Fifth Dalai Lama

Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso
5th Dalai Lama
Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso
Reign 1642–1682
Predecessor Yonten Gyatso
Successor Tsangyang Gyatso
Tibetan ངག་དབང་བློ་བཟང་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
Wylie Ngag-dBang bLo-bZang rGya-mTsho
Pronunciation [lɔsaŋ catsʰɔ]
THDL Losang Gyatsho
Chinese 羅桑嘉措
Father Dudul Rabten
Mother Kunga Lhanzi
Born 1617
Lhoka Chingwar Taktse, Ü-Tsang, Tibet
Died 1682 (aged 64–65)
Lhasa, Tibet

Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (Tibetan: ངག་དབང་བློ་བཟང་རྒྱ་མཚོ་Wylie: Ngag-dBang bLo-bZang rGya-mTsho) was the 5th Dalai Lama: a key religious and temporal leader of Tibet who lived from 1617 to 1682 (CE). Gyatso is credited with unifying central Tibet after a protracted era of civil wars. As an independent head of state, he established diplomatic relations with China and also met with early European explorers. Gyatso – who wrote 24 volumes' worth of scholarly and religious works on a wide range of subjects – was the first Dalai Lama to wield effective temporal power over all of central Tibet, and is very frequently referred to simply as the Great Fifth.

Early life

To understand the context within which the Dalai Lama institution came to hold temporal power in Tibet during the lifetime of the fifth, it may be helpful to review not just the early life of Lobsang Gyatso but also the world into which he was born, as Künga Nyingpo.

Künga Nyingpo's family

The child who would become the 5th Dalai Lama was born in Tsang to a prominent family of nobles with traditional ties to both Sakya and Nyingma lineages.[1] The aristocratic Zahor family into which he was born had held their seat since the 14th century at Taktsé Castle, south of Lhasa[2] – according to legend, a stronghold of Tibetan kings in the days of the early empire, before Songtsen Gampo (604-650 CE) had moved his capital from there to Lhasa.[3]

Künga Nyingpo's birth

The soon-to-be 5th Dalai Lama's father was named Dudul Rabten; his mother was named Kunga Lhanzi.[2] The name given to the child by his parents at the time of his birth in 1617 (CE) was Künga Nyingpo.[4]

Künga Nyingpo's childhood

The child's father, Dudul Rabten, was arrested in 1618 for his involvement in a plot to overthrow Zhingshag Tseten-dorjey, leader of the Tsang hegemony. Tseten-dorjey had originally been appointed Governor of Tsang by the Rinpung[5] Prime Minister Ngawang-namgyel in 1548. Tseten-dorjey had rebelled against Ngawang-namgyel starting in 1557, eventually overthrowing the Rinpung and establishing the Tsang hegemony in 1565 by declaring himself King of Tsang.[6] Tseten-dorjey established his residence at Samdruptse castle in Shigatse, near the Gelug monastery of Tashilhunpo, and together with his nine sons, eventually extended the reach of his power over both of Tibet's central provinces of Ü and Tsang.[7]

King Dorje's secular government enjoyed general support from the Sakya, Jonang, and Kagyu schools, while apparently maintaining somewhat tense, but cordial relations with his Gelug neighbours at Tashilhunpo. Dorje had reportedly viewed the Tümed Mongol leader Altan Khan's 1577 or 1578 naming of Drepung Monastery's abbot Sonam Gyatso as the 3rd Dalai Lama with considerable suspicion as a Gelug alliance with an unstable foreign power bent on military conquest. His fears were apparently borne out as Mongol intervention in Tibetan affairs increased during the short life of Mongolian-born 4th Dalai Lama Yonten Gyatso (1589-1617), as a result of which he formally prohibited the monks of Drepung from seeking the 4th Dalai Lama's reincarnation.[7]

Rabten's arrest therefore occurred at roughly the same time that his infant son had been recognized, supposedly in secret, by lamas of the Gelug order as the reincarnation of the 4th Dalai Lama, while Tashilhunpo's abbot Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen used diplomacy to persuade King Dorje to lift the ban he'd put in place on seeking out the 5th Dalai Lama. Rabten escaped his captors and tried to reach eastern Tibet, but was rearrested. Rabten died in captivity in 1626 at Samdruptse – Dorje's castle in Shigatse – and thus, he never lived to see his son again. The young 5th Dalai Lama's family were ordered by Dorje to live at court in Samdruptse, but his mother, Kunga Lhanzi,[2] fearing retribution from the king, returned with her son to her family's home, Narkatse castle, in Yardrog.[7]

Künga Nyingpo's recognition

The infant Künga Nyingpo's name had been drawn, by lot, from among the names of three children considered likely candidates in a divination ritual – probably a doughball divination[8] – which was held in secret (on account of King Dorje's prohibition against seeking the 4th Dalai Lama's reincarnation) at Radeng monastery.[7] The prior 4th Dalai Lama's chief attendant, Sonam Choephel (1595-1657), is credited with having discovered the incarnation.[2]

While at least two other buddhist orders (beside the Gelug group from Drepung monastery) had independently sought to claim Künga Nyingpo as a reincarnation of one or another of their own lamas who'd also died in 1616, young Künga Nyingpo's parents reportedly resisted their demands.[7]

Monastic life


Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso was the name which Künga Nyingpo received from Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen upon taking monastic ordination from him[4] at Drepung.[2]

Naming the Panchen Lama

Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen (1570–1662), the Fourth Panchen Lama (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). Since then, every incarnation of the Panchen Lama has been the master of Tashilhunpo.[9]

When Panchen Gyaltsen died in 1662 at 93, the 5th Dalai Lama immediately began the tradition of searching for his reincarnation. He composed a special prayer asking his master "to return" and directed the monks of Tibet's great monasteries to recite it.[7] 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.[10] This title has continued to be given to his successors and, posthumously, to his predecessors going back to the reformer Je Tsongkhapa's direct disciple Khedrup Je.

Education and practice

Although the 5th Dalai Lama, Lobsang Gyatso, completed all his formal monastic training as a Gelugpa, proving to be an exceptional scholar, he also studied Nyingmapa doctrines, and took Nyingma tantric empowerments.[11] In time, Gyatso gained a considerable reputation as a practitioner of Dzogchen[12] – the Nyingma tradition's "Great Perfection" teachings on the nature of the mind, roughly analogous to the Kagyu tradition's teachings on Mahamudra.[13] In his private Lukhang temple (on a lake behind the Potala), one wall of murals illustrates a commentary by Longchenpa on the Dzogchen tantra Rigpa Rangshar, based on Gyatso's own experience of the practice, depicting characteristic visions of the secret practice of thödgal and Trul khor.[14]

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.[7] His canonical works total 24 volumes, in all.[15]


Gyatso left an autobiography – entitled in Tibetan: ཟ་ཧོར་གྱི་བན་དེ་ངག་དབང་བློ་བཟང་རྒྱ་མཚོའི་འདི་སྣང་འཁྲུལ་བའི་རོལ་རྩེད་རྟོགས་བརྗོད་ཀྱི་ཚུལ་དུ་བཀོད་པ་དུ་ཀུ་ལའི་གོས་བཟང་Wylie: Za hor gyi ban de ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho'i 'di snang 'khrul ba'i rol rtsed rtogs brjod kyi tshul du bkod pa du ku la'i gos bzang[4] – but far more commonly referred to simply as Dukulai Gosang – in which, according to Samten Gyaltsen Karmay, he wrote:

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!"[7]

He also wrote in his autobiography 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!"[7]

Religious texts

The Tukdrup Yang Nying Kundü[16] or "Union of All Innermost Essences" (Tibetan: ཐུགས་སྒྲུབ་ཡང་སྙིང་ཀུན་འདུས་Wylie: thugs sgrub yang snying kun 'dus) sadhana of Padmasambhava's Eight Manifestations[17] comes from a "pure vision"[18] (Tibetan: དག་སྣང་Wylie: dag snang) terma of the 5th Dalai Lama. It is contained in his Sangwa Gyachen[19] (Tibetan: གསང་བ་རྒྱ་ཅན་Wylie: gsang ba rgya can). (Both the sadhana and its related empowerment texts were arranged by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.)

Historical texts

The 5th Dalai Lama "enthusiastically" wrote a detailed history of Tibet at the request of Güshi Khan in 1643.[7]

His rule of Tibet

Fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso's rule over central Tibet may be characterized, in very broad terms,

  • domestically – 
    • by the end of four centuries' worth of civil wars which had originally ensued upon the disintegration of the Tibetan empire following the assassination of King Langdarma in 842 (CE), and
  • in terms of foreign policy – 
    • by the formal establishment of friendly diplomatic relations with China's imperial court during the formative years of the Qing Dynasty, and
    • by his meeting with early European explorers of Tibet.
    • his military expeditions against Bhutan and the war against Ladakh

Domestic activities

Although the Fifth Dalai Lama would ultimately come to be known for unifying Tibet, it was his first regent Sonam Choephel (1595-1657 CE, also known as Sonam Rabten, treasurer of Ganden) who was, in fact, "the prime architect of the Gelug's rise to power".[7] The 5th Dalai Lama would eventually assume complete power – including that of appointing his regents.[20]

Rôle of Dzungar Mongols

Sonam Choephel, the regent during the 5th Dalai Lama Lobsang Gyatso's youth, requested the aid of Güshi Khan, a powerful Dzungar Mongol military leader in carrying out a military strategy in the Dalai Lama's name, though apparently with neither Gyatso's prior knowledge or consent.[7]

Güshi Khan (who was head of the Khoshut tribe[2]) 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 military unification of the country, effectively displacing the Phagmodrupa rule associated with the Karma Kagyu school. By subsequently formally recognizing the Fifth Dalai Lama's authority, Güshi Khan effectively made Gyatso the temporal ruler of Central Tibet.[7][21][22]

Güshi Khan maintained friendly and respectful relations with Gyatso, but died in 1655, leaving ten sons. Eight of them (along with their tribes) settled in the strategically important Koko Nur region of Amdo, where they frequently fought over territory. The 5th Dalai Lama sent several governors to the region between 1656 and 1659 to restore order. Although Güshi Khan's descendents (who would come to be known as the Upper Mongols) showed little interest in the administration of Tibet, they did appoint a regent for a while to act on their behalf in Lhasa, and gradually assimilated certain aspects of Tibetan culture into their own. They would also come to play a crucial rôle in extending the influence of the Gelug school within Amdo.[7]

Reëstablishing Lhasa as capital

In a move distinctly evocative of Songtsen Gampo,[3] Lobsang Gyatso once again proclaimed Lhasa to be the capital of Tibet. Assembling his government there, he "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 call him, the Desi.[7] Administrative authority was vested in the person of the Desi, while military power remained the special domain of Güshi Khan,[23] whom the 5th Dalai Lama acknowledged as king of the Dzungar Upper Mongols in Kokonor.[7]

Building the Potala

The Fifth Dalai Lama began construction of the Potala Palace in 1645[24] after one of his spiritual advisors, Konchog Chophel (d. 1646), pointed out that the site would be an ideal seat of government, situated as it is between Drepung and Sera monasteries, and overlooking Songtsen Gampo's old capital city of Lhasa.[7] The 5th Dalai Lama and his government moved into the Potrang Karpo – the White Palace – in 1649.[7]

The initial phase of construction continued until 1694,[25] some twelve years after the 5th Dalai Lama's death, which was kept secret from the general public for that length of time.[26] The Potrang Marpo – or Red Palace – was added between 1690 and 1694.[25]

Establishing Nechung as state oracle

The Fifth Dalai Lama formally institutionalized the Tibetan state oracle of Nechung.[27] Lobsang Gyatso established Nechung Monastery as the seat of Tibet's state oracle by instituting Pehar Gyalpo as the protector of Tibet's newly consolidated Ganden Phodrang government. Nechung – which, translated literally, means "small place" – was a shrine dedicated to Pehar, located about ten minutes West on foot from Drepung monastery near Tibet's newly declared capital city of Lhasa.

The rôle of the three-headed, six-armed Pehar as protector of Tibet can be traced back to at least the 8th century, when Pehar was oath-bound by Padmasambhava to act as chief among Tibet's protector's, with Dorje Drakden named his chief emissary. The 5th Dalai Lama also composed a generation stage practice and invocation of the protector entitled simply Dra-Yang-Ma (Melodic Chant), which was incorporated into the ritual cycles of Nechung Monastery, where it continues to be practiced, up to the present day.[28]

Disposing of "perfidious spirit" Dolgyal

Nechung's rôle in warding off one interfering spirit in particular is quite extensively detailed in the 5th Dalai Lama's autobiography. Contemporary scholar Georges Dreyfus and the current 14th Dalai Lama would appear to agree: Lobsang Gyatso specifically states that a gyalpo (Tibetan: རྒྱལ་པོ་Wylie: rgyal-po: a particular type of "very powerful, perfidious spirit") in the area of Dol Chumig Karmo[29] had "...been harming the teaching of the Buddha and sentient beings in general and in particular" since at least the fire-bird year of 1657 (CE).[15] The version of events which the 5th Dalai Lama relates is substantially corroborated by the account laid out in 1749 (CE) by Gelug historian Sumpa Khenpo (Tibetan: སུམ་པ་མཁན་པོ་ཡེ་ཤེས་དཔལ་འབྱོར་Wylie: sum-pa mKhan-po ye-shes dpal-‘byor 1702-1788 CE).[30] At any rate: confronted with the death of both people and cattle combined with harsh, unpredictable weather in an atmosphere of political intrigue and diplomatic insecurity, Gyatso undertook a specific course of action which might be considered somewhat unconventional, even for a religiously affiliated head of state.

At the end of the earth-bird year of 1669 (CE), a special crypt was constructed, and offerings placed within it in hopes that it might serve as a home in which the disturbed spirit of Drakpa Gyaltsen – an iconoclastic tulku and rival scholar who had died under mysterious circumstances at a time of considerable political turmoil – might finally settle.[29][30] Reportedly, though, the evil spirit's harmful activities only intensified, manifesting (in part) as atmospheric disturbances including hailstorms, but also causing both people and cattle to fall prey to disease.[29] The deaths of some monks were attributed to the spirit as well – which was named "Dolgyal" by combining gyalpo with the ghost's place of residence.[15] It was only later that Dolgyal would come to be identified with Dorje Shugden (Tibetan: རྡོ་རྗེ་ཤུགས་ལྡན་Wylie: rDo-rje Shugs-ldan) through conflation with a much older Sakya protector of the same name[31] associated with the remote Nepali village of Tsap.[29][32]

Modest but extensive offerings to monks of wheat and tea along with small amounts of gold reportedly resulted in sutra recitations numbering in the tens of thousands. Combined with the performance of many far more complex tantric rituals, the coördinated efforts reached eleven separate district capitals, and spread through no fewer than seventy monasteries including Dorje Drag, Sera, and Drepung. The entire cycle was concluded with an elaborate fire puja offering in which the "perfidious spirit" was ritually burnt by seven different groups of practitoners, led by

  • Pema Trinley of Dorje Drag,
  • Choegyal Terdag Lingpa (1646–1714, of Mindroling[4])
  • Choeje Vugja Lungpa,
  • Ngari Ngagchang Konchok Lhundup,
  • Palri Tulku, and
  • two separate groups of monks from Phende Lekshe Ling,

the Dalai Lamas' personal monastery (already known as Namgyal by that time). Thus invoking all of Tibet's dharma protectors – including Nechung – the 5th Dalai Lama charged them to "not support, protect, or give ... shelter" to Drakpa Gyaltsen in a formal promulgation[33] which the current 14th Dalai Lama characterizes as "quite strongly worded".[34]

Recalling the events of that time later, the 5th Dalai Lama wrote that "...indirectly these creatures..." – Tibetan: འབྱུང་པོ་Wylie: ‘byung-po means, roughly, "creature" or "evil spirit" – "...were delivered to the peaceful state of being, released from having to experience the intolerable suffering of bad states of rebirth due to their increasingly negative actions."[29] But the unification of Tibet having occurred at least in part on account of scapegoating the departed spirit of a controversial but popular rival lama was not to had be without eventual historic consequence.

Later opposition on Shugden

The growth of the 19th-Century nonsectarian Rime movement served in part to expose and exacerbate political tensions within the Gelug hierarchy as it had come to organize itself in the centuries following the 5th Dalai Lama's death.[35] Some of his acts were subsequently misconstrued by certain conservative factions within the Gelug order as an "elevation" by Lobsang Gyatso of the dangerously volatile Dolgyal (by now, quite thoroughly conflated with the original Sakya protector named Shugden)[36] to the status of Dharmapala – in other words: a particularly forceful emanation of a blissfully awakened buddha's enlightened activity and therefore basically an enlightened being, himself.[35]

The 13th Dalai Lama therefore sought to clarify his view about Dorje Shugden's status in his letter to Phabongkha Dechen Nyingpo, in which he identified Dorje Shugden as a "wrathful worldly spirit", the propitiation of which "contradicts the precepts of taking refuge". In reply, Phabongka (who is better remembered for his teachings on the graded stages of the path and reputation of conferring Kalachakra empowerments to large crowds of laypeople regardless of his having enthusiastically propitiated Shugden) acknowledged his “error”. In the same letter, Phabongka said "...I have propitiated Shugden until now because my old mother told me that Shugden is the deity of my maternal lineage", thereby acknowledging Shugden practice's provincial and even familial (as well as Sakya) origins.[37]

The current 14th Dalai Lama, for his part, continues to maintain it was the Fifth's intent to appease the interfering spirit of the Gyalpo class from Dol Chumig Karmo – hence his insistence on using the name "Dolgyal" to disambiguate a practice he disrecommends from one of a protector of the Sakya school to which he's tied through prior incarnations.[39]

Some contemporary Dorje Shugden practitioners consider the structure called Trode Khangsar built for Drakpa Gyaltsen (as Dorje Shugden) in Lhasa to be a shrine or temple dedicated to Shugden, translating Tibetan: བསྟན་ཁན་Wylie: btsan-khan into English as "protector house".[40] They also credit the 5th Dalai Lama Lobsang Gyatso with having crafted the first statue of Shugden, which is currently housed at Gaden Phelgyeling Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal,[41] and have claimed that he composed a supplication prayer at one point to Shugden.[42] The current 14th Dalai Lama grants that such a document may have at one point existed but points out that none now does in the canonical collections of the Fifth's writings, while seeking to contextualize any such document's purported existence in light of the Fifth's later "quite strongly worded" declaration on the matter.[34]

Resolving sectarian divides

Due in part to the deception of his first regent, the 21-year-old 5th Dalai Lama Lobsang Gyatso inherited military and political control of a nation torn by four centuries of civil wars which had often been characterized at least in part by sectarian allegiances.[7] And although the general form of government he instituted would remain largely in place until Tibet's military occupation by the Peoples Republic of China in the 1950s, Gyatso's own rule over Tibet would not pass into history lacking events which certain keen observers may well still consider to have been abuses of his newly formed government's power.

Specific grievances
Of the Kagyü and Bön traditions

In 1648, Tibetans loyal to the Gelug school reportedly joined Mongol forces in coercing monks of certain Kagyu and Bön institutions to embrace specifically Gelug doctrines.[20][43] Modern Tibetans still differentiate between Bön and Buddhism in common parlance, calling members of the Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug schools nangpa[44] (meaning "insider"), while referring to practitioners of Bön as bönpo.[45]

Of the Jonang tradition

In 1650, Gyatso officially sealed the printing presses of the Jonang school, and explicitly forbade the teaching of their zhentong philosophical views within central Tibet.[46] In 1658, the Jonang monastery Takten Damchö Ling in Lhatse – which had been the monastic seat of Taranatha (1575–1634) – was converted to a Gelug institution by the name of Phuntsok Choling.[46]

Redress and reconciliation
With the Kagyü and Bön

In 1674, the 5th Dalai Lama met with 10th Karmapa (i.e., the specific tulku, or incarnate lama who heads the Karma Kagyu school) Chöying Dorje (1604–1674) at the Potala. This mutual gesture of "reconciliation" was reportedly "welcomed by both parties after the many conflicts and misunderstandings between 1612 and 1642".[7]

With the Jonang

Although there are in fact some fairly subtle philosophical differences between the Jonang and Gelug schools' respective zhentong and rangtong views on voidness,[47] the 5th Dalai Lama's formal censures against that school were politically (rather than philosophically or religiously) motivated.[7] And while the Jonang teachings were effectively driven out of central Tibet's great monasteries, the school's distinct transmission lineages of both zhentong philosophy and Dro Kalachakra complete stage practices have survived in the geographically remote region of Amdo to this day.[48] In late 2001, the current 14th Dalai Lama reportedly composed an "Aspiration Prayer for the Flourishing of the Jonang Teachings" entitled in Tibetan: ཇོ་ནང་པའི་བསྟན་རྒྱས་སྨོན་ལམ་Wylie: Jo-nang pa'i bStan rGyas sMon-lam (which might be called quite strongly worded).[49]

Establishing pluralist theocracy

The 5th Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso established a centralized dual system of government under the Gyalwa Rinpoche (i.e., the institution of the Dalai Lama) which was divided equally between laymen and monks (both Gelugpa and Nyingmapa). This form of government, with few changes, survived up to modern times. He also revitalized the Lhasa Mönlam, the capital city's New Year Festival,[11] which had originally been created by the reformer Je Tsongkhapa in 1409 (CE).[50]

It was under Gyatso's 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 the supremacy of the Gelug school over Bön, or over the other Buddhist schools, but "the dedication of an entire nation to a religious principle".[51]

Foreign relations

  • Fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso was the first Dalai Lama to accept an invitation from an emperor of China to visit the Chinese capital city of Beijing.
  • Three separate expeditions known from European sources to have visited Tibet did so during the 5th Dalai Lama's lifetime; and he met with members of the third of these.

Establishing relations with China

The 5th Dalai Lama's official visit, as an independent head of state, to Beijing in 1653 should be understood in the context of the prior relationship which existed between China and Tibet.

History of mutual independence

Earlier invitations to visit the Manchu court in Beijing had been turned down by both 3rd Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso and 4th Dalai Lama Yonten Gyatso.[52] Analyzing the Ming emperors' repeated invitations of Tibetan lamas from various schools, contemporary buddhist scholar Alexander Berzin says that "requests by the Ming emperors for Tibetan lamas to visit China and the freedom the lamas exercised in responding to these requests, characterize the Sino Tibetan relationship at this time as one of mutual independence."[53]

Diplomatic envoy to Beijing

Fifth Dalai Lama Lobsang Gyatso established diplomatic relations with the second Manchu emperor of the Qing Dynasty, accepting Shunzhi's 1649 invitation. The 5th Dalai Lama set out from Lhasa in 1652 accompanied by 3,000 men. The journey to Beijing took nine months. Lobsang Gyatso and his entourage spent two months in the yellow palace which had been especially constructed by the emperor in order to house him.

Emperor Shunzhi, who was only 14 years old (13 by Western reckoning) at the time, first met the Dalai Lama in January of 1653, honouring him with two grand imperial receptions.[7] Some historians claim that the emperor treated the Dalai Lama as an equal[54] while others dispute this claim.[55] The Emperor gave Gyatso a parting gift of an elaborate gold seal reading "Dalai Lama, Overseer of the Buddhist Faith on Earth Under the Great Benevolent Self-subsisting Buddha of the Western Paradise".[53]

European missionaries in Tibet

The first documented Europeans to arrive in Tibet may have been the Portuguese Jesuit missionaries, António de Andrade and Manuel Marques who did so in either July or August of 1624, when the 5th Dalai Lama would have been about seven or eight years old.

Jesuit missions in Tibet

While the first two Jesuit mission churches to be established in Tibet followed in direct result of Andrade and Marques' 1624 visit, neither would remain to see the 1642 enthronement of 5th Dalai Lama Lobsang Gyatso at Samdruptse castle in Shigatse[7] as the temporal ruler of Tibet.

First Jesuit mission at Tsaparang

Andrade and Marques were reportedly welcomed warmly by the King and Queen of Guge, becoming the first documented Europeans to enter Tibet. Staying in Tibet for only a month, Andrade and Marques would return to Agra, India by November of 1624 to organize a mission trip for the following year. In 1625, with the full support of the King and Queen of Guge, Andrade and Marques established a permanent mission at Tsaparang, in the Garuda Valley of western Tibet's Ngari region.[56]

Second Jesuit mission at Shigatse

On Andrade's advice, a second Jesuit mission was dispatched to southern Tibet from India in 1627. The Portuguese missionaries João Cabral and Estêvão Cacella were reportedly welcomed at Shigatse by the King of Ü-Tsang, and Cabral and Cacella established their mission there in 1628.[57] Cabral and Cacella provided the first information to reach the West about the mystical country of Shambhala (which they transcribed as "Xembala") in their reports back to India.[58]

Evacuation of Jesuit missions

Both of the Portuguese missions were evacuated in 1635 after becoming embroiled in the power struggles for control of Tibet at that time.[59] It would be twenty-five years before the next documented Europeans visited Tibet.

Third Jesuit expedition

The first Europeans to meet a Dalai Lama were probably the two Jesuits, Johannes Grueber of Austria and Albert Dorville (D’Orville). In 1661, Grueber and D'orville traveled through Lhasa on their way from Peking to Agra, India on an Imperial Passport.[60] It is this expedition from which Dutch publisher Athanasius Kircher's 1667 engraving in China Illustrata (purported to depict 5th Dalai Lama Lobsang Gyatso) is derived, based on expedition journals and charts left to him by Grueber.[61][62]

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.[11] 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.[63] 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...."[26]

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


External links

  • Gold Seal of the 5th Dalai Lama given to him by Emperor Shunzhi in 1653, on Chinese website (in German).

Related information

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

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