The following is extracted from a talk given by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso on Je Tsongkhapa Day 1996 at Manjushri KMC .
‘Before Je Tsongkhapa appeared in Tibet, many Tibetan scholars and practitioners already knew that he was coming because of predictions made by Buddha Shakyamuni that in the future Manjushri would appear as the Tibetan Lama, Je Tsongkhapa.
You may recall that Buddha in his Root Tantra of Manjushri said to his Heart Disciple Manjushri:
After I pass away
And my pure doctrine is absent,
You will appear as an ordinary being,
Performing the deeds of a Buddha
And establishing the Joyful Land, the great Protector,
In the Land of the Snows.
‘The Land of the Snows’ refers to Tibet, and ‘Joyful Land’ refers both to Ganden Monastery and to the Ganden doctrine, the great Protector.
Buddha was saying that in the future, after he had passed away and his pure doctrine was finished, at that time Manjushri would appear in the aspect of an ordinary being but would perform exactly the same actions as a Buddha, and in particular he would establish Ganden Monastery and the great Protector, the Ganden doctrine, or Je Tsongkhapa’s Dharma, in Tibet.
If we memorize and contemplate deeply the meaning of Buddha’s words it will give us much advice, a good feeling, and a profound understanding. When he says that Manjushri would appear as an ordinary being but perform the deeds of a Buddha, he is describing Je Tsongkhapa’s special characteristic.
Although Je Tsongkhapa had the highest realisations of Highest Yoga Tantra he never physically showed that he was a Tantric yogi. He lived like as an ordinary pure practitioner, emphasising by his outward appearance the pure practice of moral discipline. However, his daily life was that of a Bodhisattva, and his inner realisation of experiencing the union of great bliss and emptiness day and night was the very essence of Highest Yoga Tantra
He had already gained this experience many lifetimes previously, but he appeared as a Tibetan Lama for the purpose of showing clearly a special example of how to begin, make progress on, and complete the stages of the path to enlightenment.
He appeared as an ordinary human being for the benefit of his future followers. Buddha Shakyamuni also did the same. He took birth as an apparently ordinary human being, became ordained, engaged in meditation, and finally demonstrated attaining enlightenment.
Most of you know the story of Buddha’s life: how he got ordained, engaged in meditation retreat for six years, and finally under the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya attained enlightenment.
The way Je Tsongkhapa demonstrated his attainment of enlightenment was a little bit different. He did not show his attainment of enlightenment during his life, but while he was passing away.
When the time came for him to leave his old, gross body that had come from his ordinary parents, ordinary people thought he was dying, but at that time instead of experiencing the ordinary clear light of death that is experienced by ordinary beings during the death process, he experienced the ultimate example clear light.
From that state, instead of arising from the clear light of death in the form of a bardo, or intermediate state, being he appeared in the form of the illusory body. From that state, instead of taking an ordinary rebirth he attained the Emanation Body of a Buddha. In this way, he showed the manner of attaining enlightenment.
He showed this way of attaining enlightenment for certain specific reasons that would help his future followers. However, many of his direct disciples, as well as many of his future followers, including Gyalwa Ensapa, for example, attained enlightenment before death. As I have explained many times, Gyalwa Ensapa completed his training in Highest Yoga Tantra and attained full enlightenment in three years, and did not wait until the time of his death.
There are many different ways to attain enlightenment. Since many of his disciples were ordained, Je Tsongkhapa wanted to show an especially good example to his ordained disciples. Thus he showed the manner of attaining enlightenment at the time of death instead of attaining enlightenment before death.
Today we remember Je Tsongkhapa’s great kindness and dedicate all our virtuous actions including this evening’s puja so that his Dharma will flourish throughout the world and provide many living beings with the great opportunity to attain liberation and full enlightenment.