The Khalkha Jetsun Dampa Khutuktus are the spiritual heads of the Gelug lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia. They also hold the title of...
The Khalkha Jetsun Dampa Khutuktus (Mongolian: Жавзандамба хутагт, Javzandamba Khutagt; Tibetan: རྗེ་བཙུན་དམ་པ་ Jebtsundamba; literally, “Holy Venerable Lord”) are the spiritual heads of the Gelug lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia. They also hold the title of Bogd Gegeen, making them the top-ranked Lama in Mongolia.
The Khalkha Jetsun Dampa is one of the most revered teachers of the Kalachakra Tantras, the Tara Tantras and the practice of Maitreya. All of these lineage teachings descend directly from Taranatha, the great historian and Tantric practitioner.
The first recognised Khalkha Jetsun Dampa Khutuktu, the spiritual head of the Khalkhas from Outer Mongolia was Öndör Gegeen Zanabazar (“High Saint Zanabazar”; 1635–1723). Born Eshidorji, he was commonly known as Zanabazar, the Mongolian rendition of the Sanskrit “Jnanavajra” meaning “Vajra of Wisdom”. Zanabazar was the son of the Tüsheet Khan Gombodorj, ruler of central Khalkha Mongolia, and himself became the spiritual head of the Khalkha Mongols.
A thangka depicting the great master Zanabazar
Zanabazar was recognised in 1649 by the 5th Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama as the reincarnation of the scholar Taranatha. The Tibetan Buddhists were so impressed by Zanabazar’s knowledge and spiritual devotion that they granted him an additional title Bogd Gegeen, or “Highest Enlightened Saint”, the top-ranking Lama in Mongolia. As the head of the Gelug lineage in Mongolia, his seat was at Örgöö, then located in Övörkhangai – 400 miles from the present site of Ulaanbataar. From that point in history, the Dalai Lamas and the Jetsun Dampas have been very close.
Taranatha was the leader of the Jonang school of Tibetan Buddhism until his death. As his reincarnation, Zanabazar co-opted Taranatha’s followers into his school. As Zanabazar became part of the Gelug tradition, all the followers of Taranatha were absorbed into the Gelug tradition too.
Furthermore, Taranatha was believed to be the 15th incarnation of Jetsun Dampa, one of the Buddha’s first 500 disciples. This made Zanabazar the 16th incarnation in this line. As such, the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia was known as the “Jetsun Dampa Khutuktu”. The name “Jetsun Dampa” means “Lord of Refuge” while “Khutuktu” is the equivalent of a “tulku” in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
All incarnations played important roles in the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia. They have become leaders of their country in their own ways and at some point in history, created a theocratic state, leading the people both secularly and spiritually.
8th Jetsun Dampa Khutuktu and Bogd Khan (b. 1869 – d. 1924)
Agvaanluvsanchoyjindanzanvaanchigbalsambuu (Ngag-dbang-blo-bzang-chos-rje-nyi-ma-bstan-‘dzin-dbang-phyug rJe-btsun-dam-pa Bla-ma)
1936 – 2012
9th Jetsun Dampa Khutuktu
Jambalnamdolchoyjijantsan (Jampal Namdrol Chokye Gyeltsen), (b. 1932; from 1991, recognized by the Dalai Lama; in Tibet exile to 1959, then in India; died in Ulaanbataar)
The second Jetsun Dampa’s personal name was Luvsandambiydonmi and his Tibetan ceremonial name was Lobsang Tenpai Gonmey (Blo-bzang-bstan-pa’i-srgon-me). He was a member of Mongolia’s highest nobility and a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. After Chingünjav’s rebellion and the successive demise of the second Jetsun Dampa Khutuktu, the Qianlong Emperor decreed in 1758 that all future reincarnations were to be found from among the population of Tibet.
The third Jetsun Dampa’s personal name was Ishdambiynyam and his Tibetan ceremonial name was Yeshe Tenpai Nyima (Ye-shes-bstan-pa’i-nyi-ma). He was the first incarnation of Jetsun Dampa to be found in Tibet.
The 4th Khalkha Jetsun Dampa
The fourth Jetsun Dampa’s name was Lobsang Thupten Wangchuk Jigme Gyatso (Blo bzang thub bstan dbang phyug ’jigs med rgya mtsho). He was known for his special contribution to spreading Dorje Shugden’s practice. In Mongolian art, the 4th Bogd Gegeen is usually depicted holding his palms together in front of his chest. Some depictions vary in that he holds a vajra between his palms, or doesn’t hold anything at all.
Often, a monk’s staff, symbolising his full ordination and his strict adherence to monastic discipline, and a Tantric staff, a khatvanga, symbolising his accomplishments in Tantric practice, stand behind him. He is accompanied by Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri (top), Amitayus, White Tara, Vajrapani and two-armed Hayagriva (middle), Ushnishavijaya, Four-Faced Mahakala and Six-Armed Mahakala with his consort.
The fifth Jetsun Dampa ordered the construction of Gandantegchinlen Monastery in Mongolia, also known as Gaden Mongolia, in the capital of Ulaanbaatar in 1809. The Tibetan name translates to “The Great Place of Complete Joy”. It features a 26.5-metre-high statue of Avalokiteshvara that was built in 1913. It was rebuilt in 1990 and came under state protection in 1994.
Gandantegchinlen Monastery in Mongolia
The sixth Jetsun Dampa’s personal name was Luvsantüvdenchoyjijaltsan and his Tibetan ceremonial name was Lobsang Palden Tenpa (Blo-bzang-dpal-ldan-bstan-pa). The son of local donkey herders from Tibet, he was found and determined by monks to be the correct incarnation after the death of the fifth Jetsun Dampa Khutuktu. After his selection at the age of five, he was sent to Urga, present-day Ulaanbaatar and died there of smallpox after only 59 days. His remains were kept in Urga at Dambadarjaa Monastery.
The 8th Khalkha Jetsun Dampa
The eighth Jetsun Dampa was born in Tibet to the family of a Tibetan official and was officially recognised as the new incarnation of the Bogd Gegeen in the Potala Palace, in the presence of His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. He was enthroned as Khagan of Mongolia (Bogd Khaganate), a theocratic ruler, on 29 December 1911, when Outer Mongolia declared independence from the Qing dynasty after the Xinhai Revolution.
He was the third most important person in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy, below only the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, and therefore also known as the “Bogdo Lama”. He was the spiritual leader of Outer Mongolia’s Tibetan Buddhism. His wife Tsendiin Dondogdulam, the Ekh Dagina (“Dakini mother”), was believed to be a manifestation of the Bodhisattva White Tara. He was the head of state until his death in 1924 when the communist government of the Mongolian People’s Republic, which replaced the theocracy in 1924, took control of the Bogda Khan seal and declared that there were to be no further incarnations.
The 9th Khalkha Jetsun Dampa at Drepung Monastery in 1939.
The ninth Jetsun Dampa Khutuktu was born in Tromtsikang as Jampal Namdol Chökyi Gyaltsen in 1932. In 1936, he was recognised as the true and unmistaken reincarnation of the eighth Khalkha Jetsun Dampa. He was subsequently moved to Shol, just below the Potala. His father, Lobsang Jampal, was from Phenpo and his mother, Yangchen was from Kham.
At age seven, he entered Gomang College, Drepung Monastery, as a simple monk where he studied philosophy for 14 years, up to the level of Madhyamika. At Gomang, he studied primarily with a teacher from Mongolia named Geshe Thupten Nyima. He received his Dharma lineages from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
His Holiness the Panchen Lama, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, and Kyabje Lhatsun Rinpoche were his teachers in the Gelugpa lineage. H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was his teacher in the Nyingma lineage; Kalu Rinpoche was his teacher in the Kagyu lineage; and Sakya Tenzin Rinpoche was his teacher in the Sakya lineage. At the age of 21, he left Gomang College and Drepung to engage in a series of Chöd meditations, living the life of a yogi while on pilgrimage to the holy sites of Tibet.
The 9th Khalkha Jetsun Dampa
At age 25, he renounced his monastic vows and became a householder, took a wife and had two children. He then went to stay at Gaden Phuntsok Ling, established by his predecessor Taranatha. In 1959, Jampal Namdol fled Tibet when the Dalai Lama escaped, fearing that his identity would be revealed and he would be killed or used by the Communists for propaganda. In exile in India, he worked at various jobs, including in the Tibetan language section of All India Radio, and at Tibet House in New Delhi. When his first wife died, he remarried.
The 9th Khalkha Jetsun Dampa with his wife, children and loyal attendant
In 1975, he moved to Karnataka, India together with his second wife and seven children. In 1990, the Dalai Lama issued a statement revealing the identity of the 9th Khutuktu. In 1991, the Dalai Lama performed an official ceremony naming His Eminence the 9th Ninth Khalkha Jetsun Dampa Jampal Namdol Chökyi Gyaltsen in Madhya Pradesh, with the enthronement ceremony held in 1992 in Dharamsala.
Khalkha Jetsun Dampa with the Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama had appointed the 9th Jetsum Dampa to develop the Jonang tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The Jonang tradition was widely thought to have become extinct in the late 17th Century at the hands of the 5th Dalai Lama, who forcibly annexed the Jonang monasteries to his Gelug School during Zanabazar’s time.
In 1994, Khalkha Jetsun Dampa visited Tibet, following the instructions of the Dalai Lama, to receive rare empowerments including those of the Jonang tradition. However, it wasn’t until 1997 that he was enthroned as the Spiritual Head of the Jonang lineage in a ceremony that took place at Tsuglha Khang, Dharamsala.
The 9th Khalkha Jetsun Dampa
In July 1999, he was enthroned at Gandantegchinlen Khiid Monastery in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, while on a visit. He continued to live in exile in India and was considered the leader of Mongolian Buddhists. Later that same year, he was conferred the title of “The Protector of Beings of the North and Leader of all the Buddhist Schools” and enthroned with grand ceremony at Ertini Jowo Monastery in Mongolia. This was Mongolia’s first monastery.
In 2010, he visited Mongolia at the invitation of Gandantegchinlin Monastery and received Mongolian citizenship, but returned to Dharamsala afterwards. He eventually returned to live in Mongolia. In November 2011, he was enthroned as the head of the Buddhists of Mongolia. He passed away on 1 March 2012 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia after a prolonged illness.
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I received an initiation from
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Good day, I’m a Dharma practitioner based in South Africa. I took refuge and Bodhisattva vows in the Nyingma tradition. I am not bound to any particular tradition though, in my personal approach. I am also loosely affiliated with the New Kadampa Tradition as I received my very first teachings in that lineage, namely a Je Tsongkhapa empowerment in 2010. After I took Refuge and Bodhisattva vows in 2019 I began having dreams about Dorje Shugden. In one dream he appeared as though hovering over my chest and promised to protect me. I have had other dreams where Dorje Shugden appeared and had a very compassionate nature and expression. My question is: why was it difficult to do Dorje Shugden practice as a member of the NKT but upon taking refuge in the Nyingma lineage, I’m having dreams of Dorje Shugden and experiencing his energy positively? I am considering rejoining the NKT but I don’t want to break my connection to the Nyingma lineage or my gurus. The NKT’s structure and Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings resonate strongly with me. Your advice would be much appreciated.
May the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas bless you.
Thank you 🙏🏻
Ps. Can one do Dorje Shugden practice without empowerment?