The Fantastic Stories of Könchok Paldrön and her Enlightened Children

Joel Gruber


During the twelfth century, innovative developments in Tibetan Buddhist spiritual biography helped provide new narrative license to describe the lives and practices of revered saints with a level of detail and sophistication that far surpassed the preceding minimalist approach to biography. This article draws attention to several of the key literary techniques employed by authors to compose spiritual biographies. By comparing two recently published works of this genre, Brilliant Moon: The Autobiography of Dilgo Khyentse (2008) and Blazing Splendor: The Memoirs of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (2005), I argue that the latter text’s persistent breaks from established literary precedence are reflective of Könchok Paldrön’s influence on her grandson, Tulku Urgyen. In addition, I argue that these breaks provide scholars with novel information pertaining to the family dynamic that exists between saints who have been recognized, as children, as reincarnations of enlightened masters (tulkus), the mothers who gave birth to them, and the religious institutions that raised them.


tulku; tertön; termas; Nyingma; biography; gender; Könchok Paldrön; Tulku Urgyen; Dilgo Khyentse; fantasy; mimesis; women in Tibet

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Copyright (c) 2015 Joel Gruber

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