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date: 05 December 2023

The Life and Works of Longchenpalocked

The Life and Works of Longchenpalocked

  • Albion M. ButtersAlbion M. ButtersSchool of History, Culture and Arts Studies, University of Turku


Longchen Rabjam (Klong chen rab ’byams pa, 1308–1363/1364) is regarded as one of the most important figures in the Nyingma (Rnying ma) school of Tibetan Buddhism. He is especially renowned for his writings on Dzogchen (Rdzogs chen), or the Great Perfection, and his revelations and codification of the various Nyingtik (Snying thig) or Seminal Essence cycles, penned in a clear, direct, and often poetic style. Longchenpa also wrote in depth on Buddhist philosophy, in particular exploring the nature of the two truths through a Madhyamaka lens, and the soteriological significance of the respective paths in the Buddhist tradition, from Sūtrayāna to Mantrayāna. His overall oeuvre, from which hundreds of texts survive, evidences a practical effort to provide students and readers with a wide range of entry points to awakening, depending on their respective inclination and ability. Longchenpa has historically been respected as both a scholar and a yogi, accorded by tradition with the rare title of Omniscient One (Kun mkhyen). He began his studies at an early age, studied with the great masters of his time at Samye (Bsam yas) and Sangpu Neutok (Gsang phu ne’u thog), and received ascetic tutelage from his guru Kumārādza (1266–1343). Through focus on the Vima Nyingtik (Bi ma snying thig) and Khandro Nyingtik (Mkha’ ’gro snying thig) cycles, receiving visions and discovering treasure texts (gter ma), his connection to his previous reincarnation as Pema Ledrel Tsal (Padma las ’brel rtsal, 1291–1315) was revealed. Even though the political tumult of 14th-century Tibet forced Longchenpa to leave for Bhutan, he was able to continue to write and build monasteries. Longchenpa returned home for the final years of his life, which were alternately spent in retreat or giving teachings to large audiences seeking wisdom from the famous master. Over the centuries, the majority of his literary corpus was preserved, and due to the attention of later Nyingma lamas such as Jigme Lingpa (’Jigs med gling pa, 1730–1798) and Mipam (Mi pham, 1846–1912), his legacy was ensured. The timeless writings of Longchenpa comprise a rich treasure for Tibetan scholars and Buddhist practitioners alike.


  • Buddhism

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