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How Khedrup Je Became Entrusted with the Tooth-relic

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Khedrup Gelek Pelzang, better known as Khedrup Je, was one of the main disciples of Lama Tsongkhapa [1357-1419], founder of the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

This story, passed down through the centuries, tells how Khedrup Je became entrusted with Je Tsongkhapa’s tooth-relic, providing an illuminating take on the mystery of why relics of holy beings multiply.

At Gawa-dong, at the time when the Majestic Lord Tsongkhapa was granting prophecies, the Lord Khedrup Je asked, “Majestic Lord, how long do I have left to live on this earth?”

The Majestic Lord replied, “Your dying day is right now.”

As the Lord pondered his being bound to transmigrate to a different field, he had a vision of the protector Amitayus Boundless Life who gave him an auspicious omen about prolonging his life.

When he was informed of this, the Majestic Lord said, “This being the case, I now remember that] at Chlung, I lost a tooth. If I give it to you publicly, Khedrup-pa, your death will be postponed until the tenth month of the Pig Year.

You should guard it well. Indeed, after the passing of three hundred years, a pandita, one predicted by the deities, by the name of Dharma-raja, will ceremoniously invite this sacred object to Magadha and the Vajra Throne.

Thereby, on this earth, the tooth will produce relic pills.”

The Majestic Lord Tsongkhapa thus continued to give predictions for a long time. Later, he traveled to Chlung, and whilst in deep meditation had visions of the assembled deities of the four classes of Tantra and, in particular, of the Thirty-five Buddhas [see page XX]; and received their blessings.

At that time, Khedrup-pa supplicated the Omniscient Tsongkhapa:

“Last night I dreamt about the prophecy given by the Father Guru.

Please explain the Stages of the Path of Vajradhara, the abbreviated meaning of the four classes of tantra to me.”

The Lord Tsongkhapa replied: “Fine!” and granted him a profound teaching.

The rays of the sun were very strong that day, but from the Lord’s face a light appeared that pervaded all of space. Some perceived it as rainbow light.

Gyaltsab Je had seen the Precious Lord’s tooth, as had the Vinaya-holder, and Khedrup-pa.

The Lord Tsongkhapa spoke:

“Residing in front of Mt. Meru like a mountain of gold – To you, incomparable Gelek Khedrup Je, I offer it as a gift!”

And with these words he handed the tooth to Khedrup-pa.

Gyaltsab, the Vinaya-holder, and the others asked, “Why didn’t you give it to any of us?”

He answered, “It is not that I refuse to give it to you; but in this matter you are less fortunate than Khedrup-pa.”

The Majestic Lord continued, “There is even a prophecy about this, one which tells of the individuals who will pass it on. If all of you offer supplications for a seven-day period, I will grant that [each of] you will obtain it.” Khedrup Je took the tooth to his quarters, supplicated it, and it radiated light which filled his room.

After seven days had passed, the Lord told Khedrup Je, “Bring the tooth here.”

He then arranged an excellent display of offerings in front of it. As he opened [the relic box in which it was enclosed], the tooth itself transformed into an image of Manjughosha Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, the head and hands of which were as if encrusted with tiny relic pills.

The one from the crown of the head, of this Manjughosha, was the color of a conch shell, and it was given to Pawo Dorje.

The one on the forehead was the color of crystal and it was given to Gyaltsab.

The one at the throat was the color of gold and was given to Punya-shri.

The one at the heart was like lapis and was given to the Vinaya-holder.

From Majestic Lord Manjughosha’s body and limbs, two thousand relic pills came forth and these were given to every resident there.

Thereafter, the majority of the relics that had thus come forth multiplied further and these were widely distributed, amongst those with the karma to receive them, as objects of veneration.

The above is to give an idea of the prophecy and the specific signs that became manifest; as this [oral] tradition, even in name, is lost in Central Tibet.

The wise and erudite Majestic and Saintly Lord, Sangye Rinchen, unable to bear [that this oral tradition become completely lost] greatly exerted himself in writing and sending this from Cho-ne in lower Amdo.

May it cause the stainless teaching to increase greatly.

Khedrup Je was unanimously chosen as Ganden Monastery’s third abbot (after Tsongkhapa and Gyaltsab Je) by its monks, and also became the Ganden Tripa, the leader of the Gelug tradition.

According to legend, after Lama Tsongkhapa passed away in 1419, his disciple Khedrup Je met with him on five occasions in mystical states. Khedrup Je is most remembered for his charisma as a teacher,

as well as for the many excellent commentaries that he wrote on the tantric lineages, which Lama Tsongkhapa gathered together and elucidated.

He played an important role in the education of the First Dalai Lama, Gendun Drup, who was the youngest of Tsongkhapa’s five chief disciples.

This story was translated from the Tibetan by Tenzin Jamchen (Sean Price), with the assistance of Alak Zenkar, Geshe Tashi Tsering (resident geshe at Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London), Hubert Decleer, Doris Low, and Jenny Kane.