Article

Gelugpa (dGe lugs pa)

Elijah Ary

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online February 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0025
Gelugpa (dGe lugs pa)

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The Gelugpa (dGe lugs pa) school is the youngest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It traces its origins back to the scholar and practitioner Tsongkhapa Lobsang Dragpa (Tsong kha pa Blo bzang grags pa, b. 1357–d. 1419). Originally dubbed the Gadenpa (dGa’ ldan pa), literally, “those of Ganden,” because of their affiliation with Ganden (dGa’ ldan) Monastery, founded in 1410, and also Gedenpa (dGe ldan pa, “the virtuous ones”), the order later came to be known by the title Gelugpa (literally, “those of the virtuous tradition”). Though the order presumably began with a relatively small number of followers, it quickly grew to become one of the predominant Buddhist schools in Tibet, thanks in part to close ties with powerful Tibetan, Chinese, and Mongolian political figures—the Pagmodru ruler (Phag mo gru gong ma) Dragpa Gyaltsen (Grags pa rgyal mtshan, b. 1374–d. 1432) himself helped finance the construction of Ganden Monastery and the establishment of the important Mönlam (smon lam) prayer festival, which is still commemorated annually by the Gelugpa community. Between 1497 and 1517, a change in regime caused the loss of the Gelugpa’s dominancy in Ü (dBus). They were eclipsed by the Kagyupas (bKa’ rgyud pa), who had the favor of the new rulers, the Rinpung (Rin spungs) family of Tsang (gTsang). In 1517 the Rinpungpas were driven out of Lhasa, and the Gelugpas regained their previous status, thanks in part to the efforts of the second Dalai Lama Gendun Gyatso (dGe ’dun rgya mtsho, b. 1475/6–d. 1542), who had forged a network of alliances with important figures stretching from western Tibet, through Mustang, to the doorstep of Kham (Khams) in eastern Tibet (see Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas). Under the fifth Dalai Lama, the Gelugpas secured their hold on Tibetan politics and continued to grow. By the mid-1900s, the three major monasteries surrounding Lhasa—Ganden, Drepung (’Bras spungs, founded in 1416), and Sera (Se ra, founded in 1419)—were home to upward of twenty thousand monks. Though there is a greater call for harmony and unity among the Tibetan Buddhist schools today, the Gelug order remains largely predominant. The major intellectual monastic institutions of yore have, since 1959, reemerged in India, where they now count almost as many monks as they did in their heyday (see Monastic Institutions).

Article.  8295 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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