The First Tongkhor, Dawa Gyeltsen

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The First Tongkhor, Dawa Gyeltsen b.1476 - d.1556

Name Variants: Zhabdrun Dawa Gyeltsen

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Dawa Gyeltsen (zla ba rgyal mtshan) was born to an extremely poor family in Rongbu (rong bu) valley in the Tsarngo (tsar ngos) area of Tongkhor, eastern Amdo, in 1476, the wood-horse year of the eighth sexagenary cycle. According to his biography a Bon lama prophesied that he would become a powerful Buddhist lama who would suppress the Bon teachings. He was identified as the reincarnation of Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa's (tsong kha pa lo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419) disciple Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen ('dul 'dzin grags pa rgyal mtshan, 1374-1434).

He received Buddhist teachings from various teachers, such as Tashi Gyeltsen (bkra shis rgyal mtshan, d.u) and Dawa Wangchuk (zla ba dbang phyug, d.u), from whom he received monastic vows and the name Dawa Gyeltsen.

He pursued further studies in both religious and secular topics under Gewa Pel (dge ba dbal, d.u), Drakzang (grags bzang, d.u), Rinchen Drakpa (rin chen grags pa, d.u), Gendun Rinchen (dge 'dun rin chen, d.u.), Sanggye Rinchen (sangs rgyas rin chen, d.u.) and other masters at Chukmo Chokhor Ling (phyug mo chos 'khor kling) in Minyak Rabgang (mi nyag rab sgang), which was founded by Pakpa Lodro Gyeltsen ('phags pa blo gros rgyal mtshan, 1235-1280).

He later went to Lhasa and enrolled in Sera Me (se ra smad) Monastery where he trained in the five traditional subjects of the Geluk monastic curriculum, Abhisamayālaṃkāra, Mādhyamaka, Abhidharmakośa, Pramāṇavārttika, and Vinaya. He applied for residency at the Trewo Khamtsen (tre bo khams tshan), where many monks from Amdo customarily lived, but due to his economically disadvantaged situation he was not accepted. Instead he resided at the Rongwo Khamtsen (rong bo khams tshan), under the leadership of Rongwo Kirti Choje Lobzang Tokme (rong bo kirti chos rje blo bzang thogs med, d.u). All later Tongkhor incarnations likewise resided at the Rongwo Khamtsen while studying at Sera.

He returned to Amdo after several years of study at Sera. He first meditated at a cave hermitage called Kuso Tokgyel (sku bso thog rgyal) for a long period, such that the place came to be renamed in his honor, Dawa Cave (zla ba phug pa).

Dawa Gyeltsen took control of a small Bon institution in northern Kham, near Kandze (dkar mdzad), named Bonkhang Gangwa (bon khang sgang ba) and converted it into a Geluk hermitage which he named Sangchen Dorje Ling (gsang chen rdo rje gling). He later established a small monastery nearby, Tashilhunpo (bkra shis lhun po).

Dawa Gyeltsen is remembered for having actively promoted the Geluk tradition and for suppressing the Bon, which at the time was strong in the region.

He passed away at the age of eighty-two in 1556, the wood-rabbit year of the ninth sexagenary cycle.

Tongkhor Incarnation linage
First Tongkhor, Dawa Gyeltsen (stong 'khor 01 zla ba rgyal mtshan, 1476-1556)
Second Tongkhor, Yonten Gyatso (stong 'khor 02 yon tan rgya mtsho, 1556-1587)
Third Tongkhor, Gyelwa Gyatso (stong 'khor 03 rgyal ba rgya mtsho, 1588-1639)
Fourth Tongkhor, Dogyu Gyatso (stong 'khor 04 mdo rgyud rgya mtsho, d.1683)
Fifth Tongkhor, Ngawang Sonam Gyatso (stong 'khor 05 ngag dbang bsod nams rgya mtsho, 1684-1752)

The branch based at Tongkhor Tashilhunpo (stong 'khor bkra shis lhun po) in Kham:
Sixth Tongkhor, Jampel Gendun Gyatso (stong 'khor 06 'jam dpal dge 'dun rgya mtsho, 1754-1803)
Seventh Tongkhor, Lobzang Dogyu Yeshe Tenpai Gyeltsen (stong 'khor 07 blo bzang mdo rgyud ye shes bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan, 1806-1852)
Eighth Tongkhor, Ngawang Dogyu Yonten Rabgye (stong 'khor 08 ngag dbang mdo rgyud yon tan rab rgyas, 1853-1907)
Ninth Tongkhor, Lobzang Tubten Jigme Tsultrim Gyatso (blo bzang thub bstan 'jigs med tshul khrims rgya mtsho, 1908-c.1933)
Tenth Tongkhor, Lobzang Tubten Jigme Jampa Gyatso (stong 'khor 10 blo bzang thub bstan 'jigs med byams pa rgya mtsho, c.1933-1960)

The branch based at Tongkhor Ganden Chokhor Ling (stong 'khor dgon dga' ldan chos 'khor gling) in Amdo:
Sixth Tongkhor, Ngawang Jamyang Tendzin Gyatso (stong 'khor 06 ngag dbang 'jam dbyangs bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, 1753-1798).
Seventh Tongkhor,  Kelzang Jamyang Gyatso (stong 'khor 07 skal bzang 'jam dbyangs rgya mtsho, 1799-1811).
Eighth Tongkhor, Lobzang Dogyu Yeshe Tenpai Gyeltsen (stong 'khor 08 blo bzang mdo rgyud ye shes bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, 1812-1819)
Ninth Tongkhor, Tubten Jigme Gyatso (stong 'khor 09 thub bstan 'jigs med rgya mtsho, 1820-1882).
Tenth Tongkhor Lobzang Tenpai Nyima (stong 'khor 10 blo bzang bstan pa'i nyi ma, 1883-1890)
Eleventh Tongkhor, Lobzang Jigme Tsultrim Gyatso (stong 'khor 11 blo bzang 'jigs med tshul khrims rgya mtsho, 1891-1909)
Twelfth Tongkhor, Lobzang Tubten Lungtok Shedrub Gyatso (stong 'khor 12 blo bzang thub bstan lung rtogs bshad sgrub rgya mtsho, 1910-1920)
Thirteenth Tongkhor, Lobzang Jangchub Tendzin Gyatso (stong 'khor 13 blo bzang byang chub bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, 1921-1983)


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Sonam Dorje
September 2012