Tsongkhapa

Jetsun Tsongkhapa

Je means Guru or Lord, and Tsun means purity and discipline.

Did you know that Jetsun Tsongkhapa was the founder of the Gelugpa School of Buddhism in Tibet? He was born in 1357 in a place called Tsongkha, which is in the Eastern Tibet Amdo area. At the young age of three, he was ordained as a layperson vow by the 4th Jetsun Karmapa Rolpey Dorjee. 


1. Traveling to Central Tibet.

When he was seven years old, he was ordained with the renunciation by the first Abbott Dhondup Rinchen of Jakhyung Monastery in Amdo. When he was sixteen years old, he went to central Tibet to receive more in-depth teachings on Buddhism. He became a Geelong at the age of twenty-four after being fully ordained by a master from the Sakya school.


2. Acquiring knowledge of the teachings of Buddha.

He spent time with approximately one hundred masters of Tibetan Buddhism, including those from the Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, Jonang, Shije, and Kadam schools.


At a young age, Jetsun Tsongkhapa became a renowned scholar among Tibetan masters. He composed teachings in various retreat areas near Lhasa, attracting numerous followers with his immense wisdom. Eventually, he began teaching all his disciples, including lay people.


3. Meeting Manjushiri Bodhisattva.

One day, while teaching the Dharma near Lhasa, the wisdom Buddha Jamphelyang (Manjushri Bodhisattva) appeared before him and gave him teachings on emptiness and the middle path.


Manjushri Buddha asked Jetsun Tsongkhapa: "Son, do you understand the essence of these teachings?"

Jetsun Tsongkhapa replied that he needed help in understanding the essence of Manjushri's teachings.


4. Prophecy of Manjushiri Bodhisattva.

Jetsun Tsongkhapa received a prophecy from Manjushri Buddha that he must retreat to Woka Valley in order to cleanse his past life's karmic debts. By doing so, he will gain a deeper understanding of Manjushri Buddha's essential teachings and be able to benefit more sentient beings.


Jetsun Umapa acted as the intermediary between Jetsun Manjushiri and Jetsun Tsongkhapa and is also recognized as one of the few masters who can communicate with Manjushri Buddha directly.

Jetsun Umapa appeals to Manjushri Buddha to make sure that Jetsun Tsongkhapa is not deemed too young for retreat and that he is not subjected to hostile criticism if he engages in retreat at an early age without further Buddhist education.


Manjushri suggests that when we listen to others, we may come across individuals who have negative things to say about Buddha Shakyamuni, too.

Photo: Wisdom Buddha Manjushri ( Jetsun Jamphelyang )


A prophecy was given to Jetsun Umapa to journey to Kham in eastern Tibet. Afterwards, Jetsun Tsongkhapa went on a retreat to Woka Choelong. I have documented my hike to the Woka Choelong retreat location of Je Tsongkhapa. During the journey to Woka Valley, eight disciples accompanied him.


5. Encountering Tara, the Female Buddha, in the guise of an elderly woman.

While en route to the retreat near Woka village, Jetsun Tsongkhapa encountered an elderly woman. She kindly offered him butter, yogurt, cheese, and milk. This act was greatly appreciated by Jetsun Tsongkhapa, who then inquired about the location's name and the name of the mountain from the woman, referring to her as "Mother".


The retreat's name is Choelong, and Dongre is the name of the mountain. It was explained that Choelong means Buddha Dharma Prophecy by the elderly woman.


Jetsun Tsongkhapa expressed his encouragement stating that this is the location where Dharma Prophecy is preserved and where individuals can listen to the teachings of Dharma. The elderly woman vanished and was revealed to be the embodiment of Green Tara Jetsun Drolma, the female Buddha.


6. Arriving at Choelong Choesam Retreat area. 

Upon arrival at the Choelong Choesam retreat area, the Valley was covered in showers of flowers. The spirit constructed meditation caves as a gift for him and his followers. While at the Woka Valley, he encountered another expert, Jetsun Namkha Gyaltsen. The eight disciples were engaged in meditation within the upper caves, whereas Jetsun Tsongkhapa was contemplating within the lower cave.


7. The Devoted Governor.

Rainbows were frequently seen in the retreat area following the arrival of Jetsun Tsongkhapa. The governor at Woka Choelong village was amazed by various types of sunlight that produced different lights.


A servant was dispatched by the governor to investigate the situation in the Valley. The servant reported back that all they found were eight individuals who were meditating and on a pilgrimage.


With great intensity, the governor wept and declared that the travelers were not ordinary pilgrims, but rather, they were the Buddhas. He urged all of the villagers to join him in seeking blessings from the Buddhas on the mountain. Upon encountering Jetsun Tsongkhapa, the governor inquired about their identity and name. In a playful manner, Jetsun Tsongkhapa introduced themselves as "the big nose Amdo man" from Amdo.


The governor cried once again with great devotion. Please stay at this retreat area; I will be your sponsor. Jetsun Tsongkhapa said: I won't need a sponsor. If I have a sponsor, I can't stay in retreat. If I can't remain in retreat, then I can't obey the instructions from Manjushri Buddha so that I won't need a sponsor.


Jetsun Tsongkhapa inquired about the governor's identity and name to avoid hurting his feelings as the governor cried once more.


The village governor introduced himself as Tashi Gyaltsen Tashi Lhundrup. Upon hearing this, Jetsun Tsongkhapa expressed his happiness and commented that the governor's name is very auspicious.


While I don't require a residence, constructing a monastery would help spread the teachings of Buddha. The governor oversaw the creation of the monastery, which features a statue resembling Jetsun Tsongkhapa, known for its ability to grant wishes. The monastery is called Choelong Choesam Gonpa, and the statue, located in the front of the article's photo, is meant to provide blessings to followers of the faith.


8. Hardship Practice Dharma at Woka Choelong Retreat.

Jetsun Tsongkhapa performed the offering of three hundred fifty thousand mandalas at Choelong retreat area, persisting until his hands were bleeding and the bones of his lower palms were protruding.


By making prints of his body on a stone, Jetsun Tsongkhapa completed three hundred fifty thousand prostrations. His dedication and hard work were the key factors in his profound understanding of Buddhism.


Tsongkhapa

Photo: Future Buddha Gyalwa Jampa and Jetsun Tsongkhapa with his two great disciples


9. The Ganden monastery.

Afterwards, he constructed the Ganden monastery, which is located 60 kilometers away from Lhasa. Situated on a mountain, the monastery offers a stunning panoramic view of the entire valley. The Ganden Tripa Golden Throne is a well-known feature of the monastery.


10. Few retreat areas of Jetsun Tsongkhapa.

  1. Woka Choelong Choesam retreat area.
  2. Yamantaka retreat area near Woka Valley.
  3. Manjushri retreat area near Woka Valley.
  4. Ganden retreat area.
  5. Reting monastery retreat area ( here he composed Lamrim Chenmo. )
  6. Sangpu monastery retreat area near Lhasa ( here he taught Dharma to disciples for a month. ) 
  7. Komolung retreat area near Lhasa.
  8. Sera Utse and Sera Choeding retreat area above Sera monastery. 
  9. Jang retreat area near Lhasa.
  10. The Drigung retreat area is at the Drigung monastery. (Jetsun Tsongkhapa is said to have met the founder of Drigung Kagyu Jetsun Kyopa Jigten Gonpo. )

11. Few great emanations of Jetsun Tsongkhapa. 

  1. Buddha's Disciple, Drachompa Naywakor
  2. Jetsun Nagarjuna
  3. Jetsun Padmasambhava
  4. Jetsun Atisha
  5. Jetsun Marpa
  6. Jetsun Sachen Kunga Nyingpo
  7. Jetsun Tsonawa Sherap Sangpo

During his early years, a number of Tibetan scholars criticized him, but as they read his most important work, which consisted of eighteen volumes covering both sutra and tantra, many of them later commended him.


12. The five famous disciples of Je Tsongkhapa are:

  1. Je Gyaltsap Dharma Rinchen (the first holder of the Ganden Tripa Golden throne ) was born in the Shigatse Tsang area. 
  2. Je Kedrup Gelek Palsang ( second holder of Ganden Tripa Golden throne ) Je Kedrup Gelek Palsang was held in the Shigatse Tsang area.
  3. Je Gendhun Drupa ( first Dalai Lama ) was born in the Shigatse Tsang.
  4. Je Jamyang Choeje Tashi Palden ( Built Drepung monastery ) Je Jamyang Choeje Tashi Palden was born in the Samye Tsetang area.
  5. Je Jamchen Choeje Shakya Yeshi ( Built Sera monastery ) 

Two of his outstanding disciples were Kedrup Je, the first Panchen Lama, and Gyaltsap Je, the first holder of Ganden Tripa.


13. A few Proverbs from Jetsun Tsongkhapa.

  1. If your mind is compassionate, all the goodness will follow you. If your mind is evil, all the evilness will pursue you. Everything depends on your mind, so train your mind all the time.
  2. Friends will become enemies, and enemies will also become friends.
  3. To become a better spiritual person, you need to evolve a person first; that's the key.
  4. The root aspiration of enlightenment is to realize all Sentient Beings as our mother. Always think and practice Dharma to repay the kindness of Sentient Beings. This is the root of Mahayana Buddhism. 
  5.  "If something happens to you, you don't like it, then stop doing such things to others."

14. One of the three emanations of Manjushiri.

One of the three emanations of Wisdom Buddha Manjushri is Jetsun Tsongkhapa. Jetsun Longchenpa from Nyingma School and Jetsun Sakya Pandita from Sakya School are the other two.


One of the individuals recognized as a wise man from Tibet is also known as such. The remaining two wise men are Jetsun Sakya Pandita and Jetsun Boton Rinchen Drup, both belonging to the Sakya School.


The individual who established the Gelugpa school also called the pure path follower, is named Jetsun Tsongkhapa.


15. Precious fastest path to enlightenment.

One of the most compassionate and wise Tibetan masters is Jetsun Tsongkhapa. He practiced Buddha Dharma with diligence and faced hardship in order to discover the simplest path to enlightenment for all sentient beings.


Because of their complexity, the teachings on emptiness and the middle path can be difficult for ordinary people to grasp. However, due to his immense compassion, he endeavored to make these concepts easily understandable. To achieve this, he composed numerous teachings, such as the Lamrim Chenmo (which provides thorough explanations of the sutra path) and the Ngagrim Chenmo (which provides comprehensive details on the tantra path).


Lamzo Namsum, which is the teachings of Manjushri Buddha to Jetsun Tsongkhapa, is highly favored. It consists of three major teachings on the path, namely renunciation, bodhichitta, and perfect view. This path is considered as one of the swiftest ways to attain enlightenment.

Check out Google arts & culture on Je Tsongkhapa.


In 1419, Jetsun Tsongkhapa died at Ganden Monastery when he was 62 years old. The Tibetans refer to him as the second Buddha due to his great compassion, and they also regard him as having wisdom akin to the vast sky. May all beings on the path to enlightenment be blessed by Jetsun Tsongkhapa.


As someone with limited knowledge, writing about a figure of such mastery intimidates me. However, I have written this article to gain merit by mentioning this great master's name. If there are any mistakes in my writing, I humbly request forgiveness from the Dakinis. Tsongkhapa Khenno!

I really appreciate you sticking with me until the end. If you enjoyed reading this short biography, check out another article about the esteemed Yogi Milarepa.

Additionally, if you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to let me know in the box below. I hope you are doing well and staying healthy and happy!


Written By :Tenzin

Feb 14, 2023


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