Klong chen pa

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PeopleKlong chen pa

Longchen Rabjam(1308 - 1364) 
Also known as Klong chen pa (Longchenpa). An esteemed master and scholar of the Rnying ma sect of Tibetan Buddhism known especially for his promulgation of rdogs chen. Klong chen pa is believed to be the direct reincarnation of Padma las 'brel rtsal, who revealed the Rdzogs chen snying thig, and also of Padma gsal, who first received those teachings from the Indian master Padmasambhava. Born in the central region of G.yo ru (Yoru), he received ordination at the age of twelve. At nineteen, he entered Gsang phu ne'u thog monastery where he engaged in a wide range of studies, including philosophy, numerous systems of sūtra and tantra, and the traditional Buddhist sciences, including grammar and poetics. Having trained under masters as diverse as the abbots of Gsang phu ne'u thog and the third Karma pa, Rang 'byung rdo rje, he achieved great scholarly mastery of numerous traditions, including the Rnying ma, Sa skya, and Bka' brgyud sects. However, Klong chen pa quickly became disillusioned at the arrogance and pretention of many scholars of his day, and in his mid-twenties gave up the monastery to pursue the life of a wandering ascetic. At twenty-nine, he met the great yogin Kumārarāja at Bsam yas monastery, who accepted him as a disciple and transmitted the three classes of rdogs chen (rdogs chen sde gsum), a corpus of materials that would become a fundamental part of Klong chen pa's later writings and teaching career . . . Among the most important and well-known works in Klong chen pa's extensive literary corpus are his redaction of the meditation and ritual manuals of the heart essence (Snying thig), composed mainly in the hermitage of Gangs ri thod dkar. Other important works include his exegesis on the theory and practice of rdzogs chen, such as the Mdzod bdun (“seven treasuries”) and the Ngal gso skor gsum (“Trilogy on Rest”). (Source: “Klong chen rab ‘byams.” In The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, 439. Princeton University Press, 2014. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46n41q.27.)

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Philosophical positions of this person

  • "...the Grub mtha' mdzod's positive interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhāga, maintaining that emptiness needs to be understood in the sense of buddha nature's luminosity, and that such a positive assessment of the ultimate has definitive meaning." Mathes, K., A Direct Path to the Buddha Within, p. 98.
  • Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, pp. 2-4.
  • "As he concludes the section on the buddha-nature in his Treasury of Tenets, again based largely on citations quoted from the Uttaratantra, he declares, "The meaning of buddha-nature must be asserted and understood only as definitive, not as provisional. Because this topic on the buddha-element [from the Uttaratantra] is the essential and difficult-to-realize aspect of the Mahāyāna, that is why it is explained in detail here." Wangchuk, Tsering, The Uttaratantra in the Land of Snows, pp. 64-65.

It exists in sentient beings, though it is very difficult to perceive due to being hindered by adventitious stains, which are explained in detail in the long quote in Mathes, K., A Direct Path to the Buddha Within, p. 100.
"Longchenpa, thus, adduces the crucial stanza I.28 from the Ratnagotravibhāga, which lists the three reasons for the presence of buddha nature in sentient beings. In his explanation of the third reason ("because of the potential"), Longchenpa equates potential with the dzogchen term awareness, adopting as he does the reading rig instead of rigs (potential), and glossing buddha nature as rigpa in the following paraphrase. In other words, all sentient beings possess buddha nature because of their intrinsic primordial awareness." Mathes, K., A Direct Path to the Buddha Within, p. 100.

Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, pp. 2-4.

  • Though much like Mipham in his steed, Longchenpa presents a combination of second and third wheel teachings in his presentations of buddha-nature with the emptiness of the second and the appearance of wisdom, etc. in the third as a unity. However, strictly speaking Longchenpa considers buddha-nature as taught in the RGV as belonging to the third turning.

This is a tricky issue, as he generally predates this categorization though he does use the term, sparingly, in some of his writings, though not in the same way that it would come to be characterized by Dolpopa. Though some traditional scholars, such as Kongtrul, consider him a zhentongpa, this is not a common Nyingma view. For relevant discussions of this issue see:

"He also describes an “ultimate universal ground” (don gyi kun gzhi) in his autocommentary of his Wish-Fulfilling Treasury: “The basic element is called ‘the ultimate universal ground’ because it co-exists with the unconditioned qualities of the naturally pure nirvāna.” He says that this ground is the support for both samsāra and nirvāna, and identifies it with Buddha-nature: Due to abiding as the expanse neither conjoined with nor separable from the exalted body and wisdom, it is Buddha-nature; due to supporting all phenomena of samsāra and nirvāna, it is the abiding reality called “the ultimate universal ground”; it is unconditioned and abides as the great primordial purity..." Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, p. 104.

Other names

  • ཀློང་ཆེན་པ་ · other names (Tibetan)
  • klong chen pa · other names (Wylie)

Affiliations & relations

  • Nyingma · religious affiliation
  • Vimalamitra · emanation of
  • pad+ma las 'brel rtsal · emanation of
  • rig 'dzin ku mA ra rA dza · teacher
  • Karmapa, 3rd · teacher
  • g.yag sde paN chen · teacher
  • bsod nams rgyal mtshan · teacher
  • 'jam dbyangs pa grags pa rgyal mtshan · teacher

On the topic of this person