Benefits and Miraculous Signs of Lama Tsongkhapa’s statues
As a student within the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, it is important for us to learn as much as we can about the founder of our lineage, Lama Tsongkhapa. Here are some short stories and facts to share with you to build your knowledge as well as confidence in the practice you engage in on a daily basis.
The Miracles of Lama Tsongkhapa
In the Root Tantra of Manjushri, Buddha Shakyamuni made a prediction about how Manjushri would later emanate as Lama Tsongkhapa:
After I pass away, and my pure doctrine is absent,
You will appear as an ordinary being,
Performing the deeds of a Buddha
And establishing the Joyful Land (Tushita), the great Protector
In the Land of the Snows (Tibet).
As Buddha predicted, Lama Tsongkhapa took birth in Tibet, the Land of Snows, where he lived from 1357 to 1419. During his lifetime, Lama Tsongkhapa established the pure Buddhadharma throughout Tibet without revealing many miracle powers openly but quietly clear miracles were observed by his close students. It is said that if Lama Tsongkhapa had displayed miracle powers and other forms of clairvoyance always openly, we would not have received much benefit from his actions today. Instead Lama Tsongkhapa compassionately showed us, through setting a pure example (morality) and teaching the Dharma – primarily the Lam Rim, Lojong and Mahamudra, how to enter an unmistaken spiritual path, how to practice the path comfortably and smoothly, and how we can eventually attain Enlightenment. Miracles by Lama Tsongkhapa are beautiful and inspirational. But stories on miracles will not bring us to enlightenment. Therefore Lama Tsongkhapa did not stress on miracles but the teachings of Lord Buddha to transform the mind, bring it to reality and to enlightenment. Because Lama Tsongkhapa focused on the practices, writings and teaching of Buddha, this is left to us today and if we study his teachings, we will definitely gain great knowledge and a complete practice to enlightenment. Lama Tsonghkapa’s true miraculous activity was to leave us over 18 volumes of writings from his knowledge and attainments. If we study this, we can gain high attainments.
Although Lama Tsongkhapa never displayed any miraculous deeds openly, after he entered parinirvana legends arose of miraculous signs appearing around statues crafted in his likeness all over Tibet. In fact, there are eight particularly famous statues that have shown incredible signs to sincere practitioners. Lama Tsongkhapa’s images have shown many healing and miraculous signs.
1. Je She Par Ma (The Venerable One who Disappeared with a Smile)
This statue was made by a sincere and humble practitioner who failed to find a statue of Lama Tsongkhapa for his retreat, so he ended up making a small statue to place on his altar. Every day, he treated the statue as if it was Lama Tsongkhapa, making offerings, prostrations and engaging in his meditations. One day upon arising from his meditation, he noticed the statue slowly melting into light. As he watched, he saw the statue suddenly smile as it rose into the air, then completely disappeared. He was surprised by the experience and for a long time he contemplated and eventually decided to tell his Guru about the incident. When his Guru heard the story, the Guru was extremely happy and told him to replicate the statue, which he did.
2. Je Nga Dra Ma (The Venerable One who is a Better Likeness)
3. Je Shen Pan Ma (The Venerable One who is More Beneficial to Others)
These two statues were made by two statue makers who were engaged in a friendly contest of measuring one’s craftsmanship. After they had completed crafting their best Tsongkhapa statue, they took it to a high Lama to determine who was the better craftsman. While the Lama was examining the statues, one of the statues spoke, “I am a better likeness”, then the other one said, “But I am more beneficial to others”. This was how these two statues eventually received their names.
4. Je Ku Thim Ma (The Venerable One who Dissolved into the Body)
This statue used to belong to Nyungna Lama, a devoted practitioner of Lama Tsongkhapa’s Guru Yoga. Everyday, he would regard this statue as Lama Tsongkhapa in the flesh and would go for refuge and dissolve Lama Tsongkhapa into his heart. Due to his sincerity and consistent practice, he developed a very pure heart and attained the special experience of concentration. It reached a point whereupon, while visualizing Lama Tsongkhapa dissolving into his heart, he felt that his statue had actually dissolved into him. Upon arising from his meditations, he found that his statue which was on his altar had completely vanished. After this, he attained much realizations. The news of this occurrence spread and the statue maker became famous for this incident. The craftsman later created another Lama Tsongkhapa statue, similar to the one that Nyungna Lama had owned.
5. Je Nam Pur Ma (The Venerable One who Rose into Space)
This particular statue belonged to a monastery where countless devotees would come to make offerings and prayers daily. There was one particularly sincere practitioner who would often see the statue rise into space and then return to the altar.
6. Je Tsong Poen Gelek Ma (The Venerable Chief Merchant Gelek)
This statue had been blessed by Lama Tsongkhapa himself, and it used to belong to one of Lama Tsongkhapa’s devoted students. One day, out of jealousy, a person stole the blessed statue and threw it into a river. The statue was thought to be lost forever until one day, a merchant by the name of Gelek noticed a bright rainbow appearing out of the river. He thought that it was an unusual sign and decided to spend the night nearby to investigate further the following day.
When he set out early the next morning to where he had previously seen the rainbow, he was surprised to find that the rainbow was still there! Convinced that there must be something special and auspicious present, he decided to dive into the icy river despite warnings from the local villagers on the dangers of the river. When he reached the bottom of the river, he found the statue of Lama Tsongkhapa, brightly radiating colorful rainbow lights. When he surfaced, onlookers were astonished that he had survived the dive and were even more surprised to see him holding onto the precious statue of Lama Tsongkhapa.
7. Je Tso Dog Ma (The Venerable One who Pacifies Conflicts)
There was a time when Eastern Tibet was plagued by a prolonged civil war. The local people, devastated by their losses and wanting the war to end decided to seek advice from a Lama, who was renowned as a great meditator. He instructed them to construct a large Lama Tsongkhapa statue and make continuous offerings and requests to the statue for the war to end. Determined to end the war, the villagers constructed the statue and did as the Lama had advised them. Not long after, the war ended and peace prevailed throughout the region.
8. Je Ling Pur Ma (The Venerable One Gone to Another Land)
This statue received its name after the much revered image mysteriously vanished from its monastery in Tibet. Various attained practitioners realized that it had taken its presence to a land far away, possibly in another dimension where the ground was laced with diamonds and where the beings that resided there had languages and customs unknown in this world. They also noted that the statue was benefiting the people of that land.
These are just a few accounts of the miracles related to Lama Tsongkhapa. In fact, there have been many more miracles experienced by various people throughout the centuries. This is Lama Tsongkhapa’s compassionate and wisdom-filled way to guide and show practitioners that the Dharma expounded by him, if practiced sincerely, can bring us to Enlightenment.
The Benefits of Lama Tsongkhapa’s Practice
The practice of Lama Tsongkhapa’s Gaden Lhagyama in the Gelugpa lineage originated directly from Buddha Shakyamuni’s time. Lama Tsongkhapa, who received blessings directly from Manjushri, passed the lineage to Je Sherab Senge, and through him the instruction flourished throughout Tibet over time. Because these Lamas came from a region called “Se” in Tibet, thus our lineage is called the “Segyu Lineage”.
There are many benefits of practicing Lama Tsongkhapa’s Guru Yoga, and like any other practice, when done the proper way, we can harness its full potential. When we practice the Gaden Lhagyama, we should visualize our root Guru as being one with Lama Tsongkhapa, offer the seven limb prayers and the mandala offering, make requests through recitation of the Migtsema mantra, and engage in the visualizations in a meditative state.
When a sincere practitioner practices in this manner, they will surely experience the full benefits of Lama Tsongkhapa’s practice. Here are the benefits to list just a few:
- Pacifies negative karma
- Pacifies obstacles
- Increases merits
- Increases life span
- Increases Dharma realizations
- Increases compassion, wisdom and spiritual power
- Protects from spirits
- Protects from untimely death
- Creates rain for crops
- Controls the weather
- Cures the “drib” disease, which is caused by certain classes of spirits
- Avoids harm from weapons
- Cures wind or “lung” diseases
- Cures physical and mental disabilities
- Protects from harm such as robbers
- Pacifies obstacles to growing crops such as insects
- Protects while travelling.
- One will not go hungry, and will obtain food
Of all these benefits, the most important is the ability to increase our wisdom. Wisdom is the antidote to ignorance, which is the root of all our suffering. Therefore to obtain the omniscient wisdom of the Buddha should be one’s highest spiritual aspiration. Almost all of Buddha’s perfect teachings in his scriptural texts were intended, either directly or indirectly, for His disciples to attain wisdom.
In the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, the Buddha’s teachings on Emptiness which is the highest perfection of wisdom, is the essence of this great sutra. Lama Tsongkhapa has also described the wisdom of Emptiness as being “like a lamp dispelling the darkness of ignorance”. Seeing how the Buddha and countless great masters have stressed the urgency and importance of obtaining wisdom, we too should work towards attaining great wisdom which we can gain through the practice of Lama Tsongkhapa’s Gaden Lhagyama.
Throughout my years of teaching, I have come across many who consider Lama Tsongkhapa’s Gaden Lhagyama to be a minor practice. They think they would be better off receiving practices such as Tantra. This is a huge misconception and I want to share a story in hopes that this ignorance is dispelled.
Many years back when I first entered Gaden Shartse Monastery, I met an old monk. He was always happy, a sincere practitioner and very attained. Being young and new to the monastery, I had a deep interest in knowing how he could attain such a peaceful state. So I asked the senior monk about his practice, to which he replied “Gaden Lhagyama”. That caught me off guard. I was surprised because… honestly I was expecting a different answer. But that was what he said – Gaden Lhagyama.
The senior monk then proceeded to tell me how he used to be very fickle-minded about being in Dharma, and how he was always depressed due to the difficult conditions in the monastery. He had entertained thoughts of leaving, but deep down he knew Dharma was good for him. So one day, he decided to seek the advice of his teacher who told him to make Gaden Lhagyama his main practice. He did so and he saw a huge change in his mind which allowed him to continue being a monk in the monastery and live peacefully and happily. His teacher told him to focus on the Migtseyma mantra of Tsongkhapa in Gaden Lhagyama and his mind will become better. Sure enough it did. He told me to always do Migtseyma and always trust this practice as it brought him great benefits.
Another story that is often shared is how highly the practice of Gaden Lhagyama was regarded by His Holiness the 6th Panchen Lama, Palden Yeshe. It is said that a Mongolian minister once visited the Panchen Lama to request for a small practice. The Panchen Lama then asked him what type of practice he wanted, and the minister replied that he would like to receive the Migtsema practice. Upon hearing that, the Panchen Lama was surprised and said “How can you say that the practice of Migtsema is a small practice? There is no greater practice than this as it contains the meaning of all the Buddha’s 84,000 teachings!“
This is the greatness of Lama Tsongkhapa’s practice, and we should remember this daily when we engage in his practice. I wish all of you well, and may all auspiciousness be with you.
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