Tsongkhapa Losang Dragpa (1357–1419) was one of the finest scholar-practitioners in Tibetan Buddhism. Renowned for both his written works and his meditative accomplishments, he founded the Gelug school, which produced the lineage of the Dalai Lamas.
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The Splendor of an Autumn Moon
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The Tibetan saint Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), the founder of the Dalai Lama’s tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, was renowned for his vast learning, meditational achievements, influential writings on practice and philosophy, and reform of tantric religious practices. A deeply humble and religious man, he expressed himself in exquisite verse.
Here, presented in both the original Tibetan and in English translation, are twenty-one devotional poems by Tsongkhapa. Each verse—dedicated to the Buddha, bodhisattvas, and lamas—illuminates some aspect of the Buddhist path. Gavin Kilty’s commentary places each prayer into context, and his careful, artful translations will appeal to anyone with a love of poetry.
Tsongkhapa’s Praise for Dependent Relativity
Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), the author of The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment and the teacher of the First Dalai Lama, is renowned as one of the greatest scholar-saints that Tibet has ever produced. He composed his poetic Praise for Dependent Relativity the very morning that he abandoned confusion and attained the final view, the clear realization of emptiness that is the essence of wisdom. English monk Graham Woodhouse, a longtime student of Buddhism, was living near the Dalai Lama’s residence in northern India when he translated Tsongkhapa’s celebrated text, and he conveys for modern readers the explanation of it he received from his teacher, the late Venerable Lobsang Gyatso.
Read Tsongkhapa’s biography at the Treasury of Lives.
Tantra, or Vajrayana, Buddhism is a set of esoteric practices that involve mantra recitation and complex visualizations. Tantra constitutes the fabric of a Tibetan Buddhist’s daily practice, but no practice of tantra can be successful without adherence to the tantric precepts, the highest of three complementary sets of vows. Tsongkhapa is perhaps the greatest philosopher ever produced by Tibet’s Buddhist culture, and this book is a translation of his explanation of the tantric precepts.
Read Tsongkhapa’s biography at the Treasury of Lives.
A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages
First Place Winner of 2017 Shantarakshita Award for Excellence in Translation from the Tsadra Foundation
Tsongkhapa’s A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages (1419) is a comprehensive presentation of the highest yoga class of Buddhist tantra, especially the key practices—the so-called five stages (pancakrama)—of the advanced phase of Guhyasamāja tantra. Beginning with a thorough examination of the Indian sources, Tsongkhapa draws particularly from the writings of Nāgārjuna, Aryadeva, Candrakīrti, and Nāropā to develop a definitive understanding of the Vajrayana completion stage. Whereas in the generation stage, meditators visualize the Buddha in the form of the deity residing in a mandala palace, in the completion stage discussed in the present volume, meditators transcend ordinary consciousness and actualize the state of a buddha themselves. Among other things, Tsongkhapa’s work covers the subtle human physiology of channels and winds along with the process of dying, the bardo, and rebirth. This definitive statement on Guhyasamaja tantra profoundly affected the course of Buddhist practice in Tibet.
- Learn more about the Library of Tibetan Classics.
Illumination of the Hidden Meaning, Vol. 1
This is the first volume of the annotated translation of Tsong Khapa’s Illumination of the Hidden Meaning (sbas don kun gsal), a magnificent commentary on the Cakrasamvara Tantra. This is the first English translation of this important work, which marked a milestone in the history of the Tibetan understanding and practice of the Indian Buddhist tantras.
This first volume, which includes Tsong Khapa’s detailed introduction to chapters 1–24 of the 51-chapter Cakrasamvara root tantra, covers the history of the tradition, its interpretation, and a wide range of topics including the construction of the maṇḍala, the consecration therein, the decoding of mantras and their ritual applications, and details concerning the clans of the yoginīs.
The author situates the work in context, and explores in depth the sources used by Tsong Khapa in composing this commentary. He also provides detailed notes, a trilingual English–Tibetan–Sanskrit glossary, and an appendix that includes a translation of Sumatikīrti’s synopsis of the Cakrasamvara Tantra entitled the Laghusaṃvaratantrapaṭalābhisandhi, which is quoted by Tsong Khapa in its entirety in his commentary.
Together with the author’s related publications in this series—including translations of the root Cakrasamvara Tantra (2007, 2010, 2019); the critically edited Sanskrit and Tibetan texts of the root tantra (2012); and the second volume of this master Tibetan commentary (chapters 25–51), subtitled Yogic Vows, Conduct, and Ritual Praxis (2019)—the reader will have the first full study of this important tantra available in English.
Illumination of the Hidden Meaning, Vol. 2
This is the second of two volumes presenting Dr. David Gray’s study and translation of the Illumination of the Hidden Meaning (sbas don kun gsal) by the Tibetan Buddhist scholar-yogi Tsong Khapa Losang Drakpa (1357–1419). The Illumination contains Tsong Khapa’s magnificent commentary on the Indian Buddhist Cakrasamvara Tantra, one of the earliest and most influential of the yoginī tantras, a genre of tantric Buddhist scripture that emphasizes female deities, particularly the often fiercely depicted yoginīs and ḍākinīs. Together with the first volume, this contains the first English translation of this important work that marks a milestone in the history of the Tibetan assimilation of the Indian Buddhist tantras.
This second volume, which includes Tsong Khapa’s detailed introduction to chapters 25–51 of the 51-chapter Cakrasamvara root tantra, covers the vows, observances, and conduct of the initiated yogī, particularly in relation to the yoginīs, whose favor he must cultivate. It describes in great detail the rites of the tradition, including homa fire sacrifice and the uses of the mantras of the maṇḍala’s main deities. The author provides a trilingual English–Tibetan–Sanskrit glossary.
Together with the author’s related publications in this series—including translations of the root Cakrasamvara Tantra (2007, 2010, 2019); the critically edited Sanskrit and Tibetan texts of the root tantra (2012); and the first volume of this master Tibetan commentary (chapters 1–24), subtitled Maṇḍala, Mantra, and the Cult of the Yoginīs (2017)—the reader will have the first full study of this important tantra available in English.
Brilliantly Illuminating Lamp of the Five Stages
The Brilliantly Illuminating Lamp of the Five Stages (rim lnga rab tu gsal ba’i sgron me) is Tsong Khapa’s master commentary on the perfection-stage practices of the Esoteric Community (Guhyasamāja), the tantra he considered fundamental for the “father tantra” class of unexcelled yoga tantras, as the primary source for the development of the “magic body” technique for attaining buddhahood. Based on Nāgārjuna’s Five Stages (Pañcakrama) and Āryadeva’s Lamp That Integrates the Practices (Caryāmelāpakapradīpa), as well as a vast range of other works by Indian and Tibetan scholars and adepts, it also reveals openly the experiences of the author, himself a master practitioner.
This blockbuster work of Jey Tsong Khapa opens a window on one of the most amazing, incredibly advanced attainments ever claimed to be possible for a human being within a single lifetime. The author explains in detail the relation between exoteric and esoteric teachings and practices on the path to complete enlightenment, with its seemingly superhuman awarenesses and abilities. He clarifies the interconnections between the various categories of secret tantras, inspires by showing how far-reaching are the systematic methods of positive personal transformation developed and taught in India and Tibet, and openly shows what this tradition considered possible, giving us a whole new vision of life’s meaning and a strengthened confidence in our horizon of opportunities. This bold and well-reasoned work presents a fascinating new way to understand our own body and mind, to manage more confidently our own life and death trajectories, and to rejoice in the sense of the extreme value of our human lifetime as a platform for realizing our personal evolutionary potential.
Great Treatise on the Stages of Mantra (Sngags rim chen mo)
Tsong Khapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of Mantra (Sngags rim chen mo)—considered by the present Dalai Lama to be one of Tsong Khapa’s two most important books (along with his Lam rim chen mo)—is his masterful synthesis of the principles and practices of all four classes of Tantra, which formed the basis of his innovation in creating the esoteric “Tantric College” institution and curriculum in the early fifteenth century. With detailed reference to hundreds of works from the Tibetan Kangyur and Tengyur, the chapters presented and studied in this volume concern his treatment of the creation stage (bskyed rim) meditations of Unexcelled Yoga Tantra. This includes a detailed analysis emphasizing how and why such creation stage practices—utilizing deity yoga to transform death, the between, and life into the three bodies of buddhahood are indispensible to creating a foundation for successfully entering the culminal yogic practices of the perfection stage. (A subsequent volume will present the perfection stage chapters of this essential masterwork.)
An important work for both scholars and practitioners, this annotated translation is supplemented with extensive support materials.
Illuminating the Intent
This work is perhaps the most influential explanation of Candrakirti’s seventh-century classic Entering the Middle Way (Madhyamakavatara).
Written as a supplement to Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way, Candrakirti’s text integrates the central insight of Nagarjuna’s thought—the rejection of any metaphysical notion of intrinsic existence—with the well-known Mahayana framework of the ten levels of the bodhisattva, and it became the most studied presentation of Madhyamaka thought in Tibet.
Completed the year before the author’s death, Tsongkhapa’s exposition of Candrakirti’s text is recognized by the Tibetan tradition as the final standpoint of Tsongkhapa on many philosophical questions, particularly the clear distinctions it draws between the standpoints of the Madhyamaka and Cittamatra schools.
Written in exemplary Tibetan, Tsongkhapa’s work presents a wonderful marriage of rigorous Madhyamaka philosophical analysis with a detailed and subtle account of the progressively advancing mental states and spiritual maturity realized by sincere Madhyamaka practitioners.
The work remains the principal textbook for the study of Indian Madhyamaka philosophy in many Tibetan monastic colleges, and it is a principal source for many Tibetan teachers seeking to convey the intricacies of Madhyamaka philosophy to non-Tibetan audiences.
Though it is often cited and well known, this is the first full translation of this key work in a Western language.
The Middle-Length Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment
Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), author of the well-known Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment and guru to the First Dalai Lama, is renowned as perhaps Tibet’s greatest scholar-saint. A dozen years after writing his Great Treatise, he wrote the Middle-Length Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, presented here in its first complete English translation.
Less than half the length of the Great Treatise, this work similarly presents a systematic overview of the Buddha’s teachings. Tsongkhapa begins by abridging the longer work, distilling its meditations for quicker integration. After recognizing the rarity of our human existence and the great opportunities it affords, he follows with reflections on impermanence, suffering, and the promise of liberation from our past actions, proceeding then to the path of bodhisattvas, whose universal compassion seeks to free every being from suffering. Tsongkhapa gives especially detailed instructions on śamatha, the deep meditative concentration that is a precondition for the highest insight into the nature of reality. The final and largest section, on that very insight, is unique to this work, particularly Tsongkhapa’s presentation of conventional truth and ultimate truth. Beginners and longtime practitioners alike will cherish the clear guidance from one of Tibet’s great luminaries.
The Wisdom Culture Series, published under the guidance of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, features translations of key works by masters of the Geluk tradition. Also available in the Wisdom Culture Series are Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s The Power of Mantra and The Swift Path, translated by Szegee Toh.