revival with the emergence of several extraordinary Jonang masters and the Rimé eclecticism put forth by Jamgön Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. The Jonangpa continue to transmit their tradition and establish monasteries throughout far-eastern Tibet.

General Overviews

Though the field of Jonang studies is burgeoning, and there are limited sources, the following citations are the most notable contributions to date. The website of the Jonang Foundation is an extremely useful online resource because of its introductory material on Jonangpa history and thought, its database of lineage master biographies and interactive map of sites, and the Jonangpa.com blog. Ruegg 2010 is a reprint of the article that introduced the Jonangpa to English-language audiences, and it remains relevant as a legacy article. Stearns 2010 and Kapstein 1992 are the two most important sources for navigating Dolpopa’s thought and writings. Although Sheehy 2007 is a partial translation of a modern zhentong work with an informative historical introduction, Tāranātha 2005 is a translation of a key practice text for the Jonangpa. Shay-rap-gyel-tsen 2006 is a translation of the core text for understanding zhentong as presented by Dolpopa.

  • Jonang Foundation.

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    The website of the international nonprofit support organization that preserves and promotes understanding of the Jonangpa as a distinct order of Tibetan Buddhism. Includes an interactive map of Jonang sites in Tibet, biographies of Jonang masters, a library of essays and translations, and the scholarly Jonangpa.com blog.

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  • Kapstein, Matthew T. The ‘Dzam-thang Edition of the Collected Works of Kun-mkhyen Dol-po-pa Shes-rab rgyal-mtshan: Introduction and Catalogue. Delhi: Shedrup, 1992.

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    Kapstein gives us a descriptive catalogue to the Collected Works (gsung ‘bum) of Dolpopa, printed at Dzamthang and reprinted by Shedrup Books in India. One of the first major contributions, it includes an introduction to Dolpopa’s life and thought, and a translation of Dolpopa’s letter to his disciples.

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  • Ruegg, David Seyfort. “The Jo nang pas: A School of Buddhist Ontologists According to the Crystal Mirror of Philosophical Systems (Grub mtha’ shel gyi me long) [1963].” In The Buddhist Philosophy of the Middle: Essays on Indian and Tibetan Madhyamaka. By David Seyfort Ruegg, 289–322. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2010.

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    This was the first significant English-language publication on the Jonangpa. It introduced the Jonangpa and their zhentong view, though in a polemical light based on the account of a Gelukpa critic. Discusses major historical figures within Jonang history and gives extensive annotations referencing relevant source materials.

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  • Shay-rap-gyel-tsen, Döl-bo-ba. Mountain Doctrine: Tibet’s Fundamental Treatise on Other-Emptiness and the Buddha Matrix. Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2006.

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    The first English-language translation of Dolpopa’s syncretic masterpiece, the Ri chos nges don rgya mtsho. It is one of the seminal texts for understanding the mainstream zhentong view within the Jonang tradition.

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  • Sheehy, Michael. “The Gzhan stong Chen mo: A Study of Emptiness According to the Modern Tibetan Buddhist Jo nang Scholar ’Dzam thang Mkhan po Ngag dbang Blo gros grags pa (1920–1975).” PhD diss., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2007.

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    This is a translation and study of an important work on zhentong by one of the major Jonangpa authors of the modern period, the scholar Khenpo Lodro Drakpa from Dzamthang. Introduction includes a history of zhentong and the Jonangpa (see also Kapstein 1993, cited under the Contemporary Tradition).

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  • Stearns, Cyrus. The Buddha from Dolpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen. Rev. ed. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2010.

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    Includes a life account of Dolpopa, a survey of zhentong in Tibet, an examination of Dolpopa’s view, and translations of two of Dolpopa’s most important works, General Commentary on the Doctrine and the Fourth Council, with Dolpopa’s own commentary.

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  • Tāranātha. Essence of Ambrosia: A Guide to Buddhist Contemplation. Translated by Willa Baker. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 2005.

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    This is a translation of an instruction manual by Tāranātha on the ngöndro, or preliminary practices in Tibetan Buddhism. However useful the translation is, historical information in the introduction should be checked against other sources.

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Primary Tibetan Works

The Jonang literary heritage, like that of each of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, contains writings on a wide variety of genres as well as commentaries within each of the Buddhist core curricular subjects. Presented here is a sampling of some of the most important Tibetan-language works by Jonang authors. Ṅag-dban-blo-gros-grags-pa 1993 is a reproduction of the history of the Jonang, as well as a masterpiece on zhentong by this modern author from Dzamthang. Shes rab rgyal mtshan 2007 is a version of Dolpopa’s masterpiece work on zhentong, Mountain Dharma: An Ocean of Definitive Meaning. Kun dga’ grol mchog 1979–1981 is the collection of 108 Buddhist practice instructions that were compiled by a 16th-century Jonang master, and included with the Treasury of Guidance Instructions. Phyogs las rnam rgyal 2008 is one of the main Jonang commentaries on the Kālacakra and its Indian commentary, the Vimalaprabhā. Sa bzang 2008 is a commentary on the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by the famed Indian master Shantideva. Tāranātha 2008 is a compilation of short liturgies and iconographic descriptions of tantric deities (titled An Ocean of Meditational Deities).

  • Kun dga’ grol mchog. “Jo nang khrid brgya.” In Gdams ngag mdzod: A Treasury of Precious Methods and Instructions of All of the Major and Minor Buddhist Traditions of Tibet. Vol. 18. Edited by ’Jam mgon Kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas, 127–354. TBRC W20877. Paro, Bhutan: Lama Ngodrup and Sherab Drimey, 1979–1981.

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    This is a collection of 108 quintessential meditation guidance instructions that were compiled by the Jonang master Kunga Drolchok (b. 1507–d. 1565/1566), and later completed by his lineage successor Tāranātha (b. 1575–d. 1635). It is considered as one of the textual precedents for the Rimé eclecticism of the 19th century. Supplementary materials including histories, supplications, and precepts are included by Jamgon Kongtrul (b. 1813–d. 1889/1890) in the Gdams ngag mdzod for each instruction lineage.

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  • Ṅag-dban-blo-gros-grags-pa. Contributions to the Study of Jo-nang-pa History, Iconography and Doctrine: Selected Writings of ’Dzam-thang Mkhan-po Blo-gros-grags-pa. 2 vols. Collected by Matthew Kapstein and Gyurme Dorje. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1993.

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    This is a history of the Jonangpa by the modern Jonang master Khenpo Lodro Drakpa (b. 1920–d. 1975) from Dzamthang Monastery. It includes short biographies of each of the major Jonang masters in its extensive supplementary appendix. Also includes the author’s masterpiece on zhentong (see also Sheehy 2007, cited under General Overviews).

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  • Phyogs las rnam rgyal. Dus ‘khor mchan ‘grel. TBRC W1PD95814. Jo nang dpe tshogs 18–20. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2008.

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    This is one of the major commentaries on the Kālacakra Tantra within the Jonang tradition, composed by one of Dolopa’s primary disciples, Chogle Namgyal (b. 1306–d. 1386). The commentary is in the form of interlinear annotations (mchan) to the root tantra of the Kālacakra along with its own commentary, the Vimalaprabhā.

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  • Sa bzang Ma ti Paṇ chen. Spyod ‘jug sa ‘grel. TBRC W1PD95808. Jo nang dpe tshogs 12. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2008.

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    This is a commentary on the classic Indian Buddhist presentation of the bodhisattva path by Shantideva, the Bodhicaryāvatāra. It was composed by Sazang Mati Paṇchen (b. 1294–d. 1376), one of Dolpopa’s close disciples.

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  • Shes rab rgyal mtshan, Dol po pa. Ri chos nges don rgya mtsho. TBRC W2DB4612. Jo nang dpe tshogs 01. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2007.

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    This is the synthetic masterpiece on zhentong philosophical thinking about emptiness by Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (b. 1292–d. 1361). It is an anthology of sutra and tantra quotes arranged in logical presentation to provide the core canonical sources for zhentong.

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  • Tāranātha. Yi dam rgya mtsho’I sgrub thabs rin chen ‘byung gnas. In Rje btsun jo nang tA ra nA tha’i gsung ‘bum. TBRC W1PD45495. Mes po’i shul bzhag 71–73. Beijing: Krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, 2008.

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    This is Tāranātha’s compilation of sādhāna complementing meditational deities of the Sarma or New Translations traditions of Buddhist tantra in Tibet. Each includes iconographic description of the yidam deity along with an image for visualization. See also the separate Oxford Bibliographies article on Tāranātha.

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Historical Works

Although Chattopadhyaya 1990 is a translation of a Jonangpa author’s work on history (Tāranātha’s History of Buddhism in India), the other sources cited here are selections pertaining to themes related to the history of the Jonangpa. Templeman 1981 is a brief study of Tāranātha as a historian, based on his history of Buddhism in India, among other writings. Van der Kuijp 1983 makes historical links of the Jonang tradition in Tibet with its Indian antecedents, while Kapstein 2000 presents Dolpopa’s 14th-century retrospective on the Buddhist councils in India. Chandra 1963 gives critical information about the history of Jonang Tibetan literature. Tucci 1949 highlights tensions at play in the confiscation of Tāranātha’s Takten Phuntsok Ling Monastery. Sperling 2009 gives a glimpse into modern political connections of the Jonangpa in eastern Tibet with the Chinese Empire during the Ming era.

  • Chandra, Lokesh, ed. Materials for a History of Tibetan Literature. Sata-pitaka Series 28–30. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1963.

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    This is a compilation of catalogues and brief essays on major collections of Tibetan writings that includes a section on Jonangpa writings, in particular those of Tāranātha.

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  • Kapstein, Matthew T. The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation, and Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Includes a chapter titled “Dolpopa on the Age of Perfection,” in which Kapstein contextualizes Dolpopa’s hermeneutical model derived from his cosmological schema of the four cosmic eons of the Buddha’s teachings, drawing from Dolpopa’s writings such as the Bka’ bsdus bzhi pa and Ri chos.

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  • Sperling, Elliot. “Tibetan Buddhism, Perceived and Imagined, along the Ming-Era Sino-Tibetan Frontier.” In Buddhism between Tibet and China. Edited by Matthew Kapstein, 155–180. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2009.

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    This article examines the formative period of the Jonangpa in Amdo, as well as the significance of Chöjé Monastery in Dzamthang during the Ming dynasty.

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  • Tāranātha. Tāranātha’s History of Buddhism in India. Edited by Debriprasad Chattopadhyaya. Translated by Lama Chimpa and Alaka Chattopadhyaya. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1990.

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    This is a translation of Tāranātha’s historical account of Indian Buddhism. It details Tāranātha’s particular view on the rise and development of the different systems of Buddhist thought in India.

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  • Templeman, David. “Tāranātha the Historian.” Tibet Journal 6.2 (1981): 41–46.

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    Article on the historical writings of the Jonangpa scholar Tarānātha. Important in understanding how Tarānātha’s writings on history, which make up a fraction of his entire writings, have been emphasized in the study of him and his works.

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  • Tucci, Giuseppe. Tibetan Painted Scrolls. Rome: Libreria Dello Stato, 1949.

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    An early contribution by Western scholarship on Tibet, with a section on Tāranātha’s Takten Phuntsok Ling Monastery and the political relations of the Jonangpa in the 17th century.

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  • van der Kuijp, Leonard W. J. Contributions to the Development of Tibetan Buddhist Epistemology: From the Eleventh to the Thirteenth Century. Alt-und Neu-indische Studien 26. Wiesbaden, West Germany: F. Steiner, 1983.

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    The chapter on the translator Ngok Lotsāwa Loden Sherab’s tradition of epistemology connects him to the exegetical tradition of Maitreya, and also looks at his involvement in the Indian lineage of Great Madhyamaka. Van der Kuijp discusses zhentong as a meditative tradition and looks at the historical development of the Jonangpa.

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Biographical Accounts

Stearns 2010 is the most comprehensive biographical account of Dolpopa, based on the numerous Tibetan sources. Templeman 2008 and Riggs 2001 are both biographies of Tāranātha, while Templeman 2008 is a dissertation on Tāranātha’s relations with Indian figures and his fascination with India as a young man. Riggs 2001, meanwhile, is a brief life story of Tāranātha based on a Shangpa Kagyu hagiography. Templeman 1992 and Kongtrul 2003 both include accounts of the lives of Kunga Drolchok and Tāranātha, Templeman 1992 being an intergenerational account of successive Jonangpa reincarnations with a rich biographical corpus, and Kongtrul 2003 being brief hagiographies of each (see also Shangpa and Rimé Connections). Komarovski 2011 is largely a study on the 15th-century Sakya scholar Shakya Chokden’s philosophical thought, though it includes a significant section on his life drawn from a biography by the Jonang master Kunga Drolchok.

  • Komarovski, Yaroslav. Visions of Unity: The Golden Pandita Shakya Chokden’s New Interpretation of Yogacara and Madhyamaka. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2011.

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    This study of the Sakya master Shakya Chokden’s (b. 1428–d. 1507) interpretation of zhentong also includes a sketch based on the Jonang master Kunga Drolchok’s biography of Shakya Chokden.

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  • Riggs, Nicole. Like an Illusion: Lives of the Shangpa Kagyu Masters. Eugene, OR: Dharma Cloud, 2001.

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    Includes a brief hagiography of Tāranātha drawn from a Shangpa Kagyü collection of life stories.

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  • Stearns, Cyrus. The Buddha from Dolpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen. Rev. ed. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2010.

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    This work is a biography of Dolpopa drawn from numerous Tibetan sources. It situates Dolpopa within the major events of his life, such as studying at Sakya, arriving at Jonang, constructing the magnificent stupa, overseeing the Kālacakra Tantra translation, and being summoned by the emperor of China.

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  • Templeman, David. “Reflexive Criticism: The Case of Kun dga’ ‘grol mchog and Tāranātha.” In Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. Vol. 2. Edited by Per Kvaerne, 877–883. Fagernes, Norway: Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture, 1992.

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    Relates biographical themes from the overlapping incarnations of the Jonangpa figures Kunga Drolchok and Tāranātha.

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  • Templeman, David. “Becoming Indian: A Study of the Life of the 16th–17th Century Tibetan Lama Tāranātha.” PhD diss., Monash University, 2008.

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    This is a study derived largely from the autobiographical writings of Tāranātha, his biographies of Indian Buddhist masters, and his encounters with them in Tibet.

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  • Kongtrul, Jamgon, comp. Timeless Rapture: Inspired Verse from the Shangpa Masters. Translated and introduced by Ngawang Zangpo. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2003.

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    Includes brief hagiographies of Kunga Drolchok and Tāranātha based on a Shangpa Kagyü collection of life stories.

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Doctrinal Works

Included in this section are works concerning tenets and views that are not explicitly related to tathāgata-garbha, zhentong, or the Kālacakra. In particular, Halkias 2009 presents a translation of a small liturgical text in Dolpopa’s prayer to the Buddha Amitābha’s Pure Land. Kapstein 2001 gives us a fuller understanding of the nuances found in Jonangpa views on the Prajñāpāramita literary corpus. Contributing to the broader conversation about Buddhist psychology and Tibetan interpretations of ālayavijñāna, or the subliminal consciousness, Wilson 2001 details the view of one of Dolpopa’s primary disciples, the Jonangpa scholar Sazang Mati Panchen.

  • Halkias, Georgios T. “Compassionate Aspirations and Their Fulfillment: Dol-po-pa’s A Prayer for Birth in Sukhāvatī.” In As Long as Space Endures: Essays on the Kālacakra Tantra in Honor of H. H. the Dalai Lama. Edited by Edward A. Arnold, 259–275. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2009.

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    This article includes a translation of Dolpopa’s aspiration prayer to be reborn in the Pure Land of Sukhāvatī.

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  • Kapstein, Matthew T. “From Kun-mkhyen Dol-po-pa to ‘Ba’-mda’ dge-legs: Three Jo-nang-pa Masters on the Interpretation of the Prajñāpāramitā.” In Reason’s Traces: Identity and Interpretation in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist Thought. By Matthew T. Kapstein, 301–317. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001.

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    Synopsis of Dolpopa’s, Tāranātha’s, and Bamda Gelek’s interpretations of the Prajñāpāramitā literature. This essay provides important references and observations on Bamda Gelek’s position as a prominent Jonangpa in the Rimé movement, and the significance of his writings in the contemporary Jonang educational curriculum.

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  • Wilson, Joe. “Gung thang and Sa bzang Mati Paṇ chen on the Meaning of ‘Foundational Consciousness.’” In Changing Minds: Contributions to the Study of Buddhism and Tibet in Honor of Jeffrey Hopkins. Edited by Guy Newland, 215–231. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2001.

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    This article relates the views of the Jonangpa scholar Sazang Mati Panchen on ālayavijñāna.

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Tathāgata-garbha

Ever since Dolpopa’s writings on tensions at the heart of tathāgata-garbha, or buddha-nature, and emptiness (śūnyatā), Jonangpa philosophical thinking has been integral to the Tibetan discourse on tathāgata-garbha. Though no work to date explicitly researches the Jonangpa view of tathāgata-garbha, Wangchuk 2009 is the most concentrated study on Dolpopa’s view, though it is comparative in approach. Duckworth 2008, Jorden 2003, Mathes 2008, and Schaeffer 1995 offer in-depth studies of different Tibetan interpretations of tathāgata-garbha, with significant cross-reference to Jonangpa scholars. Though not comparative per se, Nāgārjuna 2007 provides a translation of a root text from the zhentong interpretive framework, while situating Dolpopa within the broader commentarial tradition on Nāgārjuna’s praise. Ruegg 1969 introduced the field to many of the critical terms in the context of the Indian and Tibetan tathāgata-garbha literature, and it continues to be mined. Positioning many of these commentators on tathāgata-garbha literature in conversation with each other, Williams 1989 gives us an understanding of how this doctrinal material became disputed in Tibet.

  • Duckworth, Douglas S. Mipam on Buddha-Nature: The Ground of the Nyingma Tradition. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008.

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    Though Duckworth is concerned with exploring the relationship between emptiness and tathāgata-garbha in the writings of Mipham Gyatso (b. 1846–d. 1912), chapter 3 has a section on zhentong in the Jonang tradition that draws from Dolpopa and Khenpo Lodro Drakpa.

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  • Jorden, Ngawang. “Buddha-Nature: Through the Eyes of Go rams pa Bsod nams seng ge in Fifteenth Century Tibet.” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2003.

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    This is a study on the Sakya scholar Gorampa that includes a chapter on the Jonangpa on tathāgata-garbha. Jorden analyzes Gorampa’s criticism of Remdawa on Jonang zhentong thinking, as well as Gorampa’s directed writings on the Jonangpa.

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  • Mathes, Klaus-Dieter. A Direct Path to the Buddha Within: Gö Lotsāwa’s Mahāmudrā Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhāga. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2008.

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    This is a study of the interpretive traditions on tathāgata-garbha in Tibet. The introduction provides relevant discussion on a zhentong interpretation of the Uttaratantra (or Ratnagotravibhāga), as well as sections on the views of Dolpopa and Sazang Mati Panchen.

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  • Nāgārjuna. In Praise of Dharmadhatu. Translated by Karl Brunnhölzl. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2007.

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    This is a translation of one of Nagarjuna’s cataphatic works that serves as the basis for the zhentong textual tradition. Commentary by the Third Karmapa complements the text, and references to Dolpopa’s commentary are provided throughout.

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  • Ruegg, David Seyfort. La theorie du tathāgatagarbha et du gotra. Publications de l’École Française d’Extrême-Orient 70. Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 1969.

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    This is a study in French on tathāgata-garbha and gotra. The author’s peripheral treatment of philosophical terms (including gzhan stong, gzhi, ‘od gsal, and de gshegs snying po) make this a key source. Chapter 3 addresses gotra in the Jonang master Nyawon Kunga Pal’s text, Yid kyi mun sel.

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  • Schaeffer, Kurtis. “The Enlightened Heart of Buddhahood: A Study and Translation of the Third Karma pa Rang byung rdo rje’s Work on Tathāgatagarbha, the ’De bzhin gshegs pa’i snying po gtan la dbab pa.” MA diss., University of Washington, 1995.

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    This thesis includes a chapter on the historical encounter and relationship of the Third Karmapa with Dolpopa, and discusses central themes on tathāgata-garbha that are comparable in Dolpopa’s and the Third Karmapa’s works.

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  • Wangchuk, Tsering. “The Uttaratantra in the Age of Argumentation: Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen and His Fourteenth-Century Interlocutors on Buddha-Lineage.” PhD diss., University of Virginia, 2009.

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    This dissertation examines Dolpopa’s views on tathāgata-garbha in the cultural framework of 14th-century Tibet. The views and works of key Tibetan figures in the debate about the ontological status of tathāgata-garbha are profiled.

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  • Williams, Paul. Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. London and New York: Routledge, 1989.

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    The chapter on tathāgata-garbha literature in India and its Tibetan interpreters introduces the doctrinal issues and key sources for the conversation about zhentong.

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Zhentong Madhyamaka

Even the phrase Zhentong Madhyamaka is relatively new and scarce within Western scholarship on Buddhist thought. Ruegg 1989 is the work that identified zhentong within the broad cultural exchange of Madhyamaka from India to Tibet. Brunnhölzl 2004 provides translations and studies of non-Jonang works, but in discussing Madhyamaka, Brunnhölzl makes frequent mention of the influence of zhentong thought as proposed by various Jonangpa. Broido 1989 and Mathes 2000 are articles on specific points of interest within Dolpopa’s and Tāranātha’s writings, and both serve as good liftoffs for further investigation into issues raised. Kongtrul 2007 is a translation of the author’s 19th-century synthesis of Zhentong Madhyamaka, and thereby, though it is compromised according to Jonangpa, it is considered by many to be an amalgamation of the dominant strains in Tibetan zhentong thought. Shay-rap-gyel-tsen 2006 and Sheehy 2007 are both translations of core Jonang zhentong works with informative introductions. Mathes 1998 is a German article on Dolpopa’s short text, describing his view of the two truths of reality, relative and ultimate.

  • Broido, Michael. “The Jo-nang-pas on Madhyamaka: A Sketch.” Tibet Journal 14.1 (1989): 86–90.

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    Regardless of its brevity, Broido’s article addresses the view of Dolpopa and is a valuable contribution. It discusses rangtong and zhentong, the relevance of the two truths, garbha theory, and ends with a useful outline of four primary differences between Dolpopa and non-Jonang modern zhentongpas.

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  • Brunnhölzl, Karl. The Center of the Sunlit Sky: Madhyamaka in the Kagyu Tradition. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2004.

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    Though this is predominantly about Madhyamaka in the Kagyu tradition, it deals with issues relevant to the whole of Zhentong Madhyamaka. In particular, it examines the system of Yogācāra in zhentong with consideration of Dolpopa’s view.

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  • Kongtrul, Jamgön. The Treasury of Knowledge: Book 6, Part 3, Frameworks of Buddhist Philosophy. Translated by Elizabeth M. Callahan. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2007.

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    Part of the series of translations on Kongtrul’s encyclopedic work, this volume details both Rangtong Madhyamaka and Zhentong Madhyamaka according to earlier Tibetan sources.

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  • Mathes, Klaus-Dieter. “Vordergründige und höchste Wahrheit im gźan stoṅ-Madhyamaka.” In Annäherung an das Fremde: XXVI. Deutscher Orientalistentag vom 25. bis 29.9. in Leipzig. Edited by Holger Preissler and Heidi Stein, 457–468. Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 11. Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 1998.

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    This is a synopsis and discussion of Dolpopa’s “Sun Illuminating the Two Truths” (bden gnyis gsal ba’i nyi ma) (in German).

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  • Mathes, Klaus-Dieter. “Tāranātha’s Presentation of trisvabhāva in the gŹan stoṅ sñiṅ po.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 23.2 (2000): 195–223.

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    This is an article on Tāranātha’s presentation of the three natures or trisvabhāva according to his Essence of Zhentong. Mathes does a comparative study of the trisvabhāva as it is found within selected texts of Indian Buddhist canonical literature with Tāranātha’s text.

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  • Ruegg, David Seyfort. Buddha-Nature, Mind and the Problem of Gradualism in a Comparative Perspective: On the Transmission and Reception of Buddhism in India and Tibet. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1989.

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    This excellent study on gradual versus sudden approaches to buddha-hood gives attention to zhentong as a particular trend within the rise of Madhyamaka in Tibet.

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  • Shay-rap-gyel-tsen, Döl-bo-ba. Mountain Doctrine: Tibet’s Fundamental Treatise on Other-Emptiness and the Buddha Matrix. Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2006.

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    This is the English-language translation of Dolpopa’s major work on zhentong, and the source for later Jonangpa authors and non-Jonangpa Tibetan commentators.

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  • Sheehy, Michael. “The Gzhan stong Chen mo: A Study of Emptiness According to the Modern Tibetan Buddhist Jo nang Scholar ’Dzam thang Mkhan po Ngag dbang Blo gros grags pa (1920–1975).” PhD diss., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2007.

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    A study of zhentong philosophical thought based on a translation of the ground (gzhi) section of the modern Jonangpa scholar Khenpo Lodro Drakpa’s large work. Includes an introduction to zhentong, the history of the Jonangpa, and contributions of the Jonangpa to Tibetan intellectual culture (see also Kapstein 1993, cited under the Contemporary Tradition).

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Zhentong Polemics

To most, zhentong remains a point of philosophical controversy that indelibly marks the Jonangpa. Each work cited here represents its own distinct angle on the rangtong/zhentong discourse in Tibet, showing much of the range and complexity of the debate. Williams 1989 frames the debate in the context of the tathāgata-garbha literature and its reception by the Tibetans. Chökyi Nyima 2009 and Hopkins 2002 both present Gelukpa interpretations of Jonangpa views; while Chökyi Nyima 2009 is an attack, Hopkins 2002 presents these views in dialogue with one another. Cabezon and Lobsang Dargyay 2007 and Bötrül 2011 are translations of polemical works by Sakya and Nyingma scholars, respectively, and each deliberately targets the Jonangpa. Mathes 2004 and Tāranātha 2007 are both based on Tāranātha’s presentation of twenty-one points that distinguish the view of Shakya Chokden from that of Dolpopa; Tāranātha 2007 translates Tāranātha’s synopsis on tenet systems.

  • Bötrül. Distinguishing the Views and Philosophies: Illuminating Emptiness in a Twentieth-Century Tibetan Buddhist Classic. Translated and annotated by Douglas Duckworth. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2011.

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    This is a translation and study of a presentation of tenet systems by the Nyingma scholar Bötrül that seeks to balance a view of emptiness between that of Tsongkhapa’s presentation and that of Dolpopa’s.

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  • Cabezon, Jose, and Geshe Lobsang Dargyay. Freedom from Extremes: Gorampa’s “Distinguishing the Views” and the Polemics of Emptiness. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2007.

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    This is a translation of the Tibetan philosopher Gorampa’s major polemical work. The section on Tibetan polemical literature gives a good historical introduction. One chapter is dedicated to the refutation of Dolpopa.

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  • Chökyi Nyima, Thukten Losang. The Crystal Mirror of Philosophical Systems: A Tibetan Study of Asian Religious Thought. Translated by Geshe Lhundup Sopa. Edited by Roger Jackson. Library of Tibetan Classics 25. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2009.

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    This is a translation of the work on Buddhist and non-Buddhist philosophical systems by an 18th-century Geluk polemicist. The chapter on the Jonanpa is merely a caricature, but nonetheless due to its popular readership, it remains a significant misrepresentation.

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Dynamic Responses to Dzong-ka-ba’s The Essence of Eloquence. Vol. 2, Reflections on Reality: The Three Natures and Non-natures in the Mind-Only School. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

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    This work makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of some of the issues at the core of Jonangpa/Gelukpa polemics. Central topics regarding tathāgata-garbha, zhentong, and rangtong, and the interweaving of sutra and tantra are addressed as Tsongkapa’s views are juxtaposed to Dolpopa’s views.

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  • Mathes, Klaus-Dieter. “Tāranātha’s Twenty-One Differences in Respect to the Profound Meaning: A Possible Starting-point for Studies in the Gzhan stong Madhyamaka.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 270.2 (2004): 278–321.

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    This article analyzes Tāranātha’s text on twenty-one points that differentiate Shakya Chokden’s view from that of Dolpopa, detailing important doctrinal topics in the study of zhentong.

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  • Tāranātha. The Essence of Other-Emptiness. Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2007.

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    This is a translation of Tāranātha’s Essence of Zhentong, on philosophical systems. Excerpts from Hopkins’s translation of Dolpopa’s Mountain Doctrine are interspersed throughout. The appendix translation is on the Twenty-One Profound Points, comparing the zhentong views of Shakya Chokden and Dolpopa.

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  • Williams, Paul. Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. London: Routledge, 1989.

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    The subsection on the zhentong and rangtong dispute in the tathāgata-garbha chapter succinctly covers some of the major textual sources and doctrinal issues that arose after Dolpopa with Tsongkhapa and later Gelukpas.

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Kālacakra Tantra

Because the Kālacakra Tantra is such an integral system to the whole of Jonangpa thought and praxis, citations in this section are on a wide range of topics. Fendell 1997, Newman 1985, Sheehy 2009, and Stearns 1996 are each historical studies of the Jonang Kālacakra lineage in India and Tibet. Henning 2007 is the only work to date on Kālacakra astrology that draws largely from Jonang sources, and Henning 2009 is one of the few articles on the theory of the sixfold completion yogas. Though a Geluk commentary, Gyatso 2004 offers relevant information on the practice of the Kālacakra, with slight reference to the Jonang lineage.

  • Fendell, Ramsey. “Tāranātha’s Dpal dus khyi ‘khor lo’i chos bskor gyi byung khungs nyer mkho and Its Relation to the Jo-nang-pa School of Tibetan Buddhism.” MA diss., Indiana University, 1997.

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    This work is a study and translation of Tāranātha’s history of the Kālacakra Tantra in Indian and Tibet. Introduction includes a discussion on the demise of the Jonangpa and the political tensions that led to a Geluk takeover.

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  • Gyatso, Khedrup Norsang. Ornament of Stainless Light: An Exposition of the Kālacakra Tantra. Translated by Gavin Kilty. Library of Tibetan Classics 14. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

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    A few pages in the introduction are dedicated to the Jonang tradition and the relationship of the Kālacakra and zhentong. Reference to the Kālacakra sixfold yoga preserved by the Jonangpa is made throughout the text.

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  • Henning, Edward. Kālacakra and the Tibetan Calendar. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, 2007.

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    This work is on the astrology chapter found in the Kālacakra Tantra. Henning regularly references the astrological writings of the Jonangpa scholar Bamda Thubten Gyatso and the Phugpa system of calendrical calculations.

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  • Henning, Edward. “The Six Vajra-Yogas of Kālacakra.” In As Long as Space Endures: Essays on the Kālacakra Tantra in Honor of H. H. the Dalai Lama. Edited by Edward A. Arnold, 237–258. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2009.

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    Article on the esoteric vajrayoga processes of the completion stage of Kālacakra tantric practice, based largely on Jonang textual sources from Tāranātha and Bamda Gelek.

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  • Newman, John R. “A Brief History of the Kālacakra.” In The Wheel of Time: The Kālacakra in Context. By Geshe Lhundub Sopa, Roger Jackson, and John R. Newman, 51–90. Madison, WI: Deer Park, 1985.

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    This article is on the development of the Kālacakra lineages in India and Tibet. Reference is made to the early formation of the Drö transmission inherited by the Jonangpa.

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  • Sheehy, Michael R. “A Lineage History of Vajrayoga and Tantric Zhentong from the Jonang Kālacakra Practice Tradition.” In As Long as Space Endures: Essays on the Kālacakra Tantra in Honor of H. H. the Dalai Lama. Edited by Edward A. Arnold, 219–235. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2009.

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    Article traces the historical transmission of the Jonang Kālacakra lineage from its Indian forefathers up to contemporary masters.

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  • Stearns, Cyrus. “The Life and Tibetan Legacy of the Indian Mahāpaṇḍita Vibhūticandra.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 19.1 (1996): 127–171.

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    Article on the 13th-century Indian Buddhist figure Vibhūticandra, an important master in the transmission of the Kālacakra lineage of the Jonangpa.

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Shangpa and Rimé Connections

Historical connections and crossover among the Shangpa Kagyü and Jonangpa lineages, as well as the Rimé orientation, are significant, and interest in these intersections by translators and scholars have produced a small body of relevant work. Riggs 2001 and Kongtrul 2003 are each based on classic Shangpa texts that offer an understanding of how Kunga Drolchok and Tāranātha are situated within both of these traditions. Smith 2001 provides the fullest account to date of Kongtrul’s relationships with his contemporary Jonangpa scholars and the influence of zhentong on his own thinking.

  • Kongtrul, Jamgon, comp. Timeless Rapture: Inspired Verse of the Shangpa Masters. Translated and introduced by Ngawang Zangpo. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2003.

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    Includes brief hagiographies of Kunga Drolchok and Tāranātha along with poetic verses in translation.

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  • Riggs, Nicole. Like an Illusion: Lives of the Shangpa Kagyu Masters. Eugene, OR: Dharma Cloud, 2001.

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    Includes a brief hagiography of Tāranātha, situating him as a conduit within the broader Shangpa tradition.

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  • Smith, E. Gene. “’Jam mgon Kong sprul and the Nonsectarian Movement.” In Among Tibetan Texts: History and Literature of the Himalayan Plateau. By E. Gene Smith, 235–272. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001.

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    Introduction to Jamgön Kongtrul’s encyclopedia, Shes bya kun khyab. A classic piece of Western scholarship, it is important because it emphasizes the impact of zhentong on key Rimé figures and the 19th-century revival of the Jonangpa.

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The Contemporary Tradition

Because the Jonangpa were isolated in eastern Tibet for much of the 20th century, and because access to the living tradition has only been gained recently, studies on the Jonangpa after Tāranātha are limited. Gruschke 2001 provides a field survey of two of the most important Jonang monasteries in Amdo. Kapstein 1993 provides an introduction to a historical and philosophical work by the modern Dzamthang scholar Khenpo Lodro Drakpa. Sheehy 2009 provides a history of the Jonang Kālacakra tradition up to its contemporary exemplars in Tibet.

  • Gruschke, Andreas. The Cultural Monuments of Tibet’s Outer Provinces: Amdo. Vol. 2, The Gansu and Sichuan Parts of Amdo. Bangkok: White Lotus, 2001.

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    This survey presents the Jonang tradition according to the sociopolitical and doctrinal reasons for its demise in central Tibet and reemergence in southern Amdo, particularly in the Dzamthang and Ngawa regions.

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  • Kapstein, Matthew T. “Introduction.” In Contributions to the Study of Jo-nang-pa History, Iconography and Doctrine: Selected Writings of ’Dzam-thang Mkhan-po Blo-gros-grags-pa. 2 vols. By Ṅag-dban-blo-gros-grags-pa. Collected by Matthew Kapstein and Gyurme Dorje. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1993.

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    This is an introduction to two important Tibetan language works by the modern Jonangpa scholar Khenpo Lodro Drakpa: the Jo nang chos ‘byung and Gzhan stong chen mo. Includes a brief overview of Khenpo Lodrak’s life, abbreviated listing of his works, outline of contents, and overview of the relevance of these works.

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  • Sheehy, Michael R. “A Lineage History of Vajrayoga and Tantric Zhentong from the Jonang Kālacakra Practice Tradition.” In As Long as Space Endures: Essays on the Kālacakra Tantra in Honor of H. H. the Dalai Lama. Edited by Edward A. Arnold, 219–235. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2009.

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    This article brings the Kālacakra transmissions inherited and sustained by the Jonangpa up to their contemporary lineage-holders. Gives a brief account of the Jonangpa in Amdo.

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LAST MODIFIED: 12/19/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0097

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