Longdol Lama Ngawang Lobzang b.1719 - d.1794
Longdol Lama Ngawang Lobzang (klong rdol bla ma ngag dbang blo bzang) was born at Wenpu Doti (dben phu mdo thi), a place near the Jampa Ling Monastery in Chamdo (chab mdo byam pa gling) in 1719, on the full-moon day of Go dawa (go ldza ba; the eleventh lunar month) in the earth-pig year of twelfth sexagenary cycle. His father Ngakchang Wang Bum (sngags 'chang dbang 'bum) was a tantrika and belonged to a noble family, and his mother was named Jangsa Bumkyi ('jang sa 'bum skyid).
Ngawang Lobzang received his pre-novice (rab byung) vows at the age of seven from Gelong Lobzang Gendun (dge slong blo bzang dge 'dun) at the hermitage of Puta Lago (phu ta la mgo'i ri khrod) in Chamdo. Because of his intelligence and interest in religion it was suggested that he was the reincarnation of the Third Zhiwa Lha, Zhiwa Zangpo (zhi ba lha 03 zhi ba bzang po, 1625-1717), but he adamantly rejected the identification. From the age of four to seventeen Ngawang Lobzang was taught reading and writing, memorizing prayer-texts and other root-verses of important sutra and tantra texts by his father.
When Ngawang Lobzang was twelve, the great Sera lama Purchok Ngawang Jampa (phur lcog ngag dbang byams pa, 1682-1762) granted him novice vows at Chamdo Jampa Ling. Because of a drought in the Chamdo region when he was eighteen, he and his family moved to the Tsawarong (tsha ba rong) region in a vain attempt to escape starvation. There Ngawang Lobzang survived in a remote hermitage but his parents lost five other children due to hardships and illness.
At the age of twenty Ngawang Lobzang returned to Chamdo Jampa Ling and enrolled in the monastery's Lingto Sangdu Dratsang (chab mdo gling stod gsang 'dus grwa tshang) where he mastered the rituals easily as he already had memorized the ritual-prayer texts. Subsequently, he was supervised by Drayak Chubar Lama Gendun Tashi (brag gyab chu dbar bla ma dge 'dun bkra shis, d.u.). This scholar believed that Ngawang Lobzang was the reincarnation of his late lama, Litang Khenchen Nyakri Lobzang Chodrak (li thang mkhan chen nyag ri blo bzang chos grags, b. 1626), and saw to it that the identification was officially confirmed.
Following the confirmation Lama Gendun Tashi escorted Ngawang Lobzang to Drayak Chubar Monastery where he continued his education. Gendun Tashi soon decided to send the young man to Lhasa for further studies, but he died in 1741 and in his place a relative arranged for Ngawang Lobzang's travel to U-Tsang in the following year, with eight assistants.
Upon his arrival at Lhasa, after a brief pilgrimage Ngawang Lobzang matriculated in the Lhopa House of Serje College of Sera Monastic University, where he shared accommodations with the Fourth Zhiwa Lha, Pakpa Gelek Gyeltsen (zhi ba lha 04 'phags pa dge legs rgyal mtshan, 1720-1799), and the Sixth Chakra Tulku Ngawang Trinle Pelzang (ngag dbang 'phrin las dpal bzang, 1730-1794).
He began his studies with a tutor named Tsondu (brtson 'grus) and is said to have studied so hard and kept so isolated that other monks called him the "Crazy Monk of Lhopa." Recitation of the praise-verses and prayers to the Twenty-One Tārās was his main daily practice. It was said that he had a clear dream of Tārā who gave him a few verses of instructions for his meditation that significantly aided him.
At the age of thirty Ngawang Lobzang was granted the vows of the fully ordained monk by the First Purchok Ngawang Jampa, from whom he received teachings, initiations and empowerments, and instructions on a numerous topics of sutra and tantra and also repeated teachings on certain topics such as Lamrim, Delam, and Yamāntaka, Cakrasaṃvara, Guhyasamāja, Chod and so forth.
In 1749 he went on pilgrimage in the Tsang region with some of his companions including the Fourth Zhiwa Lha. He received an audience with the Sixth Paṇchen Lama, Lobzang Pelden Yeshe (paN chen bla ma 03 blo bzang dpal ldan ye shes, 1738-1780) from whom later he received teachings and empowerments. They also met with Gelong Yeshe Taye (dge slong ye shes mtha' yas, d.u.) and Zhalu Ripug Lama Jampel Chochok (zha lu ri phug bla ma 'jam dpal chos mchog, d.u.) and received teachings and transmissions from them. He returned to Lhasa after visiting several additional monasteries in Tsang.
Later Ngawang Lobzang received many initiations and empowerments on several tantric deities including Hayagrīva and Mahākāla from the Fourth Zhiwa Lha. He also received numerous teachings including commentarial transmission on Tsonkhapa's Lamrim Chenmo (lam rim chen mo) and Madhyamika commentaries from the Seventh Dalai Lama, Kelzang Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 07 bskal bzang rgya mtsho 1708-1757). In the meantime he received the degree of "Kachu" (dka' bcu) at Sangpu (gsang phu), the Tsang region's equivalent of a Geshe degree.
At the age of thirty-eight Ngawang Lobzang again went on pilgrimage with some of his companions, including Trehor Geshe Tenphel (tre hor dge bshes bstan 'phel, d.u.) in the Penbo ('phen po) region. They returned to Sera via Samyas (bsam yas) and resumed his study in philosophy. He successfully completed his studies in Madhyamaka, Abhisamayālaṃkāra, and Vinaya in fifteen years in Sera, and then enrolled in Gyuto College (rgyu stod grwa tshang) and studied advanced tantra intensively under Lama Chubzang Ngawang Chodrak (bla ma chu bzang ngag dbang chos grags, 1710-1772), the Fifty-ninth Ganden Tripa, for several years. He also received a number of empowerments, initiations and esoteric instructions on several deities from Changkya Rolpai Dorje (lcang skya rol pa'i rdo rje ,1717-1786), a principle Buddhist teacher in the Qing court in China, during the later's visit to Tibet.
Ngawang Lobzang later received empowerments and teachings on tantra from Takpu Lobzang Tenpai Gyeltsen (stag phu blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, d.u.), Ngakrampa Lobzang Chopel (sngags ram pa blo bzang chos 'phel, d.u.), and Kachen Tabkhe Gyatso (dka' chen thabs mkhas rgya mtsho, d.u.). He is said to have studied with and received teachings from over forty masters: other illustrious names include Yongdzin Yeshe Gyeltsen (yongs 'dzin ye shes rgyal mtshan, 1713-1793); the Second Jamyang Zhepa Konchok Jigme Wangpo ('jam dbyangs bzhad pa 02 dkon mchog 'jigs med dbang po, 1728-1791); and the Fifty-fourth Ganden Tripa, Ngagwang Chokden (dga' ldan khri pa 54 ngag dbang mchog ldan, 1677-1751).
While his scholarship, particularly on tantra, was recognized as outstanding, he largely lived as a recluse in retreat.
Ngawang Lobzang moved to Nyetang Mokchok (mnyes thang rmog lcog) and sat an intensive meditation retreat for three years. He subsequently moved to Nyetang Longdol Hermitage (mnyes thang klong rdol ri khrod) and spent an extended period of time taking practicing Lamrim. This hermitage originally belonged to Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje (gtsang pa rgya tras ye shes rdo rje, 1161-1211), the founder of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition. It was said that previously the hermitage had a poor water supply, and that Ngawang Lobzang used his supernatural abilities to open a spring close to the site. Because of his being a long time resident of Longdol, he gained the title Longdol Lama, by which he is most commonly known.
Due to health problem, Longdol Lama had to move to a warmer place near the Rato Monastery (rwa stod grwa tshang) in Drayab where a comfortable residence was built and offered to him by a local resident devotee, Guru Chodrak, the father of Drayab Chetsang (brag gyab che tshang sprul sku'i yab gu ru chos grags). He lived there from the age of fifty until his nirvana, spending most of his time in meditation and retreat but also making visits to other places for teachings and dharma performances.
Longdol Lama travelled to Lhasa to receive teachings from the Sixtieth Ganden Tripa, Lobzang Tenpa (dga' ldan khri pa 60 blo bzang bstan pa, b. 1725) and blessings of the Eighth Dalai Lama Jampel Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 08 'jam dpal rgya mtsho, 1758-1804) at Drepung. While there he was appointed to the office of official patron-lama by the Gyeltsab Demo (rgyal tshab de mo) the then Regent of Tibet, but he resigned and vanished from Lhasa. Later he was found in Lhodrak (lho brag) making significant offerings to the family of Jetsun Marpa and praying for realization of the view of Madhyamaka.
Longdol Lama spent most of his life in religious practice – meditations, retreats, rituals, and receiving and giving teachings, empowerments, initiations, transmissions, and so forth. Knowledge of his accomplishments spread widely across Tibet, even into Mongolia, and he attracted a great number of disciples and followers. Some of the renowned disciples include Tulku Lobzang Tendzin Gyatso (sprul sku blo bzang bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, d.u.); Tongkor Lobzang Tendzin Gyatso (stong skor blo bzang bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, d.u.); the Third Takpu Lama, Lobzang Chokyi Wangchuk (stag phu 3 blo bzang chos kyi dbang phyug, 1765-1792); The Second Tsotri Tulku, Lobzang Gyeltsen (gtsos khri sprul 02 blo bzang rgyal mtshan seng ge, 1757-1849); Lingtul Lobzang Tenpai Gyeltsen (gling sprul blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, 1770-1845); and both the Senior and Junior Denma Ranyak Tulkus ('den ma ra nyag sprul sku che chung gnyis). In addition he trained most of the lamas who served as Ganden Tripa during the second half of the eighteenth century.
Sources mentioned that there were two volumes of Longdol Lama's written work covering some important topics of sutra and tantra, and also some texts on common subjects. Other sources mentioned that there were three volumes of his works that include poetry works, biographies, catalogues, list of Geluk lamas and monasteries, and so forth totalling ninety-six texts in three volumes. It was said that the texts were carved into traditional wooden-blocks for printing in Kundeling Lhundrub Dechen (kun bde gling lhun grub sde chen). However, the extant of the blocks of the entire volumes of the texts are not known; about thirty-two treatises are currently available.
In 1794, at the age of seventy-six, on the second twenty-fourth day of the fifth month of the wood-tiger year of the thirteenth sexagenary cycle, Longdol Lama passed into nirvana. His death year is also recorded as the wood-hare year in other sources. He was not cremated, but his body was fed to the vultures in a traditional "sky burial" ritual. The bones, however, were collected and burnt into ashes and used for making statues. A reliquary stupa was built and installed in the porch-ground of Rinchen Ling. A statue of this lama containing his head was also built by the Eighth Tatsak Lama, Yeshe Tenpai Gonpo (rta tshag bla ma 08 ye shes btsan pa'i mgon po, 1760-1810). Extensive nirvana-prayer was organized by his disciples.
Byams pa chos grags. N.d. Chab mdo byams pa gling gi gdan rabs. Chamdo: Chab mdo par 'debs bzo grwa par btab, pp. 436-449.
Don rdor and Bstan 'dzin chos grags. 1993. Gangs ljongs lo rgyus thog gi grags can mi sna. Lhasa: Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang, p. 786.
Dung dkar blo bzang 'phrin las. 2002. Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, pp. 126‑127.
Grags pa 'byungs gnas and Blo bzang mkhas grub. 1992. Gangs can mkhas sgrub rim byon ming mdzod. Lanzhou: Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun khang, ISBN 7-5421-0200-1 pp. Ka 79-81.
Biographies of Longdol Lama are listed in Sonam Dondrub's catalog of Tibetan biographies, nos. 0132‑0137. See: Bsod nams don grub. 2000. Bod kyi lo rgyus dpe tho. Lhasa: Bod ljongs Mi dmangs Dpe skrun khang.
View this person's associated Works & Texts on the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center's Web site
- Historical Period