Jigme Kundrol Namgyel

ISSN 2332-077X

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Jigme Kundrol Namgyel b.mid 18th cent. - d.early 19th cent.

Name Variants: Jangchub Gyeltsen ; Jigme Kundrol Namgyel ; Khedrub Jigme Namgyel; Monla Jigme Kundrol

Kedrub Jigme Kundrol (mkhas grub 'jigs med kun grol) was born in Wang Daklungkhar (wang dwags lung mkhar), modern Thimphu district in western Bhutan, in 1750. He received some training in the Drukpa Kagyu ('brug pa bka' brgyud) tradition as a child, but rather than become a monk he joined the court of the Trongsa Penlop (krong sar dpon slob) in central Bhutan as a garpa (sgar pa), court attendant. He rose to the post of meat-store keeper (sha gnyer pa) and oversaw the slaughter of countless animals over five years. Disgusted with the work, he requested to resign, only to be refused. He served another five years before absconding his post and duty and heading to Tibet for the religious life.

In Tibet he studied at the Nyingma monastery of Mindroling (smin grol ling) and, he met Jigme Lingpa ('jigs med gling pa, 1729-1798) at Samye Chimpu (bsam yas mchims phu). Awed by the famous treasure revealer, Jigme Kundrol fell at his feet, and soon became one of Jigme Lingpa's main disciples. He was known as one of the "four Jigme," the other three being Jigme Trinle Ozer ('jigs med phrin 'od zer, 1745-1821), the First Dodrubchen; Jigme Gyelwai Nyugu ('jigs med rgyal ba'i myu gu, 1765-1842); and Jigme Gocha ('jigs med go cha, b.1763). Jigme Kundrol received from him the complete teachings of Longchen Nyingtik (klong chen snying thig)and  specialized in the practice of Pongwa Samten (spo ba bsam gtan 'khor lo), the "wheel of meditative visualization" for about fifteen years.

According to tradition, Jigme Lingpa had a vision in which he saw, near the Bhutan-India border, an abode of Vajrakīlaya; Kedrub Jigme Kundrol was assigned to open the land for Buddhist activity. Following his master's instruction, Kedrub Jigme Kundrol returned to Bhutan via Lhodrak (lho brag) and Monla Karchung (mon lha dkar chung). At Towa Drak (mtho ba brag), Bumthang, he established a monastery where he stayed for three years. He then went to Bumthang and received teachings from Drubtob Namgyel Lhundrub, the first Petsaling Tulku (pad tshal gling sprul sku 01 sgrub thob rnam rgyal lhun grub, 1718-1786). Not long after, Norbu Pekar (nor bu pad dkar), a student of Drubtob Namgyel Lhundrub who lived at Dungsam Norbuling (gdung bsam nor bu gling), requested his master to perform a Dutsi Mendru (bdudrtsi sman sgrub) ritual at Dungsam Kidpai Jong (gdung bsam skyid pa'i ljong). As his advanced age kept him from moving about comfortably, Drubtob Namgyel Lhundrub sent Jigme Kundrol as his representative, conferring on him the name of Yongla Lama.

Jigme Kundrol then went to Wangtangla (wang thang la) at Ura, Bumthang, and, it is said, as he sat pondering whether the Wangtangla peak was his master's prophesized place, Khandro Dechen Gyalmo (mkha' 'gro bde chen rgyal mo) appeared before him and pointed towards a spot and instructed him to go there. Arriving at the place indicated by the deity, known as Dungsam Yongla (gdung bsam yongs la), Kedrub Jigme Kundrol built Dungsam Yongla Riwo Pelbar Dargye Choling (gdung bsam yongs la rib bo dpal 'bar dar rgyas chos gling) around the year 1741. According to some sources, it was at Dungsam that Jigme Kundrol arranged the texts of the Longchen Nyingtik teachings, although details are not known.

He then entered into meditation and perfected the practice of Vajrakīlaya, reportedly attaining a special ability to stop conflicts harmful to sentient beings, and offered protection to the local people and to the kingdom of Bhutan. For example, during a conflict with Assamese camped at Kumkatar (kum ka tra), besieged government officer set fire to Shali Dzong (sha li rdzong) and prepared to escape. It is said that Kedrub Jigme Kundrol intercepted him and conducted a Tordok (gtor bzlog) ritual that caused much destruction to the enemy camps. When this was reported to the capital, Kedrub Jigme Kundrol was given many gifts and given the title of Lachen (bla chen).

Kedrub Jigme Kundrol founded Dechen Choling (bde chen chos gling) Monastery in the Shar district and was responsible the second wave of Dzogchen (rdzogs chen) teachings in western Bhutan.

The new monastery's throne holder was his son Delek Wangchuk (bde legs dbang phyug), who in turn was succeeded by his son Do-ngak Rinpoche (mdo sngags rin po che), who then passed the seat on to his son Pema Rabten (pad ma rab rten). His son Orgyen Tendzin (o rgyan bstan 'dzin) is the current lineage holder.

Before his death, in 1825, Kedrub Jigme Kundrol prophesized he would be reborn in the east. Ngawang Tendzin Gyatso (ngag dbang bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, 1883-1966), is now considered to have been his incarnation, although he was not recognized in his lifetime.




Amy Holmes. 2007. “The Making of a Bhutanese Buddha: Preliminary Remarks on the Biography of Tenzin Gyatso, a Bhutanese Scholar-Yogi” in Journal of Bhutan Studies, vol. 16, pp.1-37.

Bibhuti Baruah. 2000. Buddhist sects and sectarianism. New Delhi: Sarup& Sons.

Bla ma bsod rnam bzang po. 2003. "Gdungs bsam yongs la rib bo dpal 'bar dar rgyas chos gling rji star phyag tshul bla ma rnams kyi mgo rin."Journal of Bhutan Studies, vol. 8, pp.5-8

Gyatso, Janet. 1999. Apparitions of the Self. Princeton: Princeton University Press, p. 310.


Dorje Penjore
February 2011