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Jaya Pandita (1642 – 1708)

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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A boy with promising signs was born in Mongolia to the royal bloodline of the legendary Chinggis Khan. He would emerge as a most important figure between the Mongolian and Tibetan worlds, who would come to be among the most significant students of the renowned master Tulku Dragpa Gyeltsen. He is famous for having preserved the secret biography (namthar) of this great master.

In his youth, he traveled to Tibet, enrolled into Tashi Lhumpo monastery and began his monastic curriculum. In 1660, The Great Fifth Dalai Lama bestowed the title ‘Jaya Pandita’ upon the young monk on the auspicious occasion of his ordination. He practiced Yamantaka, White Umbrella and Guhyasamaja as his yidams and delved into the studies of the great treatises while studying the medical treatises. He had some of the greatest Tibetan masters of his time as his spiritual mentors, including of course the most illustrious Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen.

He would later return to Mongolia and spend the rest of his life translating a great number of important Tibetan texts into Mongolian. Jaya Pandita himself was a great linguist and being exposed to the technical sophistication of the Tibetan written language inspired him to revise the Mongol alphabet. He made the Mongol written language phonetically more accurate and this would become the genesis of an independent literary tradition.

Due to political reasons, the written records of Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen was tempered or wiped out in Tibet. However, one of the few surviving documents that details the life and writings of Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen were preserved amongst the written works of Jaya Pandita. During Jaya Pandita’s lifetime, much of the profound teachings of the Gelug order were being transmitted into Mongolia. Hence, the story of Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen’s transformation into Dorje Shugden, the Protector of the Gaden tradition fired the popular imagination of the Mongol scholars.

Part of the collection of Jaya Pandita’s works includes the popular genre of biographies of Tulku Dragpa Gyeltsen and his previous incarnations. Thus, these biographies link Dorje Shugden closely to his illustrious previous lives. Also, these texts explored the most secret, mystical side of Tulku Dragpa Gyeltsen, revealing for example some of the visions that this teacher had even when he was still very young.

Later, Lobsang Tamdin analysed the meaning of a prophecy that Tulku Dragpa Gyeltsen had received from Panchen Lobsang Chokyi Gyeltsen – that as soon as Tulku Dragpa Gyeltsen passed away, the Chinese emperor came into the world. This became a clear indication that the Emperor Kang Xi of the Qing dynasty was none other than the incarnation of Tulku Dragpa Gyeltsen. He also became famously known as an emanation of Manjushri, with specifically close connections to Wu Tai Shan in China, the abode of Manjushri.

By these writings, the initial diffusion of Dorje Shugden’s practice in Mongolia is inextricably linked to the popularity of these texts. Unfortunately, this tradition of recognizing Dorje Shugden on the basis of his previous lives came to an end in the 19th century.

More unfortunately, many scholars today fail to reference these early sources in their contemporary discussions of Dorje Shugden, often leaning more towards the recent discussions of him as a spirit than relying on the texts of old which had earlier pointed clearly to his enlightened nature.

The legacy that Jaya Pandita left behind after his demise was not restricted to the literary tradition alone. In fact, he also founded an important monastery in Mongolia and four other monastic colleges.