The Life Story of Lama Tsongkhapa in art
I have mentioned several times before that learning about the lives of Great Masters in Buddhism is an incredibly important part of our spiritual progress. Take for example if you would like to be or have great interest in a particular politician, singer or a writer… would it not be natural to read a biographical book on famous people in our field of interest as reading their life story would tell us much about the difficulties, their experience, how they made it and so many more important points that can serve as lessons for our own success? Similarly, for the aspiring spiritual seeker, reading biographies of great masters who have accomplished the Buddhist path can help us learn and be inspired.
As a Buddhist practitioner or even spiritual practitioner, it is essential for us to know the biography of such a illustrious saint and master, Lama Tsongkapa. Below I have attached a brief biography about Lama Tsongkapa and his great life story depicted in 15 beautiful and meaningful paintings along with a commentary on what each painting signify. I hope by reading this, you will feel great inspiration to pursue your spiritual path with renewed enthusiasm. These set of thangkas are reproduced by various artists and painters for centuries as they serve to be a blessing, reminder and inspiration to all practitioners aspiring for higher mind development.
I hope very much by seeing, reading and understanding the life of Lama Tsongkapa, it will bless you very much to be firm and further dedicated on your spiritual path.
I have also included a free download of a set of these 15 high quality prints for your shrine, your home, office and or place of worship: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/downloads/buddha-images.html?nggpage=3
A Brief Biography of Lama Tsongkapa
Tsongkapa Lobzang Drakpa was born in the Tsongkha region of Amdo in 1357. His mother was Shingza Acho and his father was Lubum Ge. Among the numerous miraculous incidents and omens believed to have taken place surrounding his birth, perhaps the most famous is that of a drop of blood from Tsongkapa’s umbilical cord that is said to have fallen on to the ground, giving rise to a sandalwood tree whose leaves bore symbols related to the Simhanada manifestation of the bodhisattva Manjushri, a deity with whom Tsongkapa would later be identified. His mother later built a stupa on this spot and over time further structures and temples were added. Today the location of Tsongkapa’s birth is marked by Kumbum Monastery, founded in 1583 by the 3rd Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588) on the spot of the original stupa.
At the age of three, Tsongkapa took lay upasaka vows from the Fourth Karmapa Rolpai Dorje (1340-1383) and received the name Kunga Nyingpo. Then at the age of eight he received the novice ordination of a sramanera, together with the name Lobzang Drakpa, from the Kadam master Choje Dondrub Rinchen. Dondrub Rinchen, a great practitioner of Vajrabhairava, had been in contact with Tsongkapa and his family since the boy’s birth, and is said to have received prophecies of the child’s importance from his own teacher and deity.
Tsongkapa spent much of his youth studying with Dondrub Rinchen; he is said to have been so sharp that he easily understood and memorized even the most complicated texts. From Dondrub Rinchen he received numerous tantric empowerments, most importantly that of Vajrabhairava. According to his secret biography, at the age of seven he experienced visions of Atisha Dīpaṃkara (982-1054) and the deity Vajrapani. Communication with various historical masters and deities would eventually become particularly central in the development of Tsongkapa’s understanding of Buddhism.
At the age of 16 Lobzang Drakpa travelled to U-Tsang, never to return to his homeland. In U-Tsang he studied with more than 50 different Buddhist scholars. As noted in his autobiography, Fulfilled Aims, he studied at length texts and topics such the Five Treatises of Maitreya and related works by Asanga (4th century), the Abhidharma of Vasubhandu (4th century), the logic systems of Dignaga and Dharmakirti (6th century) and the Madhyamaka system of Nagarjuna (150-250) and his followers such as Aryadeva (3rd century). Following figures such as Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen (1182-1251) and Buton Rinchen Drub (1290-1364), it was Tsongkapa’s emphasis on philosophical study and logic that would eventually become some of the defining characteristics of the Gelug tradition.
Tsongkapa’s studies were mainly focused on the existing scholarly currents at that time, of which the most important were the Sakya tradition and the tradition of Sangpu, an important Kadam monastery. One of Tsongkapa’s main teachers was the Sakya master Rendawa Zhonnu Lodro (1349-1412) who was a strong proponent of the Prasangika view of Madhyamaka. Tsongkapa’s devotion to Rendawa was so great that he composed the famous Migtsema verse in praise of him. According to tradition, Rendawa felt that the verse was more applicable and descriptive of Tsongkapa’s qualities and thus offered the prayer back to him. Today this verse is still considered by the Gelug faithful as the principal method to invoke the blessings of Tsongkapa.
In addition to Dondrub Rinchen, some of Tsongkapa’s main tantric gurus included Chennga Sonam Gyeltsen (1378-1466), a Drigung lama from whom he received the Six Dharmas of Naropa; the Jonang lama Chokle Namgyel (1306-1386), from whom he received the Kalachakra cycle; and the Sakya master Rinchen Dorje, from whom he received the Lamdre teachings (lam ‘bras) and the Hevajra Tantra.
Perhaps most importantly, he received the Guhyasamaja cycle from Khyungpo Lepa Zhonnu Sonam a student of Buton Rinchen Drub, and the cycle of the body mandala (lus dkyil) of Heruka Cakrasamvara from the Sakya master Lama Dampa Sonam Gyeltsen Pelzangpo (1312-1375). Tsongkapa’s studies on tantra were not limited to the anuttarayoga tantras; he extensively studied the kriya, carya and yoga tantras as well, noting the importance of a gradual approach to the Vajrayana in his brief autobiography. Furthermore, although it would not become a doctrine of the later Gelug tradition, Tsongkapa also studied the Dzogchen teachings with Lodrak Drubchen Namkha Gyeltsen (1326-1401).
Through his studies Tsongkapa’s understanding of Madhyamaka philosophy became more concrete and experiential. By his early twenties he had begun composing his most important early work, The Golden Garland, which deals with Prajnaparamita. Tsongkapa would continue to write throughout his life, producing an 18-volume collection of texts.
Although Tsongkapa is credited with being the author of his writings, it is believed that many were composed through the instruction and inspiration of deities that he saw in visions, particularly Manjushri, as described in his secret biography. Tsongkapa is said to have initially relied on his teachers to communicate with various deities on his behalf. His Nyingma teacher Namkha Gyeltsen, for example, was believed to be able to communicate with Vajrapani and to have acted as an intermediary between the deity and Tsongkapa. Later in his life Tsongkapa was interested in travelling to India but was dissuaded to do so by Vajrapani through this medium.
In the same way Tsongkapa initially relied on his teacher Umapa Pawo Dorje, to act as an intermediary with Manjushri. Tsongkapa had met this Kagyu lama when he was 33. By this time Tsongkapa had completed his work on The Golden Garland and was, with Pawo Dorje, studying Candrakirti’s (7th century) Madhyamakavatara. Pawo Dorje and Tsongkapa undertook a retreat together during this period and Tsongkapa is said to have posed numerous questions to Manjushri through Pawo Dorje. Eventually, however, Tsongkapa himself began to experience visions and was able to communicate with Manjushri directly, receiving instructions and tantric empowerments, most importantly those related to Manjushri and Vajrabhairava. Over the course of his life Tsongkapa continued to receive visions of Manjushri as well as a host of other deities and masters such as Asanga and Nagarjuna. Although Tsongkapa is widely regarded as being a manifestation of Manjushri, the nature of his visions has nevertheless been contested by some non-Gelug masters, especially the Sakya scholar Gorampa Sonam Sengge (1429-1489), who was critical of Tsongkapa and his approach to Madhyamaka.
Apart from a short period of teaching, Tsongkapa continued to engage in intensive retreats. He and a community of eight disciples began a long retreat at Chadrel Hermitage in 1392, moving to Olkha Cholung several years later. During this retreat they famously completed extensive preliminary practices, for example completing 3,500,000 prostrations in conjunction with the practice of the Triskandhadharmasutra.
Following the retreat, Tsongkapa travelled to Dzingji where he performed his first out of four great deeds: the restoration of a famous statue of Maitreya. During this period, in 1398, Tsongkapa is believed to have attained realization and a perfect understanding of the Madhyamaka due to a vision of an assembly of the great Indian Prasangika masters. Immediately following this experience he composed the Praise to Dependent Origination. This experience began a new epoch in Tsongkapa’s life, one which shifted more towards composing and teaching to others what he had discovered. Thus in 1402, at the age of 46, while at Reting Monastery, he composed the Lamrim Chenmo, known in English as The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, undoubtedly his most famous work. Based on Atisha Dipamkara’s Bodhipathapradīpa, it described in detail the gradual path to enlightenment from the perspective of the Sutrayana. Echoing the doubt the Buddha felt after his Enlightenment that people would understand his teaching, it is said that Tsongkapa was initially disheartened by the thought that most readers would be unable to comprehend his explanations of emptiness which form the latter part of the work. A vision of Manjushri, however, inspired Tsongkapa to complete the composition.
In 1402 Tsongkapa performed his second great deed. While staying at Namtsedeng during the rainy season with his teacher Rendawa and Kyabchok Pelzangpo, he gave a detailed commentary on the Vinaya to a large assembly of monks. Apart from his emphasis on study, Tsongkapa is perhaps best known for the importance he places on the monastic discipline of the Vinaya.
Following the composition of the Lamrim Chenmo he composed several other works around 1407 and 1408, specifically his commentary on Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way called The Ocean of Reasoning and The Essence of Eloquence. In 1415 he composed the Lamrim Dring (lam rim ‘bring), known in English as The Medium-Length Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, which is a condensed version of the Lamrim Chenmo.
Tsongkapa was a prolific author of tantric literature. As a companion volume to the Lamrim Chenmo, Tsongkapa wrote the Ngakrim Chenmo, The Great Treatise on the Tantric Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, in 1405, covering all the four classes of tantra according to the sarma traditions, with a detailed explanation of the two stages of anuttarayoga tantra. Other important tantric works include his works on Guhyasamaja, especially his 1401 Commentary on the Vajrajnanasamuccayanama Tantra and the 1411 Exposition of the Five Stages of Guhyasamaja. Texts on the Guhyasamaja Tantra feature prominently in Tsongkapa’s collected works, making up the majority of his 18 volumes of writings.
By this time Tsongkapa’s fame as a great scholar and realized practitioner had grown all over Tibet and even China. In 1408 the Yongle Emperor (1402-1424) of the Chinese Ming Dynasty sent an invitation to Tsongkapa to visit his court and capital in Nanjing. Tsongkapa refused, and a second invitation was sent in 1413. Although Tsongkapa again refused he delegated his student Shakya Yeshe (1354-1435) to go in his stead. Shakya Yeshe had a successful trip to China, receiving his title of Jamchen Choje from the emperor. The materials he received as offerings enabled him to establish Sera Monastery in 1419. Following the death of the Yongle Emperor in 1424, Shakya Yeshe visited the Xuande Emperor’s (1425-1435) new capital of Beijing. Through these visits the first links between Tsongkapa’s tradition and the emperors of China were established and would last until the fall of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in 1911.
In 1409 Tsongkapa instituted the Monlam Chenmo, or Great Prayer Festival, in Lhasa, which is celebrated around the time of the Tibetan New Year, Losar. This celebration is traditionally centered on the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa and is counted as being Tsongkapa’s third great deed. At this time he also offered jeweled ornaments and a crown to the statue of the Jowo Sakyamuni, the most sacred statue in the Jokhang and the whole of Tibet. By offering these ornaments the statue was transformed from being a nirmanakaya representation of the Buddha Sakyamuni to one representing his sambhogakaya manifestation.
At his students’ request Tsongkapa established a monastery which was consecrated in 1410, the year following the inauguration of the Monlam Chenmo. The monastery was given the name of Ganden, the Tibetan translation of ‘Tushita’, the pure land of the future Buddha Maitreya. The monastery would eventually become the largest monastery in Tibet, perhaps the world, and is considered the principal monastery of the Gelug tradition. It was Tsongkapa’s wish to construct three-dimensional representations of the mandalas of his main three anuttarayoga tantra deities: Guhyasamaja, Vajrabhairava and Cakrasamvara. Temples for these constructions were completed in 1415 and the mandalas and deities were installed in 1417. These acts are counted as Tsongkapa’s fourth great deed. He is counted as the first throne-holder of Ganden, or Ganden Tripa, a title held by successive abbots of the monastery.
Tsongkapa entered clear light in 1419 at Ganden Monastery, the year after he completed his composition of The Elucidation of the Thought in 1418. He was 62 years old, and is believed to have attained enlightenment through yogic practices during the death process, attaining the illusory body. His body was entombed inside a jeweled stupa at Ganden. Tsongkapa’s death is commemorated with the annual festival of Ganden Ngacho, which translates as “The Ganden Offering of the Twenty-Fifth“, during which devotees light butter lamps on their roofs and windowsills. Tsongkapa designated Gyeltsabje Darma Rinchen (1364-1432) as his successor, who in turn appointed Khedrubje Gelek Pelzang (1385–1438) as the next throne-holder of Ganden.
Apart from his own teachers, many of whom Tsongkapa also taught in turn, Tsongkapa had a number of other illustrious students. These include Gyeltsab, Khedrub and Shakya Yeshe. His other students include Gendun Drub, who was posthumously identified as the 1st Dalai Lama (1391-1474) and Jamyang Choje Tasho Pelden (139-1449), the founder of Drepung Monastery in 1416. Today Khedrubje and Gyeltsabje are considered to have been Tsongkapa’s foremost disciples, although whether or not this is actually true has been contested by modern scholarship. Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen (1374-1434), a close disciple, for example, was relegated to a lesser status by later tradition. Nevertheless all of these students continued to spread Tsongkapa’s doctrine through their own teachings and writings as well as other means such as the establishment of monasteries, allowing for the Gelug tradition to take shape.
The 15 Paintings of Lama Tsongkapa’s Life
Jewels That Grant Your Every Wish
The original instructions for painting the 1000 faces by the All-Knowing Jamyang Shepay Dorje (1648 – 1721)
This is a book of instructions for depicting the life story of the great and holy Tsongkapa in 153 painted scenes, compiled within 15 paintings.
- Manjushri, the embodiment of the wisdom of all the Buddhas. His attributes are a book placed on a lotus flower above his left shoulder and the sword of wisdom which cuts the veil of ignorance above his right shoulder. Lama Tsongkapa is venerated as an emanation of Manjushri.
- Lama Tsongkapa. His hands are in the gesture (mudra) of teaching the Dharma.
- In a previous life, Lama Tsongkapa receives a prophecy from the Buddha Peak-of-Power (Indraketudhvaja). Buddha Indraketudhvaja, surrounded by an infinite number of bodhisattvas, sings praises to Lama Tsongkapa, foretelling how he will appear in an impure world to spread Worldview, as it is found in the teachings of the Diamond Way.
- Lama Tsongkapa takes rebirth as a young brahman. During the time of the Buddha, the emanation of Manjushri takes Tsongkapa by the hand and leads him into the presence of Buddha Sakyamuni. The young boy then offered a crystal mala (rosary) to the Enlightened One, setting in motion the chain of events that will cause his future disciples to perceive emptiness.
- The Buddha Sakyamuni teaches on the shore of the lake Anavatapta and the King of the Nagas offers him a conch shell, which the Buddha uses as a horn to assemble the monks during the summer retreat.
- On Vulture’s Peak (Gridhrakuta), the Buddha Sakyamuni prophesizes the appearance of Lama Tsongkapa in Tibet. The Buddha also prophesizes the monastery that will be founded by Lama Tsongkapa and hands over the conch shell to be used as the assembly horn of this monastery.
- On the Mount Kailas (Ti-Se Snow Mountain), the Buddha used the conch as a horn to assemble the great nagas and worldly deities. Here, the Buddha preaches the Dharma to these celestial beings and nagas.
- The conch is hidden on one of the mountains of Tibet.
- and 10. Great disciples of Lama Tsongkapa. To Lama Tsongkapa’s own right are Gyeltsabje and Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen. To his left are Khedrubje and Tsako Wonpo. Above them, to the left and right are the Eight Great Masters, the closest disciples of Lama Tsongkapa whom he took into deep retreat with him. Below them are Gendun Drupa (the 1st Dalai Lama), Jamyang Choje (founder of Drepung Monastery in 1416), Jamchen Choje (founder of Sera Monastery in 1419), and Sherab Senga (Founder of Gyume Tantric College in 1433).
- In 1356, the father of Lama Tsongkapa, Dara Kache Lumbum Ge dreams a monk comes to dwell in their private temple on the upper floor.
- In his dream, the father sees Vajrapani (Chakna Dorje) throwing a vajra that melts in his wife’s body.
- The mother of Lama Tsongkapa dreams celestial beings are purifying her. As the dakini bathes the holy mother, the dakini sings ancient melodies of offering which was sung to Lord Buddha by the gods, as they washed him at his birth.
- Neighbors dream that the Jowo of Lhasa is being invited to their village.
- A local sage, the master Dondrup Rinchen has a vision of Vajrabhairava announcing the apparition of Lama Tsongkapa. In his dream, he begged the angel to come to him in real life. Vajrabhairava then pointed to the land of the Tsongka River and says, “At about this time next year, I will be arriving in the hinterlands of that place. Until then, let your heart be at ease.“ With this dream, the great master understood that a great Dharma master, Tsongkapa was about to be born.
- In 1357, the mother Shingza Acho has a dream where people are calling out “Chenrezig is coming! Greet his arrival!“ She then watches a grand procession of people playing drums and carry various auspicious offerings. Above in the sky appears the magnificent body of a holy being, shining as bright as the sun. He comes accompanied by sacred songs, surrounded by various dakas and dakinis. As he descends from the sky, he comes close to Shingza Acho until finally he melts into her very body. The assembly of people then stride in circles around her, presenting gifts and singing songs of good tidings.
- The night before giving birth, the mother of Lama Tsongkapa dreams a crystal door within her heart is opening, and that celestial beings appear to make the offering of bathing. At dawn, the great Lord Lama Tsongkapa is born.
- The Master Dondrup Rinchen sends protection pills for the newborn baby. At the same spot of Lama Tsongkapa’s birth, a white sandalwood tree springs up. The likeness of all different kinds of holy beings appear upon its leaves including the letters of the wisdom mantra, Arapachana dhi. In time, 100,000 leaves covered with holy images and words sprout from this tree, giving it the name Kumbum. Here, a great monastery with the same name is established.
- The Master Dondrup Rinchen offers cattle to the parents and requests that the child be entrusted to him.
- At the age of 3, the young child receives his lay vows from H.H. the 4th Karmapa Rolpay Dorje. In the text of the 4th Karmapa’s writings, it is stated how he looked into the future and declared that a second Buddha had come into our world.
- At the feet of Dondrup Rinchen, Lama Tsongkapa begins his studies at the age of seven, and later takes his vows of a novice monk a year later.
- The Master Dondrup Rinchen bestows secret empowerments to the child.
- Lama Tsongkapa has constant visions of Vajrapani and of the Indian Master Atisha. He soon masters arts such as the recitation of texts and mantras.
- At the age of 16, Lama Tsongkapa leaves for Central Tibet. In Tcham-do, Lama Tsongkapa has a vision of the 16 Arhats and of Mahakala. Here he predicts that a great monastery will be built.
- At the age of 17, Lama Tsongkapa receives teachings from Djen Na Chos-kyi Gyelpo, the Abbot of Drikung monastery, the most important center of the Drikung tradition of the Kagyu lineage of Tibet. From this great Abbot, Lama Tsongkapa receives an infinite number of great teachings – among them the secret instructions of String of Diamonds; the Six Yogas of Naropa; and the great seal Mahamudra.
- Lama Tsongkapa then travels to Gungtang, where he studies the eight branches of medical diagnosis with the great physician Lhadje Kon-chok Kyab. It is said that Lama Tsongkapa undertakes these medical studies as a symbolic act to show his pure dedication towards following the code of a bodhisattva; in the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, it is mentioned that a bodhisattva should train themselves in every useful art and science. Although Lama Tsongkapa mastered the subject perfectly, he never actually practiced medicine but was highly regarded by every sage of the healing arts. It was said that every physician who ever attends on Lama Tsongkapa ends up seeking Lama Tsongkapa’s own advice about the best possible treatment.
- In Nyerthang, he receives teachings from Tashi Senge and Densa Gekong.
- In Dewachen Monastery, he studies the four traditions of the way of the perfections at the feet of the Masters Yonten Gyatso and Loppun Ugyenpa.
- Lama Tsongkapa listens to the teachings of Djam-rin-pa on the Five Treatises of Maitreya.
- In Chos-dzong, Lama Sonam Gyeltsen bestows on him the empowerment of Manjushri Arapatsana and the empowerment of the mandala of the Body of Heruka according to the tradition of the Indian sage Drilpupa (Ghantapada). Lama Tsongkapa’s teacher hands his sage’s cape to Tsongkapa, signifying that he has passed on to him all the teachings of the tradition of Buton Rinpoche.
- When he is 19 years old, he takes part in the philosophical debates of Sangpu Monastery.
- He takes part in the philosophical debates of Dewachen Monastery and his fame spreads.
- In Shalu, the great Lotsawa Rinchen Namgyel, the famous student of Buton Rinpoche grants him explanations on Heruka with the Thirteen Deities according to the tradition of Maitripa.
- In Narthang, Lama Tsongkapa listens to many teachings at the feet of the great Sakya master Matiwa Lodru Gyeltsen (Mati Panchen).
- He takes part to the philosophical debates in Sakya Monastery and his fame increases.
- Philosophical debates in Sangden Monastery on the subject of the Perfection of Wisdom.
- Philosophical debates in Garong Monastery.
- Philosophical debates in Ngam-ring Monastery.
- In the monastery of Jonang, Lama Tsongkapa listens to teaching on the Six Applications of the Kalacakra by Tchok-le Namgyel, the Abbot of Jonang Monastery.
- In Maray Monastery, Tchi-po-lhe teaches him the Progressive Path of the Kadampa school. According to Gyeltsen Sangpo, he also learns the Tome of the Kadampas.
- He takes part in the philosophical debates in Er Monastery.
- In Narthang, the great translator Donsangwa gives him teachings on the Abhidharma and on the Valid Cognition (Pramana).
- He takes part in the philosophical debates in Ne-nying Monastery.
- He receives teachings on Parchin (Perfection of Wisdom) from Master Nyapon.
- At the monastery of Tsechen, Lama Tsongkapa receives teaching on Abhidharma from the great Sakya sage Shunnu Lodru (Jetsun Rendawa).
- In Samling, in the region of Nyangto, he listens to the explanations of the Venerable Rendawa on the Auto-commentary of the Supplement to (Nagarjuna’s) Treatise on the Middle.
- The great translator Lotsawa Djang-chup Tsemo comes to the Potala, in Kyishu. Lama Tsongkapa receives teachings in Chos-dzong Hermitage.
- In Kyormo lung, he listens to the Great Commentary of the Vinaya-sutra at the feet of the Abbot Loselwa.
- During a prayer assembly, he enters a meditative state that lasts for several hours. Lama Tsongkapa memorize 17 folios of text a day, everyday.
- He suffers from back pains and goes to see Master Ugyen renowned for the efficiency of his rituals at Tulung. Although he receive some special personal teachings, it did not help remove the problem.
- With other learned disciples, Lama Tsongkapa heads to Ne-nying.
7bis. At the request of many from Ne-nying, Lama Tsongkapa gives his first teaching on the Compendium of Manifest Knowledge (Abhidharma samuccaya)
- During spring, passing through Narthang, he goes to Sakya where he receives teachings from the Venerable Rendawa. During this time, Lama Tsongkapa devotes himself primarily to learning and training in the Commentary of Valid Perception.
- Lama Tsongkapa receives teachings upon the Secret Teaching of Hevajra (Kye Dorje) in two parts, according to the system of the Sakyas, at the feet of Lama Dorje Rinchen-pa.
- At Sharwa Labrang of Sakya Monastery, Lama Tsongkapa receives special private teachings from one Geshe. Upon receiving the instructions, Lama Tsongkapa retires to a mountain behind Rinchen Gang Labrang where he performs the secret practice several times after which his illness is completely cleared.
- in 1370, Venerable Rendawa and Lama Tsongkapa go to Ngam-rim. Master Rendawa composes a developed commentary on the Compendium of Manifest Knowledge (Abhidharma Samuccaya). The young Tsongkapa also listens to his teaching on the commentary of the Pramana-vartika.
- In autumn, he receives news from his native country. In Lhalung, in the region of Mel, he devotes his energy to the training of mind in the Path of the Tantras under the direction of Lama Sonam Drakpa. He makes a retreat during which he studies a commentary of the Pramana-vartika. Extraordinary realizations came to him as he read the text; shivers of bliss keep rolling up his spine and tears fall in a steady stream from his eyes.
- At 1380, he spends the winter in Dewachen where he reads numerous scriptures and gains realizations into them. He leaves for Tsang.
- He reaches Narthang where he listens to a teaching on a commentary of the Pramana composed by the great Lotsawa Donsang. He spends the summer in this monastery and takes part in the philosophical debates.
- He receives teachings of classical poetry, Sanskrit language and calligraphy from Lotsawa Namka Sangpo. At this point he composes his Praise to Saraswati, the Lady of Song.
- He travels to Bodong where the great Lama Jetsun has arrived. Lama Tsongkapa receives teachings on the Madhyamaka.
- Lama Tsongkapa travels with Jetsun Rendawa to Sakya Monastery where he takes part in the philosophical debates. Despite Tsongkapa already knowing all the Ten Great Books, he still participates in the debate ground. His performance in the debates steals away the heart of every holy being present.
- At 1381 from Sakya, Lama Tsongkapa continues on to the province of U where he have philosophical debates in Soka Gungtang.
- At Sangpu, Lama Tsongkapa performs a retreat on Saraswati. As he finished 50 million mantras of Saraswati, he has a vision of the goddess herself. Lama Tsongkapa also takes part in the philosophical debates.
- In Tse-tang, Lama Tsongkapa takes part in the dialectical debates on four of the great Treatises of Maitreya. All who were present were thrown into amazement, lifting Lama Tsongkapa’s fame even higher.
- In Yarlung, surrounded by 20 monks, Lama Tsongkapa receives the vows of a fully ordained monk (bhiksu). Tsultrim Rinchen, the master of the Four Great Subjects acts as the vow master. The abbot of Jidzing Monastery acts as the ritual master, while Sonam Dorje the Umze of the monastery serves as master of secrets.
- He meets Djen Nga Drakpa Jam-chup in the Monastery of Tel. They exchange long conversations and the young Lobzang Drakpa offers this master some of his own compositions which brought overwhelming feelings of faith as tears flow from Djen Nga Rinpoche’s eyes. Tsongkapa receives teachings from this Master – among other things – the Six Practices of Naropa; the collected writings of Pakmo Drupa; the writings of Jikten Gonpo; and the teachings of Path and Goal.
- In Lharang Kheru, he gives teachings on Parchin, valid cognition (pramana) and Madhyamaka to Tsako Wonpo and a great number of other masters of scripture.
- In Tsel Monastery, he consults the works and the commentaries translated into Tibetan. During this time, Lama Tsongkapa examines and grasps the entire canons of the Kangyur and Tengyur, opening new insights into the entire body of Buddhist teachings to him. It was here that Lama Tsongkapa also begins to compose his commentary on Abhisamaya-alamkara, and engage in an informal memorization contest with three other monks; Ling Tsungme, Jampel Trashi of Domey, and Sakya Drup, who are already famous as master memorizers of scripture. Lama Tsongkapa emerge victorious as the greatest master of memorization.
- In Lhasa, he accomplishes with great zeal the practices of Nyune at the feet of the self-manifested statue of Avalokitesvara. Lama Tsongkapa and his disciples then have special dreams, and help each other to discover their deeper meaning.
- During spring, he teaches in Cha-yul to a gathering which includes 70 geshes.
- In winter, he goes to Dewachen and gives many lectures.
- He returns to Tsel Monastery where he continues the composition of his commentary of the Abhisamaya-alamkara.
- He ends this composition in Dewachen.
- In Kyormo lung, he receives teachings on the Kalacakra from Tokden Yeshe Gyeltsen, the teacher of H.H. the 4th Karmapa. Here, Lama Tsongkapa has an opportunity to learn in depth the Great Commentary to the Wheel of Time as well as related subjects such as the preparation of astrological charts.
- He spends the winter at Tso-may in Tolung where he studies the Kalacakra. He also gives many lectures.
- The following summer, he gives numerous explanations on the Sutra-pitaka in front of vast assemblies of scholars in Dewachen Monastery. Here he grants a great many explanations of scripture to a great gathering, a veritable ocean, of bright-minded disciples.
- He teaches in Dewachen.
- In Ngan-kar, he carries on his studies of the Kalacakra and teaches to highly learned monks.
- At the invitation of Drakpa Rinchen of Dzingchi, Lama Tsongkapa then travels to Sinpori. In Rik Nga Temple where he resides for the length of the spring, he grants teachings to over 70 masters of scripture.
- a. Lama Tsongkapa then travels to Yarlung, where he taught suitable disciples in Rik Nga Lhakang.
b. During the autumn Lama Tsongkapa and Jetsun Rendawa reside together at Potala in Kyishu, where they engage in many spiritual discussions with each other and grant their disciples fine explanations of many subjects.
- During the summer at Okar Drak in Yarlung, he conducts a retreat of Heruka. He does a mantra practice, secret meditations and the rite of bringing himself into the secret world. He performs the Six Practices of Niguma and inner breathing exercises 100 times each during every session, and develops high realizations.
- Staying in Munkar, Lama Tsongkapa expounds 17 texts in a single series of teachings presented to a great gathering including 100 masters of scriptures. During the autumn, he gives lectures in front of vast assemblies.
- During the winter, Lama Tsongkapa gives lectures in a grotto of Kyormo lung.
- In 1390 when spring comes, yearning to listen to the Basket of the Tantra, he goes to the region of Tsang and arrives at Nubchu lung in Rong where he listens to the teaching and receives oral transmissions from high learned Masters such as the abbot Drakpa She-nyen.
- Lama Tsongkapa bestows the empowerment of Sarasvati to Lama Umapa. Through the mediation of Lama Umapa who has visions of Manjushri, Je Tsongkhapa asks Manjushri questions. He tells Lama Umapa that he must examine the Lama’s claim that Manjushri is appearing to him, and so Lama Tsongkapa begins asking questions of Manjushri. He digs to the very bottom with his questioning, checking carefully, and in the end he believes absolutely that Lama Umapa really is communicating with Manjushri.
- He goes to Taktsang. In Dzongka, the master translator Kyabchok Pel Sangpo acts as host to four great sages: the master translator Drakpa Gyeltsen, Jetsun Rendawa, the master translator Dunsangwa, and Lama Tsongkapa. Here, they pass their time together in spiritual teachings and discussions with each other. At this juncture, Master Drakpa Gyeltsen imparts his commentary on the perfection of wisdom to Lama Tsongkapa while Kyabchok Pel Sangpo does the same with his commentary upon the Secret Teaching of Lo Diamond in Two Sections; and Jetsun Rendawa with his explanation of the Commentary on Valid Perception.
- In Ba-U Bagner, he receives explanations on the Guhyasamaja tantra from the Venerable Rendawa. Lama Tsongkapa has a dream here, a foretelling where he sees that the Lama Gongsum Dechenpa has taken teachings 17 times from Buton Rinpoche on the Great Commentary to the Wheel of Time. He later learns from the Lama that this was indeed the case.
- In Chos-lung, he questions Manjushri through the mediation of Lama Umapa.
- At the year 1391, in Nyang-to, Lama Tsongkapa meets Rinpoche Gongsum Dechenpa Choskyi Pelwa. He offers him a golden towel of silk; on the following day, he makes a ritual offering of fine tea, and the gift of a bolt of emerald-colored silk. Lama Tsongkapa then requests him to give teachings on the entire transmission of the great commentary, and receives a complete explanation of both the root text and the commentary, along with word-by-word instructions on the actual practices, and a presentation of the six preliminary stages based on actual experience.
- Towards the end of spring, Lama Tsongkapa travels to Dechen in Nyangtu. He receives empowerment and oral transmission from Rinpoche Choskyi Pelwa. He learns the sacred dance, songs, and mandala construction related to the practice of the String of Diamonds. He also receives many teachings, empowerment, oral transmission, and personal advice on Vajrapani.
- In the border between Nyang-to and Nyang-me, in the Tri Tsakang, Lama Tsongkapa stays with Master Gunsang, a master of the yoga class of tantra. From him, Lama Tsongkapa studies ritual dances and melodies as well as the manner of tracing mandala and executing mudras. One night, Lama Tsongkapa has a dream where the Lama Shunnu Sunam comes to him wearing a jeweled head ornament and holding a ritual diamond and bell. The Lama honors Lama Tsongkapa by circling him in a dance three times. He then places the diamond and bell upon his head and says, “Karma Vajra“.
- He dreams that Master Kyungpo Lhe in Shalu shows him his heart in which a rosary of mantras is turning.
- He spends the autumn and winter at Shalu with Master Kyungpo Lhe and receives initiations and teachings on the yoga class of tantra. Lama Tsongkapa pleases his Lama by presenting him with offerings, and the circle of the gathering.
11bis. Under the direction of Gyeltsen Drakpa, he studies the ritual dances and melodies as well as the manner of tracing mandalas and executing mudras.
- He listens to the teachings of Rinpoche Chos-kyi Pel in Panam Pakri on the Collection of the Commentaries of the Bodhisattvas, and the entire instructions of Buton Rinpoche.
- In 1392, during autumn, Lama Tsongkapa stays in Kadung in U region with Lama Umapa. Here he makes supplications to the image of the Lord Sakyamuni in Lhasa.
- Retreat with Lama Umapa. They stay in separate rooms for their practice but take their tea together. Again Lama Tsongkapa makes special supplications to his Lama.
- One day Lama Tsongkapa sees the holy one Manjushri within a sphere of lapis light, surrounded in a radiant rainbow of five different colors. He gazes upon Manjushri’s lovely form, unable to tear his eyes away. He receives the teachings of Manjushri in the form of a single warrior, and then instructions on the body mandala, the inner practice and the secret practice, with each teaching that Manjushri grants Lama Tsongkapa, Manjushri appears to him in the form of that particular divine being, granting his blessings. Lama Umapa continues to act as an intermediary. At one point he watches as Manjushri transforms into Yamantaka. It is at this time that Lama Tsongkapa, following the instructions of Manjushri, makes his decision to go into deep retreat at a mountain hermitage with a group of close followers known as the Purest Eight.
- Lama Tsongkapa stays in Lhasa with Lama Umapa. In the southern tower of Toktengma, he sets forth offerings and makes supplication to Manjushri. Manjushri appears to him and speaks a number of verses, which Lama Tsongkapa writes down on paper. These are the instructions about crucial points of personal practice, and include the lines: “Live like the rhinoceros, who always lives alone; Like him, avoid the busyness of humanity.“
- In a chapel atop the Gokang in Lhasa, Lama Tsongkapa imparts the four initiations of the Guhyasamaja to Lama Umapa.
- Lama Tsongkapa gives numerous teachings in Kyormo lung.
- In 1392, when he was 36 years old, during winter and having made a small boat, Lama Tsongkapa leaves Kyormo lung for Olka with eight disciples where they will go into deep retreat, abandoning every worldly activity.
- During the entire length of the winter and the following spring, Lama Tsongkapa and his eight disciples each focus their meditations upon the 35 Buddhas, devoting themselves to the practices of accumulating new good karma and purifying themselves of past bad karma. At this point, Lama Tsongkapa frequently has visions of the 35 Buddhas of Confession, Maitreya, Medicine Buddha, Maitreya and Amitayus.
- Lama Tsongkapa continues in deep retreat and keeps working until he reaches such a pure mastery of these practices that he feels much joy in them. He begins to think that he would like to come out of retreat and continue his mission of teaching; but Manjushri speaks to him the following advice: “The people of this world, Are like wild beasts, And difficult to tame. It’s hard to say, Whether any great good, Would come from trying, To teach them. I think it better you remain in solitude, And master single-pointedness: Go and find that path, Which will bring both you, And others to ripening.“
- In the summer of 1393, at 37 years of age, Lama Tsongkapa presents offerings to the great statue of Maitreya in Dzin-tchi Temple and prays with great fervor.
- In the winter, Lama Tsongkapa travels to Gyasokpu, at Menlung in Dakpo. Spiritual realizations are pouring down upon him at this point. He has a vision of Manjushri in the middle of a vast assembly of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas.
- Vision of Manjushri surrounded by numerous pandits and great yogis, including the Five of the Realized Father and his Sons (Arya Nagarjuna and his four sons: Master Aryadeva, Buddha Palita, Nagabodhi and Chandrakirti); the brothers Asanga (Masters Asanga and Vasubandhu); Dignaga; the Two Supreme Ones (Masters Gunaprabha and Shakyaprabha); Devendra Buddhi; Alankara Pandita; Kamalashila, Abhaya, and the eighty great sages. These visions plant seeds for Lama Tsongkapa’s use of the great classics composed by these holy beings to be of far-reaching benefit.
- Vajrabhairava appears in the middle of a blazing fire and melts in Lama Tsongkapa. From this point on, Lama Tsongkapa performs the ritual of bringing himself into the mandala every day, without missing. It was said that Lama Tsongkapa performs a fire puja on a stone platform which has been shaped for the purpose. A fierce snowstorm break out but not a single flake lands in the area around him; everyone present sees it.
- Vision of Manjushri surrounded by Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, pandits and yogis that entirety fill the space. A sword springs out from the heart of Manjushri and its tip comes to touch the heart of Lama Tsongkapa. Ambrosia flows down the sword into the heart of the Noble Master, filling his body. The pure bliss he then experiences increases in an inconceivable manner.
- As this was happening, Lama Tsongkapa had a further vision that there were an infinite number of disciples standing with their mouths opened to the sky; some aware and some were not. Into the mouths of these disciples nectar flew, and into the mouth of the infinite went many, into the mouths of many went some, and into the mouths of others went nothing. Seeing this, Lama Tsongkapa then made a foretelling in these words: “The pleasure garden are booming, In the city of Kadhira, And many bees are frolicking there. They drink as well, Of that highest nectar.“ When Lama Tsongkapa mentions ‘many’, he means that there will come many disciples during his own life and in the future, who will practice the path to enlightenment. When he says “They will drink as well of the highest nectar” he means that there will come as well many who will reach the ultimate goal. Simply opening their mouths to the sky represents that we are making efforts in the two forms of the teaching on the steps of the path, trying to reach bliss an voidness. The simple act of opening our mouths to receive the nectar, even if none of the nectar comes to us now, creates seeds for us to attain this goal later.
- On the day of the celebration of the victory of Buddha Sakyamuni upon the heretics, Lama Tsongkapa presents lavish offerings for 15 days. When he invites those to whom the offerings are intended, he makes a particularly intense vow. Immediately, he sees the whole sky filled with Buddhas.
- Benefactors making offerings.
- During spring, following the instructions of Manjushri, Lama Tsongkapa decides to repair the temple walls and roof of Dzin-tchi. At that instruction, the great master and his disciples (12 people altogether) collect anything they might have of any material value, from their personal items, to the materials they brought along for making tormas, and everything else. But altogether they add up to no more than 12 silver coins. Having no riches, he wants to propitiate Vaisravana to get help but he realizes he does not even have butter to make the tormas for the ritual. A monk suddenly appears and offers a small package of butter. The ritual is performed and the following day nomads bring plenty of butter mixed with cheese. From this point on, offerings begin to pour in. Every time later that they ever ask for any kind of help in this manner, the very same thing always happens.
- As soon as the new walls of the temple are finished, the mandala of Manjushri-endowed-with-secrets is created. Lama Tsongkapa conducts a developed consecration ceremony. He has a vision of Manjushri as a being of wisdom arriving and melting into it. They offer a tiny butterlamp before the mural, and it continues to burn for two and a half days.
- Lama Tsongkapa indicates to the artists the respective colors of the 35 Confession Buddhas after he makes supplication to the 35 Buddhas, and is then able to see each of them directly. It is said that an accomplished sage named Chakna Dorje, deep in practice elsewhere, had a vision of the 35 Buddhas traveling through the sky. He asks them where they are going, and they reply that they are on their way to the consecration ceremony being held at Dzin-tchi. At the same time Manjushri directs Lama Tsongkapa to compose several scriptures. A prophecy granted to Khenchen Chakna Dorje is fulfilled when a letter of introduction is sent to Lama Tsongkapa, imploring him to come to Lhodrak, which he complies.
- In 1395, he goes to Drao Gun Monastery in Lhodrak. Khenchen Tchakdor comes to welcome him and sees him as an emanation of Manjushri while Lama Tsongkapa sees Khenchen Tchakdor as an emanation of Vajrapani.
- Having listened to a teaching on Guru-yoga from Khenchen Tchakdor, both of them suddenly have a vision of Vajrapani who comes to melt into them. At dawn, Vajrapani comes to Khenchen Tchakdor and tells him to request teachings.
- When Khenchen Tchakdor approaches Lama Tsongkapa for the teaching, Lama Tsongkapa replies, “Did Vajrapani tell you to ask me?“, to which Khenchen Tchakdor replies, “He did.“ And so Lama Tsongkapa instructs both Khenchen Tchakdor and the assembled monks of the monastery in this work. When Lama Tsongkapa gives a teaching on the Siksa-samuccaya, Khenchen Tchakdor sees above his head the Venerable Maitreya, while a White Manjushri appears above his right shoulder and the Goddess Sarasvati above the left. All around stands a vast assembly of Protectors and Dakinis headed by Mahakala.
- Khenchen Rinpoche receives empowerment and permission into the practice of the Five-Point Mantra and other teachings. While at the feet of Khenchen Rinpoche, Lama Tsongkapa listens to explanations on the Lamrim and receives initiations in the Heard lineage (Gnyen gyu). He has a vision of the Deities whose empowerment is conferred to him. He would later say that a major obstacle to his life appeared but was able to repel it by concentrating upon the practice of the Great Wheel.
- Lama Tsongkapa thinks of going to India to meet the Master Mitra Yogi. Vajrapani tells Khenchen Rinpoche that if Lama Tsongkapa goes to India, although amazing things will occur, it will however be detrimental for his disciples. Vajrapani further advises that great events will be set into motion if Lama Tsongkapa makes an offering to Manjushri of an entire set of accoutrements of one who has left the home life, along with verses of praise beginning with “the crown of the Pure One.“ Manjushri advised Lama Tsongkapa to make these offerings saying that if he does so, then forces will be set for his founding of an order of greatly pure monks and nuns in the future. Following the instructions of Manjushri, Tsongkapa offers the three monastic robes, the bowl and so forth to the statue of Maitreya in the Temple of Dzin-tchi, and decided to head for Nyel instead of India.
- While he stays in Nyel, he takes part in the welcoming ceremonies of the great Tenrim, the work composed by Geshe Trinlay-pa. Lama Tsongkapa carefully reads this text and then gives teachings on it.
- At Dragor in Nyel, Lama Tsongkapa receives teaching from Khenchen Chos-kyap Sanpo, and in return also grants Khenchen oral transmissions on various subjects.
- He spends this summer retreat in the Yardren Monastery. He has a vision of the Venerable Manjushri and Vaisravana. Manjushri makes a prophecy that Lama Tsongkapa will grasp the worldview of the Middle Way by utilizing a classic text composed by one of the great sages of India.
- With 30 disciples, he goes to Tsari Chen. They visit the hermitage there and perform practices of the self-initiation of Heruka. Numerous portents of the future are revealed to them.
- On his way back to Nyel, they spend a day at the base of Mola Pass. He has a gigantesque vision of the Protector Maitreya who makes a prophecy about him.
“You must realize, o child of noble family, that your coming into the world is the same as a Buddha coming into the world.“ – Maitreya
“A tradition is rising which is like the coming of a Buddha into the world.“ – Vajrapani through Khenchen Rinpoche
“One is coming who will turn the Wheel of the Dharma in the same way that Lord Buddha did, when he came to Varanasi.“ – Machik Labdrun
All of these statements are a revelation of the greatness and importance of Lama Tsongkapa.
- In Senge Dzong, he carefully examines the Six Applications of the Kalacakra and achieves a correct and firm comprehension. He has a vision of Kalacakra of golden color in his Solitary Hero form, who delivers a prophecy about him. He says, “You have come into this world as did King Chandra Bhadra, to spread these teachings of the Kalacakra.“
- The Goddess Sarasvati appears to tell him he will leave this world at the age of 57. Lama Tsongkapa then undertakes special practices of various deities and asks them whether there is some way to extend his life. However, each of them replies that the power of his prayers in the past and his concentration on developing wisdom has not had that much effect upon how long his physical body will remain. According to Tokdenpa, Manjushri appears in turn to indicate the methods that will enable to increase his longevity. Manjushri advises that if Lama Tsongkapa continues the practices that he has been doing so far in his life to prevent obstacles, and if he makes tremendous efforts to set in motion karmic forces to extend his life, then he will be able to prevent this early death. While staying in Senge Dzong, Lama Tsongkapa asks some questions to Manjushri who appeared to him in a vision. It was then that Manjushri advises Tsongkapa not to seek his advice so frequently and that if he comes across any small points that seem contradictory, he should debate it out with his learned disciples.
- At Serche Bumpa in Nyelme, Tsongkapa has an extremely remarkable vision of Manjushri who grants teachings on the Progressive Path. Lama Tsongkapa presents numerous offerings. Manjushri advises, “You must now assure that you maintain every one of the most subtle outer points of discipline for those who have left the home life: everything from the ritual for assuring that water has no tiny living creatures in it before drinking it.“ Upon hearing this advice, Lama Tsongkapa attempts to reason with Manjushri on how difficult implementing such customs would be and pointed out how contrary to most people’s current thinking these instructions will be. However, Manjushri insists and simply replies, “Do it“ and so Tsongkapa complies. Soon, both master and disciples begin to carry around with them all three of the monastic robes, the required cloth seat, and everything else of the like, the monk bowl and other monastic accoutrements. Their fame then rises as upholders of the monastic discipline.
- While staying in Kang-chung, Lama Tsongkapa gives teachings in front of vast assemblies of religious and lay devotees.
- Lama Tsongkapa gathers the inhabitants of the region of Nyel and bestows on them the vows of lay disciples, the vows of refuge, and so forth. He also exhorts them to make 100,000 tsa tsas (small clay votives), a custom which continues to the present time.
- Lama Tsongkapa spends the summer retreat in Reting. He meets Gyeltsabje who is the emanation of Kulika Pundarika (a legendary king of Shambhala who passed on the teachings of the Kalacakra). Gyeltsabje makes prostrations to Lama Tsongkapa and, racked with sobs, begs his permission to serve at his feet and never be separated from him for a moment, for as long as they both might live. Lama Tsongkapa grants this permission. Lama Tsongkapa then turns the wheel of Dharma for the assembled monks of the four great monastic communities of Nyel, thus instituting the spiritual festival known as the Great Assembly of Nyelung and encourages them to continue this festival annually, which is done to present times.
- At Dakpo Lhading Hermitage, Tsongkapa gives teachings in Ode Kun-gyel. He has a vision of Nagarjuna surrounded by his four Spiritual Sons. The Pandit Buddhapalita blesses Lama Tsongkapa with his work. Taking this as a sign, Lama Tsongkapa re-reads the Indian scripture known as Buddha Palita. He gains great realizations into the subject such as the difference between the higher and lower schools of the Middle Way on the question of just what it is that we deny exists when we say something is ‘empty‘. A renewed feeling of faith for Buddha arose, one that is based on knowledge instead of believing, which brought Tsongkapa to compose the text ‘A Praise of Dependent Origination‘. Tsongkapa then tells his disciples that it will be auspicious if his followers of later generations read this very work.
- In autumn, Tsongkapa gives teachings to the religious community of Karpuk.
- During the summer retreat in Ye-Tora, Lama Tsongkapa gives teachings.
- Tsongkapa gives teachings in Kawa-dong in Olka.
- During the celebration of the Victory of Buddha Sakyamuni upon the heretics, Lama Tsongkapa presents countless lavish offerings for 15 days in front of the statue of Maitreya in Dzin-tchi Temple. As a result of the intense prayer he makes, an infinite assembly of all the Buddhas of the five families fills the space around him.
- In spring, he give teachings to Gyeltsabje and other disciples.
- When Lama Tsongkapa arrives at Dring, his sage’s cap falls off his head into the river. Tsongkapa then makes a prediction about a monastery starting at Sangsang in Nyangpo, saying, “Where this river flows, my teachings too will flow like a river. Where the cap stops, a tradition of the Middle Way will flourish.“ And just as is predicted, the Tekchen Chunkor Ling Monastery of Sangsang in Nyangpo is later built at this very location.
- Tsongkapa gives teachings in Dangdo Monastery in the region of Nyang. Tsongkapa spends the summer giving many teachings to the monks, and benefiting large groups of laypeople by giving them instructions in refuge and the like.
- In response to repeated requests from the government official Namka Sangpo, conveyed through Konchok Tsultrim, during the autumn, Lama Tsongkapa goes to the region of Ki-sho and stays in the Potala. In front of the monks of the three great monasteries of Sangpu, Dewachen and Kuntang, he gives various teachings.
- In 1400, Lama Tsongkapa travels and gives teachings in Kawa-dong. He teaches repeatedly on the commitments of the secret way, the bodhisattva vows, and how we must always honor these pledges.
- The Venerable Rendawa goes to Kawa-dong with some disciples. Lama Tsongkapa with his disciples greet Rendawa, and he makes three prostrations to Rendawa. The Master Rendawa then begins to return such gestures, but Lama Tsongkapa begs him not to do so, and prevents him from continuing.
- Lama Tsongkapa and Venerable Rendawa stay together and give numerous teachings.
- Wishing to make a retreat, Lama Tsongkapa and Venerable Rendawa along with a large group of masters of scripture go to Reting.
- Lama Tsongkapa gives teachings in Reting and then encourages his listeners to go into deep meditation upon this practice. As a result many of them develop an extraordinary level of meditative stillness. Tsongkapa also has long discussions with his Master Rendawa.
- In 1401, Lama Tsongkapa is invited in Drikung Monastery. He receives instructions on the Tantras from Djen-nga Rinpoche and himself gives numerous teachings. In the Summer, Jetsun Rendawa and Lama Tsongkapa, along with the master translator Kyabchok Pel Sangpo head to the monastic summer retreat at the Namtsip Teng Temple of Ar Chenpo Jangchub Yeshe. More than 600 monks attend, and teachings on the subject of monastic discipline are given by each of these three Masters of Dharma.
- In 1402, Lama Tsongkapa succeeds in instituting the monastic practices precisely. The monks begin to observe more strictly in their practices. They start holding ceremonies for confessing any violations of the monastic code, and also keep the kind of confession where we first re-bless and leave the robes. They perform the rituals for blessing their personal articles, and for setting off a kitchen area. They also begin keeping the rule about never being without their robes for a night, and such.
- Lama Tsongkapa and Kyabchok Pel Sangpo stay in the hermitage of Senge Shol near Reting.
- Lama Tsongkapa has a vision of all the Masters of the Lamrim tradition, from the Buddha to his actual Master. Lord Atisha then places his hand upon Tsongkapa’s head, saying, “Work for the good of the teaching; I will help you to achieve enlightenment, and to serve all living beings.“ He then composes the Great Exposition of the stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Lamrim Chen-mo).
6bis. Divinities take the oath to protect the Teaching.
- In 1403, Lama Tsongkapa teaches the steps of the path to many great masters. After Lama Tsongkapa completes his teachings, he instructs his disciples to perform extensive offerings. His disciples then go on to make butterlamp offerings and by the time Gyeltsabje comes to take a butterlamp cup, there are none left. Gyeltsabje then takes a large basin to be used as a butterlamp and offers it up. As Lama Tsongkapa gazes at the butterlamps, he tells the assembly to place all the butter in their lamps into the large basin. He then gives Gyeltsabje a special task, saying, “I want the master of the 10 great books here to write up a record of what we taught, and compose a commentary based on these notes.“ What is said here is that in actuality, Lama Tsongkapa empowers Gyeltsabje as his successor. Later in 1404, at Gunsar in Lhepu, Tsongkapa teaches on the Commentary on Valid Perception. The assembly, be it gods or men, grasps the fact that this presentation is the one lantern for all those seeking the path to enlightenment.
- Lama Tsongkapa then receives an invitation from Drakpa Gyeltsen, and travels to Unde Chenteng where he undertakes the traditional summer retreat for the ordained, together with many hundreds of masters of scriptures. In 1405, at Lhashul Jampa Ling at Ode Gungyal, Tsongkapa gives teachings on the steps of the path as well as on the stages of creation and completion. With his disciples they engage in deep retreat. At this point, Tsongkapa gives the appearance of attaining the unshakable meditation experiencing bliss and voidness. A vision of Manjushri then exhorts Tsongkapa to compose an explanation of the Master Nagabodhi’s Steps of the Presentation which will be a great benefit to people.
- He stays in Ode Kun-gyel where he gives teachings on the Lamrim and composes the Great Exposition of the Stages of the Tantric Path (Ngak rim). During this time, a number of evil omens appear and so Lama Tsongkapa undertakes to write Total Victory over the Demons. He performs practices such as those for repelling demons, and thus stops the obstacles without any trouble.
- Lama Tsongkapa stays in Olka and expounds tantric teachings during winter.
- In 1406, while staying in the region of Sera for the summer retreats, he has a vision of Mahakala with six arms. From this time on Mahakala serves as his protector, never leaving his side. It is here too that Lama Tsongkapa meets Khedrubje for the first time.
- Lama Tsongkapa begins to compose the Root Text on the Wisdom of the Middle Way. He reaches a difficult point and makes supplication to his Lama and Manjushri, as one. With this, he has a vision of the Verses of Commentary appearing across the sky. All of Tsongkapa’s questions are answered immediately and he goes on to complete his composition.
- The envoys of the Ta Ming Emperor of China come to invite Lama Tsongkapa. They present many gifts to Tsongkapa and offer their respects. Lama Tsongkapa then sends Jamchen Chuje in his place, to explain why he cannot come.
4bis. Tsongkapa gives teachings to over 600 spiritual master in the hermitage of Sera Chos-Ling. Tsongkapa then spends the monastic summer retreat here and stays for a total of two years.
- In 1407, Tsongkapa once again receives an invitation from Drakpa Gyeltsen. He then travels to Drumbu lung in Ki-may with over 1,000 disciples.
- In 1408, in preparation for Monlam festivals, he undertakes to restore old and damaged images, and the like. Tsongkapa has murals in temples repaired, applies gold leaf and fresh paint to all the paintings and statues, sews new silken clothes to dress the images, has religious banners made, etc. Various grand offerings are made. Both the laypeople and the monks and nuns of the place continue throughout the festival too to make their circumambulations; there is not a single moment of the day or night when no one is doing so. It was during this time that Lama Tsongkapa ensured the instauration of the Great Prayer Festival (Monlam chen-po).
- In 1409, at the foot of the image of Buddha Sakyamuni, Lama Tsongkapa searches for signs to guide him in selecting a place to build a new monastery. Indications come to him that Ganden is the best choice of sites, and so he travels to Drok Riwo Mountains, where Ganden Monastery will be built. He breaks the ground with his own foot, and then goes carefully and properly through all the steps required by the rules of monastic discipline. He sends Gyeltsabje and Duldzin to examine the land, making the necessary requests to the assembled monks and receiving their formal permission to build the monastery once the land has been properly examined. A monastic manager is assigned for the construction, and a separate kitchen area set off with stone walls is designated. Tsongkapa also ensures construction is keeping to other rules of discipline, such as the one which says that the lines of brick for the walls must not be laid too quickly, in a way which might collapse. All these happen as predicted by Manjushri.
- Teachings in Sera Chos-Ling.
- Teachings in Sanri.
- Ganden Monastery was founded by Lama Tsongkapa and construction of Ganden Monastery on the Drok Riwo Mountain starts.
- Lama Tsongkapa and his disciples move to Ganden.
- Lama Tsongkapa goes to Samten Ling in the region of Olka and gives numerous teachings. The abbot of Rabdrong has passed on and he has left Lama Tsongkapa offerings of 1000 weights of gold as well as silver and the like. Here Lama Tsongkapa spends the autumn retreat, making supplications to his Lama and Manjushri.
- On the 3rd day of the 12th month of the Year of the Cow, he has a vision of Manjushri in the middle of a mandala of 19 Deities. The central figure of the mandala reaches out towards Tsongkapa, handing him a precious vase. The Deity says, “The sacred water in this vase comes from a time when Lama Atisha was sitting on the banks of the Kyichu river in Nyetang. From the time of Atisha, 310 yeaers have passed, and we have not been able to find anyone else worthy of presenting this vase. But now we give it to you.“
- On the evening of the 4th day, he has a vision of Buton Rinpoche who entrusts him with the Root Tantra of Guhyasamaja. Buton Rinpoche takes the book up with his two hands and touches it down upon Tsongkapa’s head three times, each time repeating the mantra ‘HUNG VAJRA UTISHTHA‘.
- On the 5th day, Lama Tsongkapa achieves a firm comprehension of the Teachings of Marpa. And on the 6th day, Lama Tsongkapa comes to a deep understanding of the true intent of the realized being Nagarjuna and his spiritual son, Aryadeva. On the 7th day, Lama Tsongkapa is practicing the mixing of realizations, and he sees the text called Abbreviated Activity. He then sees that the stage of the practice of mixing where we mix sleep and our dreams exists, and with that he gains vast understanding on his visions. A vision Tsongkapa had where an offering set out to a deity with the note “They have made the offering to the dead“ was not clearly understood that in later times, the secret teachings of Tantra would be lost, but because Lama Tsongkapa has elucidate them again, his efforts in these teachings were like making an offering to the deceased.
- On the 5th day of the 2nd month, while staying in Ganden, he composes several works.
- In 1411, Lama Tsongkapa suffers from serious health problems. In order to eliminate these hindrances, he makes an intensive practice of Vajrabhairava with a group of 30 disciples. Keeping it up for a long time, they begin to experience visions of all the different kinds of Buddhas and deities.
- In 1412 during autumn, Lama Tsongkapa remarked, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to teach you things over and over at this point. All I’m hoping for now is that we can cover the most important instructions of the four different classes of the secret word.“ Worried by these words, Tsongkapa’s principal disciples beseech him to enter a deep retreat to preserve his health. So on the 7th day of the 8th month, Lama Tsongkapa enters a retreat and experiences many extraordinary visions.
- On the 29th of the 2nd month of Tsongkapa’s 56th year, Lama Tsongkapa devotes himself to practice with seven close disciples. They make great efforts in recitation and meditation, so that one of the four spirits of harm makes a pledge that they will do no harm to any of the successive Lamas of this great monastery, for the length of 13th generations.
- He has a vision of the Buddha Sakyamuni who executes the mudra of the Victory upon demons.
- He has a vision of Protectors such as Mahakala with six arms and four arms, Yama, Vaisravana, and so forth who drag the troops of demons. The protecting spirit named Kshetra Pala drives the demon from behind, threatening him, and finally severs his head. Lama Tsongkapa then, with his meditation, stuffs the body into a demon pit. The four groups of the spirits cry out in despair, “The war is lost!“ And they start to flee. Many in attendance of Tsongkapa hear these cries as well. After this, Lama Tsongkapa’s ailment gradually disappears.
- In 1414, during the summer of his 58th year, Lama Tsongkapa is invited by Miwang Drakpa Gyeltsen to go to Trashi Doka, in the region of On. Here in the words of the Crystal Mirror of Prophecy, it was said, “This disciple of the Way of the Lotus, the monk named Source of Bliss, will become a monk in Tibet, a monk with the highest aspiration for virtue at the end; and he will greatly further the teachings of Lobsang Drakpa.“ At this time, he meets Je Gedun Drup (the 1st Dalai Lama) who was accompanying one of Tsongkapa’s principal spiritual sons, Trinley Namka. He gives teachings in front of vast religious assemblies.
- He stays in Ganden where he expounds the teachings. He has a vision of the Venerable Manjushri who makes a prophecy about him: “From this point on, you must throw yourself into practicing the stages of creation and completion. If you do so, then you will quickly give birth to high realizations of the unsurpassed teachings of the secret world. Seven of your disciples – those with the fortune that comes from good deeds – will as well achieve extraordinary realizations of the path.“
- Lama Tokden-pa dreams he arrives at one stupa and is told it is the stupa of Lama Tsongkapa. Dakinis holding ritual vases full of ambrosia purify and wash this stupa. The dakinis then say that it is not the right time to pour the nectar as they first need to be fixed and that after they’re fixed then the nectar will be poured. From 1415 to 1417, Lama Tsongkapa tells his disciples that if they perform secret practices at the assembly hall of the monastery, then other people will see empowerments that they are not ready to see, and see secret worlds that they are prohibited from seeing. As such, Lama Tsongkapa says they need to build a temple for these rituals which is isolated and private. In 1415, the foundation is laid for the Yangpa-chen Temple.
- While he is edifying Yangpa-chen Temple, Lama Tsongkapa has a vision of Buddha Sakyamuni, Maitreya, Amitabha and Yamantaka.
- During the construction of Yangpa-chen temple, he has a vision of Heruka with the mandala of the Deities. At that time, an assembly of Dakinis appears in the sky and presents offerings while singing praises.
- In 1417, during the inauguration ceremony of Yangpa-chen, a great roar like that of a dragon bursts forth from a perfectly cloudless sky, everyone present hears it fly down and melt into the Offerings Hall (chos-kang). At this same time, a number of great practitioners of the five stages say they see forms of Yamantaka, so huge that they cover the sky, approaching from the four directions. The entire surrounding land then is plunged into a time of wondrous fortune, due to the power of these events.
- In 1418, Lama Tsongkapa gives teachings on the commentaries of the Guhyasamaja and the Kalacakra.
- In the winter of the same year, Lama Tsongkapa says to his disciples that “These protectors of the Dharma are also extremely pleased if, as we offer the torma cakes to them, we sing our chants out as loud as a lion’s roar. And so this is the way we should do it.“ While he is presenting tormas to the Protectors of the Law, he composes a particular melody for Yamantaka.
- In 1419, in the middle of numerous monks of the U and Tsang regions, he composes a commentary to the Root Tantra of Heruka and transmits his instructions.
- During autumn, he leaves Ganden for Lhasa at the request of his disciples, where he presents offerings to the Jowo and makes sincere vows.
- Staying in the region of Tolung, he gives numerous teachings to religious and lay devotees. Lama Tsongkapa visits the hot springs, but his legs only worsen. Lama Tsongkapa then sees the assembly of deities of the Secret Collections come and melt down into the abbey at Chumik lung and that he foretells that a monastery devoted to the secret teachings will come to be founded there.
- Lama Tsongkapa leaves Tolung and goes in a palanquin to Drepung monastery. A rainbow appears in front of the palanquin.
- When he conducts the consecration ceremony of the statues of the tantric college of Drepung, the Wisdom Beings Vajrabhairava and Mahakala with six arms manifest themselves and Lama Tsongkapa forces these wisdom beings into the images.
- Teaching in Drepung in front of vast religious assemblies. During this time, rainbows of all five colors repeatedly pierce the area of the debate ground. One day, in the middle of a teaching, Lama Tsongkapa stops and looks out towards Ganden Monastery. He ends the teaching at the 9th chapter of the Secret Collection. Everyone there begs him to continue with the teachings and instructions but Lama Tsongkapa refuses and said, “I’ve made up my mind, since yesterday. If I go now, it will be better for everyone. So we’ll go.“ By doing this, Lama Tsongkapa sets in motion deep causes for the lineage of explanation for both the secret and open teachings to remain for a long time.
- Leaving Drepung for Lhasa, he bows to the Jowo, presents offerings and pronounces vows for the durability of the Teaching.
- In Sera, at the request of Jamchen Chuje he teaches the Root Tantra of the Guhyasamaja and of Heruka. It was here that it occurs to Lama Tsongkapa that he has yet to establish a monastery dedicated to the teaching and study of the secret teachings. During teachings, the students are packed into the debate ground in a great mass. There in the middle of them sits Lama Tsongkapa as he asks, “Is there any here among you who will be able to uphold this tradition of teaching the secret ways?“ He asks once, and then twice but not a single one of these sages is able to step forth to accept the task. Then Lord Sherab Senge rises, and prostrates himself to Lama Tsongkapa and said, “I will do it“, delighting Lama Tsongkapa who then presented him an auspicious gift.
- At Balam Tse, Lama Tsongkapa meets the lord and lady of Castle Drakkar. He advises them that he requires the building of a monastery dedicated to the secret teachings, and they on their part agree to do so.
- They ask Lama Tsongkapa whether he could perform a ceremony of consecration on that very spot, and he replies, “Unless we do it now, it’s not going to be done.“ He then undertakes an extensive consecration ceremony.
- Teachings in Drakkar.
- On the road to Drushi, extraordinary sounds are heard.
- Travel in palanquin from Drushi to Ganden. Lama Tsongkapa stops in Yangpa-chen where he presents vast offerings.
- He takes part to a vast prayer assembly in Ganden. His reason for undertaking these extensive prayers of auspiciousness standing there within a veritable ocean of monks is to create deep causes for other things to come.
- Back to his room in Ganden, Lama Tsongkapa is seriously ill. With Duldzin, Gyeltsabje and others in attendance, Gyeltsabje begs Tsongkapa to grant some advice. Lama Tsongkapa then takes the sage’s cap from his head and tosses it into Gyeltsabje’s lap. He also gives his monk’s cloak as well. Tsongkapa then says to all his close disciples, “Understand what I mean when I do this; now go and perfect the Wish to become enlightened for others.“ He gives these last instructions to his disciples and particularly to Gyeltsabje whom he designates as his successor.
- Lama Tsongkapa then crosses his legs in meditation position, and places his hands in the gesture of meditation. When this is done he pretends that he is achieving enlightenment for the first time, passing into the precious body of clear light. A rain of flowers falls from the sky, rainbows appear and many other auspicious signs appear when Lama Tsongkapa passes away.
For more interesting information:
- Invite the Lama Tsongkhapa Life Story Thangkas (http://www.vajrasecrets.com/lama-tsongkhapa-life-story-thangka-a3)
- Tsongkhapa Quotes by Great Masters
- Lama Tsongkhapa Daily Practice
- Condensed Tsongkhapa Practice of Happiness & Clear Mind
- King of Dharma
- Dje Tsongkapa
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