by His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche
Lama Tsongkhapa is revered as the single greatest Tibetan commentator, scholar and yogi in the history of Buddhism. Hailed as the “Second Buddha”, he was a great enlightened being and a manifestation of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom.
He was a teacher without parallel. He showed how learning and yogic practice were to be united. His ocean of good qualities was as limitless as the sky. His holy mind was complete in all realisations i.e. perfect understanding, compassion and skilful means. The ninth Karmapa praised him as “one who swept away wrong views with correct and perfect ones.”
He founded the three Great monasteries of Tibet. These monasteries are Ganden, Drepung and Sera. He also founded the Gelugpa system of Tibetan Buddhist heritage where it was said that over 25,000 monks practiced during his time.
Lama Tsongkhapa took his vows at a very tender age. He took his layman’s vows at the age of three and was fully ordained as a monk at the age of 21. His pure morality gained him the greatest respect from all his devotees and sides. He attached greater importance to guarding his vows than his eyes or own life.
As a teenager he had already mastered much of Buddhas teachings. He received many tantric teachings and initiations including Heruka empowerment, the Six yogas of Naropa, the Guhyasamaja and Chakrasamvara tantras. He memorised over 20,000 verses of the Perfection of Wisdom sutra and other sutras including Asanga’s Compendium of Knowledge. He wrote some 10,000 pages of eloquent explanation of the entire range of ancient Buddhist classics and compressed them into several treatises and poems including the famous Lamrin Chemo or Stages of the path to enlightenment and The Three Principal Paths.
It’s said Lama Tsongkhapa enjoyed mystic visions in which he met and learned from different forms of Buddha himself, including Manjushri.
Lama Tsongkhapa practiced so intensely that he received many realisations. He personally performed 3.5 million full length prostrations and 1.8 million mandala offerings. It is said that his prostration form wore an impression in the floor of the temple and at the conclusion of his mandala offerings, his forearm was raw and bleeding.
Lama Tsongkhapa was born in the Tsongkha region of the Amdo Province in east Tibet. During the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, Tsongkhapa in a previous incarnation, was a young boy who offered a clear crystal rosary to Buddha and received a conch shell in return. The Buddha prophesied that the boy will be born in Tibet, would found a great monastery and be instrumental in spreading Buddha’s doctrine in Tibet. Buddha gave the boy the future name of Sumati Kirti or in Tibetan Losang Drapa.
Before Tsongkhapa’s birth, his father dreamt of Vajrapani threw down a vajra from his pure realm which landed on his wife. His mother dreamt of monks coming with various ritual objects to invoke the statue of Avalokiteshvara which diminished in size and entered her body through her crown aperture. Just before he was born, his mother dreamt of a boy in white entered her womb and with a key opened a box, from which came the golden statue of Avalokiteshvara. The dream symbolised that Lama Tsongkhapa would be an emanation of Avalokiteshvara as well as Manjushri.
At the time of his birth, an auspicious star appeared in the sky. In this respect Lama Tsongkhapa’s birth resembled that of the BUDDHA.
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 Images’. Eventually other similar trees grew around the stupa and their leaves also bore special images. 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.