1357 – 1419 CE
Biographical Sketch by Universal Theosophy
Entries from the Theosophical Glossary
Written also Tsong-kha-pa. A famous Tibetan reformer of the fourteenth century, who introduced a purified Buddhism into his country. He was a great Adept, who being unable to witness any longer the desecration of Buddhist philosophy by the false priests who made of it a marketable commodity, put a forcible stop thereto by a timely revolution and the exile of 40,000 sham monks and Lamas from the country. He is regarded as an Avatar of Buddha, and is the founder of the Gelukpa (“ yellow-cap ”) Sect, and of the mystic Brotherhood connected with its chiefs. The “tree of the 10,000 images” (khoom boom) has, it is said, sprung from the long hair of this ascetic, who leaving it behind him disappeared for ever from the view of the profane.
“Yellow Caps” literally ; the highest and most orthodox Buddhist sect in Tibet, the antithesis of the Dugpa (“Red Caps”), the old “devil worshippers”.
A sacred volume of precepts and rules, written by Tson-kha-pa, “for the advancement of knowledge”.
The great centre of monasteries and colleges, three hours’ walk from Tchigadze, the residence of the Teshu Lama for details of whom see “Panchen Rimboche”. It was built in 1445 by the order of Tson-kha-pa.
Panchen Rimboche (Tib.)
Lit., “the great Ocean, or Teacher of Wisdom”. The title of the Teshu Lama at Tchigadze; an incarnation of Amitabha the celestial “father” of Chenresi, which means to say that he is an Avatar of Tson-kha-pa (See “Sonkhapa”). De jure the Teshu Lama is second after the Dalaї Lama; de facto, he is higher, since it is Dharma Richen, the successor of Tson-kha-pa at the golden monastery founded by the latter Reformer and established by the Gelukpa sect (yellow caps) who created the Dalaї Lamas at Llhassa, and was the first of the dynasty of the “ Panchen Rimboche”. While the former (Dalaї Lama are addressed as “ Jewel of Majesty”, the latter enjoy a far higher title, namely “Jewel of Wisdom”, as they are high Initiates.
A sacred locality, the birthplace of Tson-kha-pa, the great Tibetan reformer and the founder of the Gelukpa (yellow caps), who is regarded as an Avatar of Amita-buddha.
[Tsongkhapa’s] collected writings in one Tibetan blockprint edition consist of eighteen volumes. Along with these are the collected works of his two main disciples, mKhas-grub-rje in twelve volumes, and rGyal-tshab-rje in eight volumes. Together these comprise the rJe yab sras gsung ’bum, the collected writings of rJe Tsongkhapa, father and [spiritual] sons. A twenty-volume Tibetan blockprint edition of Tsongkhapa’s collected writings includes 210 works, ranging from very short to very long. These were reproduced and catalogued in The Tibetan Tripitaka, Peking Edition, edited by Daisetz T. Suzuki, Tokyo-Kyoto: Tibetan Tripitaka Research Institute, 1955-1961, part III: “Extra, Tibetan Works,” vols. 152-161, works numbered 6001-6210.
Tsongkhapa’s most famous work is the Lam rim chen mo, now available in complete English translation in three volumes, The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, 2000-2004.
— from Bibliographic Guide, The Works of Tsongkhapa: English Translations, by Eastern Tradition Research Institute (includes complete list of works by Tsong Kha Pa)
Lam Rim Chen Mo
Selected Quotes from Tsong Kha Pa
On Method and WisdomIn general, just as both father and mother are needed to have a child, you need the entire complement of method and wisdom to have a complete path. In particular, you need the main method—the spirit of enlightenment—and the main wisdom—the knowledge of emptiness. If you only meditate on one of them and diligently seek merely to be liberated from cyclic existence, then you have to meditate on the meaning of emptiness—selflessness—without mistaking meditative serenity for insight. Nonetheless, if you claim to be a Mahayana practitioner, then you must be practicing the spirit of enlightenment as well. Why? You need wisdom to prevent falling into the extreme of cyclic existence, and you need compassion to prevent falling into the extreme of peace [nirvana], so wisdom does not prevent you from falling into the extreme of peace. As the venerable Maitreya says in his Ornament for Clear Knowledge (Abhisamayalamkara):
Through knowledge you do not abide in cyclic existence.
Through compassion you do not abide in peace.
If you are a Mahayana practitioner, you must practice the spirit of enlightenment because even in the Hinayana you do not fall into the extreme of cyclic existence and the main thing to be prevented on the bodhisattva path is falling into the extreme of peace."
— from the Lam Rim Chen Mo.
Selected Quotes on Tsong Kha Pa
H.P. Blavatsky on the reform of Tsong-Kha-Pa
The regular system of the Lamaïc incarnations of "Sang-gyas" (or Buddha) began with Tsong-kha-pa. This reformer is not the incarnation of one of the five celestial Dhyans, or heavenly Buddhas, as is generally supposed, said to have been created by Sakya Muni after he had risen to Nirvana, but that of "Amita," one of the Chinese names for Buddha. The records preserved in the Gön-pa (lamasery) of "Tda-shi Hlum-po" (spelt by the English Teshu Lumbo) show that Sang-gyas incarnated himself in Tsongkha-pa in consequence of the great degradation his doctrines had fallen into. Until then, there had been no other incarnations than those of the five celestial Buddhas and of their Boddhisatwas, each of the former having created (read, overshadowed with his spiritual wisdom) five of the last-named--there were, and now are in all but thirty incarnations--five Dhyans and twenty-five Boddhisatwas. It was because, among many other reforms, Tsong- kha-pa forbade necromancy (which is practiced to this day with the most disgusting rites, by the Bhöns--the aborigines of Tibet--with whom the Red Caps, or Shammars, had always fraternized), that the latter resisted his authority. This act was followed by a split between the two sects. Separating entirely from the Gyelukpas, the Dugpas (Red Caps)--from the first in a great minority--settled in various parts of Tibet, chiefly its borderlands, and principally in Nepaul and Bhootan.
The Tda-shi Lamas were always more powerful and more highly considered than the Dalaï-Lamas. The latter are the creation of the Tda-shi Lama, Nabang-Lob-Sang, the sixth incarnation of Tsong-kha-pa--himself an incarnation of Amitabha, or Buddha. This hierarchy was regularly installed at Lha-ssa, but it originated only in the latter half of the seventeenth century.
– from the Article “Reincarnations In Tibet” by H.P. Blavatsky
The Maha Chohan on the nature of the incarnation of Tsong Kha Pa
Among the few glimpses obtained by Europeans of Tibet and its mystical hierarchy of perfect Lamas, there was one which was correctly understood and described. The incarnations of the Bodhisattva Padmapani or Avolokiteshvara, of Tsong-ka-pa, and that of Amitabha, relinquished at their death the attainment of Buddhahood--i.e., the summum bonum of bliss, and of individual personal felicity--that they might be born again and again for the benefit of mankind. In other words, that they might be again and again subjected to misery, imprisonment in flesh, and all the sorrows of life, provided that they by such a self-sacrifice, repeated throughout long and weary centuries, might become the means of securing salvation and bliss in the hereafter for a handful of men chosen among but one of the many planetary races of mankind.
— from "The Great Master's Letter", found in The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnet
A.P. Sinnet on the reform of Tsong-Kha-Pa
I have said that Buddha, by his third incarnation, recognized the fact that he had, in the excessive confidence of his loving trust in the perfectibility of humanity, opened the doors of the occult sanctuary too widely. His third appearance was in the person of Tsong-ka-pa, the great Tibetan adept reformer of the fourteenth century. In this personality he was exclusively concerned with the affairs of the adept fraternity, by that time collecting chiefly in Tibet.
From time immemorial there had been a certain secret region in Tibet, which to this day is quite unknown to and unapproachable by any but initiated persons, and inaccessible to the ordinary people of the country as to any others, in which adepts have always congregated. But the country generally was not in Buddha’s time, as it has since become, the chosen habitation of the great brotherhood. Much more than they are at present, were the Mahatmas in former times, distributed about the world. The progress of civilization, engendering the magnetism they find so trying, had, however, by the date with which we are now dealing - the fourteenth century - already given rise to a very general movement towards Tibet on the part of the previously dissociated occultists. Far more widely than was held to be consistent with the safety of mankind was occult knowledge and power then found to be disseminated. To the task of putting it under the control of a rigid system of rule and law did Tsong-ka-pa address himself.
Without re-establishing the system on the previous unreasonable basis of caste exclusiveness, he elaborated a code of rules for the guidance of the adepts, the effect of which was to weed out of the occult body all but those who sought occult knowledge in a spirit of the most sublime devotion to the highest moral principles.
— from Esoteric Buddhism by A.P. Sinnett