Jampel Gyatso (1356 – 1428)

Jampel Gyatso, a native of Tsongkha, was a close disciple of Tsongkhapa, from whom he received the Ganden Mahamudra transmission. He accompanied Tsongkhapa during the retreat at Olka, after which he set out on his own to practice in hermitages and caves in the Lhasa area. His primary disciples were Chokyi Gyaltsen and Chennga Lodro Gyaltsen.

Jampel Gyatso (’jam dpal rgya mtsho) was born in 1356 in the Tsongkha region of Amdo. He entered the religious life at a young age, studying the Candrapradipa sutra (zla ba sgron me’i mdo) and other scriptures. Wishing to further his training, in 1373 he traveled to Lhasa, where he sought out teachers but avoided entering a monastery, wary of the many mundane duties the average monk is charged with.

At Dewachen (bde ba can), a branch of the Kadampa monastery Sangpu Neutok (gsang phu ne’u thog) south of Lhasa, Jampel Gyatso attended a teaching Tsongkhapa was giving on the Uttaratantra (rgyud bla ma). Tsongkhapa recognized his acumen and advised him to study Madhyamaka philosophy in the formal setting of the Kadampa monasteries, advice which he followed. He then attended teachings Tsongkhapa gave, with Umapa Pawo Dorje (dbu ma pa dpa’ bo rdo rje) at Kyormolung (skyor mo lung) monastery on Cakrasamvara.

Soon afterwards, as Tsongkhapa prepared to go into retreat, and he requested that Jampel Gyatso accompany him as one of eight disciples. The group set up a camp named Cholung (chos lung) in the Olka (’ol kha) region of Dakpo (dwags po), before moving to a cave in Gar (mgar). There they lived on juniper berries and meager provisions of grains, abstaining from all meat. For three years Jampel Gyatso received teachings on Lamrim (lam rim), Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara and Vajrabhairava, as well as Cho. In addition, Tsongkhapa transmitted the Ganden Mahamudra tradition that he had received directly from Manjushri, together with the traditions ephemeral scriptural collection known as the Trulpai Legbam (sprul ba’i legs bam), which Tsongkhapa gave to no one else. Later he would train again with Tsongkhapa at Olka Samten Ling (’ol kha bsam gtan gling), where Tsongkhapa taught Guhyasamaja.

In search of solitary retreat, Jampel Gyatso left Cholung for hermitages near Kadampa monasteries of Medro Gyalpoteng (mal gro rgyal po steng) and Pangsa (spang sa), northeast of Lhasa. For some time he gave teachings, but ultimately sealed up his cave and refused visitors, only increasing his renown. Like his teacher Umapa, he served as a medium of sorts for his main deity, Manjushri, taking questions from people to put before the god.

Jampel Gyatso passed away at Ganden in 1428 at the age of seventy-three. His main disciple was Baso Chokyi Gyaltsen (ba so chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1402-1473) and Chennga Lodro Gyaltsen (spyan snga blo gros rgyal mtshan, 1402-1472).


Grags pa ’byung gnas. 1992. Gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod. Lanzhou: Kan su’u mi rigs dpe skrun khang, p. 733.

Tshe mchog gling yongs ’dzin ye shes rgyal mtshan. 1970 (1787). Biographies of Eminent Gurus in the Transmission Lineages of the teachings of the Graduated Path, being the text of: Byang chub Lam gyi Rim pa’i Bla ma Brgyud pa’i Rnam par Thar pa Rgyal mtshan Mdzes pa’i Rgyan Mchog Phul byung Nor bu’i Phreng ba. New Delhi: Ngawang Gelek Demo, vol 1, p. 849 ff.

Willis, Janice D. 1995. Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition. Boston: Wisdom Publications, pp. 48-55.

Miranda Adams
September 2008


Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen b.1374 – d.1434 (Name Variants: Drakpa Gyaltsen)
blo bzang grags pa’i dpal
dkon mchog seng+ge


Khedrubje Gelek Pelzang b.1385 – d.1438 (Name Variants: Gelek Pelzang)
blo gros rgyal mtshan
Baso Chokyi Gyaltsen b.1402 – d.1473 (Name Variants: Chokyi Gyaltsen; Ganden Tri 06 Chokyi Gyaltsen; Lhanwa Sowa Chokyi Gyaltsen; Tatsang 01 Chokyi Gyaltsen)

Source: http://www.tibetanlineages.org/biographies/view/162/3744



2 Responses to “Jampel Gyatso (1356 – 1428)”
  1. Sarah says:

    Another remarkable personality. A fascinating story of a Gelugpa lama. One of Tsongkhapa’s chosen eight. Surely an enlightened being. A pity so little has been written about Jampel Gyatso.

  2. Sarah says:

    The story of Lama Tsongkhapa’s famous retreat with eight followers has always intrigued me. Jampel Gyatso was one of the eight disciples named by Lord Manjushri when asked by Je Rinpoche how many he should take with him. They travelled from Tolung and established a retreat camp at Cholung. Tsongkhapa lived in a grass hut. Each of the others also settled into a single hut and took turns to serve Je Rinpoche. It is said that Jampel Gyatso did not have any religious texts nor images of deities with him. But when he requested for teachings on Lamdre, a small painting and an exposition on Lamdre miraculously manifested. After that, Lama Tsongkhapa bestowed the complete cycle of practices of Manjushri to Jampel Gyatso. They practiced the juniper berry austerity for 3 years. Jampel Gyatso ate only 30 juniper berry pills a day and earned the nickname “Juniper Berry”. After receiving the practice of the Gaden Oral Tradition from Tsongkhapa, he continued to meditate and because of his attainments was able to benefit ordinary people who sought his help. After handing over the practice of the Oral Tradition to his main disciple Baso Chokyi Gueltsen, he passed away at the age of 73.

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