The Fifty-Third Ganden Tripa, Gyeltsen Sengge b.1678 - d.1756
Name Variants: Ganden Trichen 53 Gyeltsen Sengge; Ganden Tripa 53 Gyeltsen Sengge; Gyeltsen Sengge; Tawon Gyeltsen Sengge; Tso Gyeltsen Sengge; Tso Tritul 01 Gyeltsen Sengge
The Fifty-third Ganden Tripa, Gyeltsen Sengge (dga' ldan khri pa 53 rgyal mtshan seng+ge) was born at a place called Kadeugo (ka de'u mgo) in Zamtsa Zhang (zam tsha zhang) in the district of Luchu (klu chu), Amdo, in 1678, the year of earth-horse of the eleventh sexagenary cycle. According to local legend there was an old tree at his birth place on which an image of Tibetan letter "ka" naturally appeared, which provided the place with its original name of Ka-dong-go meaning “ka on the trunk,” later changing in pronunciation to Kadeugo. His father was named Tsering Tashi (tshe ring bkra shis) and his mother was called Nyingmo Chak (snying mo lcags).
The boy was granted the vows of upasaka (dge bsnyen) and primary monk (rab byung) by the abbot of Denchokhor ('dan chos 'khor). Subsequently Lama Tsultrim Sengge (bla ma tshul khrims seng+ge, d.u.) granted him the vows of novice monk (dge tshul) and gave him the name Gyeltsen Sengge. He then started his basic education of memorizing of prayer texts and learning reading and writing under Lama Tsultrim Sengge.
At the age of twenty-seven Gyeltsen Sengge travelled to U-Tsang and matriculated in Drepung Gomang College ('bras spungs sgo mang grwa tshang). There he commenced his studies in the philosophical courses starting with the Collected Topics (bsdus grwa) under the First Jamyang Zhepa, Jamyang Zhepai Dorje ('jam dbyangs bzhad pa 01 'jam dbyangs bzhad pa'i rdo rje, 1648-1721/22) who was then the abbot of Drepung Gomang. Subsequently, at the age of twenty-nine, he received the vows of full ordination (dge slong) from the Fifth Paṇchen Lama Lobzang Yeshe (paN chen bla ma 05 blo bzang ye shes, 1663-1737). He continued his studies under the Jamyang Zhepa and Reting Ngawang Chokden (rwa sgreng ngag dbang mchog ldan, 1677-1751) who later became his successor to the golden throne of Ganden. At the age of thirty-nine, in 1716, Gyeltsen Sengge successfully stood for the traditional examination of Geshe Rabjampa.
Rabjampa Gyeltsen Sengge was then appointed as the abbot of Drula Monastery in Kongpo (kong po 'bru la), the seat of Dawa Gyeltsen (zla ba rgyal mtshan, d.u.). After three years he returned to Lhasa and enrolled in Gyuto College (rgyud stod grwa tshang) and studied the courses of tantra in detail with all necessary trainings according to the Gyuto tradition. After the completion of the prescribed courses he was appointed as the chant leader there, retiring from the post in 1726 at the age of forty-nine. Three years later, at the age of fifty-two, he was appointed to the seat of abbot of the college as well as the choje of Ganden Jangtse and served the posts for three years.
Gyeltsen Sengge then ascended to the golden throne at the age of fifty-five in 1732, the year of water-mouse in the twelfth sexagenary cycle. He served the post for seven years with usual duties of Ganden Tripa and renovated the statue of Ganden Chogyel (dga' ldan chos rgyal), a dharma protector, and he commissioned new robes and bone-ornaments to the Chogyel. He built a stupa of enlightenment (byang chub mchod rten) at Ganden, and a pair of golden victory-banners (gser gi rgyal mtshan cha dcig) on the roof of the Central Assembly Hall that cost a thousand ngul-sang (dngul srang). He also built new statues of Tsongkhapa and also sponsored new edition of the Kagyur.
According to biographies, following his retirement from the post of Ganden Tripa, Trichen Gyeltsen Sengge served for eight years at the seat of Sempa Chenpo Zhonnu Wod (sems pa chen po gzhon nu 'od, d.u.), and in 1747, he enjoyed the patronage of Urge Wang, who invited him to Amdo; details as to the identities of either figure are not known. He visited Labrang Tashikhyil Monastery (bla brang bkra shis 'khyil) and met the Second Jamyang Zhepa, Konchok Jigme Wangpo ('jam byangs bzhad pa 02 dkon mchog 'jigs med dbang po, 1728-1791), and, in 1748, he founded the Tso Labrang (gtsos bla brang) there. He also introduced the courses in logics and preliminary epistemology in 1749 at Wangden Lhunpo (dbang ldan lhun po), a branch of Labrang (bla brang), and appointed Khenchen Ngawa Chokyong Gyatso (mkhen chen rnga ba chos skyong rgya mtsho, d.u.) as the educator. He built a new large assembly hall, and donated horses, yaks and sheep totaling over two thousand to the monastery to support its subsistence. He also prepared the constitution for the monastery.
Trichen Gyeltsen Sengge produced a large number of disciples who developed into eminent scholars. Among them several subsequent Ganden Tripa: the Fifty-fifth Trichen, Ngawang Namkha Zangpo (dga' ldan khri pa 55 ngag dbang nam mkha' bzang po 1690-1750); the Fifty-seventh Trichen, Samten Puntsok (dga' ldan khri pa 57 bsam gtan phun tshogs, 1703-1770); the Fifty-eighth Trichen, Ngawang Chodrak (dga' ldan khri pa 58 ngag dbang chos grags, 1707-1778); and the Sxty-first Trichen, Ngawang Tsultrim (dga' ldan khri pa 61 ngag dbang chos grags, 1721-1791). He also taught the Sixth Chamdo Pakpa Lha, Pakpa Jigme Tenpai Gyatso ('phags pa lha 06 'phags pa 'jigs med bstan pa'i rgya mtsho 1714-1754), and the Fifth Kirti, Lobzang Tenpai Gyeltsen (kirti 05 blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, 1712-1771).
In 1756, soon after Trichen Gyeltsen Sengge granted empowerments on Vajramala in Dzoge (mdzod dge) and Chone (co ne), he passed into nirvana at the age of seventy-nine, on the full-moon day of the ninth month of the fire-mouse year of the thirteenth sexagenary cycle. At the time of his nirvana, Trichen deliberately sat on proper vajra position with his hands in meditation-posture. A stupa of enlightenment (byang chub mchod rten) heavily ornamented with precious gems was built as reliquary to contain his remains, and an extensive nirvana-prayer was done for several days. Tritrul Lobzang Gyeltsen Sengge (khri sprul blo bzang rgyal mtshan seng+ge), who was born in 1757, was identified as his reincarnation.
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. 1347-1349.
Bstan pa bstan 'dzin. 1992. 'Jam mgon rgyal wa'i rgyal tshab gser khri rim byon rnams kyi khri rabs yongs 'du'i ljon bzang. Mundgod: Drepung Gomang Library, pp 92-93.
Bstan pa bstan 'dzin. 2003. Chos sde chen pod pel ldan 'bras spungs bkra shis sgo mang grwa tshang gi chos 'byung chos dung g.yas su 'khyil ba'i sgra dbyang. Mundgod: Dpal ldan 'bras spungs bkra shis sgo mang dpe mdzod khang, pp. 318-322.
Grags pa mkhas grub.1810. Khri thog lnga bcu nga gsum pa khri chen rgyal mtshan seng+ge’i rnam thar in Dga' ldan khri rabs rnam thar, pp. 111-124 (TBRC digital page number); pp. ja 1-7b (original text page number).
Grong khyer lha sa srid gros lo rgyus rig gnas dpyad yig rgyu cha rtsom 'bri au yon lhan khang. 1994. Dga' ldan dgon pa dang brag yer pa'i lo rgyus, grong khyer lha sa'i lo rgyus rig gnas deb 02. Lhasa: Bod ljongs shin hwa par 'debs bzo grwa khang, p. 71.
Ye shes rdo rje. 1996. Gangs can mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rnam thar mdor bsdus bdud rtsi'i thigs phreng. Vol.2, Beijing: Krung go'i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, pp. 184-188.
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- Historical Period