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In December 2012, Steve Cline had the opportunity to speak with Lama Sonam Phuntsho about the transmission of the Dam Ngak Dzo. Here is their conversation.
The Treasury of Pith Instructions or Dam Ngak Dzö is one of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye’s famous Five Treasuries. This Treasury is in 18 volumes and is the basis for preserving and conferring the essential instructions for the eight practice lineages (sometimes referred to as the eight chariots) which transmitted the Dharma from India to Tibet.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche conferred the empowerments, reading transmissions and instructions for the Dam Ngak Dzö at Dzongsar Institute in Chauntra, Himachal Pradesh, India over a 9 week period ending on January 21, 2013. Dzongsar Institute is a monastic college with about 600 students and the main hall where the transmissions were presented is one of the largest structures in Himachal Pradesh. During most of the transmissions there appeared to be around 1,000 people in attendance, including monastics, lay Tibetans and Bhutanese, and about 200 foreigners. The venue was capable of accommodating many more, and towards the end of the transmissions the number of attendees swelled considerably.
The transmissions were presented in Tibetan with simultaneous translation of the empowerments, and daily teaching sessions into English and Chinese over FM radio. The reading transmissions were not translated, and the Dam Ngak Dzö itself does not exist in translation. Lama Sonam Phuntsho (see sidebar) conducted daily review sessions in English, which were translated into Chinese. I had the opportunity to interview Lama Sonam for the Chronicles, on December 12, 2012.
Connections: Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye was one of the most prominent 19th century masters of Dharma in Tibet. The tenth Trungpa, Chokyi Nyingje, was a close student of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. The story of the tenth Trungpa’s journey of leaving his monastery to study with Jamgon Kongtrul is told in Born in Tibet. Many years later, the tenth Trungpa became one of the main teachers for Sechen Kongtrul, an incarnation of Lodro Thaye. Eventually, Sechen Kongtrul became the root guru for the young eleventh Trungpa, Chokyi Gyatso.
Lama Sonam Phuntsho is a Bhutanese monastic in his mid-40s who attended Dzongsar Institute from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has taught at the Institute, and travelled to study and serve the dharma in various ways in Taiwan, the US, Canada and Australia. In January 2013 Sonam Phuntsho was awarded the academic degree of Khenpo. At present, he is based in Delhi, India where he is working on a research project on the transmission lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, and translating a biography of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s predecessor) into English.