6th Karmapa – Tongwa Donden

The birth of the 6th , Tongwa Donden (1416-1453), at Ngomto Shakyam near Gon in east , was marked by many auspicious signs. One month later, carried by his mother as she went begging, he became highly excited when their path crossed that of Ngompa Chadral, a student of the fifth Karmapa.

When Lama Ngompa Chadral asked who he was, the child smiled and replied

“I’m the unborn, free from all names, places, and I am the glory of all that lives. I shall lead many to liberation”.

Ngompa Chadral cared for the baby for seven months, before taking him to Karma Gon, one of Karmapa’s three main in Tibet. As young as he was, Tongwa Donden soon began to teach. At age three, he met Ratnabhadra and received the full transmission. At age six, he composed several .

The third , Chopal , came to Karma Gon during this period too. He recognized him as the sixth Karmapa, enthroned him, and gave him further . The 6th Karmapa was nine when he was ordained by Khenchen Sonam Zangpo at the of Wolkar Tashi Tang.

He also began to receive instructions in the texts and practices of from the great saint Ratnabhadra, who was an incarnation of Rechungpa. The 6th Karmapa concentrated strongly on developing a consistent Kamtshang liturgical system to supplement the meditative tradition of the Kagyu school and wrote many Kamtshang sadhana . He also developed a new style of recitation and chanting.

In , the 6th Karmapa received a great number of teachings from the abbot Rongtonpa, who declared that he had a as his student. Karmapa Tongwa Donden’s life was spent teaching, and building monasteries and shrines throughout Tibet.

He also commissioned editions of the Kanjur and the Tenjur, which he paid for with the many he received on his tours. Throughout this he continued to receive teachings through visions of , the great philosopher, , and .

Bengar Jampal Zangpo and the first Gyaltsab, Goshir Paljor Dondrub, were his two principal students and became his lineage holders. They would become the main teachers of the seventh Karmapa, Chodrag Gyamtso.

Iconography of the Tongwa Donden

The eyes stare of Tongwa Donden is with a stern gaze and furrowed brow above. The two hands of Tongwa Donden are held at the heart display a gold scepter and . Atop the head sits the black vajra crown ornamented with gold strips and a jewel at the peak.

Tongwa Donden is attired in the orange and red patchwork robes of a . Tongwa Donden sits enwrapped in a red cloak atop a -supported decorated with a carved dragon head backrest. The low table in front supports a , of sweets, flower vase, and a teacup.

The is adorned with a row of variously colored wishing jewels and precious objects.

Depicting Lama Teacher Tongwa Donden Thangka


The of lama teacher Tongwa Donden is from Tibet.  Tongwa Donden is from Karma (Kagyu) and lineages. The base of the is ground mineral pigment on . The thangka of Tongwa Dondenis from a private collection.

Vina Sarasvati

Vina Sarasvati is at the upper right corner of the thangka. Vina Sarasvati is the goddess of literature, poetry, and .  Sarasvati is white in color.

Vina Sarasvati has one face, two hands. Vina Sarasvati is seated in a relaxed manner. Vina Sarasvati is with a face like the rising moon, eyebrows like drawn lines, two beautiful eyes like , casting sidelong glances like shooting stars, a clear complexion, pink cheeks and attractive.

The throat of Vina Sarasvati is graceful and gently bending; white breasts, round, firm, upright, and full. The left hand of Vina Sarasvati holds a jewel-studded vina of the . The right hand of Vina Sarasvati holds a pick strumming the vina enthusiastically with the fingertips.

Vina Sarasvati is with a very slender waist and flexible hips, a well proportioned, fair, smooth, young, ample flesh, and well-rounded. Vina Sarasvati is seated with the two legs, white, smooth, relaxed, and desirable in a slightly crouching manner. Vina Sarasvati is attractive braids, long and full, half-loose covering the upper back, half tied up in a topknot blazing with a wishing jewel.

Vina Sarasvati is wearing a beautiful gold chain strung with flowers, blue, red, and the like. Vina Sarasvati also wears earrings of gold flowers and utpalas. Next to the ears of Vina Sarasvati, there are flowing ribbons.

She is adorned with many ornaments, jewel earrings, necklaces, bracelets, anklets, belts, long necklaces, and the like. Vina Sarasvati is wearing an attractive upper garment of white cotton and a lower garment like a rainbow. Vina Sarasvati is fantastically beloved, radiantly desirous at sixteen years of age.

Tongwa Donden with Chopel Yeshe  Thangka

The thangka of Tongwa Donden with Chopel Yeshe is from Tibet. The thangka of Tongwa Donden with Chopel Yeshe is made between 1900 to 1959 AD. Tongwa Donden with Chopel Yeshe is from Karma (Kagyu) and Buddhist lineages. The base of the painting is ground mineral pigment on cotton. Tongwa Donden with Chopel Yeshe is from a private collection.

Chopel Yeshe is in the middle right of the thangka. Chopel Yeshe is known as 3rd Sharma. Chopel Yeshe was born in 1406.

Rongton Sheja Kunzig

Rongton Sheja Kunzig is at the lower right of the thangka. Rongton Sheja Kunzig wears the red Pandita hat. Rongton Sheja Kunzig was born in 1367.

Attendant Figure

The attendant figure is presented on the lower left of the thangka. The attendant figure is holding a book.

Tongwa Donden with Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa Thangka

The thangka of Tongwa Donden with Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa is from Eastern Tibet. It is made between 1900 to 1959 AD. Tongwa Donden with Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa is from Karma lineage. The size of the painting is 83.82×53.34cm. The base of the painting is ground mineral pigment on cotton. Currently, this thangka is in the .

Dusum Khyenpa is at the upper right in the snowy in the thanks. Dusum Khyenpa is born in the Kham region of eastern Tibet. He was eclectic in the , not only learning the Kamtsangpa doctrines but also familiar with Shangpa, Shije, maha ati, and Sakyapa teachings.

Leave a Reply

Related posts

Tea House: Interviews, Commentary, Reviews, Poetry
PsyPost - Meditation
Plum Village - Thich Nhat Hanh
More News