Glenn H. Mullin is a Tibetologist, Buddhist writer, translator of classical Tibetan literature, and teacher of Tantric Buddhist meditation. He divides his time between writing, teaching, meditating, and leading tour groups to the power places of Nepal and Tibet.
Glenn lived in the Indian Himalayas between 1972 and 1984, where he studied philosophy, literature, meditation, yoga, and the enlightenment culture under thirty-five of the greatest living masters of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Glenn is the author of over 20 books on Tibetan Buddhism. He has also worked as a field specialist on three Tibet-related films and five television documentaries, and has co-produced five audio recordings of Tibetan sacred music. In 2002 his book The Fourteen Dalai Lamas was nominated for the prestigious NAPRA award for best book, and in 2004 his book The Female Buddhas won a Best Book Award from Foreword Magazine.
After returning from India in 1984 Glenn founded and directed The Mystical Arts of Tibet, an association of Dharma friends that was instrumental in bringing the first tours of Tibetan monks to North America to perform sacred Temple music and dance, as well as create mandala sand paintings. He gave this to Drepung Loseling Monastery in 1994, and it continues to bring Tibetan spiritual culture on tours around the world.
As well as leading tour groups to the Buddhist power places of Nepal and Tibet, Glenn acts as consultant and advisor to independent groups wanting to travel safely and meaningfully through these sacred sites.
ALTHOUGH SEVERAL OF THE FOURTEEN DALAI LAMA INCARNATIONS were born in remote areas, and two of them took birth outside of Tibet (the Fourth and Fourteenth), the first three in the line were born and educated in Central Tibet (Wu-Tsang).
The First, Gyalwa Gendun Drubpa, was born in 1391 in Tsang of a nomadic family. Semi-orphaned at the age of seven, his widowed mother placed him in Nartang Monastery near Shigatse, under the care of an uncle, Geshey Choshey by name, who was a learned Nartang monk. He studied there for a dozen years, and then went to the Lhasa area for further training. He made numerous meditation retreats throughout his life in both Wu and Tsang provinces, and after his enlightenment established Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, for training young disciples in the ten Buddhist branches of knowledge. Tashi Lhunpo is the main pilgrimage site today associated with the First Dalai Lama. He was both a prolific writer and builder; but his charisma as a teacher seems to have been his greatest asset, and during his lifetime he became the guru of almost everyone, from kings and queens to nomads and farmers, in Central and Southwest Tibet. His learning and enlightenment were so profound that he became popularly known as Jey Tamchey Khyenpa, or "The Omniscient Master." All future incarnations of the Dalai Lama lineage have this epithet, Jey Tamchey Khyenpa, prefixed to their ordination names.
Although the First Dalai Lama was profoundly learned, and after completing his studies spent many years practicing solitary meditation in retreat hermitages, his teachings always remained simple and practical. Perhaps this was the key to the great success he achieved.
In one of his poems of spiritual advice he wrote,
When we continue to live without self-awareness
And are driven blindly by past habits and conditionings,
There is little space to experience deeper happiness
Because of the negativity that we carry within.
Seek instead for the nectars of inner peace and joy,
The wisdom understanding ordinary and deeper levels of reality.
Be humble and relaxed with the body and all things physical;
With speech, drop all harsh and deceptive forms of expression:
And with the mind, rest it in the spiritually beneficial,
The primordial dharmadhatu awareness itself,
Like a fish swimming in the boundless ocean
Free from the hooks of attraction and repulsion.
His reincarnation, Gyalwa Gendun Gyatso, was born eleven months later, also in Tsang Province. His father was the head of the Shangpa Kargyu School of Tibetan Buddhism, and his mother a prominent leader of the Zhichey Tsarchod School. The latter spent forty-four years in meditation retreat during her lifetime, and was one of the great female mystics of her generation.
As a young boy the Second Dalai Lama was recognized as the First's reincarnation and was placed in Tashi Lhunpo Monastery for training. Tashi Lhunpo therefore is also an important pilgrimage site for events con-nected with the Second's life.
In his late teens our young monk went to Central Tibet for further studies, and entered Drepung Monastery near Lhasa. He made extensive retreats on Drak Yerpa Mountain to the northeast of Lhasa, as well as else- where throughout Central Tibet, and went on to become the greatest lama of his generation.
The Pagmo Drupa king, who ruled Tibet at the time. sponsored the building of the Ganden Podrang Monastic Complex within Drepung Monastery. which was to become the hereditary seat of all future Dalai Lama incarnations. Drepung, and in particular the Ganden Podrang within it. are therefore very important pilgrimage sites connected with the Second.
Later in his life he travelled to Southern Tibet, passing through the Yarlung Valley to Dakpo and Tsari. The return route from Tsari offers a detour up through the Olkha Mountains to the Lhamo Latso, the Lake of the female dharma protector known as Palden Lhamo. He took the opportunity to make this rigorous journey on all special occasions, on the way stopping to meditate in the caves at Olkha Cholung, where Tsongkhapa. founder of the Gelukpa School to which he belonged, had made a five year meditation retreat. On our pilgrimage we also camped below these caves and meditated in them.
On his second visit to the Lhamo Latso Lake he performed a sacred ritual, transforming the lake from a mere sacred pilgrimage place into a "Lake of Visions." From then until today, Central Asians make pilgrim- age to and undertake a vision quest at this sacred lake.
He later built a monastery below the lake, known as Gyal. This became one of the great meditation monasteries from then until the Chinese Communist invasion of Tibet in the 195os. and its subsequent destruction during the 196os.
Our visit to this lake, and our vision quest there, was the highlight of the pilgrimage that produced the photos for this book.
In many ways the Second was the greatest of all the Dalai Lamas. and set the stage for what would be accomplished by future incarnations. The creation of his seat. the Ganden Podrang at Drepung Monastery, placed him at the heart of Central Asian spiritual life. He also established the link with the Nechung Oracle, and until today this oracle remains the main servant to the Dalai Lama institution. The founding of Gyal Monastery below the Lhamo Latso Oracle Lake was perhaps as important: from then until today the Dalai Lamas are popularly known as Gyalwa Rinpoche, the Gyal being derived from the name of that monastery. More-over, from then until today, vision quests at the Oracle Lake have remained the principal means by which Dalai Lama incarnations are located and identified. The present Dalai Lama, for example, Gyalwa Tenzin Gyatso, was found by means of clues seen in this Lake of Visions by one of the lamas in charge of the search.
The Second was also a wonderful writer. He signed many of his poems with the epithet Long Nyon Gendun Gyatso, or "The Mad Beggar Monk Gendun Gyatso," to indicate that he saw himself as embodying the some-what radical and counter-culture face of Tantric Buddhism. In one of his poems he wrote.
Within the sphere of the finite and infinity,
One fulfills enlightenment energy and wisdom.
This produces the two dimensions of a Buddha,
That spontaneously benefits both self and others
In both conventional and ultimate ways.
Merely thinking of these stages of enlightenment
Fills the mind of this yogi with joy.
Merely recollecting these profound spiritual experiences.
Causes this yogi to swoon with delight.
It moves me to give voice to this song,
A melody of joyous experience;
And to shuffle my feet to and fro
In a dance of great inner ecstasy.
The Third incarnation, Gyalwa Sonam Gyatso, was in fact the first to be known by the name "Dalai Lama." He was born in the Tolung Valley to the north of Lhasa, and as a young child was ordained by Panchen Sonam Drakpa, who had been the main disciple of the Second Dalai Lama, and placed in the Ganden Podrang of Drepung Monastery for training. Like his two predecessors. he combined intense study with periodic meditation retreats, and eventually manifested his enlightenment.
Language & Literature (443)
Sacred Sites (102)
Tantric Buddhism (87)
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