Je Tsongkhapa

In Root Tantra of Manjushri Buddha Shakyamuni made a prediction about how Manjushri would later emanate as Je Tsongkhapa:

After I pass away
And my pure doctrine is absent,
You will appear as an ordinary being,
Performing the deeds of a Buddha
And establishing the Joyful Land, the great Protector,
In the Land of the Snows.

This verse reveals the special qualities of Je Tsongkhapa. The third line explains that although he was an enlightened being, a manifestation of the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri, Je Tsongkhapa did not reveal himself to be a special being but always appeared in the aspect of an ordinary practitioner. In particular he never made a public display of his miracle powers or clairvoyance, and he encouraged his disciples to follow his example by not revealing any special powers they might have attained.

Instead of revealing miracle powers Je Tsongkhapa mainly worked to establish pure Buddhadharma throughout Tibet. By giving teachings and showing a good example he led many beings to gain pure, authentic realizations of Sutra and Tantra. This is the meaning of the fourth line of the verse.

The phrase “Joyful Land” in the fifth line is the name of Buddha Maitreya’s Pure Land, known as “Tushita” in Sanskrit or “Ganden” in Tibetan, which is where Je Tsongkhapa went after he passed away. During his life Je Tsongkhapa established a great monastery in Tibet called “Ganden Monastery”, and he spread throughout Tibet a pure doctrine which became known as the “Ganden doctrine”. This doctrine is a special, pure Buddhadharma that comes from Manjushri’s wisdom. It is called “the great Protector” because it protects all living beings from the ocean of samsaric suffering. All of this indicates that Je Tsongkhapa is a manifestation of Buddha Maitreya, who is the Protector of the hundreds of Deities of the Joyful Land. These days the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa is known as the “Gelug”, or “Virtuous Tradition”, and his followers are known as “Gelugpas”; but the original name of “Ganden” came from Buddha Shakyamuni. This is the meaning of the fifth line.

As Buddha had predicted, Je Tsongkhapa appeared in Tibet, the Land of the Snows, where he lived from 1357 to 1419. When he was born a drop of his mother“s blood fell to the ground, and later a white sandal tree with a hundred thousand leaves grew at that spot. On each of the leaves there appeared an image of Buddha Sengei Ngaro, who is the same mental continuum as Buddha Manjushri. This indicates that the child was a manifestation of Manjushri. Later the third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso, said that this precious tree was an object of offerings and respect, and he moved it to a nearby monastery where he placed it inside a silver stupa with many precious jewels and made extensive offerings to it. This monastery became known as “Kumbum Monastery”, or “The Monastery of a Hundred Thousand Assets”. Eventually other similar trees grew around the stupa and their leaves also bore special Assets. On some there appeared the letters of Manjushri’s mantra, AH RA PA TSA NA DHI, and on others the seed-letter of Manjushri, the letter DHI. These leaves were regarded as very precious, and when they fell in the autumn people would gather them and grind them into powder. Through tasting this powder many people have been able to cure diseases and increase their wisdom.

Je Tsongkhapa showed a perfect example of how to build the foundation for the spiritual path, how to progress on that path, and how to complete it. First he studied the entire Dharma of Sutra and Tantra by relying sincerely upon his Spiritual Guides, and then he put all this knowledge into practice and demonstrated the attainment of all the realizations from relying upon the Spiritual Guide up to the Union of No More Learning, or Buddhahood. Since then thousands of practitioners have attained the ultimate happiness of Buddhahood within one life by following Je Tsongkhapa“s example and sincerely practicing his teachings. Even today faithful practitioners who follow Je Tsongkhapa’s pure Dharma can accomplish these results. If instead of giving teachings and setting a pure example Je Tsongkhapa had mainly demonstrated his own good qualities by displaying miracle powers and other forms of clairvoyance, we would have received no benefit from his actions. What we need is not displays of miracle powers but a clear example of how to enter an unmistaken spiritual path, how to practice that path comfortably and smoothly, and how to complete it successfully. This is the actual method for solving our daily problems. Since Je Tsongkhapa provided us with just such an example, we should recognize his immense kindness and develop unchanging faith and respect for him.

(from ‘Heart Jewel’, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso)
© Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and the New Kadampa Tradition 2002