Je Tsong Khapa (1357-1419) was one of the greatest Lamas of Tibet, inspired especially by the heritage of Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti, a master of both dialectic Middle Way philosophy and Tantric contemplative practices. The breadth of his erudition was exceptional; his honorary title – Je Rinpoche – means “the Revered Precious One”.
Born in Amdo in the far northeast of Tibet in 1357, Tsong Khapa began studying Dharma at the age of 3, ordained as a novice monk at the age of 7 and spent twenty years studying with teachers of all traditions, writing and teaching extensively.
Tsong Khapa’s fame as a teacher and yogi was widespread, but at the age of 40 he stopped actively teaching and went into intensive retreat. He is regarded as the founder of the Gelug order, though he only considered himself the renewer of the early Kadam order founded by master Atisha and Drom Tonpa in the 11th century. Able to clarify many difficult points of both Sutra and Tantra, Tsong Khapa was revered as a consummate clarified of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching as an energetic renewer of its practice.
Here Tsong Khapa is shown wearing the robes of a monk and the yellow hat signifying pure ethical discipline and associated with the Gelug order, sometimes called the Yellow Hat Tradition.
Tsong Khapa is flanked by two of his foremost disciples: Gyaltsab je on his right and Khedrub je on his left, both with one hand in the gesture of teaching, the other holding a Dharma text. Tsong Khapa left behind 18 large volumes of writings on a wide array of topics. Perhaps best remembered are two encyclopedi works: Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path and Great Exposition of Secret Mantra.
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