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5th Dalai Lama

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Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, 5th Dalai Lama

"Lobsang Gyatso" redirects here. For the monk, see Lobsang Gyatso (monk).

Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama (1617–1682), was a political and religious leader in seventeenth-century Tibet. Ngawang Lozang Gyatso was the ordination name he had received from Panchen Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen who was responsible for his ordination. He was the first Dalai Lama to wield effective political power over central Tibet, and is frequently referred to as the "Great Fifth Dalai Lama".

Birth, family and childhood

Lobsang Gyatso (birthname: Künga Nyingpo) was born in 1617 in Tsang to a family with traditional ties to the Sakya and Nyingma orders. His famous noble Zahor family had held their seat since the 14th century at Taktsé Castle, the former stronghold of the Tibetan kings.

His father, Dudul Rabten, was arrested in 1618 for being involved in a plot against the royal government of the king of Tsang at almost the same time the Gelug had secretly chosen his son as the reincarnation of Yonten Gyatso, the 4th Dalai Lama.

According to the 14th Dalai Lama it was Sonam Choephel, the chief attendant of the Fourth Dalai Lama, who discovered the incarnation. Dudul Rabten escaped and tried to reach eastern Tibet but was rearrested and never saw his son again before he died in 1626 at Samdruptse, the king of Tsang's castle in Shigatse.

Lobsang Gyatso's family were all ordered to live at the court at Samdruptse, but his mother, fearing the king, returned with her son to her family's home, Narkatse castle, in Yardrog.


The Fifth Dalai Lama completed all his training as a Gelugpa and proved to be an exceptional scholar. He also studied Nyingmapa tantric doctrines and some say he took Nyingma initiations, while he is also famous for being a great practitioner of Dzogchen.

In his secret Lukhang temple on a lake behind the Potala palace in Lhasa one wall of murals illustrates a commentary by Longchenpa on a Dzogchen tantra Rigpa Rangshar, interpreted according to the Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso's own experience of practice. The murals show characteristic visions of the secret practice of thödgal, and Trul khor.

Political activities

The Fifth Dalai Lama is known for unifying Tibet under the control of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, after defeating the rival Kagyu school and a secular ruler, the prince of Tsan\atse.

Sonam Rapten, also called Sonam Choephel, the Regent during the youth of Lobsang Gyatso, requested the aid of Güshi Khan, a powerful Mongol military leader.

Güshi Khan 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 unification of the country, and displacing the rival dominant school of the Karmapas. He then recognized the authority of the Fifth Dalai Lama, making him the ruler of the whole of Tibet.

The Mongol army in Tibet and Tibetans loyal to the Gelugpa are said to have forced monks of some Kagyu monasteries to convert to the Gelug school in 1648. In 1674 he met with the 10th Karmapa, Chöying Dorje (1604–1674) at the Potala, and the reconciliation was welcomed by all after the many conflicts and difficulties.

However, he banished the Jonang to Amdo from Central Tibet and some Bonpo monasteries were forced to convert to the Gelug school. This ban was politically motivated, although there were some philosophical disagreements.

Lobsang Gyatso proclaimed Lhasa as the capital of Tibet, and "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 called him, the Desi. Administrative authority remained with the Desi and military power with Gushri, who was entitled king of Tibet."

The Dalai Lama also established warm relations with the Shunzhi Emperor of China, the second Manchu emperor of the Qing Dynasty, during a state visit to Beijing in 1652 after several earlier invitations. He set out accompanied by 3,000 men and stayed at the Yellow Palace which had been specially

constructed by the Manchu emperor to house him. The emperor met the Dalai Lama in January 1653 when he was only 14 (15 by Western reckoning). The Dalai Lama stayed in Beijing for two months and was honoured with two grand imperial receptions.

Some historians claim that the emperor treated the Dalai Lama as an equal while others dispute this claim. The Emperor subsequently granted him the honorific title Dalai Lamar of the Buddhist Faith on Earth Under the Great Benevolent Self-subsisting Buddha of the Western Paradise. From this meeting onwards, the Dalai Lamas were considered priests to the throne by successive Qing emperors.

Gushri Khan maintained friendly, respectful relations with Lobsang Gyatso but died in 1655. His followers showed little interest in the administration of the country although they did appoint a Regent for a while to advance their interests in Lhasa. Gushri Khan left ten sons to follow him. Eight of them, with their

tribes, settled in the strategically important Koko Nur region in Amdo and quarreled constantly over territory. The 5th Dalai Lama sent several governors in 1656 and 1659 to restore order. The Mongols were gradually Tibetanised and played an important role in extending the Gelug school's influence in Amdo.

The 5th Dalai Lama gradually assumed complete power, including that of appointing the regents.

Relations with the Fourth Panchen Lama

Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen (1570–1662), the Fourth Panchen Lama of Tibet, 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) and since then every incarnation of the Panchen Lama has been the master of Tashilhunpo.

When Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen died in 1662, aged 93, the Fifth Dalai Lama immediately began the tradition of searching for his reincarnation. He composed a special prayer asking his master 'to return' and ordered the

monks of the great monasteries to recite it. 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, and this title has continued to be given to his successors and, posthumously, to his predecessors starting with Khedrup Je.

1291431-1-Urkunde des 5. Dalai Lama Dieter Schuh.jpg

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. He wrote 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!" His works total 24 volumes including a detailed history of Tibet which he wrote in 1643 at the request of Gushri Khan. He has left an autobiography called Dukulai Gosang.

Construction of the Potala Palace

The Fifth Dalai Lama started the construction of the Potala Palace in 1645 after one of his spiritual advisers, Konchog Chophel (d. 1646), pointed out that the site was ideal as a seat of government, situated as it is

between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old city of Lhasa. The Dalai Lama and his government moved into the Potrang Karpo ('White Palace') in 1649. Construction lasted until 1694, some twelve years after his death. The Potrang Marpo ('Red Palace') was added between 1690 and 1694.

Other activities

Museum of Ethnology Vienna 002.JPG

The Fifth Dalai Lama was the first to institutionalize the State Oracle of Nechung. He instituted Pehar Gyalpo as the protector of the Tibetan government, thus Nechung Monastery became the seat of Tibet's State Oracle (not Dholgyal Shugden). Nechung (Ne means place and chung means small) was a shrine

dedicated to Pehar, located at west of Tibet's capital, Lhasa. The role of Pehar as protector to Tibet can be traced back to 8th century, where Pehar was bound to oath by Padmasambhava as

head of the hierarchy of protectors for Tibet, with Dorje Drakden as his chief emissary. The Great Fifth (Fifth Dalai Lama) also composed Dra-Yang-Ma (Melodic Chant), a text of self-generation practice and an invocation of the protector, was incorporated ans preserved into the monastic rites until the present time.

The position of Nechung was well documented in one particular account to ward off evil spirit (around 1669). The Fifth Dalai Lama in his autobiography entry has specifically mentioned the distorting "evil spirit" from Dhol Chumig Karmo (Shugden's place of origin; which directly refers to (Dholgyal) Shugden) .... has been harming

the teaching of the Buddha and sentient beings in general and in particular. A new house (not shrine nor temple) was constructed and articles were placed there in the hope it would become a place for the Gyalpo (evil spirit) to settle. However, the evil spirit's harmful activities only intensified and

causes many lay and ordained people afflicted with diseases and death of few monks. A fire ritual was performed and in this prayers, along with all Dharma Protectors, Nechung and his entourage was summoned to ward off the evil spirit, (Dholgyal)Shugden...

He ordered a temple to be built in Lhasa, called Trode Khangsar, which was designated as a "protector house" (btsan khan) for Dorje Shugden. He also crafted the first statue of Dorje Shugden which is currently at Gaden Phelgyeling Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal.

However this was misunderstood by some as elevation of (Dholgyal)Shugden as protector by the Fifth Dalai Lama, instead it was his intention to appease the Dholgyal, evil spirit (Gyalpo), from Dhol Chumig Karmo,

in short Dholgyal. The status of (Dolgyal) Shugden was reconfirmed by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama in his letter to Phabongkhapa Dechen Nyingpo (Phabongka Rinpoche), where he identified (Dolgyal) Shugden as "...wrathful worldly spirit....contradicts the precepts of taking refuge". In reply,

Phabongka Rinpoche, active promoter of Shugden's practice, has admitted his mistake in propitiating Shugden (Dolgyal) as a protector and repented his act before the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. In the same letter Phabongka Rinpoche mentioned "..I have propitiated Shugden until now because my old mother told me that Shugden

is the deity of my maternal lineage..", which reconfirmed the practice of Shugden was not originated from Gelugpa lineage and altogether dismiss the misunderstanding that the Fifth Dalai Lama has elevated (Dholgyal) Shugden status as protector...

He established a centralized, dual system of government under the Gyalwa Rinpoche (i.e., the Dalai Lama), divided equally between laymen and monks (both Gelugpa and Nyingmapa); this form of government, with few changes, survived up to modern times. He also instituted the Lhasa Mönlam, the New Year Festival or "Great Prayer of Lhasa".

It was under his 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 only the supremacy of the Gelugpa school over Bön, or over the other Buddhist schools, but "the dedication of an entire nation to a religious principle".

Lobsang Gyatso was the first to declare Bön to be a fifth school of Buddhism in Tibet. This position was restated in 1987 by Tenzin Gyatso, the current, 14th Dalai Lama, who also forbade discrimination against

the Bönpo However, Tibetans still differentiate between Bön and Buddhism, calling members of the Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug schools "nangpa " (meaning "insider"), but referring to practitioners of Bön as "bönpo".

Revolt of the Three Feudatories

In 1673, the 5th Dalai Lama supported the Revolt of the Three Feudatories.

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. 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. 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 Lamas 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...."

Quotation from Dukulai Gosang

According to Samten Gyaltsen Karmay, the Fifth Dalai Lama writes in his autobiography, Dukulai Gosang:

The official Tsawa Kachu of the Gande 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!"


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