Jetsun Tsongkhapa is the founder of the Gelugpa School of Buddhism in Tibet. Tsongkha is the name of the place in the Eastern Tibet Amdo area where he was born. Jetsun Tsongkhapa was born in the year 1357 during the 14th century. At the age of three, ordained as a layman vow by the 4th Jetsun Karmapa Rolpey Dorjee. 

At the age of seven, he received the ordination of renunciation from the first Abbott Dhondup Rinchen of Jakhyung Monastery in Amdo. Later at the age of around sixteen, he traveled to central Tibet for deeper teachings on Buddhism. At the age of twenty-four, he was fully ordained as Gelong under a master's from Sakya school.

It is said that he had followed around a hundred masters from Buddhism in Tibet such as masters from Nyingma school, Sakya school, Kagyu school, Jonang school, Shije school, and Kadam school. Jetsun Tsongkhapa is one of the Tibetan masters who became a well-known scholar at a very early age. He started composing the teachings at many retreat areas near Lhasa. He gained many followers because of his vast wisdom and he started giving teachings to all the disciples including the lay people. 

Photo: Wisdom Buddha Manjushri ( Jetsun Jamphelyang )

One day when he was teaching the Dharma near Lhasa, the wisdom Buddha Jamphelyang ( Manjushri Bodhisattva ) appeared in front of him and gave him a few 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 didn't understand the essence of the teachings from Manjushri. 

Manjushri Buddha has given a prophecy for him to go retreat at Woka Valley for purifying the past life's karmic debts, only then he can understand the essential teachings from Manjushri Buddha and he can benefit more Sentient Beings. Jetsun Umapa was the translator between Jetsun Manjushiri and Jetsun Tsongkhapa. Jetsun Umapa is also known to be one of the masters who can have face-to-face chats with Manjushri Buddha. 

Jetsun Umapa requests Manjushri Buddha that Jetsun Tsongkhapa is too young for retreat and that people might talk negatively about him if he goes early age for a retreat without learning deeper about Buddhism.

Manjushri said: if we listen to all the people, they are people who are also talking negatively about Buddha Shakyamuni.

Jetsun Umapa was given a prophecy to travel to eastern Tibet Kham. Later Jetsun Tsongkhapa traveled to Woka Choelong for a retreat. Check out my Hike trip to the Woka Choelong retreat area of Je Tsongkhapa. On the way to Woka Valley, eight disciples followed him. 

Jetsun Tsongkhapa met an old lady on the way to the retreat near Woka village. The old lady offered him butter, yogurt, cheese, and milk. Jetsun Tsongkhapa said: It's very auspicious. Oh mother, what are the names of this place and that mountain?  

The old lady replied: The name of this retreat is Choelong, and the name of that mountain is Dongre. Choelong means Buddha Dharma Prophecy. 

Once again Jetsun Tsongkhapa said: it's very auspicious. This is the place where Dharma Prophecy remains and the place where people can hear Dharma. The old lady disappeared and she was the emanation of the female Buddha Green Tara Jetsun Drolma. 

When he arrived at the Choelong Choesam retreat area, the rains of the flower were all over the Valley. The meditation caves were built by the spirit as an offering for him and his disciple. At the Woka Valley, he met another master namely Jetsun Namkha Gyaltsen. The eight disciples were meditating in the upper caves and the Jetsun Tsongkhapa was meditating in the lower cave. 

After the arrival of the Jetsun Tsongkhapa, the retreat area was covered with rainbows most of the time, and different types of lights coming from the sun shocked the governor at the Woka Choelong village. The governor send a servant to check what had happened at the Valley. The servant said: There is nothing there except eight pilgrim meditators. 

The governor cried with devotion and said: They are not just ordinary pilgrims, they are the Buddhas. The governor told all the villagers to go towards the mountain with him for the blessings from the Buddhas. After meeting the Jetsun Tsongkhapa, the governor asked: Who are you? and what is your name?  Jetsun Tsongkhapa replied jokingly: I am from Amdo, my name is 'the big nose Amdo man. '

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 stay in retreat then I can't obey the instructions from Manjushri Buddha so I won't need a sponsor. 

The governor cried once again and Jetsun Tsongkhapa doesn't want to make the governor feel bad so he asked the governor, who are you, and what is your name?

The governor replied: I am the governor of this village. My name is Tashi Gyaltsen Tashi Lhundrup. Jetsun Tsongkhapa was very pleased to hear the name of the governor and he replied: your name is very auspicious. Even though I don't need a house, to flourish the Buddha Dharma, you can build a monastery. The governor built the monastery with a lookalike statue of Jetsun Tsongkhapa. The statue is known as wish-fulfilling. The name of the monastery is Choelong Choesam Gonpa.

At the Choelong retreat area, Jetsun Tsongkhapa offered three hundred fifty thousand mandalas on a stone even until his hands were bleeding with bones coming out from the lower palm. Jetsun Tsongkhapa has offered three hundred fifty thousand prostrations on a stone even until making prints of the body on the stone. The hardship and diligence were the main cause for his great realization of Buddhism. 

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

Ganden monastery

He later built the Ganden monastery, 60 km from Lhasa. Ganden monastery is located on the mountain with a beautiful view of the whole valley. The monastery is popular for Ganden Tripa Golden Throne.

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. Drigung retreat area at the Drigung monastery. ( here Jetsun Tsongkhapa is said to have met the founder of Drigung Kagyu Jetsun Kyopa Jigten Gonpo. )

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

At the beginning of an early age, he was criticized by many Tibetan scholars. Later many of them praised him after reading his greatest composed of eighteen volumes of teachings on both sutra and tantra.  

Two great disciples 

Jetsun Tsongkhapa has many great disciples including the first Dalai Lama and the First Panchen Lama. His two great disciples are the first Panchen Lama Kedrup Je and the first Ganden Tripa holder Gyaltsap Je. 

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 follow you. Everything depends on your mind so train your mind all the time.
  2.  "If something happens to you, you don't like it, then stop doing such things to others."

  3. Friend will become enemy, Enemy will also become friends.

  4. In order to become a better spiritual person, you need to become a person first, that's the key. 

  5. 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. 


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

He is also known as one of the three wise men from Tibet. The other two are Jetsun Sakya Pandita from Sakya School and Jetsun Boton Rinchen Drup from Sakya School. 

Jetsun Tsongkhapa is the founder of the new Kadampa school known as Gelugpa. Meaning the pure path follower. 

Jetsun Tsongkhapa is known to be one of the wisest and most compassionate Tibetan masters. The reason for his hardship and diligence practice of Buddha Dharma was to find the easiest path to enlightenment for Sentient Beings.

The teachings on emptiness and the middle path are very difficult to understand for normal people, because of his great compassion, he wanted to explain the emptiness and middle path in a very easily understandable way and that is the reason he composed many teachings including Lamrim Chenmo ( full details on sutra path ) and Ngagrim Chenmo ( full details on tantra path ) 

The most popular teaching from Manjushri Buddha to Jetsun Tsongkhapa is Lamzo Namsum. ( The  three chief teachings on the path ) 1. Renunciation 2. Bodhichitta  3. Perfect view

Jetsun Tsongkhapa passed away at Ganden Monastery at the age of 62 in the year 1419, he is known as the second Buddha by the Tibetans. His compassion is like an ocean and his wisdom is like a sky. May Jetsun Tsongkhapa bless all Sentient Beings on the path of enlightenment. 

Written By :Tenzin

Feb 14, 2023


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