Jaya Pandita (1642-1708)

The life story of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, his earlier incarnations and transformation into Dorje Shugden was especially influential to the Mongolians. Biographies of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen and his preceding incarnations had been written over the centuries in the literary genre known as rtogs brjod. This tradition of recognizing the protector Dorje Shugden on the basis of these earlier lives culminated in the 19th century, both in Mongolia and Tibet. This gave rise to a unique rtogs brjod in which Dorje Shugden is inextricably linked to his past lives. However, initially the legacy of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen and the diffusion of Dorje Shugden practice into Mongolia is multi-faceted and takes on some beliefs apparently exclusive to Northeastern Asia and the particular geopolitics between the various Mongol tribes and the Manchus.

While Mongolian lamas do not seem to have been major generators of Dorje Shugden rituals early on, they did preserve the important life story details (rnam thar) and writings of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen. His rnam thar was preserved in the works of Jaya Pandita1 blo bzang 'phrin las (1642-1708), an important master at the time when much of the profound knowledge of Buddhism and the Gelug in particular was being imported into Mongolia.

Jaya Pandita was born into family descendents of Gengis Khan in Mongolia. According to one account, he lived in Mongolia practicing Yamantaka, White Umbrella, and Guhyasamaja.2 In 1660, at age 19, he went to Tibet and received full ordination from the Fifth Dalai Lama, who conferred on him the title Jaya Pandita.3 He also studied medicine, and entered Tashi Lhunpo to study the great classics.4 Thus, he relied on many great masters of his time and returned to Mongolia in 1679 where he translated many texts into the Mongolian language. In his homeland, he also founded a monastery and four colleges.5

Lobsang Tamdin’s be bum extracted the biographies (rnam thar) of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen and his reincarnation lineage into a work called sprul sku grags pa rgyal mtshan gyi sngon byung ‘khrungs rabs dang bcas pa'i rnam thar (dza ya pandi ta blo bzang 'phrin las kyi gsan yig nas zur du bkod pa bzhugs so). The originals can also be found directly in the catalog of received teachings (thob yig) of Jaya Pandita published by Lokesh Chandra, International Academy of Indian Culture (1981, vol. 4, folios 43-60). This contains the list of the long incarnation lineage of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, with brief biographies. The biography of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen himself contains a year-by-year account of his life.

In his introduction to the be bum, Lobsang Tamdin writes that Dorje Shugden is a magical emanation of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen’s three enlightened secrets (gsang gsum). Referencing Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen’s rnam thar details (from Jaya Pandita), he states that when he was young he had a vision of Jamgon Sakya Pandita, the Conqueror Tsongkhapa, and Panchen Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen. At that time, Panchen Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen told him:

After this in the future in the Eastern City,
Disciples of Manjushri’s pureland will increase,
Then in the tribal regions the Dark Land,
Completely light the lamp of dharma,
In short with thoughts of love and compassion,
Perfectly accomplish others’ purpose to greatly benefit beings.

Lobsang Tamdin states the meaning of the prophecy (lung bstan) is that as soon as Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen passed away, the Emperor of China was born. This was taken as a sign that he had taken rebirth in northern Mongolia. Indeed, a relevant entry is found in Sumpa Khenpo’s Chronology of Tibet for the Wood Sheep year (1655-1656), preceded by a symbol that denotes an entry for a person’s birth:6 “The Kangxi Emperor [is born and] becomes famous as the reincarnation of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen.”

Lobsang Tamdin further states that the Emperor Manjushri ('jam dbyangs gong ma) became renowned as an emanation of Red Manjushri ('jam dpal dmar po), and many masters said that he was a rebirth of Panchen Sonam Dragpa and that the first incarnation of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen was Lion’s Roar Manjushri ('jam dbyangs smra seng).7 One such mention is in one of the largest projects sponsored by Kangxi from 1718-1720: the Mongolian Red Kanjur (collection of all Buddha Shakyamuni’s direct teachings). The preface of this states:

The Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri, transformed himself into the occupant of the “Fearless Lion Throne of Gold” to appear as none other than the sublime “Kangxi-Manjushri.”8

Thus, the concept of a Dharma King is not limited only to personifying the Dalai Lama as a sovereign Avalokiteshvara. It has been applied to the Qing Emperors as well, yet as the Manjushri counterpart. As in the case of the Dalai Lama, justification of this concept was based heavily on prophecies, as can be found in Desi Sangye Gyatso’s continuation of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s autobiography.9 Qing rulers were addressed as Emperor Manjughosa quite early on in the existence of the Qing Empire, specifically by the Fifth Dalai Lama and Panchen Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen,10 with this continuing into the 18th century with the Seventh Dalai Lama Kalsang Gyatso.11

In one respect, the prophecy unfolded quite favorably for the spread of Gelug sect in Northeastern Asia. In addition to the Mongolia Kanjur noted above, The Last Emperors summarizes the following achievements:12

The Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong emperors renovated or built a total of thirty-two Tibetan Buddhist temples within Peking ... built eleven Lamaist temples in Chengde... The third major Lamaist center in China proper that was built up with imperial donations was Wutaishan. Wutaishan became a religious center for the tribes of Inner Mongolia... During the Kangxi reign ten Chinese Buddhist monasteries here were converted into monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism.

Wutaishan was especially significant as it has long been associated with Manjushri. However, such liberal recognition of sovereign power as divine force does not come without its issues, especially with the consideration of the division between Mongol tribes in the early 18th century due to the pan-Mongolian efforts led by Galden Khan that was quashed by the Qing Empire. As with the Dalai Lama in Tibet, perception of the Qing Emperor as Manjushri is the pinnacle of mixture of power and religion and certainly must have had its detractors within the purely religious ranks, especially those of the Oirat Mongols, a tribe involved in the effort that unsuccessfully defied the Qing under the command of Kangxi.

Immediately following Sumpa Khenpo’s Chronology of Tibet for the Wood Sheep year (1655-1656) noted above is an entry for the Fire Bird year (1657-1658) stating:13 “This saying that this king of Tibet (bod kyi de'i rgyal po) is gzim khang gong ma Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen is just talk [driven by] attachment and aversion.” The contested words here are bod kyi de'i rgyal po, which Dreyfus considers to refer to a rgyal po spirit of Tibet, namely Dorje Shugden. However, this most likely refers to the more common usage of the term rgyal po as king, in particular Kangxi, as Sumpa Khenpo was Mongolian (Baatud tribe of the Oirat) and by this time had recognized the sovereignty of the Qing over Tibet.14 Second, Kangxi’s work is primarily concerned with external, not spiritual matters, and due to the lack of context for bod kyi de'i rgyal po here, it most likely refers to the preceding chronicle (Kangxi becomes renown as the rebirth of gzims khang 'og).

Finally, Sumpa Khenpo probably did not agree with recognizing sovereign figures as reincarnations of purely spiritual personages. In particular, although Sumpa Khenpo served under the Qianlong Emperor, he certainly had ambivalence about Kangxi and Qing hegemony, as he mentions the destruction done to Kokonuur in 1723 in his home region after a failed rebellion against the Qing that was suppressed by Kangxi.15 Furthermore, Sumpa Khenpo in his Chronology of Tibet refers to the Fifth Dalai Lama not in sovereign terms but with purely spiritual titles such as bla ma lnga ba, while referring to the sovereign of that time Gushri Khan as such.

1 TBRC Person RID: P2156. Not to be confused with the Jaya Pandita of the Oirat tribe, who preceded him in birth.

2 Don rdor and bsTan 'dzin chos grags (1993), p. 684. White Umbrella = Sitatapatra (Skt.).

3 Chandra, Lokesh (1963). Materials for a History of Tibetan Literature. International Academy of Indian Culture: New Delhi. p. 36.

4 Don rdor and bsTan 'dzin chos grags (1993), p. 684.

5 Chandra, Lokesh (1963). Materials for a History of Tibetan Literature. International Academy of Indian Culture: New Delhi. p. 36.

6 Sum-pa Mkhan-po Ye-shes-dpal-'byor (1991), p. 194.

7 Lobsang Tamdin, (1975), vol. X, p. 399.

8 Berger, Patricia Ann (2003) Empire of Emptiness. University of Hawaii Press, p. 92.

9 See Life of the Fifth Dalai Lama (1999), translated by Zahiruddin Ahmad. International Academy of India Culture.

10 Henss, Michael (1998). The Qianlong Emperor as a Grand Lama.

11 Dharmatala (1997), p. 437.

12 Rawski, Evelyn S. (2001). The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions. University of California Press, pp. 252, 253.

13 Sum-pa Mkhan-po Ye-shes-dpal-'byor (1991), pp. 194-195.

14 Erdenibayar, Sumpa Khenpo Ishibaljur: a Great Figure in Mongolian and Tibetan Cultures, in The Mongolia-Tibet Interface: Opening New Research Terrains in Inner Asia, edited by Uradyn E. Bulag and Hildegard G.M. Diemberger, PIATS 2003, vol. 9. (2007). Leiden: Brill, p. 304.

15 Erdenibayar (2007), p. 308.