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Tracing Master Tsongkhapa’s unique Spiritual Path and Revered Legacy

The Prophetic Dreams Leading to Master Tsongkhapa‘s Birth

A Visionary Night in 1356: Night before Lama Tsongkhapa Born

On a late night in 1356, the father of Master Tsongkhapa experienced a usual routine. After reciting the “Manjushri Real Name Sutra,” he lay in bed, soon finding himself in a clear dream. He saw a monk slowly approaching his home. This monk was distinguished by his dignified appearance and wore a robe adorned with a beautiful garland. Carrying a heavy load of Buddhist scriptures from Mount Wutai, he sought shelter for the night and proceeded to the Buddha hall.

Upon awakening, Tsongkhapa’s father wondered if the dream was a divine sign from Mount Wutai, indicating the forthcoming birth of a son with exceptional wisdom. Despite the intriguing nature of the dream, the father did not dwell on it nor shared it with others. He continued his devout practices as usual.

Another Dream of Divine Indication

Soon after, Tsongkhapa’s father had another dream. He saw a bright vajra scepter descending from the sky and entering his wife’s womb. This scepter, believed to be thrown by Vajrapani from the Green Leaf Realm, filled him with a mix of surprise and joy. He interpreted this as a possible sign of a son with great power, an embodiment of the strength of the Buddhas of the three times.

The Mother’s Dream

Meanwhile, Tsongkhapa’s mother also had a significant dream. She found herself among thousands of girls on a flower-filled meadow. In the dream, a white child (an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara) with a pure vase appeared from the east, and a red girl (an incarnation of Tara) holding a peacock feather and a mirror appeared from the west.

The child pointed to various girls, each time being told by the red girl that they were unsuitable. Finally, pointing at Tsongkhapa’s mother, the child received an affirmative response. The child then instructed her to bathe, pouring water from the vase over her head while reciting verses in praise of the Buddha.

A Night of Auspicious Dreams in 1357

On the evening of the tenth day of the first month in 1357, Lama Tsongkhapa’s mother had another auspicious dream. She saw countless monks and laypeople, some holding banners and others playing instruments, all gathered in a square, devoutly welcoming Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.

Looking around curiously, she then noticed a gigantic golden Buddha in the clouds, surrounded by heavenly beings. The Buddha’s light illuminated everything, and as it spoke teachings, it slowly descended into her body, followed by the heavenly beings.

Awakening from the dream, she shared every detail with her husband. He interpreted it as an indication that she would give birth to a child with immense compassion, who would uphold the true Dharma and benefit countless beings.

Transformation of the Mother

Following these dreams, Master Tsongkhapa’s mother led a life of purity and devotion, free from worldly desires and disturbances. She preferred the quietude of the Buddha hall, engaging in prayer and mantra recitation. Her ten-month pregnancy was marked by these spiritual practices, setting the stage for the birth of a great spiritual leader.

The Miraculous Events Surrounding Master Tsongkhapa’s Birth and Early Years

The Night of Tsongkhapa’s Birth in 1357

On the night of October 25th, 1357, in the lunar calendar, tranquility enveloped the surroundings as Master Tsongkhapa’s mother lay comfortably in bed. In a hazy dream, she saw many monks entering her home, carrying various ritual instruments and offerings, asking, “Where is the Buddha hall?”

The previously seen white child, holding a crystal key, responded, “The Buddha hall is here.” Using the key on Tsongkhapa’s mother’s chest, he opened a small yellow door and brought forth the golden Buddha statue placed inside earlier. The statue, covered in dust, was carefully cleaned by the maiden with peacock feathers, who then offered praises in a serene and melodious voice. The monks in the dream prayed earnestly, offered prostrations, and continuously circled the Buddha while reciting his name.

Soon after waking from this dream, Master Tsongkhapa’s mother gave birth to him. His birth was marked by a peaceful atmosphere, with the morning light breaking and Venus shining brightly in the sky, symbolizing the dispelling of ignorance like the sun’s rays piercing the night.

A Miraculous Tree where Master Tsongkhapa Born

After Tsongkhapa’s birth, his mother buried the birth garments. Where she buried them, a white sandalwood tree grew, lush and with over 100,000 leaves. Each leaf bore the unique imprint of a lion’s roar or the syllables of Manjushri. The tree, named “Kubum” (meaning “Hundred Thousand Buddhas”), became a wonder with its sacred images and dharanis on its leaves. Later, a stupa and monastery, known as Kumbum Monastery, were built beside this miraculous tree to honor Tsongkhapa’s virtue and as a field of merit for others.

The Early Years of a Prodigy

As time flew, Master Tsongkhapa grew into a bright and lively child. At the age of three, when the Karmapa Röpe Dorje was invited by the Yuan Emperor Shundi to China, Tsongkhapa’s father took him to meet the Karmapa. Impressed by the young Tsongkhapa’s extraordinary demeanor, the Karmapa ordained him with the layman’s five precepts and named him Kunga Nyingpo. He prophesied that Tsongkhapa would uphold the Buddha’s teachings in Tibet and benefit countless beings, heralding him as the “Second Buddha.”

This prophecy was later affirmed by the people of Tibet and Mongolia, who revered Master Tsongkhapa as the “Second Noble Teacher,” in line with the Karmapa’s words.

Tsongkhapa’s Spiritual Training

At three, Tsongkhapa’s father invited Dondrub Rinchen Pema Rinpoche to their home. Surprisingly, Rinpoche brought gifts and asked for Tsongkhapa to be his disciple. Knowing Rinpoche’s spiritual stature, his father happily agreed.

From then until the age of sixteen, Master Tsongkhapa studied extensively under Rinpoche, learning both exoteric and esoteric teachings. He showed exceptional aptitude, easily grasping texts he hadn’t been formally taught. Rinpoche, seeing his potential, specially imparted the Manjushri teachings and Dakini practices to him, knowing Tsongkhapa was destined for enlightenment and would turn the supreme Dharma wheel.

Master Tsongkhapa’s Continued Spiritual Journey

Before leaving for Tibet at seventeen, Rinpoche held a grand farewell ceremony for Tsongkhapa, making elaborate offerings and prayers for his success. The offerings miraculously shone like jewels, signifying Tsongkhapa’s future wisdom and accomplishment in Buddhism.

The Formative Years of a Buddhist Master

Before he turned seven, Tsongkhapa received several empowerments, including the Vajrayogini, Chakrasamvara, and Vajrapani initiations. He diligently followed the Vajrayana precepts, especially the Samaya vows. Tsongkhapa’s ability to concentrate and cultivate bodhicitta from a young age was remarkable. His practice of the Manjushri mantra led to the appearance of sacred syllables on the stones of his room, indicating his profound connection with the deity.

At seven, Tsongkhapa began to have visions of Vajrapani and the 300-year-old Tibetan saint Atisha in his dreams, foreshadowing his role in revitalizing Atisha’s teachings. When Tsongkhapa took the novice vows at seven, he was named Lobsang Drakpa. At seventeen, he left for Tibet to further his studies, marking the beginning of his journey as one of Buddhism’s great masters, influenced by the blessings and teachings of his early mentors.

thaangkha drawn by tsongkhapa
Thaangkha drawn by tsongkhapa

The Talking Portrait of Master Tsongkhapa

An Unusual Gift for a Worried Mother

While Master Tsongkhapa was studying in Tibet, his mother, missing him deeply and worried about her old age and ill health, repeatedly wrote to him, urging him to return home. Along with a letter, she sent a lock of her white hair as a symbol of her advanced age.

Tsongkhapa, upon reading his mother’s letter, thought that returning home would not be of great benefit. To comfort her, he decided to paint a self-portrait and send it to her. In a miraculous turn of events, when his mother unfolded the portrait, it spoke, saying, “Mother!” This astonishing phenomenon brought her immense joy and peace, as if her son had returned to her.

The Interpretation of Auspicious Dreams

Master Tsongkhapa’s Vision at Tsé Monastery

While residing at Tsé Monastery, Master Tsongkhapa, with his disciple Ngawang Draba, visited the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa to take the Great Compassion vows in front of the sacred statue of Avalokiteshvara. One night, seeking insight into the future of spreading the Dharma, they prayed sincerely for a sign in their dreams.

Ngawang Draba dreamt of two large conch shells merging into his clothing and emitting a vast sound when blown. This dream foretold his future success in spreading Buddhism in Kham and Kandze, earning widespread renown.

Master Tsongkhapa, in his dream, found himself on a cliff at Tanglha Yarla. There, he discovered a smooth, white stone slab with a vibrant, un-withered blue lotus flower on it, symbolizing purity and enlightenment. A voice from the sky declared this to be a sign of a long life, filled with meaningful accomplishments. This dream indicated Tsongkhapa’s transcendence over life and death, his pure intentions, and the enduring impact of his teachings.

Lama Wuma’s Experiences with Manjushri

Lama Wuma, during his youth, naturally produced the sound of the Manjushri mantra near his heart chakra. Once, overwhelmed by the powerful sound of the mantra, he fell unconscious. Upon awakening, he saw a solemn black Manjushri before him. After requesting and receiving Manjushri’s empowerment from his teacher, Wuma often had visions of Manjushri imparting teachings. However, he maintained a view that all phenomena are illusory, avoiding any attachment.

As he grew, Wuma traveled to Samye Monastery to further his studies, gaining a reputation for his intelligence. Manjushri appeared to him, instructing him to donate all his possessions to the monastic community, which he did without hesitation. Manjushri then revealed that virtuous actions are the true treasures. Wuma continued his studies under various masters, receiving teachings and empowerments. The visions of Manjushri became clearer and more profound, confirming their authenticity through tests conducted by other learned lamas.

One time, seeking guidance on teacher to follow in Ngari, Manjushri directed him to a great teacher, Jé Tsunpa Rawé, who inspired in Wuma a strong renunciation of worldly attachments. Wuma later met Master Tsongkhapa and received teachings from him, further deepening his understanding and devotion.

In summary, Lama Wuma’s spiritual journey was guided by Manjushri, leading to profound realizations and accomplishments. His cremation was marked by miraculous signs, and his relics formed beautiful, crystal-like structures, further testament to his spiritual attainments.

Witnessing Countless Principal Deities

Master Tsongkhapa’s Intense Devotion

During a period of intense retreat, Master Tsongkhapa engaged in prostrations to the Thirty-Five Buddhas on a stone slab. His fervent practice and tireless devotion were so intense that his hands and feet cracked, leaving imprints of his prostrations on the stone, along with the marks of his forehead.

While venerating the Thirty-Five Buddhas, Tsongkhapa often felt their presence and blessing. However, each of these Buddha figures appeared headless, a curious phenomenon that prompted him to seek guidance from his principal deity.

The deity advised Tsongkhapa to precede the Buddha’s names with a series of epithets such as “Tathagata, Arhat, Perfectly Enlightened One, etc.” Following this advice, Tsongkhapa began to see the complete, radiant, and majestic forms of the Thirty-Five Buddhas. This led him to create a new contemplative ritual for the Thirty-Five Buddha practice, a significant enhancement to the existing practices in India and Tibet.

Throughout his retreat, Tsongkhapa received numerous blessings from various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, witnessing incredible and indescribable feats.

Visions of Deities and Masters

In Aksha, he saw Maitreya Bodhisattva in a grand, golden form, seated in a lotus position, adorned with precious jewels, and holding Utpala flowers. He also witnessed Shakyamuni Buddha and Medicine Buddha in yellow robes, Amitayus Buddha teaching the Dharma, and countless Bodhisattvas surrounding them. At Dabmen, he saw Manjushri Bodhisattva in a majestic form, along with numerous holy beings. Other visions included Tara, Ushnishavijaya, and various deities. He also saw Nagarjuna, Asanga, Dharmakirti, Chandrakirti, and other masters of the Prasangika Madhyamaka school, as well as Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dignaga, Dharmapala, and other masters of the Yogacara school.

Despite these extraordinary experiences, Tsongkhapa maintained that these visions were illusory, constantly viewing them as “like a magic show.”

Manjushri’s Special Instruction

Manjushri appeared to Tsongkhapa, explaining that these experiences were not ordinary but were signs of being embraced by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. He advised Tsongkhapa to pray sincerely to them for all accomplishments for the benefit of himself and others.

Later, Tsongkhapa saw Vajrapani in his complete and majestic form. In another instance, Manjushri appeared seated in a lotus position, surrounded by countless holy beings. A sword emerged from Manjushri’s heart, extending towards Tsongkhapa’s heart. Nectar flowed down the sword, filling Tsongkhapa with immense bliss and comfort.

The Master Who Recalled Five Hundred Past Lives

Namkha Gyaltsen Rinpoche, a master who achieved realization through the practice of Vajrapani, received daily teachings from the deity. He could recall events from as far back as five hundred past lives when he focused on his mandala. Even a brief glance at the mandala, or a vision in a dream, enabled him to recall up to sixteen past lives without forgetting.

Rinpoche was acutely aware of the daily activities and thoughts of the residents near his monastery in Wa. He would intervene if someone harbored harmful intentions, helping them to overcome these thoughts. Those who suffered harm from non-human entities found protection by visualizing Rinpoche or reciting his name. The extent of Rinpoche’s extraordinary spiritual accomplishments was vast and indescribable.

Overcoming Life’s Obstacles and Realizing the Nature of Emptiness

Master Tsongkhapa’s Devotional Journey at Yajin Monastery

While residing in the eastern part of Netri at Yajin Monastery, Master Tsongkhapa’s following of disciples grew to over thirty. One day, they journeyed to Zangri Mountain to pay homage to sacred sites. There, Tsongkhapa experienced visions of the Joyful Wheel and various Dharma Protectors, gaining deep insights into profound Dharma teachings. On the way back, passing through Moro Mountain, he saw Maitreya Bodhisattva in a grand form, who acknowledged Tsongkhapa’s immense merit and importance as a refuge for countless beings.

Back in Netri, Tsongkhapa focused on practicing the Kalachakra Tantra and its six branches at Tsongkha Monastery. He quickly developed extensive insight, resolving many profound doubts, and mastered all aspects of the Kalachakra Tantra, gaining formidable debating skills. During this period, the Kalachakra deity often appeared to him, praising his accomplishments.

A Warning about Lifespan and Tsongkhapa’s Response

Saraswati, a divine figure, warned Tsongkhapa that his life would only last until the age of 57 and advised him to engage in activities beneficial for himself and others. When Tsongkhapa inquired about extending his life through practicing certain tantric methods, Saraswati explained that these practices would primarily enhance his wisdom, not necessarily extend his life, due to his past life aspirations and joyous perseverance in wisdom.

Manjushri encouraged Tsongkhapa to practice longevity rituals despite their difficulty, indicating that overcoming life obstacles was still possible. Following this advice, Tsongkhapa diligently practiced these rituals between the ages of 54 and 58, showing signs of overcoming life obstacles.

beautiful painting of tsongkhapa
Beautiful painting of tsongkhapa

Tsongkhapa’s Continuous Quest for Understanding

While at Tsongkha Monastery, Tsongkhapa often consulted Manjushri about profound aspects of the path, such as the nature, stages, and subtleties of the doctrine. Manjushri advised him to study and contemplate the scriptures to fully understand these matters.

In 1398, Tsongkhapa traveled from Netri to Aka and stayed at Rateng Monastery on Ade Gong Mountain. During this year, he balanced personal practice with altruistic activities. He reflected on the key principles of the Middle Way view and the differences between the interpretations of Chandrakirti and Shantideva. Despite repeated contemplations, he struggled to reach a conclusive understanding.

Determined to follow Manjushri’s teachings, Tsongkhapa combined prayerful devotion to the deity, purification of negativities, accumulation of merit, and rigorous study of the scriptures.

A Dream Revelation and Ultimate Understanding

One night, Tsongkhapa dreamt of various great Indian masters debating profound topics. Dharmakirti, particularly imposing and holding a Sanskrit commentary on Nagarjuna’s “Root of the Middle Way,” blessed Tsongkhapa.

The next day, after studying Dharmakirti’s commentary, Tsongkhapa fully grasped the essence of Nagarjuna’s view, resolving all his doubts and misunderstandings. He understood Chandrakirti’s approach to establishing ultimate and conventional truths and realized the profound concept that phenomena are empty by nature yet arise dependently – a skillful refutation of eternalism and nihilism.

Having dispelled illusory perceptions and grasped the ultimate reality, Tsongkhapa remained in a meditative state of emptiness, perceiving all phenomena as illusory. This realization deepened his unshakeable faith in the Buddha as the supreme teacher. In homage, Tsongkhapa composed the “Praise to Dependent Origination,” extolling the Buddha’s teachings on interdependence as the ultimate truth of the world.

The Prophecy of the Hat and the Blessings of Lineage Masters

The Prophecy of the Hat

One summer, Master Tsongkhapa was invited by the devoted monks and laypeople of Yangpachen and traveled there to teach. While on his way, a gust of wind blew his hat into a river, where it floated away. Observing this, Tsongkhapa prophesied: “Just as this river flows continuously without drying up, so too will my teachings flow endlessly. Where my hat comes to rest, there a center for the study and practice of the Middle Way will be established.”

True to his prediction, his hat eventually landed at Sangxing Gang in Yangpachen. Following this, one of his prominent disciples established the “Mahayana Wheel of Dharma Island” center there, extensively propagating the Middle Way philosophy, thus fulfilling Tsongkhapa’s prophecy.

The Blessings of the Lineage Masters at Reting Monastery

At Reting Monastery, a key site for the Kadampa tradition, Jé Tsongkhapa and other great masters were teaching profound texts like the “Madhyamaka” (Middle Way philosophy) and the “Lamrim” (Stages of the Path to Enlightenment). Reting Monastery housed a revered statue of Atisha, the founder of the Kadampa lineage, known for its lifelike and serene depiction.

Out of deep reverence for Atisha’s immense virtues, Tsongkhapa made special offerings and prayers in front of this statue, aspiring for the flourishing of both Sutra and Tantra teachings, to shine like the sun and benefit all sentient beings.

After his prayers, Tsongkhapa had a visionary experience. From Shakyamuni Buddha to the recent masters of the Kadampa lineage, including Namkha Gyaltsen, all appeared in the sky, imparting teachings and blessings. Most notably, Atisha, Dromtönpa, Potowa, and Sharawa manifested for a whole month, imparting extensive Kadampa teachings to Tsongkhapa. On the final day of these teachings, these masters merged into a rainbow that entered Atisha’s statue.

Atisha then blessed Tsongkhapa, assuring him not to worry and encouraging him to pursue extensive activities for the Dharma and the benefit of beings, promising his support. Following this experience, Tsongkhapa’s teachings on the “Lamrim” became even more profound and impactful. The assembly felt immense joy and realized the uniqueness of the “Lamrim,” which encapsulates all teachings into a systematic path, unifying all scriptures into one approach, where practicing this single path is equivalent to practicing all aspects of the Dharma.

The Miraculous Transformation of a Tooth into a Sacred Image

Master Tsongkhapa’s Journey to Gawa Dong Monastery

During a trip to Gawa Dong Monastery, Manjushri prophesied to Master Tsongkhapa that he would lose a tooth while teaching at Nakthang. This tooth was to be given to Khejuk Jey, signifying his future role in spreading the Dharma and benefiting all beings. During Tsongkhapa’s visit, deities of the Four Tantric Classes and the Thirty-Five Buddhas appeared and blessed him.

The Visionary Experience of Khejuk Jey

One morning, Kherdup Jey approached Tsongkhapa, having dreamt of receiving a prophecy from him. He requested teachings on the essence of the Four Tantric Classes, specifically the “Stages of the Path of Vajradhara.”

Tsongkhapa joyfully agreed and imparted these profound teachings to his disciples. During one particularly sunny teaching session, a brilliant light emanated from Tsongkhapa’s mouth, visible to all present. Some even saw a rainbow-colored light.

Only Tsongkhapa’s closest disciples, including Dharma Rinchen, Zhaba Gyaltsen, and Khedup Jey, witnessed a tooth fall from his mouth. Tsongkhapa then recited a half-verse and handed the tooth to Khedup Jey. Dharma Rinchen and Zhaba Gyaltsen, seeing this, requested a tooth as well. Tsongkhapa explained that Khedup Jey had the karmic fortune and a prophecy from Manjushri to receive the tooth but promised to offer them other items if they prayed earnestly for seven days.

master tsongkhapa tooth
Master tsongkhapa tooth

The Tooth’s Transformation into a Sacred Image

Khedup Jey took the tooth and prayed fervently. Instantly, it emitted a five-colored light, illuminating everything. After seven days, Tsongkhapa asked him to bring the tooth out. Upon opening its container, radiant light shot into the sky, filled with colors and emitting a delightful fragrance. The tooth had miraculously transformed into a lifelike statue of Manjushri, adorned with various relics.

Tsongkhapa distributed relics from the statue: a conch-like relic to Uwadawajee, a crystal-like relic to Dharma Rinchen, a golden relic to Vinayadharasilao, and a vajra-colored relic to Draba Gyaltsen. He also distributed 998 other relics to the assembly. These relics continued to multiply, making them accessible even to the fortunate beings of today.

The Significance of the Event

This extraordinary event left the assembly amazed and joyful, recognizing the rarity of such a miracle. Tsongkhapa’s ability to transform a simple tooth into a sacred object symbolized the profound blessings and spiritual power of his teachings, reinforcing the faith and devotion of his followers. This miraculous transformation served as a testament to the sacredness of Tsongkhapa’s teachings and his lineage, inspiring generations of practitioners.

The Luminous Transfiguration of Tsongkhapa and His Appearances

Tsongkhapa’s Final Days at Ganden Monastery

In 1419, on the 19th day of the tenth month by the lunar calendar, Master Tsongkhapa showed signs of illness in his bedroom at Ganden Monastery. The following day, fearing the loss of their revered teacher, the monks urgently requested him to stay in the world and performed various religious rituals for his well-being. Tsongkhapa mentioned feeling some pain throughout his body, and by midnight, he appeared to be in a state of unconsciousness. On the evening of the third day, he instructed Palden Dorje to look after Ganden Monastery alongside Dharma Rinchen.

On the 23rd, Zhaba Gyaltsen and Dharma Rinchen knelt before Tsongkhapa, who handed his yellow hat to Dharma Rinchen along with a piece of his robe. He advised Dharma Rinchen to understand the profound significance of this gesture and to cultivate the mind of enlightenment. This was Tsongkhapa’s last teaching.

Tsongkhapa’s Luminous Transfiguration

Tsongkhapa’s illness worsened, but he continued his daily yoga practices without fail. On the night of the 24th, while performing an inner offering ritual of Vajradhara, extraordinary signs appeared. On the 25th, at dawn, when the stars were fading and the sun was rising, Tsongkhapa entered deep meditation, absorbing into the ultimate nature of emptiness and manifesting the luminous truth body of the Dharmakaya.

During his illness, Tsongkhapa’s body appeared thin, but after his final breath, his body transformed into a radiant, transparent form. His face glowed youthfully, resembling that of a twelve-year-old. The light emitted from his body varied in color depending on the viewer. This miraculous display was akin to the description of Manjushri, “dressed in the guise of illusion yet abiding in meditative equipoise.”

While Tsongkhapa was in this meditative state, the sky remained clear without a hint of cloud. For forty-nine days following his passing, the butter lamps lit by the assembly never flickered or went out, despite the absence of wind. At night, celestial music could be heard, and multicolored flowers rained down from the sky, accompanied by a pure white light beaming above Ganden Monastery.

Tsongkhapa’s Posthumous Appearances

After attaining Buddhahood, Tsongkhapa’s enjoyment body pervaded space, appearing spontaneously to benefit beings. His limitless and boundless merits are beyond the comprehension of ordinary minds. Here, we recount five instances of Tsongkhapa’s posthumous appearances to Khejuk Jey.

Once, while Khejuk Jey was teaching, he lamented the state of sentient beings, driven by the five desires and evil laws, neglecting the Buddha’s true teachings. Some aspired for the Bodhisattva path but lacked discernment, while others, due to weak merit, followed bad influences, despite good intentions. Observing this, Khejuk Jey wept for their ignorance.

Retreating to his room, Khejuk Jey prayed fervently to Tsongkhapa, offering abundant sublime offerings. Immediately after his prayers, Tsongkhapa appeared riding a majestic six-tusked elephant, resplendent in a rainbow light. Tsongkhapa comforted Khejuk Jey, acknowledging his understanding and assuring him not to grieve. He praised Khejuk Jey’s constant remembrance of his teacher’s qualities, akin to Milarepa’s devotion to Marpa, and encouraged him to continue spreading Tsongkhapa’s teachings diligently.

painting of tsongkhapa in potala
Painting of tsongkhapa in potala

The Guidance of Tsongkhapa in Khejuk Jey’s Doubts and Aspirations

Seeking Answers from Tsongkhapa

Khejuk Jey, troubled by doubts about the profound key points of Sutra and Tantra, yearned for guidance from Master Tsongkhapa. Lamenting the loss of his teacher and pondering over who could resolve his uncertainties, he deeply wished for Tsongkhapa to answer his queries. Overwhelmed by this longing, Khejuk Jey made offerings and tearfully prayed for guidance.

Visionary Appearance of Tsongkhapa

Suddenly, Tsongkhapa appeared, seated on a throne adorned with countless precious pearls, held aloft by celestial beings. He provided extensive explanations to dispel Khejuk Jey’s doubts and imparted various teachings before departing.

Another Encounter with Tsongkhapa

On another occasion, while studying Tsongkhapa’s extensive works on the stages of the path to enlightenment in both Sutra and Tantra, Khejuk Jey marveled at the clarity and depth of Tsongkhapa’s explanations, encompassing the essence of all Mahayana Buddhist scriptures. He reflected that only Tsongkhapa, manifesting the wisdom of Manjushri, could have elucidated the teachings so precisely, surpassing the understanding of other great teachers across India, Tibet, and the world.

Filled with immense sorrow and gratitude for Tsongkhapa’s endless merits and kindness, Khejuk Jey shed tears and prayed fervently to his teacher.

lama Tsangkhapa

Tsongkhapa’s Teachings and Reassurance

In response, Tsongkhapa appeared in a golden body, holding a sword and a Dharma text, in the form of a youthful deity, riding a white lion. He comforted Khejuk Jey, saying that he had come to teach him. Tsongkhapa lamented the state of beings in the degenerate age, preoccupied with worldly desires and neglecting the contemplation of impermanence and the sufferings of the lower realms. He emphasized the rarity of individuals who, upon studying his works and developing firm faith, retreat from distractions to practice these profound teachings. Yet, he encouraged Khejuk Jey to tirelessly benefit the few who are receptive and to promote Tsongkhapa’s teachings, promising that they would soon meet again.

The Significance of Tsongkhapa’s Appearances

These appearances of Tsongkhapa to Khejuk Jey highlight the enduring impact of Tsongkhapa’s teachings and his commitment to guiding his disciples even after his physical departure. They underscore the importance of devotion, the power of prayer, and the potential for spiritual masters to offer guidance beyond their physical existence. The encounters serve as a source of inspiration and faith for practitioners, illustrating the compassionate nature of enlightened beings in continuing to guide and support their followers.

The Consolation of Tsongkhapa to Khedup Jey’s Yearning

Khedup Jey’s Deep Longing for Guidance

Khedup Jey, overwhelmed by the profound gratitude for Master Tsongkhapa’s teachings and deeply saddened by his absence, prayed earnestly to him, expressing his heartfelt yearning for guidance and concern for the suffering beings in the degenerate age. He lamented the fleeting nature of Tsongkhapa’s teachings in the world and yearned for the time when he could be at his master’s side again.

Visionary Appearance and Assurance from Tsongkhapa

After his prayer, Tsongkhapa appeared to Khedup Jey riding a fierce tiger, his body glowing red and displaying the form of a Vajrayana yogi. With a flaming sword in his right hand and a skull cup filled with nectar in his left, Tsongkhapa’s hair tied with a blue silk, adorned with human bones, he reassured Khedup Jey with a joyful smile. Surrounded by the eighty-four Mahasiddhas, Tsongkhapa comforted Khedup Jey, assuring him that he was never forgotten and that Tsongkhapa had nobody else to think of but him, just as Khedup Jey thought of no one but his master.

Tsongkhapa advised Khedup Jey to study his works, “The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment” and “The Great Exposition of Tantric Practice,” as well as his other writings, as these were his lasting teachings.Acknowledging the weak merit and intense afflictions of beings in the current age and the imminent decline of the sacred teachings, Tsongkhapa urged Khedup Jey to aspire to reach the Dakini’s world.

Further Guidance on the Path to Enlightenment

In another instance, Khedup Jey, wishing to be reborn near Tsongkhapa in future lives, prayed for his master’s return to inquire about his current whereabouts and to resolve lingering doubts. Making sublime offerings and a golden mandala, Khedup Jey invoked Tsongkhapa with deep veneration.

Tsongkhapa appeared seated on a Vajra throne amidst white clouds. He reassured Khejuk Jey, advising him to prepare for a swift journey to join him and promising to send someone to welcome him. Inquiring about Tsongkhapa’s location, Khedup Jey was told that Tsongkhapa’s emanations were present everywhere – in the Dakini’s world, in the Tushita heaven, and in the human realm. Specifically, Tsongkhapa mentioned his manifestation in China’s Mount Wutai, where he taught Sutras and Tantras daily to 1800 Vajrayana monks. Tsongkhapa encouraged Khejuk Jey to aspire to come there, promising a reunion in the near future.

The Protective Power of “Mikyema” and the Establishment of Sera Monastery

Khejuk Jey’s Invocation and Tsongkhapa’s Assurance

Khejuk Jey, deeply moved by Master Tsongkhapa’s teachings and compassion, prayed to him for blessings and guidance, particularly for the suffering beings in the degenerate age. He lamented the fading of Tsongkhapa’s teachings, longing to be near his master. Upon completing his prayer, Tsongkhapa appeared to him riding a fierce tiger, his body glowing red and displaying a fearsome yogic form. He comforted Khejuk Jey, advising him to study his texts, which are his enduring teachings, and to continue his spiritual work for the benefit of all beings.

The Protective Chant “Mitsema”

In Tibet, a great lama, practicing in the mountains, encountered a family troubled by a malicious spirit, Barché Lamsel. Despite many attempts by renowned practitioners, the spirit remained undeterred. A shepherd boy informed the lama about the situation, and the lama gave him a pair of blessed shoes and a rosary, instructing him to place them strategically in the house. When the spirit entered the house, it was frightened by the sight of numerous Vajra Protectors and Vajrapani guarding the door.

The lama then appeared and negotiated with the spirit to not disturb those who recite “Mikyema” 108 times daily. The spirit agreed, and since then, “Mikyema” became widely practiced in Tibet, especially by those seeking protection from malevolent forces and to achieve spiritual accomplishments.

lama tsongkhapa
Lama tsongkhapa

The Dream of Jamyang Chöje and the Founding of Sera Monastery

Jamyang Chöje, the founder of Sera Monastery, was born into a prominent serf-owning family in Tibet. He became a monk in the Kagyu tradition before studying various Buddhist texts under different masters. After becoming a disciple of Tsongkhapa, he received monastic vows and studied extensively under him.

Tasked by Tsongkhapa, Jamyang Chöje, along with another disciple, was instructed to build a monastery. Wealthy and closely associated with the other disciple, Jamyang Chöje had a series of dreams that guided him to establish the monastery. In one dream, a saint named Namde Gawa prophesied the coming of five thousand monks, and Tsongkhapa himself appeared, describing the site as a swamp fertile for learning, contemplation, and practice. Another dream showed a bridge helping people cross a treacherous river, symbolizing the monastery’s role in guiding beings to enlightenment.

Following these visions, Jamyang Chöje and his associate decided to build the monastery, with the latter funding the project. Sera Monastery was thus established on the slopes of Wuze Hill near Lhasa and became one of the three great monasteries in Lhasa. Tsongkhapa personally consecrated it, and the monastery quickly gained fame as a center of learning and practice. Jamyang Chöje, as the abbot, continued to promote teachings, debates, and writings, further enhancing the monastery’s reputation.

The Protective Power of “Miktsema” and the Founding of Sera Monastery

The Influence of Rendawa on Tsongkhapa

Rendawa, one of Master Tsongkhapa’s most influential and revered teachers, was considered by Tsongkhapa as his root guru. Upon Rendawa’s arrival in Central Tibet, Tsongkhapa greeted him and offered a khata (traditional ceremonial scarf) and a verse in praise. Rendawa, in his humility, felt undeserving of the praise and suggested that the verse would be more fitting for Tsongkhapa himself. This verse later became the widely recited prayer “Mikyema,” praising Tsongkhapa’s qualities:

The treasury of unobservable compassion, Avalokiteshvara, 
Source of unobstructed wisdom, Manjushri,
The destroyer of the entire host of maras, Vajrapani, 
To the crown ornament of the snowy land's sages, 
Tsongkhapa, At your feet, Lobzang Drakpa, I make this request.

The Protective Power of “MikTsema”

In Tibet, a great lama in the snowy mountains heard about a family troubled by a malevolent spirit. Despite many attempts to drive it away, the spirit persisted. A shepherd boy informed the lama about the plight, and the lama gave him a pair of blessed shoes and a rosary. When the spirit entered the house that night, the boy placed the shoes at the door and the rosary around the walls. The spirit, terrified by the sight of Vajrapani and other Dharma Protectors, pleaded with the lama for mercy.

The lama agreed to spare the spirit under the condition that it would not disturb those who recite “Miktsema” 108 times daily. This agreement led to the widespread recitation of “Mikyema” in Tibet, as it was believed to offer protection and blessings from Tsongkhapa.

The Founding of Sera Monastery

Jamyang Chöje, founder of Sera Monastery, was born into a wealthy serf-owning family in Tibet. He became a monk in the Kagyu tradition and studied various Buddhist texts under different masters. Later, he became a disciple of Tsongkhapa, received monastic vows, and studied extensive teachings under him.

Tsongkhapa tasked Jamyang Chöje and another disciple with building a monastery. Rich and closely associated with the other disciple, Jamyang Chöje had a series of dreams guiding him to establish the monastery. In one dream, a saint named Namde Gawa promised to bring five thousand monks to a monastery that Jamyang Chöje would build. In another dream, Tsongkhapa appeared beside a swamp, symbolizing a fertile ground for learning, contemplation, and practice. Another dream showed a bridge helping people cross a treacherous river, symbolizing the monastery’s role in guiding beings to enlightenment.

Following these visions, Jamyang Chöje and his associate decided to build the monastery. Sera Monastery was thus established on the slopes of Wuze Hill near Lhasa and became one of the three great monasteries in Lhasa. Tsongkhapa personally consecrated it, and the monastery quickly gained fame as a center of learning and practice. Jamyang Chöje, as the abbot, continued to promote teachings, debates, and writings, further enhancing the monastery’s reputation.

three master and disciple tsongkhapa
Three master and disciple tsongkhapa

The Recitation of “Miktsema” for Protection and the Tradition of “Wensa” Ear-Whispered Lineage

The Protective Chant of “Miktsema”

Rendawa, a significant and profound teacher to Master Tsongkhapa, was considered by Tsongkhapa as his root guru. When Rendawa visited Central Tibet, Tsongkhapa greeted him and offered a verse in his praise. Rendawa, humbly redirecting the praise, modified the verse to laud Tsongkhapa instead. This modified verse, known as “Mikyema,” became a widely recited prayer in Tibet:

Unobservable compassion of Avalokiteshvara, 
Unstained wisdom of Manjushri, 
Secret conqueror of demonic forces, Vajrapani, 
To you, Tsongkhapa, supreme sage of the snowy lands, I pay homage.

This prayer, believed to provide protection from malevolent spirits, was proven effective when a Tibetan lama gave a pair of blessed shoes and a rosary to a shepherd boy. When the shoes and rosary were placed around a house troubled by a harmful spirit, the spirit was frightened away by the sight of Vajrapani and other protectors. The spirit agreed not to disturb those who recite “Mikyema” 108 times daily, leading to the widespread adoption of the chant in Tibet for protection and spiritual progress.

The “Wensa” Ear-Whispered Lineage

The “Wensa” ear-whispered lineage originated with Dorje Changpa Jampa Gyatso and a few disciples who inquired of Manjushri and Tsongkhapa, receiving many prophecies. They were given the “Magical Transformation Tantra,” which was initially transmitted to few disciples, with full teachings reserved for Lama Dorje Changpa Jampa Gyatso alone.

Panchen Chökyi Gyaltsen received all teachings from his teachers, particularly the full transmission from Jampa Gyatso. He passed these teachings to only three disciples, instructing them to transmit the teachings only to sincere practitioners, maintaining secrecy and solemn oaths. These disciples, known as the “Three Vajra Brothers,” included great achievers like Chekhyi Dorje, Pelden Dorje, and Rinchen Dorje.

The “Wensa” lineage, embodying the essence of Tsongkhapa’s extensive teachings, was primarily transmitted through Jampa Gyatso and his lineage, eventually reaching Wensa Rinpoche and his disciples. This lineage is revered for its profound teachings, passed down through a line of realized masters, contributing significantly to the spiritual heritage of Tibetan Buddhism.

About the author

The Tibetan Travel website's creator, hailing from Lhasa, is a cultural enthusiast. They promote responsible tourism, connecting the world to Tibet's beauty and heritage. Awards recognize their contribution.

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