Date: 27/12/2013 10:57:59 PM
Subject: [CASonline] Guru Manjushri - Lama Je Tsongkhapa

Dearest Friends @ Phuntsok Cho Ling (CAS), 
Nearly half a millenium ago, during the 16th century, when the 8th Karmapa, one of the most renowned in the line of the Karmapa Lamas, passed through Charida Pass, He remembered Lama Je Tsongkhapa and was overwhelmed. The Karmapa remembered Lama Tsongkhapa's great kindness to the holy Dharma, to mother sentient beings and to Tibet. The Karmapa then proceeded to pen down what became one of the most touching poems written in praise of someone whom He called, "the incomparable Lama Tsongkhapa":


The 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje 

"At a time when nearly all in this Northern Land
Were living in utter contradiction to Dharma,
Without illusion, O Tsong Khapa, you polished the teachings.
Hence I sing this praise to you of Ganden Mountain.

When the teachings of Sakya, Kagyu, Kadam
And Nyingma sects in Tibet were declining,
You, O Tsong Khapa, revived Buddha’s Doctrine,
Hence I sing this praise to you of Ganden Mountain.

Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, gave to you
Special instructions on the thought of Nagarjuna.
O Tsong Khapa, upholder of the Middle Way,
I sing this praise to you of Ganden Mountain......"
In the Root Tantra of Manjushri, Lord Buddha Himself prophesied thus on the birth and appearance of Lama Tsongkhapa like this:
"After I passed 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 ( "Ganden" in Tibetan ),
You are the great protector
from the Land of Snows"


"The King of Dharma of the Three Realms"
- Shabkar, the great Nyingma master and historian, in his reference to Lama Tsongkhapa  

Great Expositor of the Madhyamaka and the Tantras
One of Lama Tsongkhapa's greatest achievements is the complete clarification, firm establishment and skilful rectification of the pivotal Buddhist doctrine of Inter-dependent Arising or "Emptiness". 
The Buddha first taught on this in the Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma in the Prajna Paramita sutras and the subsequent grand Nalanda masters like Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti and Buddhapalita further elucidated this critical doctrine.
This teaching on the great Madhyamaka is the actual, ultimate point and intent of the entire of the Buddha's teachings. Every teaching of the sutras and tantras is, from the perspective of the Buddha's ultimate intent, solely for the sake of inculcating this Right View of "Emptiness" of Inter-dependent Arising in all sentient beings, embroiled in endless turmoil in samsara. This is because the great Madhyamaka or the realisation of the lack of inherent self and phenomenon existence is the sole means through which beings attain Liberation from samsara and Buddhahood. Hence, the correct cultivation and realisation of this understanding is critical and holds the key to the great Enlightenment.  
The 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje, considers Lama Tsongkhapa to be one " ... who swept away wrong views with the correct and perfect ones" and hence provides the key to the great Madhyamaka.
In a pure vision, Lama Tsongkhapa was approached by Lord Marpa who passed to Him and offered Him custodian of His precious teachings on the Guhyasamaja and the Six Yogas of Naropa. As with many teachings which had passed through the hands of Lama Tsongkhapa, the clarification and elucidation, such as that of the Heruka Chakrasamvara and the Guhyasamaja became consequently extremely lucid and clear. This, according to the present Dalai Lama, is not a sectarian assertion but a fact which any discerning scholar or even mere reader could see and discover for him or herself.  
Unbridled, charismatic revitaliser of the Dharma
Another of Lama Tsongkhapa's great acts, I believe, is that of flourishing infinite-fold, the holy Dharma in Tibet then, and the world now, as we will see in latter sections of this issue, specifically, because of His Holiness the great 14th Dalai Lama. 
Lama Tsongkhapa's activities apply through the Three Great Monastic Seats of Learning of the Drepung, Sera and the Ganden together with their subsidiary colleges of the Loseling, the Gomang, the Deyang, the Je, the Mey, the Shartse, the Jangtse with their tens of thousands of elite monks, trained and exerting in learning, practice and nobility of conduct and thought. Monasteries of the Gelugpa tradition which spanned the entire length and breadth of Tibet are almost always directly or indirectly affiliated to one or more of these 3 great seats. Resident teachers who are usually graduates of these monasteries ( "Geshes" ) taught and kept alive teachings of the Buddha, albeit, through the eyes, ears and lips of Lama Tsongkhapa, for the masses of the faithful devout and ensured continuity and in a sense, orthodoxy, of Tibetan Buddhist thinking and culture, traditions and customs.  


Shri Guhyasamaja

In addition, the dual tantric colleges kept intact the transmission of not just the words and rituals but also the full blessings and realisations of and from Lord Vajradhara to our human realm, "warm with the breath of the dakinis". In lineages which are less institutionalised or rigidly-strictly organised, the two tantric colleges helped to keep integral and whole, the full spectrum of the Buddhist tantras, notably that of the Guhyasamaja and several other very important tantras, before transmitting them back to lineages where these tantras have grown weak or lost, partially or totally.
In every major regions of Tibet and beyond, into the great steppes of Russian Central Asia, Mongolia, imperial Chinese "Qing", will be found Lama Tsongkhapa's monks and words, including in Tibet, the Seat of the Panchen Lamas in Shigatse, the Labrang, the Kum Bum, the Lithang Gompa, Bathang, and literally running into the thouands of monasteries, retreat centres, seminaries, major or minor, renowned or obscured.
The precious Teachers in the footsteps of Lama Tsongkhapa are safeguards and illuminators of doctrine and traditions and range from the modest monastic "Ge-gen-las" who instructs his small circle of disciples in the alphabets, the proper way of folding one's robes, the courteous and acceptable way of entering the hall, to the maybe unnecessarily grandiose, magnifcent, grand Lamas in their almost palatial estates: the four Ling Labrangs of the Tsemonling, Kundeling, the Reting and the Tsechokling; the imperial tutors of Chinese emperors of old, the Changkya Huthok-tus and so forth. These Princes of the Gelugpa Church are generally benign landlords who own swaths of lands and are lords over their subjects, while also fierce upholders of the Dharma, who name, bless, protect, promote and teach their people, from birth to the grave, the life of the Buddha, the Four Noble Truths, the Six Bodhisattva Perfections and who bestow tantric empowerments that, due to "samaya" or bodhisattva and tantric aspirations, cause their recurrent rebirths, so patiently and compassionately, life after life, till they bring all disciple-subjects who relied on them, out of this painful cyclic existence.   
Avowedly, at least, the emphasis upon monastic purity, scholastic conservatism and strictly prescribed interpretations and perspectives both helped keep the tradition alive and intact, respected and resented, revered and feared, inward-looking and exclusive and, on occasion, dangerously close to sect-specific dogmatism.
What is clear, probably, is the undeniable "functionality" or "workability" of the entire Gelugpa system across Tibet and which is likely to be kept flourshing as it had had for more than 300 years, ( relative to about a 100 years for the Nyingma school under the Kings Songtsen Gampo, Trisong Detsen and ending with Langdarma and the slightly less than a 100 years with backing of the Mongolians for the Sakya dynasty and the much lesser period of partial rule of the Phagmo Drupas ) if not for the brutal, militant communist disruption.   
The late Head of the Nyingma School, the Lord of Refuge, Dudjom Rinpoche, whom many consider to be Guru Padmasambhava in human form, wrote in "The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism":
"The venerable Tsongkhapa vastly increased the enlightened activities of exegesis and attainment, combining the Kadampa textual tradition with the tantras of the way of the mantra according to the new translations."
A mystic and great practitioner and composer
A critical aspect of Lama Tsongkhapa's life, I am afraid which has been tragically overlooked not just by non-Gelugpas, but also by the Gelugpas themselves, perhaps, is the gargantuan and amazing exertions Lama Tsongkhapa plunged Himself into, in terms of His many, many, many retreats in the forms of several millions of prostrations, mandala offerings, water offerings, Buddha image-casting, the rigorous tantric meditations, in every level and stage, subtle and gross, generation and completion, of the king of tantras, Shri Guhyasamaja, the glorious Chakrasamvara and the fearsome Yamantaka Vajrabhairava, the unparalleled Shri Hevajra, Kalachakra, and Maha Chakra Vajrapani, for the accumulation of merit and of wisdom, the attainment then finally Union of the Clear Light and Illusory Body, for the attainment of Buddhahood, for the good and benefit, welfare and liberation of all mother sentient beings.
Yamantaka Vajrabhairava
His writings which run into volumes of the best and finest impeccable standards are the models of almost every subsequent Tibetan Buddhist scholarship and thinking for both the admirer and critic, faithful or skeptic, especially in terms of their clarity, authoritative citations and brilliant insights, if not, if only for sheer subjective-instinctual acceptance through the weight and impact of Lama Tsongkhapa's alluring persuasiveness and bodhicitta; steady and firmly guided progression of thoughts and always, logic.  
Even latter-day challengers to certain aspects of Lama Tsongkhapa's philosophical subtleties, for good or bad, is unlikely to match, even remotely, the magnitude and influence so achieved by Lama Tsongkhapa, so many centuries after He had supposedly retired to the inner chamber of Tushita, where He sits, still, at the lotus feet of Lord Maitreya, with Lama Atisha, devotedly listening to the profound discourses of the Dharma.
The "Migtsema"
As Lama Tsongkhapa's Sakya Teacher offered back the praise which Lama Tsongkhapa had composed for Him, saying that the praise is more suited to His student ( that is, Lama Tsongkhapa Himself ) than it is to himself ( Lama Rendawa ), the famed "Migtsema" as the praise is now known, is one of the most revered of prayers cum mantra of Lama Je Tsongkhapa. 
Besides being a sacred practice for realisation of the inseparability of the Guru and oneself, the "Migtsema" is the source of so much power and miracles throughout the centuries and countless devotees of Lama Tsongkhapa attest to its efficacious potency through the thorough resolving of impossible problems and healing of dreaded sicknesses, even its more mundane achievement of worldly success, wealth and protection.
Great Treasure of objectless compassion - Avalokiteshvara;
Powerful lord of stainless wisdom - Manjushri;
Destroyer of assemblies of Mara's forces withour exception - Vajrapani;
Crown jewel of the sages of the Land of Snows - Tsongkhapa;
Losang Darpa, I make requests at Your feet.
The "Migtsema" is usually recited during the course of Lama Tsongkhapa's main Guru Yoga practice, the "Hundred Deities of the Land of Joy" or "Ganden Lhagyama" in Tibetan ( it does not require an empowerment  ). Of course, the "Mgitsema" could also be done at any time or place, but always, ideally, with only the purest intention to benefit others. The "Ganden Lhagyama" is said to be the very first practice which the lineal Dalai Lamas recite the first thing He arose from the depth of meditation in sleep. 
Phuntsok Cho Ling (CAS)'s many programmes owed so much to the blessings and guidance of Lama Tsongkhapa through the "Migtsema" especially. The text and prayer of the "Hundred Deities of the Land of Joy" and the "Migtsema" are available upon request at
The Ganden Tripas
His Holiness the 100th Ganden Trisur;
Spiritual-Official Head of the Gelugpa lineage;
Successor of Lama Je Tsongkhapa;
the earthly representation of Je Rinpoche and
the Root Teacher of Phuntsok Cho Ling (CAS)
The Ganden Tripas are considered to be the earthly representative of Lama Je Tsongkhapa Himself and any discussion of Lama Je Tsongkhapa begs the inevitable reference to who His present-day successors are.
So many years later, the legacy of Lama Tsongkhapa lives on and is carried on through the line of His successors, known as the Ganden Tripas or the Throne-holders of Ganden. In this case, the term "Ganden" refers to the Gelugpa lineage, the spiritual tradition founded by Lama Tsongkhapa, and not to the mother monastery of Ganden.
Considering the sheer scale and magnitude of the Gelugpa tradition with its many numerous brilliant and extremely outstanding masters and scholars, it is perhaps an understandable though frequent mistake to mistake the Ganden Tripas, who are the Spiritual Head or Leader of the Gelugpa Lineage, with the Abbots of Ganden Monastery, ( who are the Ganden Shartse or Ganden Jangtse Khen Rinpoches, but not the Ganden Tripas ! ), not forgetting, of course, that these decidedly distinct though respectively powerful and influential positions, in their own spheres, share the same name of "Ganden", or the "Joyful Land", hence, contributing to the all-too-common confusion, that has been repeated, quoted and discussed at length, mistakes cascaded and multiplied from one journal and one forum to the other !
The position of Ganden Tripa who is the official-spiritual successor of Lama Je Tsongkhapa and the Official Head of the entire Gelugpa Lineage is rotated between the two seniormost Abbot Emeritus of the Gyudmey and Gyuto Tantric Colleges. These two seniormost Abbot Emeritus are respectively known as the Jangtse and the Sharpa Chojes ( literally translated as "Lords of Dharma of the Northern and Eastern Halls of Ganden" ).
The misguided contributions to Wikipedia and some other inaccurate sources wrote of the Ganden Tripas being selected on the basis of "competitive debates" and / or "voting". From the overly-simplistic entries, it seems that the head of Tibet's most dominant and influential spiritual tradition is but a mere glib theologian and a product of volatile mechanical electoral processes! More accurately, of course, the exalted position of "Tri Rinpoche" is based upon years and decades of committed service as abbots of two of Tibet's foremost and most prestigious tantric colleges, the scrutiny and trials demanded of their offices amidst the highest-refined scholastic dissections, discourses and compositions, signs of accomplishments in retreats and intricate, meticulous ceremonies amongst others, so many, it is difficult to recount or imagine. Before this, their nomination as tantric abbots is based upon their learning, practice and even reputation as pure, dedicated practitioners, teachers and scholars in relative consideration against the formidable backdrop of thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Tibet's best and finest scholars of the great monastic colleges and is finally to be approved by the Dalai Lama, who logically derives, meditates upon and consults His supernatural counsels, usually the Palden Lhamo and Nechung Chogyal.
Palden Lhamo
A Ganden Tripa who has served His 7 years as the head of the lineage and relinguishes His position to the seniormost abbot of the other tantric college inherits the title of "Ganden Trisur", and is considered the senior, retired or emeritus head.
They frequently recognise and enthrone, besides serving as the teachers of the highest Lamas of the lineage, including the Dalai and Panchen Lamas and are accorded the highest reverence and honours and treated with impeccable decorum and deference, their statements and opinions, holding sway, if not authority, over not just the Three Great Seats of Learning, but also the literally thousands upon thousands of Gelugpa monasteries, seminaries, retreat centres, major and minor, throughout Tibet, Central Asia, Mongolia, parts of China and now, many places in the world, who follow the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa.
Many Ganden Tripas, in addition, to their utter purity as the Buddha's monks through their upholding of monastic vows and their astounding standards of scholarship, at times, manifested the highest attainments, realisations, power and miracles, perhaps, one wonders, if only to encourage practitioners after them that "enlightened beings shall always walk the earth" should anyone applies oneself scrupulously to the Three Higher Trainings of Ethics, Concentration and Wisdom. However, as an example to their fortunate disciples to the keeping of the Kadampa precept of "hiding one's virtues but openly confessing one's faults", "Tri Rinpoches" do also appear only as old, kindly and monk-ly.
Admirers of the system of the Ganden Tripas are many and includes, prominently, a Root Teacher of both the two rotating heads of the Sakya lineage ( the present Sakya Trizin and the Sakya Dagchen ), the Most Venerable Dezhung Rinpoche, who as published in His biography, considers the recognition of spiritual offices based upon visible learning and practice to be "best, like the system of the Ganden Tripas," the middling be that of the "incarnated masters" and the least to be that of biological, family-lineage.
The Dalai Lamas
Of note, the mantle of Lama Tsongkhapa's teachings, is shared, held and transmitted by many great bodhisattvas, significantly the Dalai Lamas, who are principally Gelugpa trained and affiliated. Although, sometimes, gleeful fingers point out that the Dalai Lama has taken this or that teachings or empowerments from this or that sublime master/s of their lineage, in the end of the day, no one harbours any doubts that, the Dalai Lama, from an holistical-objective perspective, besides the technical aspect, is respected, therefore, as not just a Gelugpa teacher, but also a prime preserver and expounder of Tibet's 4 great spiritual traditions and is regarded as Tibet's "highest master"* and the "Root Guru of Tibetans"* by almost every lineage-heads of this century. ( *Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and the late Dudjom Rinpoche )
His Holiness has protected and kept Lama Tsongkhapa's teachings pure and unblemished where it has degenerated into spirit-obssessed insanity ( I mean the disgraceful shugden affair ) and violence, toxic and wicked sectarian repression and, sometimes, noisy, petty, meaningless and irrelevant theocratic hair-splitting hollerings. Above all these, the Dalai Lama stands as a unifying, trusted, healing and much beloved figure to Tibetans who have lost their lands, their friends and way of lives they had known since centuries past. Arching beyond the Land of Snows, miraculously it seems, in this disastrous age of ours, His Holiness has also carried the Buddha's Dharma to the furthest shores of the world. Fairly considered, no single Buddhist master it appears, has cut inroads for the holy Dharma in such a way, reaching out to as many people and highlighted Buddhism in all its multi-faceted faces to lands so foreign and different. Perhaps, too, no Buddhist master, yet, has received quite such a reception as the Dalai Lama on the world stage, upon such different and paradoxical platforms: cultural, political, the White House, ecumenical, in postage stamps of Europe, as collectible dolls ( courtesy of Mattel, the same chain which produces Barbie and Ken ), advertisements on trains ( "Think Different" - Apple computers and the most valuable company in the world ), the Indian cowshed, Harvard, Cambridge, scientific, academic, philosophical, ethical and even the commercial. The Dalai Lama has won almost every major awards and recognitions there is to win on earth of this age !
The Dalai Lama, greeting the 17th Karmapa as the present 102nd Ganden Tripa and the 41st Sakya Trizin, look on
That a prominent agent and product of Lama Tsongkhapa's teachings and blessings, enchants, instructs and assembles the hundreds of thousands at the forgotten, ruined holy lands of ancient Buddhist India and the tragic, far-too-bloodied, holy lands of the crusades, believers-versus-infidels, in Jerusalem, bring to mind that holy aspirations of holy people do come true and do bear fruit.
We are hence witness to Lama Tsongkhapa's blessed verses:
"In regions where the supreme, precious teaching has not spread
Or where it has spread but then declined,
May I illumine that treasure of happiness and benefit
With a mind deeply moved by great compassion."
His Holiness Kyabje Trulshig Rinpoche, late Head of the Nyingma School,
a teacher of the Dalai Lama and the 100th Ganden Trisur,
donning the yellow hat of the panditas, characteristic of Lama Tsongkhapa's tradition.
He named CAS, "Phuntsok Cho Ling", a name CAS shall keep.  
This, then, is a somewhat disparate, last-minute inspired account of the life of Lama Je Tsongkhapa, coinciding with "Ganden Nga-Cho" or the Anniversary of Lama Tsongkhapa, a few hours later when the sun rises, one of the most important religious festivals for the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama, the Ganden Tripa, the Sharpa and Jangtse Chojes, down to the humblest being who consider himself, herself or itself, a student and follower of the Guru Manjushri.
Pure Visions
In a pure vision of Venerable Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche, an established terton of our time:
"Looking thoroughly amused, the Tsongkhapa statue smiled .... delighted, I recited the Migtsema prayer in a whisper .... ( Lama Tsongkhapa ) glanced at His regent Gyaltshab to His right. After a lengthy conversation with Khedrup, His other spiritual heir to His left, He said, "Son, I am A RA PA TSA NA, ( Manjushri ); I am YA MA RA JA, ( Yamantaka Vajrabhairava ); I am BENZA GURU, ( Guru Padmasambhava ).... I abide perfectly in your heart." 
".... I looked up to see the whole eastern sky filled with rainbows, lights and rays ad the ringing sounds of conches and horns, lutes and flutes ... on which strode the Maha Guru ( Padmasambhava ) ... Then the Maha Guru who subsumes all families begand swaying in a dance and sang in a vajra melody, ".....the one who rises above all others like the crest ornament on a victory banner is this Conqueror from the East - Tsongkhapa !! He is the outer form of all Conquerors of the three times. He is unrivalled in what he did to spread the heart of the Teachings in the Land of Snows. Never before has there been anyone like him and it would be difficult for such a one to appear in the future. Holders of the teachings! Emulate Him ... !!"  
From the life story of Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche: "Memories of lost and hidden lands".
For the biographies of Guru-Manjushri, Lama Je Tsongkhapa, see:
2) An account by Dr Alexander Berzin: 
3) A characteristically spirited teaching by the late Lama Yeshe, founder of the worldwide FPMT centres:    



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