Biography of Master Je Tsongkhapa

So as you remember we are at the very beginning of the great biography of Master Je Tsongkhapa and the author is explaining in this introductory part to the main biography the reason for which he has composed such a text. And at the same time he is also dispelling the doubts or questions whether or not such a composition will not be an unnecessary repetition and since there exist already other biographies of Master Je Tsongkhapa, etc. So we are in the middle of this explanation and the last time we have just completed the quotation from this text of the poetry by this Master Dandi, where the author of that text of poetry also says that the way how he composed this text is that through collecting all the things that have been said by earlier composers and then also through putting it together according to his abilities. And that way he has made the effort of composing such a text in which the actual subject matters were already given by earlier masters etc. So that is the quotation which we completed last time.

Then it says further:

Earlier the omniscient Khedrup Rinpoche also has seen that the great Master Je Tsongkhapa as already said before with respect to both activities as a scholar and as a Siddha in every respect is known to all on the earth as somebody who is completely without rival (or unchallengeable); this is known and this is established, therefore it does not depend that much upon putting down all his activities in a biography.

So the author is saying that earlier masters like Khedrup Rinpoche etc. who have composed also biographies of Je Tsongkhapa, have seen that such a great being like Je Tsongkhapa, being a very extraordinary scholar (or Pandit) and realised being (or Siddha) is through all his activities and qualities in every respect unchallengeable and without any equal and without rival. And this fact being no secret, but rather something which is known to everybody and perceivable by everybody with valid perception, these authors like like Khedrup Rinpoche were aware of the fact that Je Tsongkhapa's activities do not depend upon being written down in a biography.

For this reason, those great masters in the past, who have written biographies of Je Tsongkhapa, did not make these so extensive. They did not see a great necessity of putting everything in his biography, as his activities and qualities do not depend upon somebody writing them in a biography, because they are known to all and are established by valid perceptions of everybody. It says:

By seeing this, some of the principal, common biographies taught by stressing the way of his perfect learning, contemplation, and meditation in the teaching of the Victorious One, the way of his taking care of the disciples with his activities of teaching through eradicating from the root all the defilements of not understanding and misunderstanding the precious teaching, and illuminating the essence of the teaching as bright as daylight, etc.

So therefore these former writers of the common biographies taught through stressing and giving priority to the pure and perfect studies, contemplation and meditation with regards to the teaching of the Buddha and the activities of teaching, how he has taking care of so many sentient beings by his activities of speech.

And then also through his activities of teaching, debating, and composing, eradicating all kinds of not-understanding or misunderstanding of the various important points of the precious Dharma. And by dispelling the misunderstandings, how he has illuminated the real essence of the teaching: the renunciation, the generation of Bodhicitta, the profound view of the emptiness, as well as the stages of generation and completion of the Tantras. And in particular how to develop the clear light state and illusory body and how to bring these to unite; these very essential points he has clarified in such an illuminating way, so clearly; thus he has brought bright daylight to the essential teachings of the Buddha. Those things are particularly stressed in those biographies.

So those earlier biographies dealt principally with these common points, that means activities that everybody can see from outside very clearly, such as his activity of engaging himself in the process of learning, contemplation, meditation and then through such a process gaining the necessary realisation and experience; and how he has shown that way to the disciples through his activities of teaching; and then how through teaching, debating and composing he has eliminated all kinds of defilements which existed in the teaching of the Buddha due to not-understanding, misunderstanding of the people. Thus he illuminated the essence of the Sutras and Tantras. So these points are primarily taught.

Apart from that it says here:

All the activities of the worldly gatherings and collecting material offerings, etc. as it does not exist in the activity of omniscient Je Rinpoche, they have also not put it down.

They have always stressed on these qualities which are mentioned earlier. And in these biographies one does not find about how Je Tsongkhapa has engaged in activities to gather disciples or an entourage or how he has received or collected a lot of offerings, or material things, etc. They have not put any of these kinds of things down as it appears in the biographies of some others, because in the lifestyle or way of life of Je Tsongkhapa there do not exist any such projects or activities, so they are also not put down.

So Je Tsongkhapa's life is completely free from all such worldly Dharmas or mundane activities. Since that does not exist they have also not put it down. And then it says further:

Whatever has been written down exactly was done with the intention that everybody understands - both higher and lower - as this would plant more seeds of faith and respect. With that intention and without having it bound with poetry and special skills of composition etc., and also not with many elaborations of scripture sources and reasonings it appears that these have been written down, in an easy to understand, practical and very comprised manner.

And also what is written down about Je Tsongkhapa's life by these masters, was done with the intention that this biography or this life of Je Tsongkhapa should be understood by everybody, not only by some great scholars or superior beings. They thought that if everybody with a higher or lower capacity understands it, then it would plant in them the seed of faith and respects, which is of course a very great benefit, a way of accumulating very much merit.

Therefore, with such intentions these biographies have not been written in a way that it is completely bound with many poetic decorations and special compositional skills. And also they did not elaborate too much on scripture sources and reasonings. It appears that if one reads that kind of life story then they have composed it a way which is easy to understand, very practical and also in a manner without too much elaboration, in a summarised or concise manner.

Even those which are written in form of verse like Khedrup Rinpoche's praise to Je Tsongkhapa, are also written in a very explicit and very clear manner, which is not at all difficult to understand. Otherwise, a master like Khedrup Rinpoche is an expert on poetry; some of his poetic works are exceptionally beautiful and so excellent. However, when something is written too poetically, then things are too much covered by all these decorations and poetic ornaments and then some people may have difficulties to easily understand the real matter. Therefore, through putting aside all these elaborations they have explained it in a very understandable, concise and practical way, easy to keep in the mind. In particular it says:

The inner clear realisations, the infinite special qualities of the stages and the paths, which are born in the continuum of his mind, and how he has seen the faces of many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, meditational deities (Yidams), peaceful and wrathful, as well as great Pandits and Siddhas of India and Tibet, and the way he obtained prophecies from them etc., these extraordinary biographies, though the Gyaltsab and Khedrup Rinpoches both and the Yogi Jampel Gyatso etc. have heard and have understood them, the Master Je Tsongkhapa has, as it is said, that one's own quality should be hidden and one should speak of the qualities of the others, fully accepted the lifestyle of the king of the Dharma, Master Drom, so all those qualities of extraordinary realisations are principally always kept secret and hidden.

That means: in those former biographies it says in particular Je Tsongkhapa had not only the qualities everybody can see from outside, like his learning, contemplation, meditation, intellectual knowledge, his teaching capacities and all these kind of things, but he also has attained in his continuum (in his mind) all the special qualities of higher realisations, the inner clear realisations of all the stages of the path of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the qualities of the stages of the path of the Sutra and Tantra, and not only just some aspects, but all of them. As it says here: Infinite qualities have fully generated in his mind. And not only that, he has seen many times directly Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, tantric deities, peaceful and wrathful as well as many great Indian Pandits and Siddhas as well as Tibetan ones and they also have given prophecies to him. He has seen them in dreams, he has seen them in reality, he has seen them in meditations, in many ways he has seen them. This kind of extraordinary biography or life story his great close disciples like Gyältsab, Khedrup, and Jampel Gyatso etc. have heard directly from Je Tsongkhapa himself or from other great masters and they also know it very well.

However, Je Tsongkhapa was a master who followed the lifestyle of the early Kadampa masters. The founder of the Kadampa masters, Master Drom, the King of the Dharma, always said: "One should always hide one's own qualities, even if one has many of them, and instead one should speak of the qualities of the others." One should hide one's own qualities and speak out the qualities of the others, that is the lifestyle of the great early Kadampa masters, like Master Drom, etc.

Even though they are highly realised and reached very high realisations of Tantra, but outwardly they do not show anything, not even a sign of a tantric practitioner. Je Tsongkhapa also has always fully and very diligently followed and accepted this kind of lifestyle. Therefore all these extraordinary clear realisations he had he always principally kept them for himself. Principally means that only for some very special purpose and for some very special persons like his masters or his special disciples he has spoken a little bit about those, but mostly he has always kept them secret and hidden and never showed them off.

Therefore those special life stories of Master Je Tsongkhapa these great disciples have heard directly from Je Tsongkhapa himself and also from Je Tsongkhapa's Gurus, like the Mahasiddha Legpe Dorje from Ladakh as well as the Master Umapa Pawo Dorje etc.; and sometimes also the meditational deities like Manjushri spoke about Je Tsongkhapa and about what he is. Manjushri also spoke to Togden Jampel Gyatso as well as the other masters about Je Tsongkhapa qualities. So therefore they have heard from very reliable sources and they know it themselves very well.

However, Je Tsongkhapa is somebody who did not like neither himself nor others to speak too much about his qualities, because he is somebody who very diligently followed the lifestyle of the great Kadampa masters who always hide their own qualities and speak of the qualities of others. That way they always kept this very humble behaviour never showing off as a very great master or great Tantrikas or this and that. And even though he had qualities he always kept them secret and hidden and did not speak about them; not like somebody who after just a little nice dream during the night the next morning immediately has to make publicity about it. It is not at all that way of lifestyle. Then it says:

He always kept it secret and hidden and also to his disciples he sealed them with his words, that they should not put everything in writings. Just a few, which were permitted to the omniscient Khedrup Rinpoche were also are put as a separate secret biography, apart from the main biography, written in a short manner and not put in the commonly known great biography, etc.

So therefore Je Tsongkhapa himself hid those qualities and he sealed them, he did not allow his disciples to speak about it. He sealed them with his word, with his order, that means he has sealed them to not to open it, so therefore they have not put everything in writings. And whatever few that Je Tsongkhapa gave permission to know through his disciples like omniscient Khedrup Rinpoche etc., are also not put in the main great biography of Je Tsongkhapa which is common to all, but they are written in a separate edition, which is called "Secret biography", where they are put in a short form.

And then it says:

What is not clear in those what is composed by omniscient Khedrup, some of them are written down by the Master Jampel Gyatso* and Nyening Kunga Delek**,

that is the very great Yogi, one of Je Tsongkhapa's disciples who is the most outstanding great meditator.

** Nyening Kunga Delek is also a great master who was a little bit at a later time and who was a disciple of Gyältsab Rinpoche. Nyening is actually his family name which is a high ranking of a very high family in West Tibet. So this Master Kunga Delek used to say: "I am not proud of having been born in the family of Nyening, but I am very proud of being a disciple of Gyältsab Rinpoche."

So he was an extraordinary great master. That Nyening Kunga Deleg also wrote a biography and then also Sang Sang Neringpa Chime Rabgye as I have mentioned briefly earlier. This Nyingmapa master Chime Rabgye is born in a line of a family of Nyingmapa Yogis, Sang Sang Neringpa is their family name. Chime Rabgye was the name of the master and he wrote a very beautiful biography of Je Tsongkhapa which has five parts, the last is about his disciples, about Je Tsongkhapa's life itself, the common life, and the hidden secret life, etc.

This Sang Sang Neringpa Chime Rabgye and also another master Kharnag Lotsawa*, have written in a scattered manner.

* that is a later master, who was a great translator called Kharnag Lotsawa.

That means not all writings together in one, but some here, some there, some one will find in that person's work and some in another person's work. So what is not found in Khedrup Rinpoche's secret biography, what is not mentioned there, you find them in the works of these other masters.

However they are written in a scattered manner,
they have not put it all in one, and they have not compiled it into one. So therefore, the commonly known great biography is just a little bit short in words.

So that means these biographies like the secret biographies Khedrup Rinpoche has written, are not clear about such points, but one finds these in the works of these other masters, where they are in a scattered manner and not compiled together. So therefore until now, before this biography was written, Je Tsongkhapa's great biography is short, the wordings are kind of short, although very meaningful in essence, it is not a big impressive text, but rather a short text.

Due to that the great biography is also short, without too many words:

Some ignorant ones, who are not endowed with analysis, think that just because of many pages of a biography that there are greater or vaster activities; so thinking that then they say directly: "The biographies of the earlier masters appear to be sufficient for a big scripture, but the biography of Je Tsongkhapa seems to be nothing more than just a little bit", as if one is speaking naturally; in essence they think there were no vast and extensive activities.

Because the written biography of Je Tsongkhapa is not so long in words, some ordinary persons who are ignorant and who do not possess the real intelligence and analysing mind and who only watch things superficially from the form of a book etc., think that if the biography is very thick, a very impressive book, then that means that this Lama has much greater and extensive activities.

These are the kind of ideas they have. Therefore, some of them even openly say that other former masters' biographies are sufficient to be a real big book (tib. legbam), but Je Tsongkhapa's biography is nothing more than just a little bit. Thus they speak with a pretension to speak naturally, but in essence what they are thinking is that Je Tsongkhapa's activities were not that extensive, were not something so vast and so great.

Also from the words of the great holders of the teaching of one's own tradition, of the Mount Geden, (the Gelug tradition), they are saying that the beings with small intelligence give the short biography as a reasoning and by thinking in such a way it appears they accumulate unmeritorious karma towards a holy field. So in order to stop that and in particular as the great omniscient Je Rinpoche's activities are equal to the space and among all the holders of the teachings in the midst of the snow mountains are completely raising up like the top of a Victory Banner, for the support of the faith of everybody, there is a definitive need to put down an extensive biography. That will be beneficial.

Some of the great masters also in Geden tradition (Je Tsongkhapa's tradition) say, it looks like people with small intelligence always end up accumulating very negative karma of abusing or neglecting a holy field, that means a holy person Je Tsongkhapa, just on the basis of their superficial reasoning regarding a small biography. In order to stop such accumulation of negative karma and critique and also the fact that Je Tsongkhapa's activity in reality is equal to the space if one analyses thoroughly with an unbiased mind in an intelligent manner then he is outstanding among all the scholar Siddhas of Tibet, there is a need of putting down more extensively his biography - this will be beneficial.

The activities of Je Tsongkhapa are 'among all the holders of the holy Dharma in the snow mountains (Tibet) so outstanding lke the top of the Victory Banner', which is a fact, and therefore there is also a need to write an extensive biography for the support and the nourishing of the faith of everybody towards such a holy being.

That means many of these masters also told the author himself that something like that would be very beneficial. So therefore it says:

Thus bestowing their word to me. More precisely it is written down at the time of epilog, at the end.

One of the masters who specially urged this author to write such a book is the famous master Kongpo Yeshe Tsondrue, the one who wrote the Essential Nectar Lam Rim, as we all know this beautiful Lam Rim prayer in verse, and we will see in the epilog of this book that he is one of the masters who urged the author to compose such an extensive biography of Je Tsongkhapa for all those purposes which I have mentioned earlier.

This also becomes a very important factor, which justifies his composition and makes it particularly meaningful. He did not just compose it, simply by having some ideas which may be correct or not, but also many other great masters who have seen this great purpose for the sentient beings and for generating faith in the Master Je Tsongkhapa, have asked and urged him to compose this. That makes the composition even more meaningful.

For the composition of a text of the Dharma one should have some kind of blessing, or permission, or urging on part of the Buddhas or deities or great masters and so on. The author does not say 'I have received some special urging from the deities' or anything like that, but when he says that he has been urged by certain great masters, that makes it already additionally purposeful to compose such a text.

So then we stop here for today.