The Third Drukchen, Jamyang Chodrak

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The Third Drukchen, Jamyang Chodrak b.1478 - d.1523

Name Variants: Drukchen 03 Jamyang Chokyi Drakpa; Jamyang Chokyi Drakpa

The Third Drukchen, Jamyang Chodrak ('brug chen 03 'jam dbyangs chos grags, 1478-1523) was born in southern Tibet. His father was named Gongma Tashi Dargye (gong ma bkra shis dar rgyas), a member of the Ja (bya) family that was said to have lordship over three hundred thousand families in the south. His mother was named Chamkarmo (lcam dkar mo), of the Gongkar Dorjeden family (gongs dkar rdo rje gdan).

Since the time of Tsangpa Gyare (gtsang pa rgya ras ye shes rdo rje, 1161-1211), who founded Ralung Monastery in 1180, his familial descendents, the Gya (rgya), also known as the Druk ('brug) family had controlled the monastery and its estates. In the years following the death of the Second Drukchen, Kunga Peljor ('brug chen 02 kun dga' dpal 'byor, 1428-1476), the Gya family had no male heirs to assume the position of his reincarnation. (Kunga Peljor a descendent of Tsangpa Gyare in the tenth generation, had been named the patriarch's reincarnation.) His followers, lacking a suitable male child born to the Gya family, opted to look outside of the clan in order to continue the incarnation line. In this way students of Kunga Peljor recognized Jamyang Chodrak as his reincarnation.

The Gya clan, however, refused to relinquish their control of Ralung, and although they accepted the recognition of Jamyang Chodrak as the reincarnation of Kunga Peljor, he was not allowed to assume the abbacy of Ralung, which remained in the hands of the Gya family. The Ja family, in response, constructed a new monastery for him to preside over, Tashi Tongmon (bkra shis mthong smon).

At the age of eleven Jamyang Chodrak was ordained in the presence of over eight hundred monk-students of Kunga Peljor. Despite his awkward position within the Ralung tradition, Jamyang Chodrak received teachings in the Druk tradition from members of the Gya family, namely Drukpa Kunle ('brug pa kun legs, 1455-1529), who gave him empowerments and instructions. From Kunga Peljor's disciple Gelong Rinchen Namgyel (dge slong rin chen rnam rgyal, d.u.) he received transmission of Kunga Peljor's tantric practices.

Jamyang Chodrak studied with other Kagyu lamas as well, including the Karmapa and Zharmapa. The Seventh Karmapa, Chodrak Gyatso (kar+ma pa 07 chos grags rgya mtsho, 1454-1506), gave him the title “Kanting Gushri” (kan ting gu shri'i), evidently derived from a Chinese title. He also received instructions on the Kālacakra from Lobpon Dushab Shakya Wangchuk (slob dpon dus zhabs pa shAkya dbang phyug, d.u.) and Lochen Sonam Gyatso (lo chen bsod rgya mtsho, d.u.).

Jamyang Chodrak's was important in the transmission of the Rechung Nyengyu (ras chung snyan rgyud), a lineage of teaching and practice stemming from Milarepa's disciple Rechung Dorje Drakpa (ras chung rdo rje grags pa, 1085-1161). He received this transmission from Tsangnyon Heruka (gtsang smyon he ru ka, 1452-1507), who was said to be Rechung's reincarnation. Jamyang Chodrak composed multiple works on the tradition, and experienced repeated visions of Rechung throughout his life.

Among his closest disciples were Tutob Yonten Yeshe (mthu stobs yon tan ye shes, d.u.), Tuchen Dorje Dzinpa Chokyi Gonpo (mthu chen rdo rje 'dzin pa chos kyi mgon po, 1501-1582), and Kunpang Sherab Gyatso (kun spangs shes rab rgya mtsho, 1478-1542).

Jamyang Chodrak is said to have received a crown woven from the hair of ten thousand ḍākinī, which is still in possession of the Drukchen lamas.

His rebirth, the great Pema Karpo (padma dkar po, 1527-1592), was recognized in neither the Gya nor the Ja family, but in a small family in Kongpo.




'Brug pa ngag gi dbang po. (1771). Khams gsum chos kyi rgyal po rgyal dbang sprul pa'i sku'i rnam par thar pa legs bshad ngo mtshar gter chen. In Rwa lung dkar brgyud gser 'phreng. Pelampur: SNGP, vol 3, pp. 307-427.

Sgrub sprul phrin las rgya mtsho. 2009. Gdams ngag bka' rgya can lnga yi bla ma brgyud pa'i rnam thar dad gsum chu gter 'phel byed ngo mtshar lza ba'i me long. Swayambhu: Shree Gautam Buddha Vihara, pp. 172-177.

Smith, Gene. 2001. “Pema Karpo and His History of Buddhism.” In Among Tibetan Texts, pp. 81-86. Boston: Wisdom Publications, p. 82.


Alexander Gardner
March 2010