Zhang Yudrakpa Tsöndru Drakpa

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Zhang Yudrakpa Tsöndru Drakpa (1122–93) (zhang g.yu brag pa brtson 'gru brags pa), also known as Gungtang Lama Zhang (gung-thang bla-ma zhang) and popularly simply as “Lama Zhang,” was the founder of the Tshalpa Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Although a prominent religious figure, Lama Zhang was also deeply, and controversially, involved in the political and military conflicts in the Tibet of his time.

Lama Zhang was probably the first to establish a system of theocratic rulership centered on the figure of the charismatic lama in the Lhasa area of Central Tibet. Together with Tsongkhapa, and Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo, Lama Zhang was considered as one of the "Three Jewels of Tibet" (bod nor bu rnam gsum).[1]

Biographical details[edit]

Lama Zhang was born in August, 1123 at Tsawadru (Wylie: tsha ba gru) in the Kyi River Valley located in the southern part of present-day Lhasa and was named Darma Drak. He was the son of Zhang Dorje Sempa, a lay tantric practitioner belonging to the important Nanam (Wylie: sna nam) clan, and Shümo Zamangkyi, who had formerly been a Buddhist nun.<Tibetan nuns before the 1990s were all śrāmaṇerīs, the full bhikṣuṇī lineage was never established before then.> Tibetan hagiographies relate many auspicious signs occurring at his birth and during his infancy.

During his childhood his mother encouraged his religious education, taking the young Zhang to listen to religious discourses by the woman teacher Majo Darma.[2] On the other hand, in his autobiography Zhang also records his “contradictory traits” and struggles with evil impulses from an early age—including killing of and cruelty towards animals.[3]

At the age of seven, Zhang received teachings in the basic Buddhist doctrines of prajnaparamita, abhidharma and pramana from Sambu Lotsawa, and teachings in different tantras, including Hevajra and Mahākāla, from Lama Ngokpa, one of his most important tantric teachers. At this time he also received teachings in the practice of black magic.[4]


  • Nyamme Shakya Yeshe 1147-1207
  • Rokam Nyima Sherab 1139-1208
  • Kharagpa Dulwa O b.1100?


A collection of the works of Lama Zhang in 9 volumes (edited by Khenpo Shedup Tenzin and Lama Thinley Namgyal) has recently been published as dpal ldan tshal pa bka' brgyud kyi bstan pa'i mnga' bdag zhang g.yu brag pa brtson 'grus grags pa'i gsung 'bum rin po che: (The Collected Works of Zhaṅ brtson 'grus grags pa 1123-1193). Kathmandu: Shree Gautam Buddha Vihar, 2004.


  1. ^ chin. Xizang sanbao 西藏三寶
  2. ^ Martin 2008
  3. ^ Yamamoto (2009) p. 57
  4. ^ Sørenson and Hazod (2007) p. 31


  • Davidson, Ronald M. (2005) Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13471-2
  • Jackson, David. (1994) Enlightenment by a Single Means: Tibetan Controversies on the "Selfsufficient White Remedy" (dkar po chig thub). Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. ISBN 978-3-7001-2162-6
  • Roerich, George N. (Translator) (1949) The Blue Annals. Reprinted: Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1988.
  • Smith, E. Gene. "Golden Rosaries of the Bka' brgyud Schools." in Among Tibetan Texts: History and Literature of the Himalayan Plateau, ed. Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001. ISBN 0-86171-179-3
  • Sørenson, Per, and Hazod, Guntram. (2007) Rulers on the Celestial Plain: Ecclesiastic and Secular Hegemony in Medieval Tibet: A Study of Tshal Gung-thang. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. ISBN 978-3-7001-3828-0
  • 'Tshal pa kun dga' rdo rje. Deb ther dmar po. 1981 Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang
  • Yamamoto, Carl Shigeo (2009) Vision and Violence: Lama Zhang and the Dialectics of Political Authority and Religious Charisma in Twelfth-Century Central Tibet. PhD dissertation, Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. ISBN 978-1-109-22542-6

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