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Biography of Master Je Tsongkhapa

As you remember we have started the explanations of the great biography of Master Je Tsongkhapa some time ago and we are still at the very beginning in the introductory part. It is not only introduction, but also contains the purpose of composing such a text and also in which way it is composed and also making some clarifications with regards to this not being a repetition to the already existing biography and what the special purpose of composing this text is and so on. So we are still in the middle of this.

As we have seen before, there are many purposes and the last which we have gone through last time was: there are even such people who out of their ignorance and lack of intelligence judge the qualities of the great master only from the size of the biographical book, instead of recognising and understanding the real qualities. Almost concluding from a thinner biographical book that such a master does not have so much great qualities. There are such ignorant views. So to dispel all these wrong views which exist regarding the qualities and activities of such a great master the author has composed this text by gathering all the information from various existing biographies by former great masters and put them together.

An additional reason for composing this text following the requests by other great masters such as Master Yeshe Tsondrue, the author of the "Essence of Nectar Lam Rim", and other great masters who have asked him to compose such a text in order to dispel all the wrong views and misjudgements and also to make people know the real qualities of the extraordinary master Je Tsongkhapa, thereby generating in their mind faith and respect towards this master and also for following oneself the same way. So these are the purposes.

So then he says further:

The secret biography etc., the wonderful activities which are separately put down, are either printed or not (some are printed, some are not even printed), so they have not become the object of hearing and seeing by most of the people.

That means that many of the biographies of Je Tsongkhapa, especially those so-called secret biographies, those extraordinary biographies that Khedrup Rinpoche has composed, that Togden Jampel Gyatso has composed, and the Nyingmapa master Sang Sang Neringpa has composed, though they exist, many of them have not been published and not been printed. They are not visible to the majority of people. Although there exist such biographies, many are not printed and only exist as manuscripts and are therefore very limited and have not become an object of everybody's reading and so forth.

So these are not the object of hearing and seeing by most of the people. On top of that the very intentional purpose of the omniscient Master Je Tsongkhapa and his principal activity is just as in the past the teacher, the Great Compassionate One (the Buddha himself), in front of those individuals endowed with the fortune who have become a fit vessel of the supreme vehicle of the secret tantra, to generate directly as the chief of the mandalas of the ocean-like tantras, and directly show the mandalas and turn the infinite wheel of the Dharma of the secret mantras.

That is one reason why such secret biographies are not so available to be seen by everybody. On top of it Je Tsongkhapa's intentional purpose and the way how he wanted things and the way how he did things or lived is like Buddha Shakyamuni, when he taught the teaching of the tantra. When Buddha turned the wheel of the teaching of Dharma of the tantra, he taught it front of those disciples, individuals, who were the right vessel for it, who had the real necessary fortune and who had become mature for it, who had also the necessary faith and necessary accumulation of merit for receiving such a teaching. Then in front of them he created the mandala of the deities of that tantra.

Tantra is so vast like an ocean, there are so many tantras, so variegated. So in whatever tantra he taught he generated himself as the chief of the mandala of that tantra and then showed to the disciples that mandala, led them directly into that mandala. And there, in the mandala he gave the teaching of those secret mantras such as Kalachakra teachings or Chakrasambhara teachings or Guhayasamaja teachings.

Whatever tantra he taught he generated himself as the central figure of this mandala and then he taught. Like in Dhanakataka he created the mandala of Kalachakra and on the peak of the mount Meru he created the mandala of the Chakrasambhara. Some tantras he taught in Akanishta, Guhayasamaja he taught in Odiyana. In these various places in front of those very special disciples he created those mandalas of the deities, and rising himself as the central figure of the deity he taught directly, he initiated them into these mandalas and gave the teaching of that particular tantra.

So this way Buddha taught rising himself in the form of various deities of these different mandalas, and that way he taught all the tantras belonging to the Kriya, Yoga, Charya and Anuttara Tantra according to their levels. Through withdrawing his normal ordinary ascetic form and rising himself in the form of these deities, then giving them all the initiation and letting them in directly. In general when we for example now take the tantric initiation we do it all more on the imaginative state, but at that time Buddha directly let them into the mandala in a similar procedure and then he taught these Dharmas there. That way he turned all the infinite wheel of Dharma of the secret tantra. However it says:

In front of the appearance to the common disciples, then starting from showing the manner of attaining the complete fully accomplished enlightenment, starting from there until showing the activity of parinirvana only in the aspect of this supreme Nirmanakaya as a fully ordained monk with an entourage of the Bodhisattva Sangha and Shravaka Sangha, staying together with them, and turning three times the wheel of Dharma etc. That way this precious teaching has illuminated as the field of merit of all sentient beings including the devas, completely similar in every respect.

That is how he taught most of the tantric teachings. However, to the common disciples, the ordinary disciples, to the apparent object of their vision, Buddha has shown his activity in a different way. He has shown the activity as we usually know it through his biography, starting from the time he has attained full enlightenment – as it says: showing the way – that means actually he was already enlightened; all his twelve deeds were deeds of an enlightened being. However, in the vision of ordinary beings he first came as an unenlightened bodhisattva and then he attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree.

Starting from the moment where he has shown his enlightenment until he passed away (shown the deed of withdrawing his physical form or passed into Parinirvana} he taught and fulfilled his activities always in the same aspect as a bhikshu, a fully ordained monk, with the form of supreme Nirmanakaya, always surrounded by bodhisattva sanghas and shravaka sanghas. In front of them he turned three times the wheel of Dharma. That way he has illuminated the whole world through giving this precious teaching, which is really like the supreme field of merit, the great fortune of all sentient beings including the devas. So Je Tsongkhapa has also shown his activities corresponding to that in every respect.

That does not mean, that Buddha in his regular form as a monk did not teach any tantra. There are also considerable amounts of tantra which he has taught in his monk form. Quite a few of the Kriya tantric practices like Ushnisha Vijaya and Ushnisha Sitatapadratra, which Buddha taught in his regular monk form, there are also many dharanies and many mantras he taught in his regular monk's form. But the main major tantric teachings, practice of the stage of generation and completion, all these, in particular Anuttara tantras he taught in another form, in the form of these chiefs of the mandalas like Vajradhara, Chakrasambhara and in Yogatantra like Vairochana etc. Je Tsongkhapa also led a life which corresponds in every respect to that. So therefore it says:

Similar in every respect in front of what is apparent outwardly to the common view with regards to the bodhisattvas and Vinaya precepts, subtle and gross, unstained by even the slightest defilements and downfalls, he held principally that very boundary of the rules of the Buddha, apart from that, calling oneself a tantrika, such haughtiness of neglecting and abusing the Vinaya with all kinds of aspects of gross behaviours he never had. And the practices of the secret tantras are done in an extremely secret way, corresponding exactly to the meaning of the name "secret mantra".

That means, corresponding exactly to the Buddha's way Je Tsongkhapa also outwardly to the common view that everybody can see, led a life in which he has given a great priority to all the boundaries of the rules and precepts prescribed by Buddha without being ever stained even by the slightest downfall or transgression with regards to both the bodhisattva precepts as well as Pratimoksha precepts.

He never behaved with haughtiness, thinking oneself as very special and a superior one and thereby completely abusing or neglecting the Vinaya by saying "I am a great tantrika, so I do not need to respect so much all the Vinaya rules" and so on. Such haughtiness or recklessness he never had. And also he never had this kind of coarse behaviour of so-called tantrikas.

Further it says that his own practice of tantra was done in a very secret way, which corresponds to the actual meaning of the name tantra, which is called "secret mantra". That means something that is to be practiced in a secret, hidden way and not to be practiced by showing to all. That is also the key to the accomplishment of siddhis. There are four causes for accomplishing siddhis:

* completely stable and irreversible faith from which one will never turn back;
* having a good intelligence, which can overcome all kinds of doubts;
* having a really well concentrated mind
* practicing in secret.

These are the four keys to the accomplishment of siddhis. This corresponds exactly to the practice of tantra. Accordingly, Je Tsongkhapa also practiced his great tantric practices in a secret way.

And it says further:

Also to the disciples, who are individuals which are fit vessels, he propagated in a very secret and strict way and never made it public.

Je Tsongkhapa gave great teachings of the tantra; he was one of the great teachers of tantra. However, when he gave teachings of the tantra, he gave it to the fit vessels, who were really ready for it and who really benefited from it. To them he taught all the tantras in a very strict and secret manner, never made it public, teaching something publicly to anybody who is mature or not mature, faithful or unfaithful, in such a way Je Tsongkhapa never taught.

Publicly he never gave any tantric initiations. He gave tantric initiations, but very secretly to some. He gave more teachings on the practice of tantra than initiations. But his teachings were only given to those who were really ready for that, to the great disciples, which were then recorded and written down by all these great masters and disciples, and we can still study these. They have become the great treatises of the tantra. He has also composed most important tantric treatises. However, when he taught these tantras, he taught in a very secret way only to those who are fit vessels.

And then it says further:

Although the ultimate realisation of the path of the generation and completion has generated in his mind, he has never shown casually obvious signs of siddhis or miracles etc.; without showing that, outwardly holding the behaviour of a Shravaka, and inwardly one completely enjoying the samaja he practised exclusively the meaning of that passage.

So Je Tsongkhapa through his practices has attained the highest, ultimate realisations. That means realisation of Yugananda, the great union of clear light and illusory body and all such things, all the common and the extraordinary siddhis he has accomplished. However, he never showed casually like a spectacle in front of the people very obviously some kind of miracles or siddhis. Instead he always practised exclusively the meaning of this passage, which comes from the Guhayasamaja Tantra, where it says:

"Outwardly holding the behaviour of a Shravaka, and inwardly completely enjoying the Guhayasamaja."

So that is the way how he is also applied it into practice. This is how it should be practised, outwardly one leads a life as a Shravaka, abiding with his Vinaya rules and so forth, but inwardly he is completely enjoying the highest state of bliss and void experience of the Maha-Anuttara Tantra or the Guhayasamaja.

So he practised exclusively in such a manner, with the priority only for the abiding of the precious teaching in the world for a long time.

So everything Je Tsongkhapa did, how he behaved and what he taught and what he did, everything he aimed at one purpose: for the precious teaching of the Buddha to abide in a faultless way as long as possible, for a very long time in the world, without confusion, without misunderstandings; he gave all his priorities to that.

There were some, who thought that Je Tsongkhapa, for example as a great tantrika on a certain higher level, should have consorts and such kind of things. Of course, Je Tsongkhapa on part of his own realisation and tantric attainments, there is nothing wrong in Je Tsongkhapa taking that aspect of tantric practices. He is completely able and it would only be beneficial, and no harm whatsoever.

However, Je Tsongkhapa as the leader of a teaching showing such an example then will be followed by a lot of so-called disciples and their disciples and so forth, who would only imitate the outer deeds of the master without the inner qualities; then this would be just like as we say 'a fox jumping at the cliff, where the tiger jumps', and then the fox breaks his own backbone, that is the only thing that will happen. Due to such a danger Je Tsongkhapa never showed such an example to his disciples.

He also did all that in order for precious teaching of Dharma to abide for a long time without misunderstandings and malpractices, without confusion, for the sake of every sentient being, not only for the highest and most advanced people, but up to the most beginner level. He has dedicated everything for the sake of that. So therefore outwardly he has never shown this kind of style of a tantrika. However it says here:

Some people without knowing it, who are proud of holding some tenants of older, newer, or later schools, think that Je Tsongkhapa is endowed with qualities of being learned in the treatises of the Madhyamika and Paramitas,Vinaya, Abhidharma, and Pramana, etc.; and on top of that also someone in which the qualities of scholarly knowledge and austere behaviour and a good nature,
of following perfectly the rules and the precepts of the Vinaya (are apparent), but apart from that think he has not attained higher realisation of the Tantra.

So there are some people, who are even proud of being a holder of the teachings of the older or newer schools of Tibet and think that Je Tsongkhapa is indeed a very great scholar and has great knowledge and is very well versed in all the treatises of the five topics and so forth, and on top of that is somebody, who abides very perfectly in his disciplines of precepts of the Vinaya and so forth, and is a very austere and diligent practitioner with good ethics and discipline and has a very good and kind nature; however, they think, he has no high tantric realisations.

There are people who think like that, not only in those times, but even nowadays. I was sometimes quite astonished, when I read books in English, encyclopaedias and all kinds of dictionaries and books written on the history and the religious traditions of Tibet, written by various people. But for some reason in many of them I found this widespread opinion, which surely is coming from some Tibetan influence, referring to Je Tsongkhapa and his tradition always just exactly like this: Je Tsongkhapa is a reformer and he is very strict in Vinaya discipline and a very great scholar; and that's all. Mostly this is the common view in many encyclopaedias, even in some quite respected encyclopaedias on Buddhism.

So these are not well informed, completely misinformed, or there is a lack of information from our side, the side of the follower of Je Tsongkhapa, never paying any attention to such things. And there are others, who are writing many books, here and there, and not only once, but everywhere. Through those of course, who know now and recognise the teaching of Je Tsongkhapa slowly this doubt clears away, but many people still have always that same view, of Je Tsongkhapa just being a very great scholar and his main work being on Vinaya discipline; and his tradition as something that stresses much on intellectual studies and strict discipline and that's all; a view which is totally minimising the real qualities.

Here the author is also saying the same thing, because such views existed in Tibet also, and from their part this influence has come among the Western Buddhists. In a way Je Tsongkhapa is praised, but at the same time it is not a real praise, because it minimises his real qualities.

You might have seen such statements. If you take more notice of existing books, then you find always this kind of misinformation. And when such people write about their own system, they write as if it were a direct way to enlightenment, as being great this and great that and some immediate way to enlightenment, while the real teaching of Je Tsongkhapa, which is really an extraordinary way to attain enlightenment, is more or less reduced to some kind of a scholarly work, something good for the universities. So slowly we must also help to dispel these kind of wrong views, this is important.

Of course such views are not the views of the really great masters of the traditions, as it was already mentioned here that one of the most important secret biography writers of Je Tsongkhapa is the great Nyingma master Sang Sang Neringpa, who also emphasised very strongly in his work that 'some of the people from our traditions sometimes underestimate the qualities of Master Je Tsongkhapa', and that in reality Master Je Tsongkhapa has all these extraordinary qualities and for that reason he wrote the biography. So there are those, who really recognise Je Tsongkhapa's qualities; many great masters from Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyü, all respect Je Tsongkhapa very much. But there are still others, who for sectarian reason minimise his qualities - that is what he is referring to. So thinking like that it says:

Somebody who thinks like that is like somebody mistaking the sun for a glow-worm.

Je Tsongkhapa is like the sun, but they minimise and think it is just like a glowing worm, this little insect, which has a light at the bottom. This is of course a total misconception, Je Tsongkhapa is not just a scholar, not only just a Vinayanist. On the contrary, the particular, main qualities in his teachings as well as in his realisations come from the Tantra. The one who really recognises Je Tsongkhapa and his principal, extraordinary qualities as well as his teachings sees that these come mainly from the tantric aspect. And he also gave much more teachings on the Tantras than on the Sutras. However, many people have not even seen these at all, do not even know about this, never read these teachings and just make false assumptions. So therefore it says:

Generating the misconception of regarding the sun as a glowing worm and motivated by that, then they say that in the tradition of the Mount Geden there is no tantric practice. And others say they may have a tantric practice, but they do not have a profound instruction to attain enlightenment in one body and in one life etc.; there are those people, who say all kinds of things.

So motivated by such very limited and false views, then people not only criticise or abuse the Master Je Tsongkhapa, but also his tradition, by saying that they have no tantric practice. Some say they have some tantric practice, but they do not have this profound special method to attain enlightenment in one body, in one life etc.; there are people, who say all these kind of things.

Then it says that:

The direct cause or the root of this kind of ignorance is the fault of not understanding exactly the biography of the secrets of the body, speech, and mind of the omniscient Je Tsongkhapa; it appears to be that.

So the author says, one of the main reasons, or the main cause, or the root for such misunderstandings or saying all sorts of things like that, is that these people have not understood exactly what is really Je Tsongkhapa's biography, his life, his activities of his body, speech and mind. Not knowing them well, then they just assume all kinds of things and say all kinds of things.

So maybe we can stop here for today.
EDITORIAL