Biography of Master Je Tsongkhapa

As you remember, we have started recently the reading the great biography of Master Je Tsongkhapa on Fridays and we are still quite at the very beginning part of it. And we have already gone through the homage of the composer and also his calling the attention of the listeners and his vow of the composition, as well as the purpose for which the author is composing this text. And we are still in the middle of this.

We have reached to page nine of this book. He has just explained the meaning of Namthar, Avadhana: that means 'the liberating story of a master' which is different from an ordinary biography or ordinary stories about anybody. The biographies of great masters are called Avadhana, meaning 'liberating event' or story, which in itself is nothing else than a demonstration of the whole process of the spiritual development. And it also helps whoever reads it to engage in that kind of process and to attain liberation. The author has just finished explaining this. So in that case it says here:

The beings of the later times, although they are those who are proud of composing such a story, thinking that it would be a service to one's own Guru, however, as already explained above, one should show principally the qualities in a relation to what has been mentioned above. Apart from that, just arranging a lot of lines of words which are neutral, is not sure whether it will be a service or what; one will not know.

So that means he also gives advise to anybody who writes a biography of one's master. As it says here: also in the later time or in the time of the author or even later than that, there are many who are proud of writing biographies of one's own master, thinking this will be a great service to one's own master. However it is very important that when writing such biography one should show and stress the qualities mentioned earlier here:

the qualities of the hearing, contemplation, meditation,
the quality of knowledge and being disciplined and being a very good nature
as well as quality of teaching, debating, composing,
those are the right qualities of a spiritual master (or a great master).

So whoever writes biographies of their masters should also write the biography on the basis of these qualities. Apart from that, without having anything to say about these and instead putting a lots of words, many lines of writings which are kind of neutral, which are nothing specially positive or negative, just words with little meaning, composing a biography of the master in that way and thinking one has done a great service to the Guru, is not sure whether it will be a service. It will be even instead of actually offering service by writing a biography of one's master in a wrong way, even of a true master, pulling the leg of the master or even putting the master down. So one is never sure about it, if one is not careful when writing the biography of a master.

As we have seen before, also the author was saying that somebody who writes the biography of a master without having the essential points, only showing about how much he has traveled, how many people he met, or how many offerings the people have made to the Guru or something like that, is not that beneficial for anybody. So therefore he is referring to that, if one writes a lot of things which are neutral then it is not sure if this is a service or not.

And he says here:

However, now, due to the time the teaching is already facing towards the extinction, and the beings are also with very inferior merits and completely under the power of only unsuitable considerations (or unsuitable reflections, thoughts). Therefore there are very few who have respect towards the Dharma and the speakers of the Dharma. Because of that reason the great beings who are endowed with both qualities of knowledge and realisation have become very rare to appear. And even though a few having appeared, oneself being under the power of negative conceptions – on top of not having any seeing and reflection of their qualities of body, speech and mind – one even tries to accumulate a lot of various kinds of karma of fabricating about them, as well as abusing them.

So the author says: now we are in an age of degeneration. Due to that, because of the very force of this time, the teaching of the Dharma is already facing towards its extinction. The teaching of the Buddha is not something which is eternal and everlasting. As it has already been prophesied, it abides about a little more than five thousand years in the world which is not at all long and more than half is already gone. So we are in a period where the teaching is actually facing towards its end and in a process of degeneration. And also the sentient beings are also very inferior in the accumulation of their merits and as a result, they are also completely under the power of all kinds of negative conceptions, all kinds of unsuitable thoughts, false views, false ideas, negative conceptions, etc. So therefore there are very few who really have very sincere respect towards the teaching of the Dharma as well as towards the teacher of the Dharma, there are in general very very few.

So because of this situation in the world also the great beings who are endowed with the quality of both knowledge and realisation are more and more seldom, they appear less and less, because their appearance does not serve much purpose to the sentient beings. The only reason for the emanation of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to appear in the world is only to help the sentient beings. But when this becomes difficult then there is also no real purpose of appearing then therefore they become less and less. And even though some may have appeared in the world, ordinary beings like ourselves are completely under the power of all kinds of false conceptions which hinder us to appreciate and see the real qualities of body, speech, and mind of these few great beings that appear in the world.

On top of that, instead of thinking and seeing their real qualities of body, speech and mind, we even end up just accumulating a lot of various negative karma of criticising them; criticising in two ways: either fabricating, that means putting faults on them; literally in Tibetan: putting feathers, that means like putting faults on them which they do not have; or abusing them, cutting down their qualities. That way we end up accumulating a lot of negative karma of criticising the few great beings who appeared in the world.

So one just makes effort in accumulating a lot of negative karma. Then it says so:

Apart from that the faith and respects towards the holy objects, and composing and arranging their biographies etc., even the aspiration it seems is extremely difficult to generate.

So generally that means most of the time we spend time in criticising them and seeing faults in them and apart from that really generating towards the holy beings faith and respect and then also generating the wish and the aspiration for their deeds and their qualities and therefore to write their biographies or to put together their biographies or their activities, etc. is in general extremely rare. Even such a thought or such a wish is extremely difficult to generate in us.

So it says further:

Some are motivated by a mixture of faith and ignorant prejudice. Even if one is proud of writing or composing, because one is not endowed with the skill of the analysis, so it seems nothing other than just something like this or that would come, it has reached the time where this can almost be decided.

That means now in this time we have reached to a point where one can really almost decide that even though some people write some kind of biographies about their masters and so on, but it is not really out of true sincere faith and respect in accordance to the Dharma, nor with a real clear understanding and analysis. Rather it is mostly motivated by some kind of little faith, and then mostly by ignorant prejudice and adherence. People have prejudices and special adherence and attachment to their leaders or their kings or their generals or heroes – whatsoever. And just that is not the real faith in accordance to the Dharma, that is ignorant prejudice.

There are those who are motivated by a kind of faith mixed with some kind of ignorant prejudice, proud of writing some biography, but it never can become something really useful and beneficial. It will be just solala, because the motivation is not correct as well as one is not endowed with the necessary capacity of mind, or intelligence, or analysis to really judge what is the important quality and what is not. So therefore we have reached to such point where we can almost decide (assume) that it will be like that and nothing else. So therefore the author says:

In this kind of time, even though one speaks much, it would just only be an effort of making oneself a crow with a white body.

That means the time has reached to such a point, that even though one speaks much about these things, it will not help very much. One will only end up making a great effort to make oneself fall out of the mainstream, that means here 'white crow'. All the crows are black, so if it happens that there is one white crow then it is out of the mainstream. So one will be also, if one talks too much like this, not any more benefit than making oneself fall out of the society or out of the mainstream.

And not only that, but furthermore:

There is even a danger that it becomes as we say 'a sling stone in a temple', therefore I will not elaborate more than that.

So this means if one talks about these things too much, then either it will throw oneself out of the mainstream and one becomes a white crow or it will become as we say in Tibetan 'a sling stone in a temple'. If you throw such a stone with the sling in the temple then it will surely hit something and break a lot of things and make a disaster. It will hit something, because in the temple there are lots of statues. It is as if you exercise football inside a temple for example, then surely you will break something like with a sling stone.

This means: although you intend to say something very sincerely, it will hurt here and there. This is a way of saying: when you say something and even though you do not mean to hurt anybody, anyway many people will get hurt from it. That is what he is saying. So therefore he will not elaborate.

And then he says:

The principle subject of the moment is the great master Je Tsongkhapa, somebody like him is in the definitive sense of the nature of the wisdom-knowledge of all the Victors of the three times collected in one, the very venerable Manjushri giving up his dark blue hair knot and intentionally holding the saffron Victory Banner.

So that means he did not elaborate about these introductory points like the purpose of writing such a biography and so on, and then he comes to the actual main point, the principle subject, which is Master Je Tsongkhapa. And what is Master Je Tsongkhapa? A master like Je Tsongkhapa as he says here, is in the definite sense (that means not in the conventional sense), in its ultimate sense nothing else than the Venerable Lord Manjushri, who is in reality the embodiment of the wisdom of all the Buddhas, the wisdom of all Buddhas collected in one. That is Manjushri. Manjushri is no other than the form of the wisdom of all the Buddhas. So that Manjushri then is putting down his usual Deva form with hair knots and ornaments, putting it aside and very consciously and intentionally, purposefully taking up this saffron Victory Banner.

This is a very nice way of putting it. The saffron robe is the robe of the monks; saffron is the colour of the robes. In Vinaya also Buddha has praised the monk's robes and called it a Victory Banner, because through wearing such a coloured robe one gains the victory over all the sufferings and the cause of sufferings, over all the karma and delusions. So the real victory can be attained, and that is symbolised by this robe. Therefore sometimes in the Vinaya the robe is referred to as the 'saffron Victory Banner'.

Je Tsongkhapa is somebody who is in essence Manjushri, who is the form of the wisdom of all the Buddhas, then temporarily kind of not appearing in this youthful Deva form with ornaments and hair knots and so forth, but putting aside that and taking this human form clad in saffron robes.

'By giving up that divine form with ornaments and so on', that of course does not mean that Manjushri has only one form; in order to appear in one form having to change completely the other form - there is no such problem, - but this is a way of putting it: Manjushri not appearing in his usual regular Deva form, but he came in another form holding this victorious saffron banner. So Je Tsongkhapa is of such a form. So it says:

Being that (the holder of such a victorious banner), the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the peaceful and wrathful meditational deities, also great scholars, Pandits, indisputable great masters and Siddhas, many of them have praised more than once.

So that means that Je Tsongkhapa has been praised or confirmed more than once, that means many times by many Buddhas, many Bodhisattvas, many meditational deities, peaceful, wrathful, as well as many indisputable great masters of India and Tibet for being such an emanation of Manjushri appearing as a monk. We will see all these prophecies later.

Sometimes, when he hear about these great masters like Je Tsongkhapa and also others, that they are emanations of this Buddha and that Buddha, the question may arise in our mind: "How come that all those great masters are already an emanation of this Buddha or that Buddha or Manjushri or Avalokiteshvara and so forth?"

One may wonder how that can be possible. And then sometimes Je Tsongkhapa looks like a disciple of Manjushri, so one may think: "How can all this be possible?" But in reality, when we speak about Je Tsongkhapa he has been prophesied to be Manjushri's emanation in many many Sutras and also very clearly by Buddha himself in the Manjushri Mula Kalpa Tantra.

But in general when we say somebody is an emanation of a Buddha, one should not understand it as this person that right from the very beginning, since beginning less time being that. One does not have to think it to be that way. Rather one can become an emanation of a Buddha, we ourselves can also become an emanation of Manjushri although we are not at all Manjushri, but we can become an emanation of Manjushri.

The way how that works is that for example, if somebody has a particular link or relation to one particular form of the Buddha like Manjushri and one venerates it, meditates on it, worships it and thereby develop such a link and so on and that way it becomes one's personal deity, then that way one approaches it and gets closer and closer to it. The goal of such approaching or such whole practice or such meditation is finally to attain the state of the Manjushri. That means oneself to be completely united with the Manjushri, to attain that state of Manjushri, in other words to become Manjushri.

And once somebody becomes a Manjushri then one gets completely united with Manjushri and after that then we emanate also as a Manjushri. And we can emanate as a Manjushri in various forms to the sentient beings and it is all an emanation of Manjushri. That is already exercised in the tantric meditation, in the state of generation where we meditate, visualise, becoming oneself the deity in the centre of the Mandala and after that sending many of our own emanations, becoming Yamantaka and after that sending our own emanations to all directions - these are then Yamantaka's emanation and one's emanations too.

That way one can also become some day an emanation of Manjushri or one can also become an emanation of Avalokiteshvara. So if one speaks about an emanation of a Buddha one does not necessarily think of being that right from the beginning or from beginning less time.

But any way, when Je Tsongkhapa appeared in this world as a master he already was a fully enlightened emanation of Manjushri, one who has also a very special link with Manjushri - not just a new link which he developed in this life here on earth, but a very ancient link, a very long long link and connection he had from long before. So that way one should understand it.

So it says here:

Thus he has been praised more than once to be the emanation of Manjushri; furthermore even just in the way of appearing to the ordinary disciples, being wise, being disciplined, and being kind - all the three, as well as from every aspect of his activities as an accomplished person, as a Siddha he is without any compatible rival. And to the teaching of the Victorious One he is completely similar in every aspect as if the Victorious One himself has appeared. This is not just an exaggerated fabrication, just an insincere flattering or pretentious praise, instead it is directly known and established by all higher and lower beings who are living in this world in the centre or on the horizon.

That means: Je Tsongkhapa being such an emanation of Manjushri has not only been confirmed by those Buddhas and great masters and so on, but even if we look just how he appears to the ordinary beings, common beings like ourselves, if we observe his qualities of his being wise and being so disciplined and being so kind, these qualities of the masters, and on top of that all the activities that he has performed for the sake of the sentient beings as a great accomplished one, a great Siddha, we see how he is completely unchallengeable, completely free from any rival, completely unsurpassable.

His appearance in the world is therefore very much like the Victorious One himself appearing for his teaching, just like Buddha himself reappearing for the sake of propagating his own teachings. This being the fact is not an exaggerated fabrication, not an insincere flattering or pretentious praise, because it is something evident, established by everybody, known to everybody in this world who stays in the centre (that means in the centre of Dharma), or in the middle or in the distant areas. Everybody knows what kind of master he was.

So we can stop here for today.