Gendun Drup
1st Dalai Lama
Reign N/A
Successor Gendun Gyatso
Tibetan དགེ་འདུན་གྲུབ་
Wylie dge ’dun grub
Pronounciation kẽ̀tyn tʂʰùp (IPA)
Gêdün Chub
THDL Gedün Drup
Born 1391
Shabtod, Ü-Tsang, Tibet
Died 1474 (aged 82–83)

Gendun Drup also Gendun Drub and Kundun Drup (1391–1474) is retrospectively considered to be the first of the Dalai Lamas of Tibet, who are believed to be reincarnations of Chenresig (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara), the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Gendun Drup was born in a cowshed in Gyurmey Rupa, near Sakya in the Tsang region of central Tibet, the son of Gonpo Dorjee and Jomo Namkha Kyi, nomadic tribespeople.[1] He was raised as a shepherd until the age of seven. His birth name -according to tbrc his [ personalName ]- was Pema Dorje (Tibetan: པད་མ་རྡོ་རྗེ་Wylie: pad ma rdo rje, Vajra Lotus/Lotus Vajra). Later, he was placed in Nartang (Nar-thang) monastery. In 1405 he took his novice vows from the abbot of Narthang, Khenchen Drupa Sherab. When he was 20, about 1411, he became fully ordained into the monkhood.[2] He received the name Gendun Drubpa upon taking the vows of a fully ordained monk (gelong) from the abbot of Narthang monastery. At twenty years of age he became a disciple of Tsongkhapa (1357 – 1419) and the first abbot of Ganden Monastery, founded by Je Tsongkhapa himself in 1409.[3]

By the middle of his life he had become one of the most esteemed scholar-saints in the country. Gendun Drup was a student of the great scholar and reformer Tsongkhapa.[4], who some say was his uncle.[5]

It is said that Palden Lhamo, the female guardian spirit of the sacred lake, Lhamo La-tso, promised the First Dalai Lama in one of his visions "that she would protect the reincarnation lineage of the Dalai Lamas." Since the time of Gendun Gyatso, the Second Dalai Lama, who formalised the system, monks have gone to the lake to seek guidance on choosing the next reincarnation through visions while meditating there.[6]

Gendun Drubpa founded two major monasteries: Drepung and Tashillhunpo.[2] In 1447, Gendun Drup founded the great monastery of Tashilhunpo at Shigatse, which was later to become the seat of the Panchen Lamas.[7]

Gendun Drup had no political power. The political power was in the hands of viceroys like the Sakyas, the prince of Tsang and the Mongolian Khan. The political role of the Dalai Lamas only began with the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama.

According to Tibetan Resource Center his Seat was monastery bkra shis lhun po dgon pa (Tashilhunpo),[8] [9] the monastery he had founded in 1447.

He remained the abbot of Tashilhunpo monastery until he died while meditating in 1474 at the age of 84 (83 by Western reckoning).[5]

Dorje Pakmo (1422–1455) has been a contemporary of Gendun Drub, and her teacher Bodong Panchen Chogley Namgyal also was one of his teachers; he received many teachings and empowerments from him.[10]

Some of the most famous texts Gendun Drup wrote were:

  • Sunlight on the Path to Freedom, a commentary on Abhidharma-kosa
  • Crushing the Forces of Evil to Dust, an epic poem on the life and liberating deeds of Buddha Shakyamuni
  • Song of the Eastern Snow Mountain, a poem dedicated to Je Tsongkhapa (Btsong-ka-pa)
  • Praise of the Venerable Lady Khadiravani Tara, an homage to the Goddess Tara

Glenn H. Mullin's collection of translations of Gendun Drup's commentaries (Selected Works of the Dalai Lama I) is a good start to learning more about the writings and teachings of this prolific and important Tibetan Buddhist teacher.


  1. Gedun Drupa at Dalai Lama website.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Thubten Samphel and Tendar (2004), p. 75.
  3. Simhanada, The Lion's Roar of Mahayana Buddhism.
  4. Farrer-Halls, Gill. World of the Dalai Lama. Quest Books: 1998. p. 77
  5. 5.0 5.1 Thubten Samphel and Tendar (2004), p.35.
  6. Laird, Thomas (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, pp. 139, 264-265. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1
  7. Chö Yang: The Voice of Tibetan Religion and Culture. (1991) Year of Tibet Edition, p. 79. Gangchen Kyishong, Dharmasala, H.P., India.
  8. dge 'dun grub pa, Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center.
  9. bkra shis lhun po dgon pa, Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center.
  10. "". Archived from the original on 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 


  • Thubten Samphel and Tendar (2004). The Dalai Lamas of Tibet. Roli & Janssen, New Delhi. (2004). ISBN 81-7436-085-9

Further reading

  • Mullin, Glenn H. (2001). The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation, pp. 50–85. Clear Light Publishers. Santa Fe, New Mexico. ISBN 1-57416-092-3.
  • Selected Works of the Dalai Lama I by Anne Kandt, Christine Cox, Dalai Lama Dge-Dun-Grub I, Glenn H. Mullin, Sidney Piburn (1985)

External links

Buddhist titles
Preceded by
Beginning of the line
Dalai Lama
Posthumously recognized
Succeeded by
Gendun Gyatso

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