Jewel of the Kalachakra
Kunkhyen Choku Ozer
It has been said that you can tell a lot from a person’s name and when it comes to Kunkhyen Choku Ozer, that adage certainly rings true. The epithet “Kunkhyen” means “all-knowing” and it was given to the erudite Choku Ozer in recognition of his penetrative insight into the Buddha’s teachings. It is said that Choku Ozer, a tantric master of high regard, only had to glance through complex Buddhist treatises in order to instantly grasp their entire meaning.
This special incarnation began his life in 1213 CE and started out as the student of great masters of the Menlung tradition. He later grew up to establish the ancient monastery of Dakpo Tsele, also known as Tsele Nyingma (meaning “Old Tsele”), around the 14th Century.
However, Kunkhyen Choku Ozer is especially known for being a lineage master of the Guhyasamaja and Kalachakra Tantras. He is also particularly associated with two of the seven principal mandalas of the Manjushri Namasamgiti Tantra. It is the lineages of these two forms of Manjushri that he passed to his student Pagod Yontan Gyatso, who later passed them to Butön Rinchen Drub, a future incarnation of Kunkhyen Choku Ozer himself.
Of the Guhyasamaja Tantra that he mastered, Kunkhyen Choku Ozer is principally associated with the Go Lineage. It originates from Go Lotsawa Khugpa Lhetse, an esteemed translator who was an earlier incarnation of the Panchen Lamas. Having studied and mastered the entire Guhyasamaja Tantra, Go Lotsawa composed texts containing practice instructions and a commentary on the Guhyasamaja practice. These texts came to be known as Go’s Three Scrolls and this lineage was eventually transmitted to Kunkhyen Choku Ozer, who was able to memorise the texts after reading them only once.
It was none other than Lama Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, who praised Kunkhyen Choku Ozer as a lineage holder of the Guhyasamaja practice. In Tsongkhapa’s writings, Kunkhyen Choku Ozer is listed alongside other masters of the lineage such as Nagarjuna, Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa and Butön Rinchen Drub.
Kunkhyen Choku Ozer also held the lineage of Kalachakra practice according to the Dro Lineage. He passed this lineage to his disciple, Kunpang Tukje Tsondru, who subsequently also received transmissions of all the major Buddhist treatises and teachings that Kunkhyen Choku Ozer possessed. This luminary disciple would go on to establish Jomonang Monastery and it is from this monastery that the Jonang school of Tibetan Buddhism arose. This school places a very strong emphasis on the Kalachakra tantric system.
The other minutiae of Kunkhyen Choku Ozer’s life have been lost to the sands of time. And so whilst little else is known about his daily activities, what is recorded and continues to be celebrated today reflects the instrumental role that this great master played in transmitting and proliferating these tantric systems during his time. Each day, as practitioners of the various lineages engage in their meditations, it is his name that they recite along with other great masters, seeking his blessings and guidance to realise the same spiritual accomplishments that he himself mastered so many centuries ago.