Shortly after being ordained as a monk at a Nyingma Monastery in 1841, twenty one year old Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo (1820-1892) set off on the first, of at least two, arduous and remarkable journeys across the Tibetan plateau to meet with prominent lamas. Named Tsering Dondrup at birth, and the scion of a wealthy and politically well-connected Dêge family, his birth was accompanied by numerous auspicious signs. At twelve, Tsering Dondrup was recognized as the reincarnation of an important Sakya khenpo, or abbot, and given the name Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo Kunga Tenpai Gyeltsen Pelzangpo.
Jamyang Khyentsé set out on his journeys for the purpose of visiting Tibet’s many monasteries and sacred sites. During his travels he collected teachings from multiple Tibetan Buddhist Schools (Bön, Nyingma, Kagu, Sakya, Gelug, Jonang). Jamyang Khyentsé was motivated by his concern that sectarian Tibetan Buddhism was encouraging the various schools to discount and obscure the teachings of the other schools. Jamyang Khyentsé wanted to be sure that the multitude of Tibet Buddhist teachings would not disappear.
Jamyang Khyentsé’s journeys were not just about collecting and learning from the printed scriptures in the sites he visited. His purpose was to receive the teachings through lung, or ritual transmission, from lamas. As a Gter ston, or treasure discoverer, Jamyang Khyentsé sat with previous receivers of the teachings who were passing the teachings on to him. From these teachers he was also receiving permission to pass on the teachings, or treasures, as living renditions of the Buddhist canon.
All together, Jamyang Khyentsé received over seven hundred volumes of teachings over the course of his travels in Tibet. At twenty-four he returned to Dêge and became a resident at Dzongsar Gonpa (Monastery). After returning to Dêge, Jamyang Khyentsé met the older Jamgon Kontrul Lodro Taye (1813-1899), who recognized Jamyang Khyentse as his teacher. Together, along with Chokgyur Lingpa (1829-1870) they collaborated on numerous publications of the Tibetan Buddhist canon. Their writings were carved into woodblocks and printed at The Dêge Parkhang for distribution throughout Tibet.
The teachings that Jamyang Khyentsé collected, and his collaboration with Jamgon Kontrul and Chokgyur Lingpa, became foundational to the Rimé, or non-sectarian, movement within Tibetan Buddhism. Dêge, with its history of religious tolerance, would become a center of the movement. While adherents maintained a primary affiliation with one of the Tibetan Buddhist schools, they would recognize the teachings of the other schools as having value for the various needs of their practice. The Rimé movement was not about amalgamating the teachings of the various Tibetan Buddhist schools, but about differentiating the multiple ways that instruction could occur.
During his lifetime, Jamyang Khyentsé was appreciated for his humility, compassion, and facility as a teacher. His meeting room at Dzongsar was known as “The Joyful Grove of Immortal Accomplishment” and was considered sacred. Following a short illness, Jamyang Khyentsé died in 1892, in the year of the Water Dragon. His death was accompanied by mild earthquakes in the surrounding area.