Gaden Tripa Supreme Spiritual Head of the Gelugpa Buddhist Tradition
A new head of the Geluk lineage of Tibetan Buddhism has taken over the position. On October 26, 2009, the 102nd Gaden Tripa Thubten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu had his Sarjel (first audience) with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.
It reports that His Holiness the Dalai Lama took the opportunity to talk about the new Gaden Tripa during an event at Norbulingka Institute in Dharamsala to mark the release of a set of his biographies.
The Gaden Tripa is the supreme spiritual head of the Gelugpa Buddhist tradition worldwide. This position stretches back in an unbroken lineage to Lama Tsongkhapa, who founded Gaden Monastery in 1409. Lama Tsongkhapa had many students, his two main disciples being Gyaltsab Je (1364-1431) and Khedrub Je (1385-1438). After Lama Tsongkhapa’s passing, his teachings were held and passed on by Gyaltsab Je, who became the first Gaden Tripa, the throne-holder of Gaden and Lama Tsongkhapa’s representative on earth. After Gyaltsab Je’s administration, the position of Gaden Tripa was then passed to Khedrub Je, who then passed on this prestigious position in an unbroken lineage to the 102nd throne holder today.
This highly esteemed position as Gaden Throne-holder is attained through a vigorous selection process which requires years of extensive training and service in the highest ranking positions in the monastic institution as Lama Umze, disciplinarian and abbot to one of the tantric colleges: Gyume or Gyuto. This system, which is based on a monk’s academic accomplishment, tenacity in Dharma learning, teaching and practice, and service to the monasteries, ensures that anybody can ascend to the throne as Gaden Tripa. The act of passing the throne from one generation to the other reflects the spirit of equality in Buddhism: even a normal farm boy can work his way up to being the highest lama of the Gelugpa school.
A Brief Biography of His Eminence 102nd Gaden Tripa: Rizong Se Rinpoche Thupten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu
This great personality was born in the Mangtroe castle of Ladhak on the 8th day of 4th month in the 16th Rabjung of the Tibetan calendar i.e. in 1927. He was born in the family whose father’s name is Phuntsok Namgyal, a brother of His Eminence Prince Bakula Rinpoche whose lineage is traced back to the great kings of Tibet, and mother’s name is Tsering Lhadon.
He attained different heights of achievement at this tender age. For example when he was eight years old, he was able to conduct long-life empowerment of Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Life. Furthermore, he was wisely able to study some important texts such as Lama Tsongkhapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path of Enlightenment at this juvenile age.
Around that time, he received the upasaka vows from the previous incarnation of Ngari Tulku who gave him the name Ngawang Sungrab Thutop Tenpe Gyaltsen. Later he was ordained as shramanera, a novice monk, by His Eminence Prince Bakula Rinpoche who gave him the name Thupten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu.
He then memorized the textual instructions containing the precepts of a novice monk, the textual instruction of the three vows: the pratimoksa, bodhisattva and mantra vows and topical outlines of the Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path of Enlightenment. And during the in-depth teaching of the Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path of Enlightenment, he was appointed as the monitor whose role is closely taking exams of other students’ memorization.
With the view to enroll him in one of the Three Great Seats of the Gelugpa tradition in Tibet, His Eminence Bakula Rinpoche made him memorize the two root texts: Maitreya's Ornament for Clear Realization and Chandrakirti's Introduction to the Middle Way. He then asked the Venerable Kau Tsundue to introduce this young tulku the basic Buddhist study on logics from the Collected Topics, starting with the fundamental lines of reasoning on the basis of colors, and thus he absorbed and understood the expertise of logical reasoning.
Between the period when he was fourteen and fifteen years old, under the guidance of the Venerable Geshe Kachen Yeshi Dondup of the Pethup monastery, he studied the two Tibetan grammatical textbooks formulated by Thumi Sambota, the father of the Tibetan language, along with their commentaries such as Yangchen Drupepel’s Lekshe Jonwang and Kane Selwe Melong and Situ Rinpoche’s grammar texts; Tibetan orthographical textbook entitled Dakyig Ngagdron; and Tibetan poetics and composed many illustrative verses based on the similes from the second chapter of the Tibetan poetics.
In 1946, at the age of twenty, the 94th Gaden Throne-holder assuming the role of both abbot and preceptor, he received the bhikshu ordination, the vows of a fully ordained monk.
Likewise, during these years, from the reincarnation of Ngulchu he also received many oral transmissions such as the collected works of Lama Tsongkhpa and his two main disciples: Gyaltsab Je and Khedrup Je.
When the Gaden throne-holder, Jetsun Lhundup Tsundue, passed away in 1946, he joined the Loseling College of the Drepung Monastic University in Tibet and sought the ex-abbot of the college, Gyalpa Lobsang Jungne Pelsangpo, as the main tutor and he listened to the entire Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom) text starting with the Collected Topics.
After the demise of this great master, he listened to many religious discourses on sutra and tantra including the major texts such as the Vinaya and Abhidharma) from these great masters: Tehor Geshe Sonam Gonpo, Shagkor Khenrinpoche Nyima Gyaltsen, Gyepa Khenpo Toetsham Lama Rinpoche Jampel Trinley Yonten Gyatso, Jetsun Pema Gyaltsen—the abbot of Loseling College, Khunu Geshe Rigzin Tenpa and Jetsun Jampel Samphel—the ex-abbot of Gyalrong.
During his stay at the Drepung monastic college, he spent two years studying the Collected Topics, the study of basic Buddhist philosophy, Mind and Awareness, the study of consciousness and Signs and Reasonings, the study of Buddhist logics. He then studied the Perfection of Wisdom for five years and the Middle Way Philosophy for two years. During that time, he also participated as a standing debater or as a answer of the debate in many religious ceremonies. Then, he spent more than a year to study the Vinaya. During all these years at the monastic college, he studied with conscientiousness, calmness and discipline without failing to attend even a single session of mass gathering for prayer and debate.
When many scholars of the Three Great Seats of the Gelug school were assembled at Dalhousie, a hill station in Himachal Pradesh, India, on the frequent urge by his teacher, Gyalrong Khensur Rinpoche, the ex-abbot of Gyalrong, he went there and stayed there for one year learning and debating on the Vinaya and Abhidharma. There he got the highest Geshe Lharampa degree in 1972.
In 1974, he became the disciplinarian of the Gyume Tantric College. Then after receiving a decree from H.H. the Dalai Lama, he assumed the role of Lama Umze (the sovereign of discipline) of same college for one year. Later during his three-year abbotship of the same college he ensured the discipline, conduct, teaching and learning of the college were carried out parallel to the exemplary standard set by the ancient forerunners, and made it a source of pride and inspiration. Then in keeping with the great view of the Dalai Lama, he introduced the practice of debating to facilitate in-depth study of Buddhist philosophy among the new students of the monastery, and the later office bearers kept the momentum going and made effort in the same direction. As a result, there was a marked improvement in the studies of the new students. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was very pleased with this and complimented him that during his administration of the college it had achieved a great height.
During his tenure, he closely monitored the discipline of the college and study assessment of the students with a view to improve and motivate the students to put in extra efforts into their studies. When the effort he put into this resulted in the improvement in the studies of the students, there were many who held the view that it would be good if there was a set of formulated rules and regulations governing the examinations of the college. Thus, in keeping with the views of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and on the foundation of the ancient traditional study of the college, a new set of rules and regulations were formulated after consulting Prof. Samdong Rinpoche, the principal of the Centre Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Varanasi by importing some positive features of modern ways of conducting examinations. Once the rules and regulations were formulated, the examination committee published it in a book form. When the first copy was presented to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he was very impressed by the undertaking and observed with joy that it was great that they were able to formulate the rules and regulations. He commented that he would personally oversee its implementation and expressed a wish that the other monastic colleges had similar sets of rules.
In 1998, he gave teachings on Panchen Lobsang Choekyi Gyaltsen’s Blissful Path to Enlightenment; in 1999, he gave teachings on Panchen Lobsang Yeshe’s Quickt Path to Enlightenment; and in the same year he gave an interwoven teaching on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Golden Garland of Eloquent Explanation and Haribhadra’s Clear Meaning Commentary at Drepung Lukyil Khangtsen. In the same year he gave teachings on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of Tantra at Drepung Pethub Khangtsen.
In 2000, he imparted the oral transmissions of Kangyur—all the translated works of Buddha's teachings—to faithful devotees numbering up to a few thousands at the main temple in Dharamshala.
In 2004, in the Leh Jokhang temple, Ladakh, he gave teachings on Kamalasila’s Three Stages of Meditation. In 2007, in the same place, he gave teachings on the Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life to a few hundred disciples.
Thus, while His Eminence Jangtse Choeje Rizong Rinpoche Thupten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu carrying out a life story full of outstanding enlightening deeds for the benefit of sentient beings as the throne-holder of the Jangtse Choeje, he accepted to be the 102nd Gaden Throne-holder, the head of the Yellow Hat Buddhist School of Tibetan Buddhism after His Holiness the Dalai Lama bestowed upon him the title on 26th October 2009, the 3rd day of the 9th month, 2136 year of Tibetan calendar.
Published on Dec 21, 2009 00:00:00 | Last updated on Dec 21, 2009 21:42:15