The Wisdom Essence, Introduction
The Light of Wisdom root text (Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo), a most precious, concise,
and profound teaching by Guru Rinpoche which condenses the entire path.
Praised by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo as being more valuable than thirty
yak loads of scriptures, it comprises together with a commentary by
Jamgon Kongtrul, the last volume in both the Rinchen
and the Chokling
The English translation contains three texts, combined
and spread over five volumes:
THE ROOT TEXT
The Wisdom Essence (Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo), by Padmasambhava as recorded by Yeshe Tsogyal,
revealed and decoded by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Chokgyur Lingpa
The Light of Wisdom, by Jamgon Kongtrul
Entering The Path of Wisdom, by Jamyang Drakpa as recorded by Jokyab
Rinpoche, Supplemented with clarifying remarks by H.H. Dilgo Khyentse
and H.E. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
Translated from the Tibetan according to the teachings
of Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche by Erik Pema Kunsang
Volume One: ground, preliminaries and Mahayana. Published.
Volume Two: ngondro and development stage/ yidam practice. Published.
Volume Three: the practices connected to the second and third empowerments, (to be published in the future).
Volume Four: Trekcho and Togal, (published for restricted circulation).
Volume Five, The Conclusion: fruition, enhancement and clearing hindrances. Published 2013.
Lord of all mandalas, Lake-Born Vajra Holder,
Manifest in the form of a supreme vidyadhara,
Great lord and treasure revealer, only refuge for the people of Tibet,
Chokgyur Lingpa, I supplicate at your feet.
-- Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
Knower of all things as they are and how they exist,
Through nonconceptual compassion, you consider all beings your children.
King of Dharma, who overturns the depths of samsara,
Khyentse Wangpo, I supplicate at your feet.
-- Jamgon Kongtrul
Perceiver of all to be known, treasure of an ocean
Lodro Thaye, foretold by the Victorious One,
Lord who encompasses all families, Padma Gargyi Wangpo,
Great Charioteer of the Jambu Continent, I supplicate you.
-- Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
Having begun with three verses chosen by His Eminence Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
as worthy of summerizing the life and examples
of the three great masters whose enlightened qualities form the basis
for this book, in this introduction I’d like to explain where
the teachings contained in the Light of Wisdom came from, the masters
who revealed, propagated, and preserved its tradition as well as the
style of the book itself and how to approach it.
The Light of Wisdom presents the first part of Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo
accompanied by a commentary composed by the illustrious 19th century
Buddhist master Jamgon Kongtrul the Great.
THE NATURE OF LAMRIM YESHE NYINGPO
The Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo, the title of which translates to Gradual Path
of the Wisdom Essence, is a sacred scripture that records oral teachings
of the ‘Second Buddha,’ Padmasambhava, given while he blessed
Tibet with a 55 year visit during the 9th century. This most precious,
concise, profound teaching of Padmasambhava is a condensation of the
entire path to enlightenment and, in its full version, it contains the
pith instructions of the Three Inner Tantras: Maha, Anu, and Ati Yoga.
Padmasambhava himself describes Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo in the following
This essence of the causal and resultant vehicles,
Especially the core of the realization of the three sections of the
Linking together the ground with the path,
Makes you abandon the temporary defilements along with their tendencies,
Realize fruition and quickly accomplish the welfare of self and others,
In this way it is in conformity with each yet exalted above them all.
This path of the wisdom essence, the epitome of all,
Is a magical means for realizing fruition.
Merely seeing it showers down the great splendor
By hearing it one understands the meaning, and experience and realization
burst forth spontaneously.
By practicing it for six months, giving up distractions,
The wisdom of the three vajras will naturally manifest.
Since Samantabhadra, Vajrasattva and Padmakara
Are ultimately indivisible and spontaneously complete as one,
I am the emanation-basis for all the infinite tantras,
The essential meaning and the oral instructions.
Yet, in appearance I manifest in all kinds of ways
as magical displays of deeds in different modes of appearing,
Such as emerging miraculously in Dhanakosha
Or being born from a womb and so forth,
For the sake of guiding the disciples on the Jambu Continent.
Lord Amitayus at Maratika
And Maha Shri Heruka at Yanglesho
Bestowed upon me with the natural sound of dharmata
This sole quintessence of all the oral instructions.
If Garab Dorje, Shri Singha, the Eight Vidyadharas,
And all the supreme siddhas from whom I received the stages of the path
Were to hold a great Dharma discussion with one another,
There would be no other summary-manual than this compiling their realization.
Throughout the countries of Uddiyana, India, Tibet
This is the unmistaken condensed meaning
Of all the infinite profound and extensive wheels of the Dharma
Such as guru sadhana, the Great Perfection, Avalokiteshvara and the
Eight Sadhana Teachings.
In short, there does not exist an ultimate instruction
other than this.
Expressed in few words yet including all that should be expressed.
Easy to comprehend and convenient to practice,
Without depending on anything else, it perfects the paths for those
of lower, medium and higher faculties.
This is the self-resounding tantra of dharmata,
the indestructible essence,
From the space of luminosity in the five-colored sphere within the heart
of me, Padmasambhava.
It is the path traversed by all the buddhas of the three times.
Praised by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo as being more
valuable than thirty yak loads of scriptures, the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo
comprises together with the commentary by Jamgon Kongtrul, the
important last volume in both the collections of termas and teachings
renowned as Rinchen
Terdzo and New Treasures.
Several biographies of Padmasambhava, the Lotus-Born Master, have been
published in English, including The Lotus-Born (Shambhala, 1993) and
Jamgon Kongtrul’s essay in Dakini Teachings (Shambhala, 1990).
It is therefore better for the reader to refer to them than for me to
try to add anything here other than historical data.
Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche was renowned as establishing the tantric
teachings in Tibet in the ninth century. He ordered the concealment
of his oral instructions in the form of hidden treasures,
‘termas,’ to be revealed by the destined disciple at the
appropriate time. Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo is one such treasure.
The dakini, Yeshe Tsogyal, wrote down and hid many of Padmasambhava’s
teachings, including the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo. In his Ocean of Blessings,
Jamgon Kongtrul says, "Yeshe Tsogyal appeared as an emanation
of Dhatvishvari Vajra Yogini and was in essence not different from the
consorts of the five buddhas. In the dharmakaya aspect she is known
as Samantabhadri or Prajnaparamita; in the sambhogakaya level she manifests
in the form of the great consort Dhatvishvari; and therefrom she displays
an inconceivable number of nirmanakayas, appearing in whichever way
is necessary to influence whoever needs. In the pure lands she appears
in the form of Sarasvati, the noble Goddess of Eloquence, and shows
the skillful means for generating the light of wisdom in all aspects
of knowledge, both the outer and inner levels of philosophy. In the
presence of Buddha Shakyamuni, she emanated in the form of Ganga Devi
and acted as the custodian of the treasury of the Mahayana teachings.
In this snowy land (of Tibet) she took rebirth as a qualified dakini
into the family line of the Kharchen clan and became a consort accepted
by Guru Rinpoche. By the power of her immense training, she accomplished
perfect recall. Traversing the secret path of Vajrayana, right to the
letter, she achieved the supreme vajra abode of the twelfth bhumi. Perfecting
the great power of realization of the natural Great Perfection, she
arrived at the stage at the end of the four visions. Acting as the compiler
of all Guru Rinpoche’s words, she visited everywhere in the central
and surrounding lands of Tibet and concealed innumerable major and minor
termas. At present she resides in the indestructible form of the rainbow
body in the Palace of Lotus Light on (the continent of) Chamara where
she is indivisible from the ‘never-ending adorn
ment wheels’ of Guru Rinpoche’s body, speech, mind, qualities,
and activities, pervading as far as the reaches of space to benefit
beings for as long as samsara exists."
The main recipients of the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo were the king, the princes,
the incarnated translator Vairotsana and Yeshe Tsogyal, the spiritual
consort of Padmasambhava. The great master entrusted these teachings
to a small gathering of his personal disciples during which he concluded
with these words:
I will entrust it to the assembly of suitable vessels,
the destined and qualified ones,
The king and his sons who are worthy recipients for the instructions,
Vairotsana whose realization is equal to mine,
And my spiritual consort who has rendered perfect service.
Do not let it dissipate, retain it in the core
of your hearts.
Rely on it, engage in it, expound and practice it.
By means of it may all the infinite number of disciples
Accomplish the wisdom essence within the very same lifetime.
One of the principal recepients of the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo was the
second prince, known variously under the names Yeshe Rolpa Tsal,
Murub Tseypo or Mutri Tseypo. An untitled and unpublished manuscript
written by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche explaining the Sheldam
Nyingjang, herein called Commentary on the Essence Manual of Instructions,
contains some background information on this prince:
"The single father King Trisong Deutsen had three sons of which
the middle one was called Murub Tseypo, a lord of the tenth bhumi who
in actuality and visibly had achieved the noble qualities of abandonment
and realization. Also known as the Prince Translator, he reached perfection
in learning. At the end, his bodily form vanished into the body of light
and he attained the supreme accomplishment of perceiving the primordial
wakefulness. It is his magical reincarnation who appeared during this
age of degeneration, renowned worldwide under the title Orgyen Chokgyur
Dechen Shikpo Lingpa, the universal ruler over an ocean of accomplished
revealers of Dharma treasures."
In addition to the second prince who was reborn as Chokgyur Lingpa,
another important person present during Padmasambhava’s transmission
of Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo was King Trisong Deutsen who later incarnated
as Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye is
regarded as the emanation of the translator Vairotsana. These three
great masters met together again in the middle part of the nineteenth
century in accordance with numerous predictions of Guru Rinpoche. During
a short period of time they revealed to the world an immense treasury
of precious teachings. To expand upon these masters, I requested Tulku
Urgyen Rinpoche to give a short essay on their lives and qualities and
his beautifully expounded anecdotes are included right after the introduction.
More details of the life of this most wonderful masters can be found
in The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism by His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche,
His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche describes Chokgyur Lingpa in his
Commentary on the Essence Manual of Instructions,
"Quoting the omniscient Yonten Gyatso (Jamgon Kongtrul),
‘Your excellent aspiration is to consider the beings of the dark
age; your excellent activity is to manifest in accordance with those
to be tamed; your excellent life example is to uphold an unprecedented
treasury of secrets; I supplicate you who are endowed with this threefold
excellence.’ In accordance with these words, the embodied forms
of the activity of the king (King Trisong Deutsen) and his sons who
will never forsake the beings of this world are to an increasing degree
unimpeded, even in this period of the dark age. And thus, there arose
a new auspicious coincidence, the wonderful nature of which resembles
the appearance of the Buddha in the world."
"The most important among the profound termas of this great revealer
of Dharma treasures was the Four Cycles of Guru Sadhana, belonging to
the Sadhana Section, and the Seven Profound Cycles, belonging to the
Tantra Section, the latter of which were expressed in a terminology
that is in harmony with the Oral Transmission (of Kama). Each of these
were endowed with the complete aspects of empowerment, sadhana, tantra,
development stage and completion stage, each of which again were adorned
with wonderful and profound details. In this way his Dharma treasures
were totally unmatched."
"Together with these Dharma treasures he (Chokgyur Lingpa) also
revealed sacred substances and innumerable most amazing representations
of Body, speech, and mind. He was an unprecedented lord of a treasury
of secrets, as if Dharmevajra had appeared in person."
"Moreover, the activity of his enlightened deeds was beyond partiality
in both exposition, practice, and action, to such an extent that an
untold number of learned and accomplished masters of Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu
and Nyingma -- headed by the two lords of the Land of Snow, who are
like the sun and moon in presiding over the chariot of the Dharma in
this world, as well as their disciples and lineage holders -- all directly
or indirectly accepted the nectar of his deep teachings; and thus the
sunlight of these profound and extensive termas has shone far and wide
for the Buddhadharma and all beings."
"Chokgyur Lingpa was assigned to become a master over one hundred
sacred places and treasure troves and would have done so had the auspicious
circumstances all been perfected. Nevertheless, there are thirty-seven
profound termas well-known within the general domain of experience.
The most complete and concise is the root of blessings, the Heart Practice
of the Vidyadhara Guru, endowed with an outer, inner, secret, and innermost
section." The Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo belongs to this fourth, the
Innermost Cycle Dorje Drakpo Tsal.
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892) was one of the greatest masters
of the last century. Regarded as the last of the five terton kings,
he became the master and teacher of all the Buddhist schools of Tibet
and one of the founders of the non-secterian Rimey movement. Described
as a holder of the Seven Transmissions, he was together with his close
friend Jamgon Kongtrul one of the codifiers of the Eight Chariots
of the Practice Lineage. There are ten volumes of his works in addition
to his termas. In his Wish-fulfilling Source of Splendor, Jamgon
Kongtrul describes his close friend, guru and lineage holder in these
words, "Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Dorje Ziji Tsal, the king of all
learned and accomplished masters, was the combined incarnation of the
great pandita Vimalamitra and Tsangpa Lhayi Metok, King Trisong Deutsen
appearing as a nirmanakaya for the sake of beings." Among his other
names are Kunga Tenpey Gyaltsen, Ösel Trulpey Dorje, and his terton
name Padma Ösel Do-ngak Lingpa.
Jamgon Kongtrul (1813-1899) is also known as Lodro Thaye,
Yonten Gyatso, Padma Garwang and by his terton name Padma Tennyi
Yungdrung Lingpa. He was one of the most prominent Buddhist
masters in the 19th century Tibet and placed special focus upon a non-sectarian
attitude. Renowned as an accomplished master, scholar and writer, he
authored more than 100 volumes of scriptures. The most well known are
his Five Treasuries, among which are the 63 volumes of the Rinchen
the terma literature of the one hundred great tertons. It is impossible
to adequately describe the full scope of the impact this master has
had on Tibetan Buddhism.
In the author’s colophon at the end of the commentary on Lamrim
Yeshe Nyingpo, Jamgon Kongtrul explains why he took the effort
to write this text: "This brief commentary on the Oral Instructions
in the Gradual Path of the Wisdom Essence , the background teachings
for the Four Cycles of Guru Sadhana, (was written based on) receiving
the command of both vidyadhara gurus, the two great treasure revealers
and all-encompassing masters and lords of the circle; the spiritual
sons of the fourteenth Omniscient King of the Victorious Ones, the two
supreme incarnations in his family at Tsurphu who illuminate the teachings
of the Kamtsang; and also the wise dakini Dechen Chodron with
a gift of a golden flower, had for a long time encouraged me (to write).
Later on, in the company of the son of the terton, the vidyadhara Tsewang
Drakpa , she again requested me. Headed by the bodhisattva spiritual
teacher Tsa-nyag Lama Sherab, also other devoted people made insistent
requests. For these reasons, taking as the chief material the outline
bestowed by the omniscient Jamgon Lama Rinpoche and the nectar of his
words which I received directly, I have used whatever was present within
the realm of my mind. Taking also several appropriate parts from the
eloquent expositions of other learned masters, this was written down
in a legible and concise manner by an ignorant meditator, the mere image
of a renunciant, by the name Padma Garwang Lodro Thaye, also known as
Chimey Tennyi Yungdrung Lingpa Tsal, at the upper retreat of Palpung
Shri Devi Koti known as the practice center of Tsadra Rinchen Drak.
May it be a cause for the unwaning light of benefit and wellfare for
the teachings and beings to spread and flourish!"
OF THE TERMA
The Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo is a terma revealed in unison by Chokgyur Lingpa
and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and belongs to the fourth among an amazing
set of terma teachings renowned as the Four Cycles of Guru Sadhana.
In his Key That Opens One Hundred Doors to Accomplishment, Jamgon
Kongtrul describes the lineages for these four cycles: "In general,
the outer, inner, secret and innermost Four Cycles of Guru Sadhana were
first received by Padma Ösel Do-ngak Lingpa. Later Chokgyur Lingpa
revealed, as his personal destiny, the Tukdrub Barchey Kunsel and so forth,
establishing these terma teachings as perfectly trustworthy by combining
mother and child like joining two rivers into one." The Lamrim
Yeshe Nyingpo belongs to the fourth of the four cycles, the innermost
cycle of the wrathful form of Padmasambhava, Dorje Drakpo Tsal, meaning
Powerful Vajra Wrath.
Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo was revealed according to Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche
in The Life and Teaching of Chokgyur Lingpa in the following way: "Chokgyur
Lingpa traveled again to Derge in Eastern Tibet, now as a great lama.
Everyone considered him Guru Rinpoche in person and he brought great
benefit to others. At this time he was invited to Dzongsar Monastery
in Derge, from where he went to Rongmey. At Rongmey, Khyentse Rinpoche
and Chokgyur Lingpa called for Jamgon Kongtrul. Chokgyur Lingpa
told Khyentse, "A precious terma treasure is to be discovered,
but you must call the king of Derge." Khyentse Rinpoche wrote a
letter and the Derge king came with many chiefs, filling the whole area
with horses and men. Everyone went to Karmo Taktsang. At the end of
the town was a big cave where Guru Rinpoche had appeared in his wrathful
form of Dorje Drolo. There Chokgyur Lingpa sang many songs, saying,
‘Now I will take some termas. If everything is auspicious, and
works out well, I have things to do for Tibet.’ Even Khyentse
Rinpoche was amazed and sang a lot of songs. Chokgyur Lingpa told everyone
to recite the Vajra Guru mantra and the Dusum Sangye prayer. He said,
‘If the three of us work together, we can really do something.’
Proceeding to where the terma treasure was located, Chokgyur Lingpa
Rinpoche put a note on a pine tree telling the guardian of the terma
to give it to him. Then they went to a rock. Chokgyur Lingpa opened
the rock and extracted a vajra, leaving it half out and half in just
for show. He removed a terma box and let everyone come and touch it
with his head. That was the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo."
As soon as the root text was revealed, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo taught
it in detail after having established the outline, which flowed forth
from his vast realization. Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye used
this outline as the framework for his commentary. In the Key that Opens
One Hundred Doors to Accomplishment, Jamgon Kongtrul says, "The
most secret cycle for accomplishing the guru in the form of Powerful
Vajra Wrath was revealed by (Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Chokgyur Lingpa)
together at Rongmey Karmo Taktsang. From this cycle the Omniscient Guru
(Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo) decoded only the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo while
the other teaching cycles were at that point not accessible."
In Clarifying the Aspects of the Auspicious Melody, Konchok Gyurmey
Tenpey Gyaltsen, the second incarnation of Chokgyur Lingpa explains:
"The 31st terma, the cycle of the secret sadhana
Dorje Drakpo Tsal, was revealed from the left side of the Secret Cave
at Karmo Taktsang after having broken through thirteen consecutive seals.
But, due to circumstances it couldn’t be written down in its entirety.
Nevertheless, Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa succeeded in revealing the Lamrim
Yeshe Nyingpo which is superior to one hundred loads of terma teachings.
As the extracted essence of the tantras, statements, and instructions,
it is the background teaching for all terma treasures in general and
for the Four Cycles of Guru Sadhana in particular. Padma Ösel Do-ngak
Lingpa (Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo) decoded it from the yellow parchment
and Chimey Tennyi Yungdrung Lingpa (Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro
Thaye) wrote a commentary upon it. Thus they established the tradition
for expounding and studying this profound teaching which will shatter
samsaric existence by merely hearing its name, which causes unconditioned
wakefulness to grow forth when one studies it and reflects upon it,
and which bestows the fruition of buddhahood when applying it in practical
experience. The commentary itself was also a terma teaching that arose
from the expanse of sublime wisdom and a normal person, no matter how
learned, will not be able to write such a book."
In the Garland of Jewels Tekchok Tenphel, the third tulku of Neten Chokling,
summarizes: "The cycle of the secret sadhana Dorje Draktsal was
revealed as Chokgyur Lingpa’s 31st terma from the left side of
the Secret Cave at Chimey Taktsang, but due to a lack of auspicious
circumstances all its parts were not written down in full. Nevertheless,
Chokgyur Lingpa took out the terma of Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo and Jamyang
Khyentse Wangpo decoded it from the yellow parchment. This profound
teaching which was clarified by Jamgon Rinpoche (Lodro Thaye)
was at first explained in great detail by the omniscient Dorje Ziji
(Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo) two times as soon as it was decoded. (Jamgon
Kongtrul later) gave the transmission for the commentary Spreading the
Light of Wisdom and also the reading
transmission mixed with explanations for the root text and commentary
In the words of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche: "Prior to this Jamyang Khyentse
Wangpo had been presented with a scroll containing the list of the termas
through which he had gained certainty as to the preciousness of the
Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo. At a certain point of time after that, he and
Chokgyur Lingpa met together during a perfect coincidence of time and
place. This was predicted by Guru Rinpoche as the reunion of father
and son in the sense that Jamyang Khyentse was the reincarnation of
King Trisong Deutsen while Chokgyur Lingpa was the rebirth of the prince,
the king’s second son. It was at Karmo Taktsang that they then
revealed the cycle of termas within which the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo is
TO THE PRESENT
After Chokgyur Lingpa and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo had established the
root text, this precious scripture was propagated by their chief disciples,
headed by Jamgon Kongtrul, and has been transmitted in an unbroken
lineage to this very day. Every lama who possesses the lineage for the
Terdzo or Chokling
Tersar will evidently also be a holder
of the reading transmission for Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo. What follows are
just a few of the many lineages for these two major sets of Vajrayana
His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpey Dorje,
mentions in his Tob-yig, a record of teachings received, for the Chokling
Tersar, that his transmission for the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo came through
Dorje Ziji Tsal (Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo), Padma Garwang (Jamgon
Kongtrul), Khewang Loten Chogyal, Tsewang Norbu, Lama Chimey, (Surmang)
Tenga Rinpoche and then to himself.
H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche similarly describes that
his lineage comes from Chokgyur Lingpa to the two great masters, Jamyang
Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul, and from all three of them to Tsewang
Norbu, the son of Chokgyur Lingpa. Tsewang Norbu transmitted to
both Pema Gyurmey Tekchog Tenphel, the incarnation of Chokling at Neten
Gompa, and to Konchok Gyurmey Tenpey Gyaltsen, the other incarnation
of Chokgyur Lingpa who took up residence at Tsikey Monastery. Dilgo
Khyentse Rinpoche’s root guru, the illustrious master Jamyang
Khyentse Chokyi Lodro Rinpoche received the lineage from both incarnations
of Chokgyur Lingpa. His Holiness also mentions an alternate line of
transmission as having passed from Tsewang
Norbu through Katok Situ Pandita Orgyen Chokyi Gyatso and Yabje
Rigdzin (Serpa Tersey) Gyurmey Tsewang Gyatso to Khyentse Chokyi Lodro,
as well as from Tsewang Norbu to Samten Gyatso Rinpoche to
the 15th Karmapa who wrote many of the arrangements.
Tekchok Tenphel, the third incarnation of Chokgyur
Lingpa at Neten who is the father of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche and Orgyen
Tobgyal Rinpoche, describes his lineage for explaining the Lamrim Yeshe
Nyingpo originared with Chokgyur Lingpa who took out the yellow parchment
and gave it Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo who then decoded the symbolic dakini
script. Having received detailed teachings twice from Jamyang Khyentse
Wangpo, Jamgon Kongtrul wrote the commentary. From them the lineage
went to the great khenpo Rinchen Namgyal, then to the second Chokling
and from him to Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, his root guru. Another
lineage is from Tsewang Norbu to Chokyi Lodro, and a third
line goes through Jamgon Kongtrul to Lama Tendzin Chogyal,
to Tsewang Norbu, to Situ Gyurmey Tsewang Gyatso, to Khyentse Chokyi
Lodro and then to himself. This is the lineage held by Lama ‘Putsi’
The lineage of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Tsewang Chokdrub
Palbar, is traced through Chokgyur Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo,
Jamgon Kongtrul, Tsewang Norbu,
and Samten Gyatso, as well as through Samten Gyatso to Gyalwang Karmapa
and then to Jamgon Palden Khyentse Öser from who Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
received the Rinchen Terdzo.
Jamgon Palden Khyentse Öser, the son of the 15th Karmapa, was the
reincarnation of Jamgon Kongtrul as well as the root guru of Kalu Rinpoche.
In addition, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche received detailed instructions from
In recent years, the transmission for Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo and its commentary
has also been passed on to most of the incarnate lamas of the Karma
Kagyu lineage by Kalu Rinpoche and Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Among the
living masters of our time who either have or are about to transmit
Terdzo or Chokling
Tersar we also find His Holiness
Penor Rinpoche, Dodrub Chen Rinpoche, Kela Chokling Rinpoche, and Khenchen
The reason I mention this is that now, while you are holding this book
in your hands, I encourage you to make the wish to request the transmission
for Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo from one of these many authentic masters of
the living tradition.
It has been a tradition to give a lengthy exposition of Lamrim Yeshe
Nyingpo as the ‘background teaching’ when conferring the
empowerments for the New Treasures. For instance, His Holiness Dilgo
Khyentse in 1978 passed on the transmission for the entire termas of
Chokgyur Lingpa at Ka-Nying Shedrup Ling Monastery in Boudhanath, Nepal,
to a large group of incarnate masters, ordained and lay practitioners,
including reincarnations of Chokgyur Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo,
and Jamgon Kongtrul, headed by Trulshik Rinpoche, Shechen Rabjam
Rinpoche, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, Chokling Mingyur Dewey Dorje, Chokyi
Nyima Rinpoche and Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Tulku Pema Wangyal and Tulku
Jigmey Khyentse, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and
his son Jigme Norbu Rinpoche, and many many others. During this time
His Holiness continued every day explaining Jamgon Kongtrul’s
commentary, The Light of Wisdom, showing its great importance. Being
both deaf and dumb regarding the Tibetan language, it was during this
time I formed the strong wish to understand and translate Lamrim Yeshe
Many years later, when requesting clarification on The Light of Wisdom,
His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse gave me his blessings and permission to
translate the entire commentary, and also strongly suggested to read
the Notes, a collection of annotations by Jokyab Rinpoche, entitled
Entering the Path of Wisdom. When mentioning this to Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche,
he revealed that he had personnaly carried this manuscript out of Tibet
and, possessing the only existant copy, later lent to His Holiness for
publication. This original manuscript was often consulted for verification.
OF THE SCRIPTURES
The English translation of The Light of Wisdom, Vol. 1, is a combination
of three texts:
-- Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo, The Gradual Path of the Wisdom Essence; the
terma root text recorded by Yeshe Tsogyal.
-- The Light of Wisdom; the commentary by Jamgon Kongtrul.
-- Entering the Path of Wisdom; the notes collected by Jokyab Rinpoche.
LAMRIM YESHE NYINGPO ROOT TEXT
The Gradual Path of the Wisdom Essence is the root text Lamrim Yeshe
Nyingpo. It contains Guru Rinpoche’s oral instructions on the
gradual path to enlightenment according to the Three Inner Tantras,
Maha, Anu, and Ati Yoga, as recorded by the dakini Yeshe Tsogyal and
is a terma revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.
The translated portion of the root text presented here includes the
historical narration and the instructions that are common for all levels
LIGHT OF WISDOM
The Light of Wisdom, a commentary on Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo by Jamgon
Kongtrul the First. This exposition of Guru Rinpoche’s teachings
is because of its depth and encompassing scope considered by many masters
to be a mind treasure in itself. I shall now briefly sketch the contents
of Jamgon Kongtrul’s commentary as it is structured here
in the Light of Wisdom, Vol. 1. Jamgon Kongtrul follows the traditional
writing style of a pandita with numerous levels and sublevels. These
divisions and their names are retained within the text, but as a kindness
to the general reader, I have also used the structure of sections and
chapters: three sections with a total of 15 chapters.
The first section contains three chapters covering the traditional front
matter in which the author pays his respects to the masters of the lineage,
here Padmasambhava, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Chokgyur Lingpa. This
homage followed by the author’s pledge to complete his writing,
his synopsis of the topic and his method of explanation, are all included
in Chapter One.
Chapter Two contains his clarification on the various levels of meaning
expressed in the title, with special emphasis on the words Yeshe Nyingpo,
Chapter Three covers the significance of the ‘dakini script,’
a secret code that is legible only to masters possessing the transmission
of Padmasambhava. These characters are included on page 00 at the beginning
of the root text.
The second section is called ‘The Explanation of the Actual Body
of the Text’ and contains five chapters. The two first, Chapter
Four entitled The Setting and Chapter Five named The Circumstances are
titles often used in the tantras, the sacred literature of Vajrayana.
These two chapters cover the historical background, The Setting explaining
where and when, and The Circumstances details why and who requested
the great master Padmasambhava to give this most precious teaching.
Chapter Six is a detailed clarification of ‘The Four Vajra Syllables’
OM AH HUNG HOH, explaining how these four tantric syllables demonstrate
the nature of all aspects of spirituality, here known as ground, path,
In Chapter Seven Jamgon Kongtrul clarifies the meaning of the five
perfections -- teacher, place, retinue, teaching, and time. Together
these five aspects show the Buddhist cosmology for propagating the Dharma
on the three levels of dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. This
chapter concludes with Padmasambhava’s injunction to his present
and future followers, explaining the value of retaining and practicing
Chapter Eight covers the meaning of the buddha nature, here called the
ground. The clarification of the ground, our basic enlightened essence,
details both the basis for confusion as well as enlightenment, according
to the general system of Mahayana as well as from the extraordinary
perspective of the Great Perfection.
The third section is called ‘Path.’ By path is meant the
period from the very outset of awakening faith and interest in liberation
from samsaric existence and the attainment of complete enlightenment.
Among the seven chapters in this section, Chapter Nine covers the details
of how to carefully and genuinely connect with a spiritual teacher.
Chater Ten explains how to develop true renunciation by means of reflection
on ‘The Four Mind Changings,’ the preciousness of our human
life, the sad fact that everything is impermanent, the inevitable consequences
of our actions, and the nature of existence while under the power of
ignorance and delusion.
In Chapter Eleven Jamgon Kongtrul describes in detail the reason
and method for taking refuge under seven points.
Chapter Twelve covers the teachings on how to develop the genuine wish
to attain enlightenment for the welfare of all sentient beings, here
called the ‘Conventional Bodhichitta of Aspiration.’
Chapter Thirteen details how to implement this wish in action, how to
train in the six paramitas and four means of attraction -- the conduct
of a genuine bodhisattva.
In Chapter Fourteen is explained the ‘View of Ultimate Bodhichitta,’
the nature of emptiness of all things, both phenomena and the individual
Chapter Fifteen clarifies the ‘Meditation of Ultimate Bodhichitta’
as well as the path and result of Mahayana, leading to the state of
unexcelled, true and complete enlightenment.
Entering the Path of Wisdom, a collection of annotations to the above
commentary spoken by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo to one of his learned disciples,
Jamyang Drakpa, and written down by Jokyab Rinpoche, a student of Jamyang
Drakpa. Entering the Path of Wisdom, was written down as fragmented
pieces of information and additional explanations to be used when teaching
the Light of Wisdom. They cast invaluable light on some of the more
profound parts of Jamgon Kongtrul’s words and also filled
out places with explanation which he had left as something meant to
have been already understood by the person giving the teachings. To
shed further light on how the oral transmission of these teachings took
place, I will repeat the words of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche: "Jamyang
Drakpa was a student of both Jamgons (Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and
Jamgon Kongtrul) and was present when the root text was revealed.
He is one of the sixteen destined disciples who would spread the teaching
and is predicted in the root text Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo. Consequently,
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo told him "Your activity for the welfare
of others is to propagate the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo. So do that!"
The explanatory lineage for the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo at one point rested
on him. He had reached a high age, above eighty, by the time Jokyab
Rinpoche came to receive the transmission for the Lamrim. I knew Jokyab
Rinpoche personally since I was fortunate enough to receive the teachings
on the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo from him. Jokyab Rinpoche also received
the entire transmission for the Chokling
Tersar from my uncle and guru
Samten Gyatso Rinpoche as well as the Damngak Dzo from Khyungtrul
Karjam Rinpoche. Samten Gyatso Rinpoche sent a message to Dru Jamyang
Drakpa, requesting teachings on the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo on behalf of
Jokyab Rinpoche. Jokyab remained with the great master Jamyang Drakpa
for an entire year, but the teachings on the Lamrim did not commence
during the first six months, due to the master’s advanced age
and fragile health. The first months were spent on questions on the
Guhyagarbha Tantra with which Jamyang Drakpa was quite familiar, knew
by heart and therefore didn’t have to look at pages in order to
consult. The second half of the year was spent on the Lamrim.
When Jamyang Drakpa finally began the explanations, Jokyab took notes
on small pieces of paper, one after the other, so that at the end he
had a heap almost the size of a volume of scriptures. Having returned
to Tsikey Monastery, he organized and transcribed his notes and this
collection is what is now known as the Zurgyen, the Side Ornament. After
this he went to Central Tibet."
His Eminence Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche received transmission for Lamrim
Yeshe Nyingpo from many great masters, including the reincarnation of
Jamgon Kongtrul who was the son of the 15th
Karmapa, but the detailed explanation he received from Jokyab Rinpoche
In addition to the notes by Jokyab Rinpoche, I have added some clarifications
from other masters. In order to identify the various sources explained
in the notes I have used the following codes: "[JOKYAB]" means
that it is translated from Entering the Path of Wisdom. His Holiness
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche later corrected this text and where his opinion
differs from the original words the mark "[DKR]" follows the
note. "[TUR]" means that the information was transmitted orally
by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Clarifications from Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche
are followed by "[CNR]". Annotations followed by "[EPK]"
are my own, but of course based on oral teachings I have received from
In addition, two other texts have been used to substantiate the three
above: 1. The Illuminating Sunlight by Khenpo Rinchen Namgyal. A short
commentary which is a simplified version of Jamgon Kongtrul’s
Light of Wisdom embellished with his own learning and eloquence.
Also used is Mipham Rinpoche‘s Outline for Teaching the Light
of Wisdom. This outline was made according to the oral teachings of
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.
Jamgon Kongtrul’s commentary, the Light of Wisdom, makes
reference to the root text, the Wisdom Essence, only in an abbreviated
way. For the sake of easy reading, I have inserted the root verses in
full at the appropriate places. All quotations from the root text are
denoted by bold script of a slightly larger size and are preceded by
"The Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo root text says".
TO STUDY THE LAMRIM YESHE NYINGPO
Level one: The root text by itself in connection with the oral instructions
of a living master.
Level two: The root text with the Jamgon Kongtrul’s short
commentary immediately following the quotations from the root text.
This short commentary is usually the first paragraph after the root
text is quoted.
Level three: The root text with the extensive commentary by Jamgon
Kongtrul, the Light of Wisdom.
Level four: The light of Wisdom together with the notes and appendices
from Entering the Path of Wisdom.
This present book combines all four levels in the following way:
1. The root verses are found seperately in the beginning of the book.
2. The simplified commentary is what immediately follows the root verses
and contain the words used in these verses.
3. The extra quotations from the scriptures and additional explanations.
4. The notes and appendices at the end of the book.
I would never have been able to undertake and complete such a difficult
work without the help of many kind masters of the present time. Due
to their great kindness, it has been my fortune to receive teachings
and clarify questions chiefly from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and Chokyi
Nyima Rinpoche as well as other learned teachers including H. H. Dilgo
Khyentse Rinpoche, Tulku Pema Wangyal, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, Orgyen
Tobgyal Rinpoche, Khenpo Pema Sherab, Lama Putsi Pema Tashi, and Acharya
Tubten Chophel. May this work in some way repay this kindness.
Also thanks to George MacDonald, Graham Sunstein, and Philippe O’Sullivan
who at several states financially supported the translation work.
Many of my friends have given generously of their time and energy, lending
their different skills in editing: Judy Amtzis, John Fredricks, and
Ben Rosenszweig. Also thanks to my friends who read through the manuscript
at various stages: Ani Jinpa Palmo, Ani Lodro Palmo, and Thomas Doktor.
Special thanks to Graham Sunstein for help in locating information.
Last but not least, the completion of this work is owed to my Marcia Dechen Wangmo,
who helped at all stages of the production.
I dedicate whatever merit may arise from completing this work to the
great masters of our day; may their lives be firm. May this effort act
as conduit to the flourishing of Padmasambhava’s precious teachings
and may innumerable beings benefit from putting these instructions into
To conclude, I would like to repeat some of Padmasambhava’s
words from the end of Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo.
There will be eight people with mind transmission,
Twenty-five supreme vidyadharas,
Sixteen who will uphold and spread it,
And two times five authentic dakinis.
If all of them are able to practice it,
They will achieve special supreme and common siddhis.
Moreover, there will be one hundred destined ones,
One thousand and eight who attain siddhi,
And eighteen times hundred thousand who gain connection.
Thus, there will be an inconceivable number
Of human and non-human disciples.
This Gradual Path of the Wisdom Essence,
Whoever writes it down with precious gold
Sprinkles it with the five nectars,
And, together with the samaya substances of means and knowledge,
Attaches it around the neck,
Or binds it at the top of the head,
Will be liberated through sight, hearing, remembering and touch,
And the wisdom of realization will effortlessly dawn.
Likewise, whoever reads and memorizes it,
Recites, explains or studies it,
Will be blessed by me, Padma.
So it’s needless to mention about someone who practices it correctly.
Erik Pema Kunsang
Ka-Nying Shedrup Ling Monastery,