Zhonnu Lodro

ISSN 2332-077X

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Zhonnu Lodro b.1358 - d.1412

Name Variants: Pakpa Zhonnu Lodro; Sabzang Pakpa Zhonnu Lodro

Sabzang Pakpa Zhonnu Lodro (sa bzang 'phags pa gzhon nu blo gros) was born in 1358, the male earth dog year. His father was a monk named Zhonnu Pel (gzhon nu dpal) and his mother was Dolma Bum (sgrol ma 'bum). He is said to have been a calm and disciplined youth who had little interest in the activities of children.

When he was five, Zhonnu Lodro was given a Hayagrīva empowerment by a Nyingma lama named Lama Lhatse Tsemo (bla ma lha rtse rtse mo), who also gave him the initiate name of Dorje Seten (rdo rje sras brtan). At the age of eight he received novice ordination from a lama named Tukje Dzongwa Gyeltsen Bum (bla ma thugs rje rdzong ba rgyal mtshan 'bum).

At the age of twenty-one Zhonnu Lodro studied at Pel Zangden college (dpal bzang ldan gyi chos grwa) with Sanggye Zangpo (sangs rgyas bzang po) and Namkha Gyeltsen (rnam mkha' rgyal mtshan), who gave him his bikkshu vows. He studied the Abhisamayālaṃkāra and received countless teachings, primarily relating to Avalokiteśvara.

While still in his twenties, full of faith for the Kadampa master Ngulchu Tokme (dngul chu thogs med, 1295 d. 1369), Zhonnu Lodro went searching for him. At the at the Sakya monastery of Sabzang Ganden Gon (sa bzang dga' ldan dgon) he met Lodro Gyeltsen (blo gros rgyal mtshan, 1294-1376) remaining there to serve as an attendant and receive teachings from him. There he received from Tokme his text on Atisha's mind-training, the Lobjong Dendonma (blo sbyong don bdun ma) and transmissions and instructions on many other teachings, including Indian classics such as the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra.

Zhonnu Lodro is said to have received teachings from forty-two lamas of all traditions in all Buddhist teachings then available in Tibet, including Lamdre, Zhije and Cho, Mahāmudrā, Nyingma, and Orgyen Nyendrub. He received Kālacakra and Jordruk (sbyor drug) teachings and empowerments from Jonang Chokle Namgyel (jo nang phyogs las rnam gyal, 1306-1386). Lotsāwa Jangchub Tsemo (lo tsA ba byang chub rtse mo, 1303-1380) gave him the Guhyasamāja in the tradition of Nāgārjuna ('phags lugs). Other teachers mentioned in his biography are Gonpo Gyeltsen (mgon po rgyal mtshan, d.u.), Rinchen Namgyel (rin chen rnam rgyal, 1318-1388), Nyakton Jangchub Sengge (gnyags ston byang chub seng+ge, d.u.).

With great difficulty Zhonnu Lodro went to Nepal, where he received tantric teachings from the mahāpaṇḍita Mahābodhi (paNDita chen po ma hA bod+hi) on texts that had previously not been translated into Tibetan, as well as Indian classics, and he invited the master to Tibet, studying Kālacakra, Cakrasaṃvara, and other tantric systems.

Zhonnu Lodro died at age sixty-seven, in the male water dragon year, 1412. Among his students were Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (ngor chen kun dga' bzang po, 1382-1456) and Kunga Gyeltsen (kun dga' rgyal mtshan, 1382-1446).




Kun dga' bzang po. 1999. Bla ma dam pa sa bzang 'phags pa gzhon nu blo gros kyi rnam par thar pa. In Ngor chen kun dga' bzang po'i bka' 'bum, vol. 1, pp. 169-179. Dehra Dun: Sakya Center.


Alexander Gardner
April 2010