Biography of Master Je Tsongkhapa

Homage - part one

As we have begun previously we shall start today with the actual text of Je Tsongkhapa's great biography. Last time we have gone through the preface that Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang has written to this text which was a very concise introduction and today we shall begin with the actual text. The title is:

A biography of the one who in essence is inseparable from the all-pervading Lord Venerable Sublime Guru Munendra Vajradhara, Manjunatha, Lord Manjushri, King of the Dharma, the great Tsongkhapa, the single ornament decorating the teaching of the Muni, called The Wonderful Jewel Garland.

So here it contains the biography of the great king of Dharma Master Je Tsongkhapa, who is inseparable from the all-pervading Lord, the venerable sublime Guru. That means who should be seen as of one nature with one's root Guru, and who is of one nature with Munendra, Buddha Shakyamuni the teacher of the Sutra, and Vajradhara, the teacher of the Tantras. Who is the all-pervading Lord, means who pervades all the emanations of the Buddhas and all the contents of their mandalas and is to be seen as nothing else than an emanation of one's Guru. So they are also an emanation of Master Je Tsongkhapa.

Where it says the one who reigns over all the mandalas, that means that all the deities and all the mandalas are nothing else than an emanation of the Guru. So this all-pervading Lord can be understood in many different ways. As it also says in the Guru Puja:

That which is arisen from the omniscient wisdom, the million wheels of the mandala, the one who is the all-pervading Lord of the hundred families, who is the principle holder of the Vajra, I prostrate to you, who is the primordial Buddha.

This means the same, that the Guru is all these various deities and their Mandalas and also the so-called hundred families of the Buddhas. According to the Tantra the Buddhas can all be included in one hundred families, that means twenty types of deities belonging to each five Buddha families. In that way these so-called one hundred families or types of Buddhas can all be included in the five Dhyani Buddhas, which in turn can all be included into three families of the Buddhas, which can all be finally included into the sixth family Vajradhara.

So Je Tsongkhapa, the Guru, is in the nature of Vajradhara or Buddha Shakyamuni, who actually is the very Lord of all the families of the Buddhas. This can be understood in many ways. So here it contains the biography of that great master.

In all our Guru Yogas - Guru Sumati Munendra Vajradhara is always emphasised, in which:
Guru means one's root Guru, who is Master Lobsang Sumati Master Je Tsongkhapa,
who is Munendra, Shakyamuni, who is Vajradhara.

So all in one that is what it means here. That is the essence of Je Tsongkhapa who is also called Jamgön, Manjunatha, which means Manjushri. So Je Tsongkhapa is an emanation of all the Buddhas. In particular he is an emanation of the wisdom aspect of all the Buddhas, in other words Manjushri. He is particularly the emanation of Manjushri, so therefore he is called Manjunatha.

It is Manjushri who is an emanation of the wisdom aspect of all the Buddhas appearing in a human form, in the form of a monk, and that makes the so-called King of the Dharma, Je Tsongkhapa.

Je Tsongkhapa is referred to here as the great King of the Dharma, which is not just an exaggeration or ornamenting word given to him out of a special kind of adoration or love towards him. Instead, it is a fact, because a king is one who rules over a land; in the same way Je Tsongkhapa is a master who completely rules over all the aspects of the Dharma including the three vehicles and the four classes of Tantra.

There is nothing that he has not mastered or applied into practice and attained realisations. Through his learning, contemplation and meditation he has attained all the experience belonging to these aspects of the teachings.

Not only that, but through his teaching, debating, composition and so forth he has also made such a great contribution for the flourishing of such a pure teaching of Dharma for the sake of countless sentient beings. So that makes him really somebody who reigns over the Dharma. Since he was born in Tsongkha he is called Tsongkhapa the Great, because he is a very great personality. So he is the Great Tsongkhapa.

The actual word in Tibetan for biography is 'Nampar Tharpa' (Namthar), which is the translation of the Sanskrit word Avadhana. Namthar cannot be used for just an ordinary story or biography. That is generally called 'lo gyü' or something like that.

The word Namthar means a biography or a story of a fully enlightened being, it literally means 'completely liberating'. That means that the life itself is something which is a very liberating one and for somebody who reads or knows such a life story and follows that kind of lifestyle also has a liberating effect. Only that kind of biography or story can be called Namthar and not just any kind of story.

So it is a completely liberating story where the author gives a special name to it by saying: this liberating story is a single ornament which really beautifies the teaching of Buddha.

Je Tsongkhapa's kind of lifestyle or activity has actually become one great ornament which really makes the teaching of the Buddha particularly beautiful. What Je Tsongkhapa did is that he followed the teaching of Buddha; he learned that, he applied that into practice, he attained the realisations from it and he propagated it. So therefore that kind of example of his life makes the teaching of Buddha itself particularly outstanding and beautiful.

Just like some wrong followers or false practitioners can cause a great damage, or mal-practice of somebody or the misdeeds and doings of followers can cause a degeneration in the teaching. Unlike that, somebody who really follows such a teaching and applies it into practice and makes such a great contribution makes the teaching itself particularly outstanding. That is why he said: this liberating story is a single ornament which makes the teaching of Buddha beautiful.

So that is the content of this particular book and it is called "The Wonderful Jewel Garland".

And here is also a Sanskrit title on it, it is the same thing, it says:

Vivu Bandharaka Guru Uttara Munendra Vajradhara Seya Bhavasambinama Manjunatha Dharma Raja Pratsaya Mahasaya Avadhana Muni Shasanaaruchir Antaka eka AH HO Mani Saya Mala Nama Visahara.

bhandaraka - Venerable, Guru
uttara - sublime Guru, Munendra means Buddha Shakyamuni and Vajradhara
seya means of Vajradhara;
bhavasambinama - who are inseparable from; then
Manjunatha - Manjushri and
Dharma Raja - the king of the Dharma; and the master also translated even Tsongkhapa,
it is also translated as Pratsaya – that is how he translates Tsongkha,
how it becomes Pratsaya in Tsongkha Mahasaya,
Avadhana - biography
Muni shasana - Muni’s teaching or the teaching of the Buddha,
aruchir antaka eka - the one beautiful ornament ,
shasana aruchir - then they join together to shasanaruchir, eka - one,
AH HO - like wonderful, this is like an exclamation mark, wonderful!;
mani saya mala - Garland of Jewel,
visahara - so-called, it is there!

So generally translated texts always have these names in Sanskrit. That is in order to get and leave some imprints of this particular precious language and also to have one’s mind blessed and also to show the authentic source of this translated work. This is not translated work, so there is no question about authentic source, but it still has those other points like blessing one’s mind and also receiving imprint of the language, etc.

And especially this great author has made it like an offering, so it is made as elaborate as possible, so this is also an offering in Sanskrit language, an offering in Tibetan language. And in the Tibetan text it is even written in all this beautiful different kind of characters, Sanskrit Lendsa and Wartu. All these are a kind of offering.

So then follows the homage. Homage here is made to Je Tsongkhapa himself and especially praising his qualities of being inseparable with Manjushri; and then it speaks about the qualities of Manjushri. It says here that:

The Saffron dust of the wisdom, knowledge, compassion and ability of all the Victorious Ones, all the Victors appeared as a Deva, enjoying that clear and complete signs and examples; the Manjushri that eloquent melodious Lord and glorious Guru who is inseparable from him gives the virtues and goodness.

So at the same time it is also a kind of request. First Manjushri's appearance: how is his appearance? He appeared in a form of a Deva, who is enjoying all these precious signs of enlightened Buddhas, which are clear and complete, all these thirty-two signs and eighty examples, and who has a colour like saffron.

It says saffron dust: compassion, wisdom, power of all the Buddhas, which is like a saffron dust and that is certainly taking the form of a Deva, who has all these major and minor signs and who is then known in the world as the smooth, melodious and eloquent Lord, that is Manjushri’s name. And the glorious Guru here, Je Tsongkhapa, is inseparable from that Guru, so it is a praise of him and at the same time asks to give here all the virtues and all the blessings and all the goodness.

This completes the homage to Je Tsongkhapa himself and also asks for his blessing for this work. And then follows a further homage to the Buddha and to all the lineage masters. So here it says:

Although from many Kalpas before having destroyed all the four Maras and having attained that state of the ten powers, for the sake of the common wish in this world again playing the twelve activities.

And the one who holds particularly, especially the beings, who are difficult to tame, the One who is praised as the White Lotus, the supreme leader, the Deva of all Devas, the God of Gods, the lion of the kings, with all the three doors I respectfully prostate.

So that is to Buddha Shakyamuni. Although Buddha Shakyamuni many Kalpas before had already attained enlightenment and had overcome all the four Maras and attained all those extraordinary qualities of the Buddhas such as the ten powers, nevertheless for the sake of the ordinary, the wish of the ordinary beings in this impure world of ours, he has again shown the twelve major activities, including attaining enlightenment and so on.

And so you are particularly outstanding, because when all the Buddhas of the thousand Buddhas of this Kalpa, each as a Bodhisattva generated their mind for this particular degenerate period of our world, nobody else took that responsibility except you. At that time Buddha Shakyamuni as a Bodhisattva has chosen this particular degenerate time to appear in the world. Therefore he is particularly taking care of the beings who are difficult to tame. For that he was praised at that time among all those Bodhisattvas as the White Lotus by that particular Buddha: "you are among many Lotus the best Lotus, the white Lotus".

So that way he has been praised. And who is this? This is the supreme leader of all beings, who is really like the God of Gods, the Deva of the Devas. Because to the feet of the Buddha Shakyamuni all the great Gods and everybody also bow down and listen to his teachings and took refuge, so he is the lion of the Shakyas and so to him he offers the respect of the three doors, prostrations with body, speech and mind.

Then it says further:

The supreme of the sons of that teacher, the so-called Ajitanatha and Mandaraka Manjugosha, in the manner of the sons of the Victor, who fulfils completely all the activities of the Buddha, those two are objects of prostrations.

So that refers to Maitreya and Manjushri. Although Buddha had so many disciples who were Bodhisattvas and Arhats, however among all the disciples the best and the supreme are those two. The reason for that is, because they are particularly outstanding and accomplish the activity of the Buddha. And what is their activity? It is the principle activity, that means the teaching of Dharma. Buddha came into the world especially to turn the wheel of Dharma. And that kind of holding this teaching of Dharma and propagating this teaching of Dharma is particularly fulfilled by those two disciples more than anyone else: Manjushri holding the teaching of the profound aspect and Ajita or Maitreya holding the teaching of the vast aspect. So therefore these are particularly outstanding in fulfilling the activities of the Buddha, so therefore they are also a special object of prostration.

Then follows a praise where it says:

The profound view and the conduct of the vast wave, Nagarjuna and Asanga who have opened this way of the chariots, the ones who are completely known like unprecedented sun and moon on this great earth - to their feet I prostrate with my head.

So next come the first great masters in their human forms after Buddha, to whom we pay respect: Nagarjuna and Asanga, because they opened that way of the chariots. Chariots of what? – Chariots of the teachings. And what kind of teachings? – The teaching of the two aspects of the path, that means the path of the profound view and the path of the great practice (or the conduct of the vast way). That means method and wisdom, or view and conduct, or the profound teaching and vast teaching. Such a teaching is like the chariot and the way of the chariot is opened very large particularly by those two masters. Therefore they are known as sun and moon in this world and unprecedented. There were never before them any human beings who have done such things in this time of the Buddha. So therefore thanks to them these teachings are still continuing and therefore they are particular objects of respect or prostration.

Then come some further more masters:

Aryadeva and Buddhapalita etc. and Vasubandhu and Dignaga and Dharmakirti etc., those Pandit Siddhas of the Arya land, which decorate this world; through remembering their wonderful qualities, always keep them on the crown of the head with respect.

So that means then after these great chariots then came other masters. For example Nagarjuna on the aspect of the profound teachings, then such masters like Aryadeva, Buddhapalita and so on, who really expounded the middle way teaching of the Dharma. And on the other side among the disciples of Master Asanga such great masters like Vasubandhu and Dignaga, Dharmakirti, and so on.

These masters came and transmitted the teaching of the vast aspect. And those are on one side the great scholar Pandits, but at the same time they are also highly realised Siddhas of India who really are like the ornaments of the world. Their wonderful activities and teachings are really so wonderful and worthy to remember. By remembering their kindness then we also keep them on our head with great respect.

And then it says:

With the light which produces a daylight of sublime Dharma, those who have completely transformed this land of Tibet into a very radiant white and illuminated land, the great kings of Dharma and the translators and the scholars and those who have attained Siddhis, of those who came in the past, countless who came gradually, I show respect to them.

So also he pays homage to those early Tibetan great kings of Dharma, great translators and great Pandits and Siddhas of Tibet who came since very early time. It is them who have completely transformed the dark land from the complete darkness of ignorance into an illuminating land of Dharma through the light of their teaching. They have produced a bright daylight of Dharma in that dark area of Tibet and thus transformed it into an illuminating land.

This is thanks to the great efforts of these great early masters and it is not only just one, but quite lot of them, countless of them who came one after the other. Those are also the ones who made special efforts to travel all the way to India, to seek the Dharma with great difficulties, or to invite great Pandits from India, and translate all those works, apply them into practice and then teach them. Those are worthy objects of respect.

So we can stop here for today, still we are not quite at the end of the homage, but then comes a longer sentence.