Gareth Sparham

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:


Tsongkhapa Losang Drakpa (Tsong kha pa Blo bzang grags pa), also known popularly as Je Rinpoche (Rje Rin po che) (“Precious Lord”) (b. 1357–d. 1419), is the founder of Ganden (Dga’ ldan) monastery (the oldest monastery of the Gelukpa [Dge lugs pa] sect), the rejuvenator of the Great Prayer Festival (Smon lam chen mo) in Lhasa, and a prolific author whose collected works run to eighteen or nineteen volumes. He was born at the end of a long period of Tibetan history marked by diversity and scholarship, culminating in the final redaction of the Buddhist canon in Tibetan (the Bka’ ’gyur and Bstan ’gyur), primarily under Buton (Bu ston Rin chen grub) who died in 1364. The years after Tsongkhapa’s death are marked by the growth of large monasteries and an increasing religious identification with sect, rather than teacher. Tsongkhapa is also the cultic center of the Gelukpa sect. In this form, flanked by his two most important followers, Darma Rin chen and Kedrup Pelzangpo (Mkhas grub dpal bzang po), Tsongkhapa treated as is equivalent to the historical Buddha Śākyamuni. After the rise to power of the Fifth Dalai Lama (b. 1617–d. 1682), this form of Tsongkhapa legitimated the power of the Dalai Lamas and their pre-1959 Ganden Potrang (Dga’ ldan pho brang) government. In some Western myth accounts of his life, Tsongkhapa is the Protestant, Martin Luther–like reformer who defeated the excesses of the degenerate Buddhist church in Tibet. Largely the construction of 19th-century Orientalism, this Tsongkhapa is the founder of a rational and ethical Buddhism that contrasts with the superstition and debauchery of other Lamaist sects.

Article.  5119 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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