6th Dalai Lama

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Tsangyang Gyatso
Title6th Dalai Lama
Born(1683-03-01)1 March 1683
Diedafter 1706 (aged approx. 22-23)
Amdo (reportedly survived Qing transport of 1706)
ReligionTibetan Buddhism
Senior posting
Period in office1697 received full authorities
PredecessorNgawang Lobsang Gyatso
SuccessorKelzang Gyatso
Chinese name
Chinese倉央嘉措 and 宕桑汪波
Tibetan name

Tsangyang Gyatso (Tibetan: ཚངས་དབྱངས་རྒྱ་མཚོ, Wylie: tshangs-dbyangs rgya-mtsho, ZYPY: Cangyang Gyamco; born 1 March 1683, died after 1706) was the 6th Dalai Lama. He was an unconventional Dalai Lama that preferred a libertine lifestyle to that of an ordained monk. His regent was killed before he was kidnapped by Lha-bzang Khan of the Khoshut Khanate and disappeared.

The death of the 5th Dalai Lama remained concealed for many years. The 6th Dalai Lama was born in what the Tibetans referred to as "Monyul"[a] at Urgelling Monastery, in modern day Tawang district, Arunachal Pradesh, India. He was located at the age of either 13 or 14. As a youth, he showed high levels of intelligence with unconventional views. Later living as a lay practitioner and a yogi, he grew his hair long, dressed as a regular Tibetan, and was said to also drink alcohol and accept the company of women.[1]

During a power struggle between Tibet, Mongols and Qing China in Lhasa, the Dalai Lama's regent was killed. Afterwards, the Dalai Lama was kidnapped by Mongol forces then disappeared in Amdo, and assumed was murdered, on their way to Beijing in 1706.

The 6th Dalai Lama is also well known for his poems and songs that continue to be popular not only in modern-day Tibet but also among Tibetan speaking communities in Nepal, India and all across China.

Early life[edit]

Birthplace of 6th Dalai Lama, Urgelling Monastery, Tawang Town, A.P., India

Tsangyang Gyatso was born on 1 March 1683 in Mon Tawang (presently in modern Arunachal Pradesh, India). His father was Lama Tashi Tenzin of Urgelling, a descendant of the treasure revealer Pema Lingpa, and his mother was Tsewang Lhamo, a Monpa woman from a royal family of Bekhar Village.[2]

The Dalai Lama was therefore a Monpa by ethnicity, born in "Monyul"[a] at Urgelling Monastery, near Tawang[3] and Tawang Monastery in the northwestern part of present-day Arunachal Pradesh, India. [4]

There were special occurrences surrounding the birth, life and death of Tsangyang Gyatso. His mother, Tsewang, had experienced a few miracles prior to the birth of Tsangyang Gyatso. One day, within the first month of her pregnancy, she was husking paddy in the stone mortar. To her surprise, water started accumulating in the mortar. On another occasion, when Tsewang drank water at a nearby place, milk started gushing out in place of water. Since then, this stream was known as Oma-Tsikang, literally known as milky water.

In the course of time, Tsewang gave birth to a boy who was named Sanje Tenzin, with Tsangyang's grandfather and Nawang Norbu with his father. [clarification needed] Due to this fact, legend said that he would not drink his mother's milk from the day after their birth. One day, when his face began to swell from an infection, Tsangyang could hardly open his eye, two local diviners were summoned. They prescribed purifactory rite and said that his name should be changed to Ngawang Gyatso.

His recovery was credited by the regent to the intervention of the Dalai Lama's own guardian deity, Dorje Dakpa. The grandfather dreamt that the child was constantly being protected by heavenly beings. The mother dreamt, as she took a rest from her weaving, that a great company had arrived to take him off. His paternal grandmother dreamt of two suns shining in the sky.

Historical background[edit]

Although the 5th Dalai Lama had died in 1682, the Regent Desi Sangye Gyatso (Wylie: sangs rgyas rgya mtsho) kept his death a secret – partly to continue the stable administration, and partly to gain time for the completion of the Potala Palace. The monks concentrated their search to the region of Tibet to find the next incarnation, but later came to conclude that 6th Dalai Lama was born outside the Tibetan territory [5] in a valley whose name ended with "ling". They searched all places ending with "ling", including three in Tawang – Urgyanling, Sangeling and Tsorgeling.

The Potala authorities took the Dalai Lama from his mother in 1697 from Urgyanling. The journey to Pota Lhasa from Tawang was 7 days, and they spend first night in Tsona (near Cuona Lake, China) where he slept with girls. Responding to the strict rules of the Tibetans, he constantly opposed laws which overruled him, and eventually became a drunk. After arriving to Tibet, Sangye Gyatso sent a delegation to the Kangxi Emperor of Qing China in 1697 to announce that the 5th Dalai Lama had died and the 6th had been discovered.[2]

The regent invited Lobsang Yeshe, 5th Panchen Lama to administer the vows of a śrāmaṇera (novice monk) on the young man at Nankartse and named him Tsang Gyatso. On 8 December 1697, Tsangyang Gyatso was enthroned as the 6th Dalai Lama. [6] [7]

In 1705 Lha-bzang Khan, a Mongol king, had the Regent, Sangye Gyatso, killed. This greatly upset the young Dalai Lama, who left his studies and even visited the 5th Panchen Lama in Shigatse to renounce his śrāmaṇera vows.[2]

Life as a Dalai Lama[edit]

As a Dalai Lama, Tsangyang had composed excellent works of songs and poems, but often went against the principles of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. For example, he decided to give getsul vows to Lobsang Yeshe, 5th Panchen Lama at eighteen instead of taking the full gelong vows normal for his age.

The Panchen Lama, who was the abbot of Tashilhunpo Monastery, and Prince Lhazang, the younger brother of the Po Gyalpo Wangyal, persuaded him not to do so.

Tsangyang Gyatso enjoyed a lifestyle that included drinking, the company of women, and writing love songs.[8][9] He visited the 5th Panchen Lama in Shigatse and, requesting his forgiveness, renounced the vows of a novice monk.[2] He ordered the building of the Tromzikhang palace in Barkhor, Lhasa.

Tsangyang Gyatso had always rejected life as a monk, although this did not mean the abdication of his position as the Dalai Lama. Wearing the clothes of a normal layman and preferring to walk than to ride a horse or use the state palanquin, Tsangyang only kept the temporal prerogatives of the Dalai Lama. He also visited the parks and spent nights in the streets of Lhasa, drinking wine, singing songs and having amorous relations with girls. Tsangyang retreated to live in a tent in the park near the northern escarpment of Potala Palace. Tsangyang finally gave up his discourses in public parks and places in 1702, which he had been required to do as part of his training.

Capture and disappearance[edit]

Using the Dalai Lama's behaviour as an excuse and with the approval of his ally China's Kangxi Emperor, Lha-bzang Khan, khan of the Khoshut, killed the regent and kidnapped the Sixth Dalai Lama.[10] On 28 June 1706, Lha-bzang Khan deposed Tsangyang; he later installed a 21-year-old lama, Ngawang Yeshey Gyatso, as the "true" 6th Dalai Lama in 1707, claiming that he, not Tsangyang, was the true rebirth of the 5th Dalai Lama. The Gelugpa dignitaries and the Tibetan people rejected Lha-bzang Khan's installation of Ngawang Yeshey Gyatso and continued to recognise Tsangyang's title.[10][11] However, Ngawang Yeshey Gyatso is considered by Tibetans to have been an incarnation of Avalokiteśvara.[12]

While being taken out of Tibet, Tsangyang composed a poem which some say foretold of his next birth. "White crane lend me your wings. I will not fly far. From Lithang I shall return."[b][13] Tsangyang disappeared mysteriously near Qinghai on 15 November 1706, which is why there is no tomb for him in the Potala Palace.[14] Rumours persisted he had escaped and lived in secrecy somewhere between China and Mongolia. But, a work from 1757 alleges the Dalai Lama survived and was welcomed in Amdo by a group of mostly Kagyu monasteries.[15]

The Tibetans appealed to the Dzungar people, who invaded Tibet and killed Lha-bzang Khan in late 1717.[10]

Tsangyang was succeeded by Kelsang Gyatso, who was born in Lithang, as the 7th Dalai Lama.


  1. ^ a b Nanda 2020, p. 30: "Tawang, Dirang and parts of Western Kameng of Arunachal Pradesh, were historically and territorially (traditionally) part of the 'Monyul'."
  2. ^ བྱ་དེ་ཁྲུང་ཁྲུང་དཀར་པོ།། ང་ལ་གཤོག་རྩལ་གཡར་དང་།། ཐག་རིང་རྒྱང་ནས་མི་འགྲོ།། ལི་ཐང་བསྐོར་ནས་སླེབས་ཡོང་།།



  1. ^ Cordier, Henri; Pelliot, Paul, eds. (1922). T'oung Pao (通報) or Archives. Vol. XX1. Leiden: E.J. Brill. p. 30.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Sixth Dalai Lama TSEWANG GYALTSO". Namgyal Monastery. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  3. ^ "Tawang Monastery". Archived from the original on 21 August 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  4. ^ The Dalai Lamas of Tibet, p. 93. Thubten Samphel, Tendar. Roli & Janssen, New Delhi. (2004). ISBN 81-7436-085-9.
  5. ^ "Chinese policy and the Dalai Lama's birthplaces". International Campaign for Tibet. 10 July 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  6. ^ Warren Smith, Tibetan Nation: A History Of Tibetan Nationalism And Sino-Tibetan Relations (Taylor & Francis, 2019)
  7. ^ Christoph Baumer, The History of Central Asia (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018)
  8. ^ Alexandra David-Neel, Initiation and Initiates in Tibet, trans. by Fred Rothwell, New York: University Books, 1959
  9. ^ Yu Dawchyuan, "Love Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama", Academia Sinica Monograph, Series A, No.5, 1930
  10. ^ a b c Stein 1972, p. 85
  11. ^ Chapman, F. Spencer. (1940). Lhasa: The Holy City, p. 127. Readers Union Ltd. London.
  12. ^ Mullin 2001, pp. 274–5
  13. ^ Bryant, B. (2003). The Wheel of Time Sand Mandala: Visual Scripture of Tibetan Buddhism. Shambhala. p. 100. ISBN 978-1559391870.
  14. ^ Buckley, Michael and Strauss, Robert. (1986). Tibet: a travel survival kit, p. 45. Lonely Planet Publications. South Yarra, Vic., Australia. ISBN 0-908086-88-1.
  15. ^ Ngawang Lhundrup Dargyé, "The Hidden Life of the Sixth Dalai Lama", 1757. Translated by Simon Wickham-Smith. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011

Works cited[edit]

  • Mullin, Glenn H. (2001). The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers. pp. 238–275. ISBN 1-57416-092-3.
  • Nanda, Neeru (2020). "Tawang and the Mon in their Borderlands: A Historical Overview". In Mayilvaganan, M.; Khatoon, Nasima; Bej, Sourina (eds.). Tawang, Monpas and Tibetan Buddhism in Transition: Life and Society along the India-China Borderland. Springer Singapore. pp. 29–44. doi:10.1007/978-981-15-4346-3_3. ISBN 9789811543463. S2CID 226473864.
  • Stein, R. A. (1972). Tibetan Civilization. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-0901-7.

Further reading[edit]

Buddhist titles
Preceded by Dalai Lama
Recognized in 1688
Succeeded by