Zong Rinpoche Lobzang Tsondru Tubten Gyeltsen

Zong Rinpoche

Zong Rinpoche Lobzang Tsondru, was born in Nangsang, Kham, in 1905. His father’s name was Jampa and his mother’s was Sonam Yangdzom. Lobzang Tsondru was born into a Nyingma family; both his father and grandfathers were ngakpas. Nevertheless, as a child he was recognized as the reincarnation of the Gelug master Zongtrul Tenpa Chopel (1836-1899).

Lobzang Tsondru was enrolled in the local monastery and already at a young age, his skill in the study and memorization of texts was impressive. In 1916, he travelled to U-Tsang and joined the Shartse College of Ganden Monastery, where he began his study of Pramāṇa, Mādhyamaka, Prajñāpāramitā, Vinaya and Abhidharma. It was at this time that Lobzang Tsondru met the young Third Trijang Rinpoche, Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso (1901-1981), who would eventually become his root guru.

In 1928, Lobzang Tsondru debated in front of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Tubten Gyatso (1876-1933) in Lhasa and was subsequently awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree following the Monlam festival examinations. It was also from the Thirteenth Dalai Lama that Lobzang Tsondru received his full monastic ordination in the early years of his stay in Ganden. Following the award of his degree he entered Gyuto Monastery where he engaged in advanced tantric studies.

Following the completion of his studies, he was appointed the abbot of Ganden Shartse in 1937 by the regent Reting Rinpoche Tubten Jampel Yeshe Gyeltsen (1911-1947), and held this position for almost ten years. By this time, Lobzang Tsondru had a reputation for being extremely skillful in debate and in his knowledge of Mādhyamaka.

Following his abbotship, Lobzang Tsondru went on an extensive pilgrimage around Tibet, travelling to the holy mountain of Tsari and also returning to his homeland in Kham where he gave teachings and initiations to the local population. Lobzang Tsondru is still well known in the Gelug tradition for his vast knowledge of tantric practice. Particularly during his travels in the 1940s and 1950s, he is attributed with a number of miraculous events such as subduing local deities and spirits through wrathful rituals, curing physical ailments and the ability to control the weather.

Following the violent upheavals in Lhasa in 1959, Zong Rinpoche, like many Tibetans, followed the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tendzin Gyatso (b.1935) to India. In India he settled in Buxa, Assam, where the main Gelug monasteries had been re-established in an old British concentration camp. Although the tropical conditions were harsh and many monks died during this period in India, Lobzang Tsondru continued to give teachings to train a new generation of Gelug scholars and practitioners.

In 1965, at the request of the Dalai Lama, Lobzang Tsondru became the director of the Tibetan Schools Teachers Training Program in Mussoorie, and, in 1967, the Dalai Lama appointed him as the first principal of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi.

gaden monastery

In 1971 Lobzang Tsondru moved to Ganden Shartse in the newly established Tibetan settlement in Mundgod, Karnataka and retired from his position in Varanasi. Although he spent his later years engaging in practice he also continued to teach. He made three journeys to the West, travelling around North America and Europe. The first of these journeys was made after repeated requests from Lama Tubten Yeshe (1935–1984) of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) in 1978, with the last being in 1983.

During his travels he gave teachings on both sutra and tantra, including teachings on the Chod of the Ganden Ear-Whispered Lineage, a practice he is well known for, as well as the life-entrustment of the controversial protector Dorje Shugden. Lobzang Tsondru also taught numerous western students in India and participated in giving teachings and empowerments during the FPMT’s First Dharma Celebration in Dharamsala in 1981, along with other high-ranking Gelug teachers such at the Dalai Lama, Ling Rinpoche Tubten Lungtok Tendzin Trinle (1903-1983), Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche Ngawang Lobzang Tubten Tobjor (1914-1983) as well as Lama Tubten Zopa (b.1946) and Lama Yeshe.

It was also in 1981 that Lobzang Tsondru’s root guru, Trijang Rinpoche, passed away in Mundgod. It was from Trijang Rinpoche that Lobzang Tsondru had received numerous important lineages such as those of Cittamaṇi Tārā, Vajrayogīni Naro Kechari, and Heruka Cakrasaṃvara. Lobzang Tsondru passed these lineages to his own students, many of whom were also Trijang Rinpoche’s students.

After a series of teachings and empowerments in Mundgod in 1983, which included Cittamaṇi Tārā and Hayagrīva, Zong Rinpoche fell ill. Following requests from his students and Dharma protector, communicating through a medium, Lobzang Tsondru became better. In the wake of his illness, Zong Rinpoche engaged in intensive practice and also was able to assist in the search for his root guru’s reincarnation.

However, in 1984, despite showing no signs of illness, Lobzang Tsondru suddenly passed away, much to the shock of everyone. Ceremonies such as gaṅacakra, and the self-entry initiations of Cittamaṇi Tārā, Vajrayogīni and Vajrabhairava were performed, along with other rituals. Following the cremation of his body after the end of his tukdam death-period meditation, a number of relics were found, some of which were enshrined in a stupa, completed in 1986, which stands today at Ganden Monastery in Lama Camp No.1 in Mundgod.

References :
Zasep Tulku. 1981. Kyabje Song Rinpoche: A Biography. Martin Willson, trans. London: Wisdom Publications.

Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. 2006. Chöd in the Ganden Tradition: The Oral Instructions of Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. David Molk, ed. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications.

Kyabje Song Rinpoche. 1979. “Birth, Death and Bardo” in Dreloma, Drepung Loseling Magazine. Lobsang Norbu Tsonawa, Michael Richards et al., trans.

Joona Repo
August 2011

Source : http://www.treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Zong%20Rinpoche%20Lobzang%20Tsondru%20Tubten%20Gyeltsen/8612


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