1st Dalai Lama

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Gendun Drup
1st Dalaii Lama
The first ever Dalai lama
Reign N/A
Successor Gendun Gyatso
Tibetan དགེ་འདུན་གྲུབ།
Wylie dge ’dun grub
Pronunciation [kẽ̀tyn tʂʰùp]
Gêdün Chub
THDL Gedün Drup
Father Gonpo Dorjee
Mother Jomo Namkha Kyi
Born 1391
Shabtod, Ü-Tsang, Tibet
Died 1474 (aged 82–83)

Gendun Drup (Tibetan: དགེ་འདུན་གྲུབ།Wylie: dge-'dun grub, 1391–1474), also known as Gendun Drub and Kundun Drup, was considered posthumously to be the first of Tibet's Dalai Lamas, who are believed to be emanations of Chenresig (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara), the Bodhisattva of Compassion.


Gendun Drup was born in a cowshed in Gyurmey Rupa, near Sakya in the Tsang region of central Tibet, the son of Gonpo Dorjee and Jomo Namkha Kyi, nomadic tribespeople.[1] He was raised as a shepherd until the age of seven. His birth name (according to the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, his personal name) was Pema Dorje (Tibetan: པད་མ་རྡོ་རྗེ་Wylie: pad ma rdo rje, Vajra Lotus/Lotus Vajra). Later, he was placed in Nartang (Nar-thang) Monastery. In 1405, he took his novice vows from the abbot of Narthang, Khenchen Drupa Sherab.

When he was 20 years old, in about 1411, he received the name Gendun Drubpa upon taking the vows of a fully ordained monk, or Gelong, from the abbot of Narthang Monastery.[2] Also at this age, he became a student of the great scholar and reformer Tsongkhapa (1357–1419),[3] who some say was his uncle.[4] Around this time he also became the first abbot of Ganden Monastery, founded by Tsongkhapa himself in 1409.[5] By the middle of his life, Gendun Drup had become one of the most esteemed scholar-saints in the country.

Tradition states that Palden Lhamo, the female guardian spirit of the sacred lake, Lhamo La-tso, promised the First Dalai Lama in one of his visions "...that she would protect the reincarnation lineage of the Dalai Lamas." Since the time of the Second Dalai Lama Gendun Gyatso, who formalized the system, monks have gone to the lake to meditate when seeking visions with guidance on finding the next reincarnation.[6]

Gendun Drubpa founded two major monasteries: Drepung and Tashillhunpo.[2] In 1447, Gendun Drup founded the great monastery of Tashilhunpo at Shigatse, which later became the seat of the Panchen Lamas.[7]

Gendun Drup had no political power. It was in the hands of viceroys such as the Sakyas, the prince of Tsang, and the Mongolian Khan. The political role of the Dalai Lamas only began with the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama.

According to Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, his Seat was the monastery bkra shis lhun po dgon pa (Tashilhunpo),[8] [9] which he had founded in 1447.

He remained the abbot of Tashilhunpo Monastery until he died while meditating in 1474 at the age of 84 (83 by Western reckoning).[4]

Dorje Pakmo (1422–1455), the highest female incarnation in Tibet,[10] was a contemporary of Gendun Drub. Her teacher Bodong Panchen Chogley Namgyal was also one of his teachers; he received many teachings and empowerments from him.[11]

Some of the most famous texts Gendun Drup wrote were:

  • Sunlight on the Path to Freedom, a commentary on Abhidharma-kosa
  • Crushing the Forces of Evil to Dust, an epic poem on the life and liberating deeds of Buddha Shakyamuni
  • Song of the Eastern Snow Mountain, a poem dedicated to Je Tsongkhapa (Btsong-ka-pa)
  • Praise of the Venerable Lady Khadiravani Tara, an homage to the Goddess Tara


  1. ^ Gedun Drupa at Dalai Lama website.
  2. ^ a b Thubten Samphel and Tendar (2004), p. 75.
  3. ^ Farrer-Halls, Gill. World of the Dalai Lama. Quest Books: 1998. p. 77
  4. ^ a b Thubten Samphel and Tendar (2004), p.35.
  5. ^ Simhanada, The Lion's Roar of Mahayana Buddhism.
  6. ^ Laird, Thomas (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, pp. 139, 264-265. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1
  7. ^ Chö Yang: The Voice of Tibetan Religion and Culture. (1991) Year of Tibet Edition, p. 79. Gangchen Kyishong, Dharmasala, H.P., India.
  8. ^ dge 'dun grub pa, Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center.
  9. ^ bkra shis lhun po dgon pa, Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center.
  10. ^ The Power-places of Central Tibet: The Pilgrim's Guide, (1988) p. 268. Keith Dowman. ISBN 0-7102-1370-0.
  11. ^ "Bodong.info". Archived from the original on 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Mullin, Glenn H. (2001). The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation, pp. 50–85. Clear Light Publishers. Santa Fe, New Mexico. ISBN 1-57416-092-3.
  • Selected Works of the Dalai Lama I by Anne Kandt, Christine Cox, Dalai Lama Dge-Dun-Grub I, Glenn H. Mullin, Sidney Piburn (1985)

External links[edit]

Buddhist titles
Preceded by
New creation
Dalai Lama
Posthumously recognized
Succeeded by
Gendun Gyatso