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Buddhism Tsongkhapa
by
Gareth Sparham

Introduction

Tsongkhapa Losang Drakpa (Tsong kha pa Blo bzang grags pa), also known to his followers as Je Rinpoche (Rje Rin po che) (“Precious Lord”) (b. 1357–d. 1419), is a historical figure, and has at least two further, distinct, mythological identities. Historically, he is the founder of Ganden (Dga’ ldan) monastery (the oldest monastery of the Gelukpa [Dge lugs pa] sect), the rejuvenator of the Great Prayer Festival (Smon lam chen mo) in Lhasa, and a prolific author whose collected works run to eighteen or nineteen volumes. He was born at the end of a long period of Tibetan history marked by diversity and scholarship, culminating in the final redaction of the Buddhist canon in Tibetan (the Bka’ ’gyur and Bstan ’gyur), primarily under Buton (Bu ston Rin chen grub) who died in 1364. The years after Tsongkhapa’s death are marked by the growth of large monasteries and an increasing religious identification with sect, rather than teacher. Tsongkhapa in myth is the cultic center of the Gelukpa sect. In this form, flanked by his two most important followers, Darma Rin chen and Kedrup Pelzangpo (Mkhas grub dpal bzang po), all wearing the distinctive conical yellow hats of the sect, Tsongkhapa is equivalent to the historical Buddha Śākyamuni. After the rise to power of the Fifth Dalai Lama (b. 1617–d. 1682), this mythic form of Tsongkhapa legitimated the power of the Dalai Lamas and their pre-1959 Ganden Potrang (Dga’ ldan pho brang) government. In Western myth, Tsongkhapa is the Protestant, Martin Luther–like reformer who defeated the excesses of the degenerate (red-hat) Buddhist church in Tibet. Largely the construction of 19th-century Orientalism, this Tsongkhapa is the founder of a rational and ethical Buddhism that contrasts with the superstition and debauchery of other Lamaist sects. Finally, Tsongkhapa in the myth of the modern New Kadampa sect is one of a triumvirate of buddhas, preceded by Śākyamuni, and followed by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. His pure dharma is protected by Dorje Shugden.

General Overviews

Richardson 1962, Snellgove and Richardson 1968, and Powers 2007 are standard works on Tibet and Tibetan culture with sections on Tsongkhapa and the Gelukpa sect. Kapstein 2006 documents the history of the rise to power of the Dge lugs pa sect under the Fifth Dalai Lama; Kawamura 1998 gives Tsongkhapa’s early critics and defenders.

Biographies and Hagiographies

There is no definitive biography of Tsongkhapa in a European language. In Tibetan, Kedrup Pelzangpo’s biography Dad pa’i ’jug ngog (Stream of faith) is included in the first volume (Ka) of the collected works of Tsongkhapa (Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center). Thurman 1981 contains authentic translations of Tsongkhapa’s own short descriptions of his intellectual and spiritual life, and abridged translations of passages from Kedrup’s biography. Kaschewsky 1971 is a Tibetan edition of the well-known 19th-century Mongolian author Chahar Geshe’s (Cha har dge bshes Blo bzang tshul khrims) long biography of Tsongkhapa. Darhan Tulku 1963 contains an exhaustive list of Tibetan hagiographies. Vostrikov 1970 lists and describes these and other Tibetan works on Tsongkhapa; Yoshimizu 1989 describes the contents of Tsongkhapa’s Collected Works. Obermiller 1935 and Tillemans 1998 supply additional information, as do the introductions to many of the translations listed here.

  • Darhan Tulku (Dar han mkhan sprul bLo bzang ’phrin las rnam rgyal). Tsong kha pa chen po’i rnam par thar pa thub bstan mdzes pa’i rgyan gcig ngo mtshar nor bu’i ’phreng ba. Varanasi, India: Gelukpa Students Welfare Association, 1963.

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    A standard Tibetan hagiographic biography, it contains an exhaustive list of earlier Tibetan biographies on p. 632.

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  • Kaschewsky, Rudolph. Das Leben des lamaistischen Heiligen Tsongkhapa Blo-bzaṅ-grags-pa (1357–1419). Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1971.

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    Tibetan edition of Cha har dge bshes Blo bzang tshul khrims’s long hagiographic biography of Tsongkhapa.

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  • Obermiller, Eugene. “Tsoṅ-kha-pa le Pandit.” Mélanges Chinois et Bouddhiques 3 (1935): 319–338.

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    A standard reference for details of the life of Tsongkhapa.

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  • Thurman, Robert A. F. The Life and Teachings of Tsong-Khapa. Dharmsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1981.

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    Although much of the book is hagiographic in tone, the translations of Tsongkhapa’s own short descriptions of his intellectual and spiritual life are authoritative.

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  • Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center.

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    Three sets of the collected works of Tsongkhapa (the Kumbum Jampaling, Tashilhunpo Parnying, and Lhasa Sho print editions) are available in digital form at this site. Tsong kha pa chen po’i gsung ’bum (Delhi: Ngawang Geleg Demo, 1977) is an often cited edition of Tsongkhapa’s works. The Lhasa Zhol print edition (Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1981) and the Sku ’bum print edition (Xining, China: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1987) are also frequently cited.

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  • Tillemans, T. J. F. “Tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward Craig, 487–490. London: Routledge, 1998.

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    A good, short summary of Tsongkhapa’s intellectual life, focusing on his contributions to the fields of epistemology and the philosophy of emptiness (śūnyatā).

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  • Vostrikov, A. I. Tibetan Historical Literature. Translated by Harish Chandra Gupta. Calcutta: Indian Studies, 1970.

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    Provides helpful information in English about the Tibetan hagiographic biographies of Tsongkhapa.

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  • Yoshimizu, Chizuko. Descriptive Catalogue of the Naritasan Institute Collection of Tibetan Works. Vol. 1. Narita, Japan: Naritasan shinshoji, 1989.

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    Contains brief descriptions of the contents of Tsonkhapa’s Collected Works.

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Early Works

It is customary to divide the works of Tsongkhapa into those written before his retreat in Olka (’Ol kha chos lung), and those after.

Translation

Tsongkhapa’s earliest work is probably Kun gzhi rnam bshad (Sparham 1993), his explanation of the “foundation consciousness” (ālaya-vijñāna), a central tenet of the Yogācāra school following the works of Asaṅga. It should be read together with Stearns 1999, a translation of a work on the same topic by Dolpopa Sherap Gyeltsen (Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan) (b. 1292–d. 1361). Sparham 2007–2009 is a complete translation of Legs bshad gser phreng (Golden garland), his important, early commentary on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra.

  • Sparham, Gareth, trans. Ocean of Eloquence. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

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    An early work by Tsongkhapa on the ālaya-vijñāna showing the development of his thought and his early antipathy to the view that there is a separate, ultimately existing, foundation consciousness. It should be read in conjunction with Stearns 1999.

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  • Sparham, Gareth, trans. Golden Garland of Eloquence, by Tsong kha pa. Vol. 1–3. Freemont, CA: Jain, 2007–2009.

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    This is Legs bshad gser phreng, Tsongkhapa’s early explanation of the Indian and Tibetan Prajñāpāramitā tradition before 1400 based on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra. Shows aspects of Tsongkhapa’s thought that differ from his mature Middle Way views in his later works.

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  • Stearns, Cyrus, trans. The Buddha from Dolpo. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.

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    Dolpopa’s explanation of different types of foundation concsiousness (kun gzhi). An excellent introduction to the Jonang view Tsongkhapa opposed. Informs the Kun gzhi rnam bshad. Revised edition published in 2010 (Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion).

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Analysis

Apple 2008 is a detailed study of Tsongkhapa’s view of the ideal Saṅgha based on two early works. Makransky 1997 includes an explanation of Tsongkhapa’s early views on the nature of buddhahood.

  • Apple, James B. Stairway to Nirvāṇa. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008.

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    A detailed explanation of the ideal Saṅgha based on Tsongkhapa’s Blo gsal bgrod pa’i them sdad (Stairway) and Legs bshad gser phreng. Chapter 2 (pp. 21–46) describes the intellectual tradition Tsongkhapa inherited and the Tibetan luminaries who immediately preceded Tsongkhapa, and details the chronology of some of his works.

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  • Makransky, John, J. Buddhahood Embodied: Sources of Controversy in India and Tibet. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

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    Chapter 12 is a study of Tsongkhapa’s views on the buddha kāya (bodies) and the objections of the Sakya (Sa skya) writer Gorampa (Go rab byams pa Bsod nams seng ge) (b. 1429–d. 1489).

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Middle Way Philosophy

Tsongkhapa details his mature views on the Madhyamaka (Middle Way) philosophy in five treatises.

Translation

Thurman 1984, Garfield and Geshe Ngawang Samten 2006, Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee 2000–2004, Wayman 1978, Hopkins 1980, and Hopkins 2008 are complete or partial translations of Tsongkhapa’s main works on the Middle Way. Cabezon 1992 is a readable translation of Kedrup’s explanation of Tsongkhapa’s Middle Way views.

  • Cabezon, Jose Ignacio, trans. A Dose of Emptiness: An Annotated Translation of the sTong thun chen mo of mKhas grub dGe legs dpal bzang. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

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    A readable explanation of the Middle Way philosophy as expounded by an early follower of Tsongkhapa.

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  • Garfield, Jay L., and Geshe Ngawang Samten, trans. Ocean of Reasoning. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Complete English translation of Tsongkhapa’s Rtsa shes ṭ īk chen rigs pa’i rgya mtsho, a word-by-word explanation of Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamakamūlakārikā; including a detailed elaboration of the difference between Rang rgyud pa (Svātantrika, Autonomist) and Thal ’gyur pa (Prāsaṅgika, Consequentialist) Middle Way views, and the place of pramāṇa (authoritative cognition) in those systems.

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey, ed and trans. Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism. Valois, NY: Snow Lion, 1980.

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    The second half of the book is a translation of the first five chapters of Dgongs pa rab gsal (Illumination of the thought), Tsongkhapa’s final systematic presentation of his Middle Way view.

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Tsong-kha-pa’s Final Exposition of Wisdom. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2008.

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    Contains a translation of one of Tsongkhapa’s last explanations of vipaśyanā (insight), and contrasts it with the views of Dolpopa.

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  • Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee, trans. The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. Vols. 1–3. Edited by Joshua W. C. Cutler. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2000–2004.

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    Tsongkhapa’s detailed explanation of his distinctive view of the difference between a deficient Svātantrika and a perfect Prāsaṅgika view, based on identifying excessive and deficient negation.

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  • Thurman, Robert A. F., trans. Tsong Khapa’s Speech of Gold in the Essence of True Eloquence. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

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    An authentic, but at times idiosyncratic, translation of the entirety of Legs bshad snying po, Tsongkhapa’s monograph on the interpretation of Yogācāra (Mind Only) and Madhyamaka (Middle Way) texts.

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  • Wayman, Alex, trans. Calming the Mind and Discerning the Real. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.

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    A translation of the insight section of the Great Treatise on the States of the Path to Enlightenment. Pages 15–25 of the introduction provide a good short biography of Tsongkhapa. The Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee translation is more faithful to the original. Criticism of the translation led to a heated exchange between the author and Geshe Lhundrup Sopa, summarized in Napper 1989 (cited under Middle Way Philosophy: Analysis).

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Analysis

Newland 1992 is an introduction to the two truths, the core issue in Tsongkhapa’s Middle Way philosophy; Tauscher 2000 is an authoritative study of the same topic. Ruegg 2002 lays out the eight crucial points of Tsongkhapa’s Middle Way. Newland 2008 and Napper 1989 are studies of the Middle Way set forth in the Great Treatise. Jinpa 2002 is a readable overview of Tsongkhapa’s philosophy. Ruegg 1963 is a short introduction to Jonangpa views that Tsongkhapa strongly opposes. Hopkins 2008 (cited under Middle Way Philosophy: Translation) lays side by side Tsongkhapa’s explanation of the Middle Way and Dolpopa’s explanation of Dbu ma chen mo (Great Middle Way). Van der Kuijp 1985 is an important review of Thurman 1984 (cited under Middle Way Philosophy: Translation).

Tsongkhapa on Pramāṅa (Epistemology)

Tsongkhapa’s Middle Way philosophy attempts to reconcile the Buddhist pramāṇa (epistemological) tradition of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti with Nāgārjuna’s Middle Way. Dreyfus 1997 provides a good introduction to the field. Steinkellner 1991 is a compilation of papers from the larger field of Buddhist epistemological studies that gives the larger context for research into this aspect of Tsongkhapa’s thought. Jackson 1994 and Tillemans 1999 provide an introduction to the importance of the two major Tibetan traditions influencing Tsongkhapa: the schools of Ngok (Rngog Blo ldan shes rab) and Sapaṇ (Sa skya paṇ ḍita). Tsongkhapa strongly argues that the epistemological tradition is concerned with soteriological matters. Steinkellner 1983 raises this issue as a topic of research. Jackson 1993 is a translation of part of Dharmakīrti’s work informed by Tsongkhapa’s views. Van der Kuijp 1999 supplies many important details of text-historical issues pertaining to the intellectual development of Tsongkhapa and his followers. Ruegg 2000 explores the tension inherent in a strong version of Nāgārjuna’s Middle Way and an acceptance of the Buddhist Epistemological school.

  • Dreyfus, Georges. Recognizing Reality: Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy and Its Tibetan Interpretations. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

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    A helpful introduction to the issues. Focusing on apoha (the exclusion principle) in Gelukpa presentations of pramāṇa (valid cognition) based on the views of Tsongkhapa, it explains Sa skya Paṇ ḍita’s contribution, shows how Tsongkhapa’s presentation of pramāṇa differs from his, and investigates in detail later critics who reject Tsongkhapa’s interpretations.

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  • Jackson, D. P. “The Status of Pramāna Doctrine According to Sa skya Pandita and Other Tibetan Masters: Theoretical Discipline or Doctrine of Liberation?” In The Buddhist Forum. Vol. 3, 1991–1993. Edited by Tadeusz Skorupski and Ulrich Pagel, 85–129. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1994.

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    Provides a context for Tsongkhapa’s views on pramāṇa.

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  • Jackson, Roger R., trans. Is Enlightenment Possible? Dharmakīrti and rGyal tshab rje on Knowledge, Rebirth, No-Self, and Liberation. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1993.

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    Although strongly criticized by Eli Franco in his Dharmakrti on Compassion and Rebirth (Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien, 1997) as not faithful to Dharmakīrti, it still provides an accessible understanding of the second chapter (Tibetan numbering) of the Pramāṇavārttika chapter as understood by a close associate of Tsongkhapa.

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  • Ruegg, David Seyfort. Three Studies in the History of Indian and Tibetan Madhyamaka Philosophy. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskund 50. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Weiden, 2000.

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    “On Epistemological-Logical (pramāṇa) Theory and the Ontic in Tsoṅ kha pa’s Madhyamaka Philosophy,” chapter 3 of this work, is about the tension between Tsongkhapa’s acceptance of pramāṇa (authoritative knowledge) and his assertion that dharmas (phenomena) lack any essential identity.

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  • Steinkellner, Ernst. “Tshad ma’i skyes bu: Meaning and Historical Significance of the Term.” Paper presented at the Csoma de Körös Symposium, Velm-Vienna, Austria, 13–19 September 1981. In Contributions on Tibetan Religion and Philosophy. Edited by Ernst Steinkellner and Helmut Tauscher, 275–284. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 11. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien, 1983.

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    First posed the question of whether Tsongkhapa’s explanation of the opening verses of Dignāga’s Pramānasamuccaya was based on earlier Indian and Tibetan explanations, or whether it was an original view.

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  • Steinkellner, Ernst, ed. Studies in the Buddhist Epistemological Tradition. Papers Presented at the Second International Dharmakrti Conference, Vienna, 11–16 June 1989. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1991.

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    The variety of contributions gives the necessary context for understanding larger issues to do with Tsongkhapa’s use of pramāṇa.

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  • Tillemans, Tom J. F. Scripture, Logic, Language: Essays on Dharmakīrti and His Tibetan Successors. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1999.

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    A collection of essays covering a wide range of subjects, sometimes technical, by a leading scholar of Tsongkhapa and Gelukpa Epistemology and Middle Way.

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  • Van der Kuijp, Leonard W. J. “Remarks on the ‘Person of Authority’ in the Dga’ ldan pa/Dge lugs pa School of Tibetan Buddhism.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 119.4 (1999): 646–672.

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    A review of Tom J. F. Tilleman’s Persons of Authority: The sTon pa tshad ma’i skyes bur sgrub pa’i gtam of A lag sha Ngag dbang bstan dar, A Tibetan Work on the Central Religious Questions in Buddhist Epistemology (Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 1993). Considers the sometimes uncritical use of later Gelukpa characterizations of Tsongkhapa’s views on pramāṇa and asks whether Darma Rinchen’s views are, in fact, just a restatement of Tsongkhapa’s.

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Tsongkhapa on Yogācāra (Mind Only) and the Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika Distinction

In his mature works, Tsongkhapa draws a distinction between two schools of Middle Way philosophy: Rang rgyud pa (Svātantrika, Autonomist) whose views he criticizes, and Thal ’gyur pa (Prāsaṅgika, Consequentialist) whose views he privileges as correct.

Translation

To the translations listed throughout this bibliography, add Hopkins 1999, Hopkins 2006, and Padmakara Translation Group 2002, an excellent translation of the nonsectarian Rimay (Ris med) views, critical of Gelukpa, of Nyingmapa (Rnying ma pa) master Mipham (Mi pham rnam rgyal rgya mtsho) (b. 1846–d. 1912).

Gelukpa Explanations

Tsongkhapa changes and incorporates views central to Dolpopa’s philosophy into a discredited Mind Only school, a strategy celebrated by later Gelukpa writers. Hopkins 2002 and Hopkins 2006 are exhaustive presentations of Gelukpa explanations of Mind Only views that are finally to be rejected. Dreyfus and McClintock 2003 brings together a collection of scholarly articles on the subject summarized by Ruegg 2006.

  • Dreyfus, Georges B. J., and Sara L. McClintock, eds. The Svātantrika-Prāsaṇgika Distinction: What Difference Does a Difference Make? Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2003.

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    A series of scholarly contributions focused on the topic of the difference between two schools of Madhyamaka emphasized by Tsongkhapa, illuminating the epistemological dimensions of the debate. J. Cabezón’s “Two Views on the Svātantrika-Prāasaṇgika Distinction in Fourteenth Century Tibet” (pp. 289–315) points out that the Svātantrika-Prāasaṇgika division is widely accepted, but not with the “hard” edge that it has in the presentation of Middle Way by Tsongkhapa and the Gelukpa school.

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Reflections on Reality: The Three Natures and Non-Natures in the Mind-Only School. Dynamic Responses to Dzong-ka-ba’s The Essence of Eloquence 2. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

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    Detailed analysis of later interpretations of the Mind Only section of Tsongkhapa’s Legs bshad snying po and a comparison of Tsongkhapa and Dolpopa’s views.

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Absorption in No External World: 170 Issues in Mind Only Buddhism. Dynamic Responses to Dzong-ka-ba’s The Essence of Eloquence 3. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2006.

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    A exhaustive, technical presentation of the Gelukpa school’s interpretation of Tsongkhapa’s views on Mind Only.

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  • Ruegg, David Seyfort. “Review of Dreyfus and McClintock (2003).” Indo-Iranian Journal 49.3–4 (2006): 319–346.

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    Provides a helpful summary of each of the articles in the volume and a summary of the research into the historical use (or absence) of the terms Svātantrika and Prāsaṇgika.

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Objections to Tsongkhapa’s Views

Williams 1983 explores early Kagyu (Bka’ brgyud) objections to Tsongkhapa’s views. Williams 1998a and Williams 1998b are detailed investigations of Tsongkhapa’s understanding of the ultimate and conventional nature of mind based on his interpretation of verses from Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra. Pettit 1999b and Kapstein 2000 are reviews of Williams’s work. Pettit 1999a is a balance to triumphalist-type Gelukpa presentations of Tsongkhapa’s Middle Way. Phuntsho 2005 is a scholarly presentation of the differences between the Rimay and Gelukpa Middle Way.

  • Broido, Michael M. “Padma dKar po on the Two Satyas.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 8.2 (1985): 7–59.

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    An essay, at times quite dense, on the differences between Gelukpa and 16th- and 17th-century Kagyu (Bka’ brgyud) treatments of the two truths.

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  • Kapstein, Matthew. “We Are All Gzhan stong pas.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 105–125.

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    A review of Williams 1998a. Helpfully differentiates meanings of terms that may be used to designate a primordial-type, pure substratum of consciousness that Tsongkhapa does not accept.

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  • Pettit, John W. Mipham’s Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogehen, the Great Perfection. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1999a.

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    An important study comparing the Middle Way views of Mipam with those of Tsongkhapa and his Gelukpa followers.

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  • Pettit, John W. “Review of Altruism and Reality: Studies in the Philosophy of the Bodhicaryāvatāra.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 6 (1999b): 1–14.

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    Adds important caveats to Williams’s characterization of a Jonang-type ye shes (fundamental pure consciousness) as necessarily the absolute characterized by Tsongkhapa and his Gelukpa exegetes.

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  • Phuntsho, Karma. Mipham’s Dialects and the Debates on Emptiness. London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005.

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    Explains Mipham’s treatment of emptiness, and compares and contrasts it with Gelukpa opponents following Tsongkhapa.

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  • Williams, Paul. “A Note on Some Aspects of Mi bskyod rdo rje’s Critique of dGe lugs pa Madhyamaka.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 11.2 (1983): 125–145.

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    Sets out the criticisms of Tsongkhapa’s Middle Way by the Kagyu writer Mikyo Dorje (Mi bskyod rdo rje) (b. 1507–d. 1554).

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  • Williams, Paul. The Reflexive Nature of Awareness: A Tibetan Madhyamaka Defence. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 1998a.

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    The second of two books examining competing interpretations of Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra given by Tsongkhapa (Gelukpa) and Mipham (Nyingmapa), which take as their point of departure the controversy between followers privileging the works of the writers from the 19th-century Khams Rimay movement and Gelukpa writers who understand themselves as defending the anti-Jonang positions of Tsongkhapa.

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  • Williams, Paul. Altruism and Reality: Studies in the Philosophy of the Bodhicaryavatara. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 1998b.

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    The first of two books examining competing interpretations of Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra given by Tsongkhapa (Gelukpa) and Mipham (Nyingmapa).

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Tantra

Tsongkhapa wrote extensively on tantra, and his views on the difference between sutra and tantra, the relationship between the four tantra sets, and the yoga of the illusory body were influential and sometimes controversial.

Translation

Lessing and Wayman 1968 is a well-known translation of Kedrup’s work, strongly influenced by Tsongkhapa, setting out the tantra sets. Hopkins 1977 and Hopkins 1981 translate Tsongkhapa’s explanation of the distinctive features of tantra and Highest Yoga Tantra. Sparham 1999 is Tsongkhapa’s short explanation of how a student serves a tantric teacher. Mullin 1996 is a readable, popular translation of an esoteric text by Tsongkhapa. Wedemeyer 2008 is a translation of an Indian explanation of the Guhyasamāja Tantra Tsongkhapa privileges in his exegesis.

  • Hopkins, Jeffrey, trans. and ed. Tantra in Tibet: The Great Exposition of Secret Mantra. Vol. 1. London: Allen and Unwin, 1977.

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    Contains a translation of the opening sections of the Snags rim chen mo (Great exposition of secret mantra) teaching Tsongkhapa’s view of the difference between sutra and tantra (pp. 83–169).

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey, trans. and ed. The Yoga of Tibet: The Great Exposition of Secret Mantra, 2 and 3. London: Allen and Unwin, 1981.

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    A continuation of Hopkins’s translation of the Snags rim chen mo, explaining the practices of Kriyā and Caryā tantra.

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  • Lessing, Ferdinand, and Alex Wayman, trans. Mkhas Grub Rje’s Fundamentals of the Buddhist Tantras. Indo-Iranian Monographs 8. The Hague: Mouton, 1968.

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    Kedrup’s introduction to the different tantric systems. Translated from the Tibetan, with the original text and annotations.

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  • Mullin, Glenn H., trans. and ed. Tsongkhapa’s Six Yogas of Naropa. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1996.

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    A translation of Tsongkhapa’s esoteric text of tantric yoga, Zab lam Na ro’i chos drug gi sgo nas ’khrid pa’i rim pa yid ches gsum ldan.

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  • Sparham, Gareth, trans. The Fulfillment of All Hopes: Guru Devotion in Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1999.

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    Tsongkhapa’s commentary on the Gurupañcaśika (Bla ma lnga bcu pa’i rnam bshad), a supplementary text to the Snags rim chen mo explaining the proper way for a tāntrika to serve a tantric master.

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  • Wedemeyer, Christian K., trans. and ed. Aryadeva’s Lamp That Integrates the Practices (Caryamelapakapradipa): The Gradual Path of Vajrayana Buddhism according to the Esoteric Community Noble Tradition. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, Columbia University Press, 2008.

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    Wedemeyer’s work is on the Indian texts of the Guhyasamāja Tantra collection that are the basis of Tsongkhapa’s most influential works on tantra.

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Analysis

Besides the introductions and annotations in the translations just listed, Yarnall 2005 is an investigation of Tsongkhapa’s views on tantra in general, and of the illusory body in the Guhyasamāja Tantra system.

  • Yarnall, Thomas Freeman. “The Emptiness That Is Form: Developing the Body of Buddhahood in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Tantra.” PhD diss., Columbia University, 2005.

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    Discusses Tsongkhapa’s views on the two realities in Buddhist thought—“Form is empty, emptiness is form”—and how these views influenced his tantric exegesis. Available online.

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Ethics and Reform

While Tsongkhapa privileged tantra as the highest expression of Buddhist teaching, he stressed strict adherence to the ethics codified in the Vinaya. His views on ethics have led some to view him as a reformer. Tatz 1986 and Sparham 2005 are complete translations of Tsongkhapa’s work on bodhisattva and tantric ethics. Tatz 1990 investigates references that Tsongkhapa makes to the Sakya school. Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee 2000–2004 (cited under Middle Way Philosophy: Translation) translation of the bodhisattva ethics section replaces Wayman 1991.

Tsongkhapa the Reformer (19th Century)

During the 19th century Tsongkhapa entered into popular European imagination, first as a Catholic priest through the travelogue of the European missionary Evariste Huc (Huc 1928), and later, more enduringly, as a reformer not unlike Martin Luther, through Anonymous 1890 and Das 1882. Huc 1928, Das 1882, and Anonymous 1890 are seminal articles on the history of the construction of the figure of Tsongkhapa the reformer.

  • Anonymous. “The Literature of Tibet.” Edinburgh Review (1890): 126–134.

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    Building on the myth of Tsongkhapa popularized by Das, this article spread the view that Tsongkhapa was a Protestant-type reformer.

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  • Das, Sarat Chandra “Life and Legend of Tson Khapa (Lo-ssaṅ-tagpa), The Great Buddhist Reformer of Tibet.” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 51.6 (1882).

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    Das popularized the notion of Tsongkhapa as a Protestant reformer. Reprinted in Das, Contributions on the Religion and History of Tibet (New Delhi: Mañjuśrī, 1970).

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  • Huc, Evariste Régis. Travels in Tartary, Thibet and China during the Years 1844–1846. Translated by William Hazlitt. Broadway Travellers. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1928.

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    Pages 48–53 initiated the myth that Tsongkhapa was a Catholic missionary.

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  • Lopez, Donald S., Jr., Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

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    Gives a presentation of Orientalist perceptions of Tibet, in general, and on pp. 25–26 and 220–221 discusses the origin of Tsongkhapa the European-style reformer.

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Tsongkhapa the Second Buddha (21st Century)

Bluck 2006 and Kay 2004 are studies of the New Kadampa Tradition, a Western Buddhist sect that regards Tsongkhapa as the second of three buddhas.

  • Bluck, Robert. “The New Kadampa Tradition (NKT).” In British Buddhism. Edited by Robert Bluck, 129–151. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    A nicely balanced history of the origins of a new Western group that regards Tsongkhapa as the second of three buddhas (after Śākyamuni). The founder of the sect, a charismatic Gelukpa monk, conceives of his group as protecting the authentic teachings of Tsongkhapa.

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  • Kay, David. Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004.

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    The author’s PhD dissertation containing the most detailed investigation of the New Kadampa Tradition, a new group that understands itself as protecting the pure teachings of Tsongkhapa.

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LAST MODIFIED: 10/28/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0169

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