4 Great Deeds

Maitreya Statue at Dzingji

Painting In Norbulingka That Depicts This Legendary Work of Lama Tsongkhapa

Painting In Norbulingka That Depicts This Legendary Work of Lama Tsongkhapa

Throughout his life, Lama Tsongkhapa made extensive offerings to the Three Jewels. The first of his Great Deeds was the restoration of the ruins of the Maitreya Statue in Dzingji Temple to a resplendent state.

As advised by Manjushri, Tsongkhapa went to the temple and wept when he saw the dilapidated state of the buildings and the statue within. The Maitreya statue was covered in dust and dirt and Tsongkhapa resolved to restore it.

However, just when construction was about to begin, Lama Tsongkhapa found that he did not have enough funds for the restoration. Lama Tsongkhapa and his disciples then decided to make offerings and request for assistance from Vaishravana, the Protector of Wealth.

As a result, resources arose and Tsongkhapa was able to carry out his task. There were many instances when Tsongkhapa requested assistance from Vaishravana with offerings and because of Tsongkhapa’s pure motivations for the Dharma, whatever Tsongkhapa needed would manifest. Many miracles happened during the renovation of this temple.

When a painting of Manjushri was outlined on the wall and Tsongkhapa carried out a consecration ritual on the image, Manjushri appeared as a Wisdom Being and dissolved into the painting. This happened with all the paintings of Wisdom Beings in the temple.

Reviving Monastic Discipline

Monks debating at Ganden in Karnataka, India

Monks debating at Ganden in Karnataka, India

During the period of decline, monastic communities had not followed the rules of Vinaya (monastic rules) conscientiously. Buddhist practices had degenerated, the Sangha had become corrupt and were abandoning themselves to worldly pleasures.

However, Tsongkhapa followed the methods of Atisha – the prominent Indian Buddhist saint of the 11th Century – to revive monastic discipline. In his teachings, he particularly stressed the importance of holding vows and commitments, and adhering to discipline. Not only did he teach, he embodied the teachings and maintained excellent disciplines himself.

With the guidances of his Gurus, Master Rendawa and Chennga Chokyi Gyalpo, and his personal example, Tsongkhapa accomplished he enormous task of reviving the Vinaya among  the Sangha. For this, he gained great respect from many people who began to follow his teachings and become his disciples. Tsongkhapa explained that the reason why he had emphasized so strongly on monastic discipline was because he did not wish for Buddha’s doctrine to degenerate again in Tibet.  

The Great Prayer Festival – Monlam Chenmo

In 1408, Lama Tsongkhapa was inspired to hold a Great Prayer Festival in Lhasa. News spread quickly across the land and immediately, many sponsors and patrons stepped forward to give their support and there were huge offerings made for Tsongkhapa’s dream to manifest. At that time, the paintings and statues in the temples at Lhasa were dirty and not well maintained. With the advent of this festival, all the temples were cleaned and repainted, and restored paintings and statues were adorned with gold leaf. It was said that eight thousand monks came to Lhasa for the celebrations.

Jowo Rinpoche, Jokhang temple, Lhasa

Jowo Rinpoche, Jokhang temple, Lhasa

The whole town was festooned with victory banners and there was a riot of color everywhere. Four hundred butter lamps were offered in the Jokhang and there were many more butterlamps of various sizes along the streets. Everything was prepared very well over many months so that on the first fay of the first lunar month of the year of the cow (1409), the Great Prayer Festival was launched by Lama Tsongkhapa.

On this auspicious occasion, Lama Tsongkhapa presented a jeweled crown of gold to the Jowo Rinpoche statue in the Jokhang. He also offered silver crowns to the Jowo Askobhya statue and the Avalokiteshvara with eleven heads. Through these offerings, Tsongkhapa transformed the statues from being representations of a nirmanakaya or emanation body into a samboghakayaor enjoyment body. This was to fulfill yet another ancient prophecy by Lord Buddha Shakyamuni.

The Great Prayer Festival lasted from the first to the fifteenth day of the first lunar month and on the fifteenth day, Lama Tsongkhapa gave a commentary on the Garland of Births (Jakata-mala) by Aryasura, which explains how Buddha Shakyamuni developed the six transcendent perfections9 or paramitas during 34 of his previous lives.

The tradition of the Great Prayer Festival has been celebrated almost every year since 1409 until the civil unrest during the mind 20thcentury. However, the festival has been since revived in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in India and elsewhere around the world, although not on such a grand scale.  

The Lamrin Chenmo

Lam Rim Chen Mo

Lam Rim Chen Mo

In the early 15th century, many scholars and Lamas began requesting Lama Tsongkhapa to write books that would provide teachings about the graded path to Enlightenment. Thus, Tsongkhapa began to write Lamrin Chenmo, or the Graded Stages of the Path to Enlightenment.

Among the many texts he composed, the Lamrin Chenmo is Tsongkhapa’s most famous work. This important treatise is based on Atisha’s text, Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Tsongkhapa’s Lamrin Chenmounited all the Buddha’s teachings of the existing school of Buddhism in Tibet and even of the Indian pandits, and provides a most excellent guideline for the practice of Dharma, from the moment we step onto a path all the way up to Enlightenment.

After completing the Lamrin Chenmo, Tsongkhapa then began writing the Ngarim Chenmo, or the Stages of the Path of Tantra. Among his other famous texts, Tsongkhapa also wrote many extensive commentaries on root texts, Tsongkhapa also wrote many extensive commentaries on root texts such as 50 Stanzas on Guru Devotion and the 14 Tantric vows.

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