The Eleventh Dalai Lama, Khedrub Gyatso

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The Eleventh Dalai Lama, Khedrub Gyatso b.1838 - d.1855

Name Variants: Dalai Lama 11 Khedrub Gyatso; Khedrub Gyatso

The Eleventh Dalai Lama, Khedrub Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 11 rgyal ba mkhas grub rgya mtsho) was born in a small town near Gartang (mgar thang) Monastery near Dartsedo, Kham in 1838, on the first day of the ninth month of the earth-dog year of the fourteenth sexagenary cycle. The name of his father was Tsewang Dondrub (tshe dbang don grub) and his mother was called Yungdrung Butri (g.yung drung bu khrid).

In 1841 the Seventy-third Ganden Tripa, Ngawang Jampel Tsultrim Gyatso (dga' ldan khri pa 73 ngag dbang 'jam dpal tshul khrims rgya mtsho, 1792-1862/64) identified him as the reincarnation of the Tenth Dalai Lama, Tsultrim Gyatso (ta la’i bla ma 10 tshul khrims mtsho, 1816-1837) and had him brought to Lhasa. His selection was confirmed by use of the Golden Urn, as mandated by the Qing government in Beijing, possibly the first time the process was officially observed by the Tibetan government. However, some historians have questioned whether other names of candidates were added to the Urn, raising the possibility that the first official use of the Urn was rigged.

The following year his crown-hair was cut by the Seventh Paṇchen Lama, Lobzang Tenpai Nyima (paN chen bla ma 04 blo bzang dpal ldan bstan pa'i nyi ma, 1782-1853) who gave him the name Khedrub Gyatso.

At the age of five, in 1842, on the full-moon day of the fourth month of water-tiger year of the fourteenth sexagenary cycle, Khedrub Gyatso was enthroned as the Eleventh Dalai Lama. Trichen Ngawang Jampel Tsultrim Gyatso, who was then serving as regent, organized the coronation ceremony.

Khedrub Gyatso was granted the vows of primary monk (rab byung) in early 1846 in Jokhang in Lhasa by the Seventh Paṇchen Lama, who also gave him the vows of novice monk (śrāmaṇera) at the age of eleven, in 1848.

IIn 1848 the Uyab Zimchung (dbu g.yab gzim chung), a new private residence on the premises of Kelzang Podrang in Norbulingka (nor bu gling ka bskal bzang pho brang) was constructed under the young Dalai Lama's patronage. The following year a celebration for its opening was held in conjunction with the annual Zhoton (zho'i ston) festival. That festival was based on the Indian Buddhist tradition of offering milk and curd to monks during the summer retreat. Sera and Drepung monasteries observed that tradition by offering a bowl of curd to each monk on the new-moon day of the sixth Tibetan month, which fell two weeks after the start of the summer retreat. Around the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama this tradition developed into a public festival and was celebrated in Lhasa and the surrounding area with performance of opera by various groups over a period of several days. Since the opening of the Uyab Zimchung, the annual Zhoton festival in Lhasa as it was celebrated at Norbulingka marked the moving the Dalai Lama from the Potala to Norbulingka for the summer.

Khedrub Gyatso studied the traditional Geluk monastic curriculum at Sera, Ganden, and Drepung, and stood for examinations during 1852 and 1853. He also occasionally gave public audience and teachings. Among his teachers were the Seventy-second Ganden Tripa, Jampel Tsultrim (dga' ldan khri pa 72 'jam dpal tshul khrims, d.u.); the Ninth Tashak, Ngawang Lobzang Tenpai Gyeltsen (rta tshag 09 ngag dbang blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, 1811-1848); Takpu Yongdzin Yeshe Gyatso (stag phu yongs 'dzin ye shes rgya mtsho, 1789-1856); and Kongtrul Lobzang Trinle Namgyel (kong sprul blo bzang 'phrin las rnam rgyal, d.u.). He travelled for pilgrimage at few holy places that included Lake Mansarovar (ma pham g.yu mtsho), Gyeltse Chokhor (rgyal rtse'i chos 'khor) and Samye (bsam yas).

In 1754, at the age of seventeen, Khedrub Gyatso received an order to assume responsibility of the Tibetan government from the Daoguang Emperor (r.1820-1850) in Beijing. However, soon thereafter, on the thirteenth day of the first month of the wood-hare year of the fourteenth sexagenary cycle, 1755, Khedrub Gyatso passed into nirvana at the Potala. His preserved corpse was installed in a golden reliquary called Serdong Pende Wobar (gser gdung phan bde'i 'od 'bar) in the Potala.




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Anon. 2009. Rgyal dbang thams cad mkhyen pa sku 'phreng bcu gcig pa. In Mdzad rnam rgya chen snying rje'i rol mtsho, vol. 1, pp. 153-158. Dharamsala, Norbulingka. TBRC W2CZ7990.

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Grags pa 'byung gnas and Rgyal ba blo bzang mkhas grub. 1992. Gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod. Lanzhou: Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun khang, pp. 382-383, 486-488.

'Jigs med bsam grub. 2009. Rgyal ba sku phreng bcu gcig pa mkhas grub rgya mtsho'i chos srid mdzad rnam. In Gong sa tA la'i bla ma sku phreng rim byon gyi chos srid mdzad rnam, pp. 638-659.  Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W21672.

Khetsun Sangpo. 1973. Biographical Dictionary of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. Dharamsala: LTWA, vol. 6, p. 357.

Maher, Derek. 2005. “The Eleventh Dalai Lama, Kedrup Gyatso.” In The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History. Martin Brauen, ed..  London: Serindia, pp. 133-134.

Rin chen nor bu. 2006. Rgyal dbang sku 'phreng bcu gcig pa. In Bod kyi lo rgyus spyi don kun gsal nor bu'i me long, pp. 451-455. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W00KG08.

Tshogs drug rang grol. 2002. Rgyal ba yab sras la phul ba'i zhu shog rab dkar gos bzang . In Gsung 'bum / tshogs drug rang grol, vol. 4,  pp. 749-752. Xining: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang.

A biography of Khedrub Gyatso by Trinle Namgyel, the Twelfth Dalai Lama, is listed in Sonam Dondrub's catalog of Tibetan biographies, no. 0550. See: Bsod nams don grub. 2000. Bod kyi lo rgyus dpe tho. Lhasa: Bod ljongs Mi dmangs Dpe skrun khang.


Samten Chhosphel
November 2011