Tsongkhapa Lobsang Drakpa (1357-1419), who founded Ganden
Monastery and established the Geluk Order
Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism traces its origin back to
Buddha Shakyamuni, as do the rest of the Tibetan Buddhist
Schools. This lineage further traces its origin back to the
Kadampa tradition of the great Indian master Atisha (982-1054).
It was founded by the Tibetan master, Je Tsongkhapa Lobsang
Drakpa (1357-1419), otherwise known as Je Rinpoche. Tsongkhapa
is the founder of Drok Riwo Ganden, widely renowned as the
Ganden Monastery, established in 1409 C.E. outside Lhasa,
the capital of Tibet, which became the main seat of the Geluk
tradition. The name of this lineage is derived from the name
of the monastery that he founded. This tradition was further
developed many other great seats established by many of his
disciples though out the centuries.
general Buddhist canon of the Kagyur (bk'a 'gyur) and Tengyur
(bstan 'gryur) are the primary source for the lineage, as
they are for the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism. In addition,
the Geluk lineage relies on the writings of the primary Gelukpa
masters, Je Tsongkhapa Lobsang Drakpa, Gyaltsab Dharma Rinchen,
Khedrup Gelek Palsang, and many others.
all the schools of Tibet, the Geluk school puts the most emphasis
on pure philosophical studies, which can continue for many
years. Major topics that are emphasized in the Gelukpa school
is called the "Five Major Treatises": (1) The Prajnaparamita,
perfection of wisdom, (2) Madhyamaka, middle way, (3) Pramana,
valid cognition, (4) Abhidharma, phenomenology, (5) Vinapa,
monastic disciplines. In this tradition, these treatises are
studied with great detail using the dialectical method. For
a period of over fifteen years, these texts are studied using
numerous Gelukpa commentaries, many of which often are unique
to each monastic college. When such training in studies are
completed, one receives one of the three types of degrees
of Geshe (dge bshes), the high academic degree in Buddhist
philosophy [equivalent to a masters degree]: Dorampa, Tsogrampa,
and Lharampa (highest) degree.
Geshe then has the choice to either join the Tantric Colleges,
to study further and complete the tantric training, to return
to one's monastery and teach other monks, or to go into long
term meditation retreat, if the student so wishes. This tradition
of intensive study remains vibrant even in the exile situation
majority of the Gelukpa school students go through the study
and practice Tsongkhapa's Lamrim Chenmo (lam rim chen mo),
Great Exposition of the Stages Of The Path, which is based
on Atisha's Bodhipatha-pradipa (byang chub lam sgron), Lamp
Of The Path Of Enlightenment that teaches the progressive
path of training from the most basic yana to the highest path
of Vajrayana. Students, if they desire, are then lead to the
study and practice of Tsongkhapa's Ngakrim Chenmo (sngags
rim chen mo), Great Exposition of Tantras, which goes through
the study of the highest teachings in Buddhism, Vajrayana.
LINEAGE AND LINEAGE MASTERS
tradition of the Geluk or the Ganden lineage is an offspring
of the root Kadhampa tradition of the Lord Atisha. The unbroken
lineage of the Gandenpa or Gelukpa tradition has continued
to the present time from Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), who founded
this tradition with the opening of the Ganden Monastery in
the early 15th century.
Tsongkhapa was born in the Tsongkha area of Amdo the region
in eastern Tibet. When he was four, he received the complete
lay ordination from the Fourth Karmapa, Rolpe Dorje, whom
gave him the name, Kunga Nyingpo. Je Tsongkhapa studied with
masters of all the existing traditions of Kadam, Sakya, Kagyu
and other Tibetan Buddhist lineages, and became one of the
most well-known scholars and masters of the time.
taught extensively and engaged in meditation retreats. In
addition to that, he wrote numerous commentaries and texts
and his collected works contains eighteen volumes.
Among countless students, his main disciples were: Gyeltsap
Dharma Rinchen (1364-1432), Khedrub Gelek Palsang (1385-1438),
Gyalwa Gendun Drup (1391-1474) who became known as the first
Dalai Lama, Jamyang Chöje Tashi Palden (1379-1449), Chamchen
Chöje Shakya Yeshe, Je Sherab Senge, and Kunga Dhöndrup
had eight close disciples who continued his lineage and tradition.
At the age of sixty, Je Tsongkhapa passed away (on the 25th
day of the 10th Tibetan month) empowering Gyaltsap Dharma
Rinche or Gyaltsap Je as his regent to succeed his throne
in Ganden; this tradition of throne-holder still continues
SEATS IN TIBET AND IN EXILE
main seat of the Gelukpa School is the Ganden Monastery in
central Tibet, which is headed by the Venerable Ganden Tripa,
the throne-holder of Ganden. Ganden Monastery was founded
by Tsongkhapa in 1409 c.e. and is divided into two colleges,
Shartse and Jangtse. Among other major Gelugpa monasteries
or seats, Drepung Monastery was founded by Jamyang Chöje
Tashi Palden, as close disciple of Tsongkhapa, in 1416 c.e.
The Drepung monastic seat originally had seven branches but
these were later combined into four: Loseling, Gomang, Deyang
and Ngagpa. Drepung Loseling and Gomang are the main colleges
that continue to train the students in traditional Drepung
monastic educational trainings. Sera Monastery was founded
by Chamchen Chöje Shakya Yeshi, a close disciple of Tsongkhapa,
in 1419 c.e. This initially had five colleges, which were
later, combined into two: Sera Jey and Sera Mey. Tashi Lhunpo
Monastery was founded by Gyalwa Gendun Drup (the First Dalai
Lama), a student of Tsongkhapa, in 1447, which later became
the seat of successive Panchen Lamas. Many other great monasteries
of this tradition grew all over Tibet and became of the main
schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
have been two main monasteries for tantric practice and study
in the Geluk tradition. Gyüme, the Lower Tantric College,
was founded by Je Sherab Senge, a student of Tsongkhapa, in
1440 C.E. Gyütö, the Upper Tantric College, was
founded by Gyuchen Kunga Dhöndrup, a student of Tsongkhapa,
in 1474 C.E. Thousands of monks studied and received tantric
trainings at these monastic colleges.
of these Gelug institutions put special emphasis on ethics,
as taught in the Vinaya, which becomes the ideal ground for
religious education and practice. The Gelug tradition purely
stresses sound scholarship and subjects the teachings of sutra
and tantra to intellectual analysis through the medium of
dialectical debate. Training in debate has become one of the
heart essences of the Gelukpa school.
the major monasteries of Geluk school, Ganden, Drepung, Sera,
and others have now built their exile monasteries in India.
OF THE GELUKPA SCHOOL
head of the Geluk School is the Venerable Ganden Tripa (throne-holder)
Rinpoche. At the time this article was originally written, the Ganden Tri Rinpoche is Venerable Yeshe
Dhöndup, the 99th successor to the Ganden throne.
in Tibet Nyingma