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Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso
5th Dalai Lama
NgawangLozangGyatso
Reign 1642–1682
Predecessor Yonten Gyatso
Successor Tsangyang Gyatso
Tibetan བློ་བཟང་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
Wylie blo bzang rgya mtsho
Pronounciation lɔsaŋ catsʰɔ (IPA)
Transcription
(PRC)
Lobsang Gyaco
THDL Losang Gyatsho
Chinese 羅桑嘉措
Born 1617
Chingwar Taktse, Ü-Tsang, Tibet
Died 1682
Tibet

Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama (1617–1682), was a political and religious leader in seventeenth-century Tibet. Ngawang Lozang Gyatso was the ordination name he had received from Panchen Lozang Chökyi Gyeltsen who was responsible for his ordination.[1] He was the first Dalai Lama to wield effective political power over central Tibet, and is frequently referred to as the "Great Fifth Dalai Lama".

Birth, family and childhood

Lobsang Gyatso (birthname: Künga Nyingpo) was born in 1617 in Tsang to a family with traditional ties to the Sakya and Nyingma orders.[2] His famous noble Zahor family had held their seat since the 14th century at Tagtse castle, the former stronghold of the Tibetan kings. His father, Dudul Rabten, was arrested in 1618 for being involved in a plot against the royal government of the king of Tsang at almost the same time the Gelug had secretly chosen his son as the reincarnation of Yonten Gyatso, the 4th Dalai Lama. According to the 14th Dalai Lama it was Sonam Choephel, the chief attendant of the Fourth Dalai Lama, who discovered the incarnation[3]. Dudul Rabten escaped and tried to reach eastern Tibet but was rearrested and never saw his son again before he died in 1626 at Samdruptse, the king of Tsang's castle in Shigatse. Lobsang Gyatso's family were all ordered to live at the court at Samdruptse, but his mother, fearing the king, returned with her son to her family's home, Narkatse castle, in Yardong.[4]

Studies

The Fifth Dalai Lama completed all his training as a Gelugpa and proved to be an exceptional scholar. He also studied Nyingmapa tantric doctrines and some say he took Nyingma initiations,[5] while he is also famous for being a great practitioner of Dzogchen. [6] In his secret Lukhang temple on a lake behind the Potala palace in Lhasa one wall of murals illustrates a commentary by Longchenpa on a Dzogchen tantra Rigpa Rangshar, interpreted according to the Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso's own experience of practice. The murals show characteristic visions of the secret practice of thödgal,[7] and Trul khor.

Political Activities

The Fifth Dalai Lama is known for unifying Tibet under the control of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, after defeating the rival Kagyu school and a secular ruler, the prince of Tsang based in Shigatse.

Sonam Rapten, also called Sonam Choephel, the Regent during the youth of Lobsang Gyatso, requested the aid of Gushi Khan, a powerful Mongol military leader.

Gushi Khan conquered Kham in 1640 bringing the Sakyas and the lords of Kham and Amdo under their control. His victory over the prince of Tsang in Shigatse in 1642, completed the unification of the country, and displacing the rival dominant school of the Karmapas. He then recognized the authority of the Fifth Dalai Lama, making him the ruler of the whole of Tibet.[8][9]

The Mongol army in Tibet and Tibetans loyal to the Gelugpa are said to have forced monks of some Kagyu monasteries to convert to the Gelug school in 1648.[10][11] In 1674 he met with the 10th Karmapa, Chöying Dorje (1604-1674) at the Potala, and the reconciliation was welcomed by all after the many conflicts and difficulties.[12]

However, he banished the Jonang to Amdo from Central Tibet and some Bonpo monasteries were forced to convert to the Gelug school. This ban was politically motivated, although there were some philosophical disagreements.[12]

Lobsang Gyatso proclaimed Lhasa as the capital of Tibet, and "appointed governors to the districts, chose ministers for his government, and promulgated a set of laws. The young Dalai Lama also transformed his regent into a prime minister, or, as the Tibetans called him, the Desi. Administrative authority remained with the Desi and military power with Gushri, who was entitled king of Tibet."[13]

The Dalai Lama also established warm relations with the Shunzhi Emperor of China, the second Manchu emperor of the Qing Dynasty, during a state visit to Beijing in 1652 after several earlier invitations. He set out accompanied by 3,000 men and stayed at the Yellow Palace which had been specially constructed by the Manchu emperor to house him. The emperor met the Dalai Lama in January 1653 when he was only 14 (15 by Western reckoning). The Dalai Lama stayed in Beijing for two months and was honoured with two grand imperial receptions.[12] Some historians claim that the emperor treated the Dalai Lama as an equal[14] while others dispute this claim.[15]. The Emperor subsequently granted him the honorific title Dalai Lama, Overseer of the Buddhist Faith on Earth Under the Great Benevolent Self-subsisting Buddha of the Western Paradise. From this meeting onwards, the Dalai Lamas were considered priests to the throne by successive Qing emperors.

Gushri Khan maintained friendly, respectful relations with Lobsang Gyatso but died in 1655. His followers showed little interest in the administration of the country although they did appoint a Regent for a while to advance their interests in Lhasa. Gushri Khan left ten sons to follow him. Eight of them, with their tribes, settled in the strategically important Koko Nur region in Amdo and quarreled constantly over territory. The 5th Dalai Lama sent several governors in 1656 and 1659 to restore order. The Mongols were gradually Tibetanised and played an important role in extending the Gelug school's influence in Amdo.[12]

The 5th Dalai Lama gradually assumed complete power, including that of appointing the regents.[11]

Relations with the Fourth Panchen Lama

Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen, (1570–1662), the Fourth Panchen Lama of Tibet, and the first to be accorded this title during his lifetime, was the teacher and close ally of the 5th Dalai Lama, who gave him the monastery of Tashilhunpo as a living and declared him to be an incarnation of Amitabha Buddha (Tibetan: Ö-pa-me) and since then every incarnation of Amitabha has been the master of Tashilhunpo.[16]

When Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen died in 1662, aged 93, the Fifth Dalai Lama immediately began the tradition of recognising the reincarnation of Panchen Rinpoche. He composed a special prayer asking his master 'to return' and ordered the monks of the great monasteries to recite it.[12] He also reserved the title of Panchen (short for Pandita chen po or 'Great Scholar'), which had previously been a courtesy title for all learned lamas, exclusively for him,[17] and this title has continued to be given to his successors and, posthumously, to his predecessors starting with Khedrup Je.

His writings

Lobsang Gyatso was a prolific writer and respected scholar, who wrote in a free style which allowed him to frankly and sometimes, ironically, express his own deepest feelings and independent interpretations. He wrote that: "When I finished the Oral teachings of Manjushri [in 1658], I had to leave the ranks of the Gelug. Today [in 1674], having completed the Oral teachings of the Knowledge-holders, I will probably have to withdraw from the Nyingma ranks as well!" His works total 24 volumes including a detailed history of Tibet which he wrote in 1643 at the request of Gushri Khan.[12] He has left an autobiography called Dukulai Gosang [18].

Construction of the Potala Palace

The Fifth Dalai Lama started the construction of the Potala Palace in 1645[19] after one of his spiritual advisers, Konchog Chophel (d. 1646), pointed out that the site was ideal as a seat of government, situated as it is between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old city of Lhasa.[4] The Dalai Lama and his government moved into the Potrang Karpo ('White Palace') in 1649.[4] Construction lasted until 1694,[20] some twelve years after his death. The Potrang Marpo ('Red Palace') was added between 1690 and 1694.[20]

Other activities

Museum of Ethnology Vienna 002

The Fifth Dalai Lama was the first to institutionalize the State Oracle of Nechung.[21] He also dedicated Trode Khangsar to control the deity Dorje Shugden, the wrathful spirit reincarnation of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen[22].

He established a centralized form of government under the Gyalwa Rinpoche (i.e., the Dalai Lama), divided equally between laymen and monks (both Gelugpa and Nyingmapa); this form of government, with few changes, survived up to modern times. He also instituted the Lhasa Mönlam, the New Year Festival or "Great Prayer of Lhasa".[5]

It was under his rule that the "rule of religion" was finally firmly established "even to the layman, to the nomad, or to the farmer in his fields". This was not only the supremacy of the Gelugpa school over Bon, or over the other Buddhist schools, but "the dedication of an entire nation to a religious principle".[23]

Lobsang Gyatso was the first to declare Bon to be a fifth school of Buddhism in Tibet. This position was restated in 1987 by Tenzin Gyatso, the current, fourteenth, Dalai Lama, who also forbade discrimination against the Bonpo. However, Tibetans still differentiate between Bon and Buddhism, calling members of the Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug schools "nangpa" (meaning "insider"), but referring to practitioners of Bon as "bonpo."[24][25]

Revolt of the Three Feudatories

In 1673, the 5th Dalai Lama supported the Revolt of the Three Feudatories.

Death and succession

The death of the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1682 at the age of 65 was kept hidden until 1696, by Desi Sangye Gyatso, his Prime Minister and, according to persistent rumours, his son, whom he had appointed in 1679.[5] This was done so that the Potala Palace could be finished and to prevent Tibet's neighbors taking advantage of an interregnum in the succession of the Dalai Lamas.[26] Desi Sangay Gyatso also served as regent until the assumption of power by the Sixth Dalai Lama.

"In order to complete the Potala Palace, Desi Sangye Gyatso carried out the wishes of the Fifth Dalai Lama and kept his death a secret for fifteen years. People were told that the Great Fifth was continuing his long retreat. Meals were taken to his chamber and on important occasions the Dalai Lama's ceremonial gown was placed on the throne. However, when Mongol princes insisted on having an audience, an old monk called Depa Deyab of Namgyal monastery, who resembled the Dalai Lama, was hired to pose in his place. He wore a hat and an eye shade to conceal the fact that he lacked the Dalai Lama's piercing eyes. The Desi managed to maintain this charade till he heard that a boy in Mon exhibited remarkable abilities. He sent his trusted attendants to the area and, in 1688, the boy [the future 6th Dalai Lama] was brought to Nankartse, a place near Lhasa. There he was educated by teachers appointed by the Desi until 1697...."[27]

Quotation from Dukulai Gosang

According to Samten Gyaltsen Karmay, the Fifth Dalai Lama writes in his autobiography, Dukulai Gosang:

The official Tsawa Kachu of the Ganden Palace showed me statues and rosaries (that belonged to the Fourth Dalai Lama and other lamas), but I was unable to distinguish between them! When he left the room I heard him tell the people outside that I had successfully passed the tests. Later, when he became my tutor, he would often admonish me and say: "You must work hard, since you were unable to recognize the objects!"[28]

References

  1. Tales of Intrigue from Tibet's Holy City: The Historical Underpinnings of a Modern Buddhist Crisis Thesis by Lindsay G. McCune, p.50, referring to Karmay 1988a, p.7 The Florida State University College of Arts and Sciences
  2. The Dalai Lamas of Tibet, p. 38. Thubten Samphel and Tendar. Roli & Janssen, New Delhi. (2004). ISBN 81-7436-085-9.
  3. Homepage of the 14th Dalai Lama
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Karmay, Samten G. (2005). "The Great Fifth", p. 1. Downloaded as a pdf file on 16th December, 2007 from: [1]
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Tibet is My Country: Autobiography of Thubten Jigme Norbu, Brother of the Dalai Lama as told to Heinrich Harrer, p. 249. English translation by Edward Fitzgerald, published 1960. Reprint, with updated new chapter, (1986): Wisdom Publications, London. ISBN 0-86171-045-2.
  6. Stein, R. A. (1972). Tibetan Civilization, pp. 171-172. Stanford University Press, Stanford California. ISBN 0-8047-0806-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-8047-0901-7 (paper).
  7. The Crystal and The Way of Light. Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. Compiled and Edited by John Shane, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY, USA, 2000, ISBN 1-55939-135-9, pp. 82-87, 190, 191
  8. Laird, Thomas. (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, pp. 158-161. Grove Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1.
  9. Richardson, Hugh E. (1984). Tibet and its History. Second Edition, Revised and Updated, p. 42. Shambhala. Boston & London. ISBN 0-87773-376-7.(pbk)
  10. Laird, Thomas. (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, p. 165. Grove Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Richardson, Hugh E. (1984). Tibet and its History. Second Edition, Revised and Updated, p. 42. Shambhala. Boston & London. ISBN 0-87773-376-7.(pbk)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Karmay 2005, p. 2
  13. Laird, Thomas. (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, p. 161. Grove Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1.
  14. Laird, Thomas. (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, pp. 170-174. Grove Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1.
  15. Grunfeld, A. Tom, The Making of Modern Tibet, p. 42, reads in part "Both (Tibetan and Chinese) accounts agree that the Dalai Lama was exempt from the traditional kowtow symbolizing total subservience; he was, however, required to kneel before the emperor."
  16. Tibet is My Country: Autobiography of Thubten Jigme Norbu, Brother of the Dalai Lama as told to Heinrich Harrer, p. 121. First published in German in 1960. English translation by Edward Fitzgerald, published 1960. Reprint, with updated new chapter, (1986): Wisdom Publications, London. ISBN 0-86171-045-2.
  17. "The Institution of the Dalai Lama", by R. N. Rahul Sheel in The Tibet Journal, Vol. XIV No. 3. Autumn 1989, p. 32, n. 1
  18. see Homepage of the 14TH Dalai Lama
  19. Laird, Thomas. (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, pp. 175. Grove Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Stein, R. A. Tibetan Civilization (1962). Translated into English with minor revisions by the author. 1st English edition by Faber & Faber, London (1972). Reprint: Stanford University Press (1972), p. 84.
  21. Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark. (1979). "Tibetan Oracles." The Tibet Journal, Vo. 4, No. 2, Summer 1979, p. 52.
  22. TBRC P1729
  23. Tibet is My Country: Autobiography of Thubten Jigme Norbu, Brother of the Dalai Lama as told to Heinrich Harrer, p. 247. English translation by Edward Fitzgerald, published 1960. Reprint, with updated new chapter, (1986): Wisdom Publications, London. ISBN 0-86171-045-2.
  24. ["History of Buddhism: Countries, sects and politics." Amalia Rubin. http://www.helium.com/tm/456714/authors-following-basic-history]
  25. "Bon Children's Home In Dolanji and Polish Aid Foundation For Children of Tibet – NYATRI."[2]
  26. Laird, Thomas. (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, pp. 181-182. Grove Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1.
  27. The Dalai Lamas of Tibet, pp. 93-94. Thubten Samphel and Tendar. Roli & Janssen, New Delhi. (2004). ISBN 81-7436-085-9.
  28. "The Great Fifth" (PDF). http://www.iias.nl/nl/39/IIAS_NL39_1213.pdf. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 

Further reading

  • Practice of Emptiness: The Perfection of Wisdom Chapter of the Fifth Dalai Lama's "Sacred Word of Manjushri". (1974) Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins with instruction from Geshe Rapden. Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. Dharamsala, H.P., India.
  • Mullin, Glenn H. (2001). The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation, pp. 184–237. Clear Light Publishers. Santa Fe, New Mexico. ISBN 1-57416-092-3.
  • Karmay, Samten Gyaltsen:
    • 1988 (reprint 1998). Secret visions of the Fifth Dalai Lama. London: Serindia Publications, Some additional information
    • 1998 'The Fifth Dalai Lama and his Reunification of Tibet'. The Arrow and the Spindle, Studies in History, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in Tibet. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point

Autobiography

External links

Buddhist titles
Preceded by
Yonten Gyatso
Dalai Lama
1642–1682
Recognized in 1618
Succeeded by
Tsangyang Gyatso

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