1st Dalai Lama

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Gedun Drupa
Religion Tibetan Buddhism
Born Pema Dorjee
Shabtod, Ü-Tsang, Tibet
Died 1474 (aged 82–83)
U-Tsang, Tibet
  • Gonpo Dorjee (father)
  • Jomo Namkha Kyi (mother)
Senior posting
Title 1st Dalai Lama (posthumous designation)
Successor Gedun Gyatso

Gedun Drupa[1] (Tibetan: དགེ་འདུན་གྲུབ་པ།Wylie: dge 'dun grub pa; 1391–1474) was considered posthumously to be the 1st Dalai Lama.[2]


Gedun Drupa, 1st Dalai Lama

Gedun Drupa was born in a cowshed in Gyurmey Rupa near Sakya in the Tsang region of central Tibet, the son of Gonpo Dorje and Jomo Namkha Kyi, nomadic tribespeople.[3] 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 Péma Dorje (Tibetan: པད་མ་རྡོ་རྗེ་, "Vajra Lotus"). Later he was placed in Narthang Monastery. In 1405, he took his śrāmaṇera (novitiate) vows from the abbot of Narthang, Khenchen Drupa Sherap.

When he was 20 years old, in about 1411, he received the name Gedun Drupa upon taking the vows of a bhikṣu (monk) from the abbot of Narthang Monastery.[4] Also at this age he became a student of the scholar and reformer Je Tsongkhapa (1357–1419),[5] who some say was his uncle.[6] Around this time he also became the first abbot of Ganden Monastery, founded by Tsongkhapa himself in 1409.[7] By the middle of his life, Gedun Drupa 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 Gedun Gyatso, who formalized the system, monks have gone to the lake to meditate when seeking visions with guidance on finding the next reincarnation.[8]

Gedun Drupa founded the major monastery of Tashilhunpo at Shigatse, which later became the seat of the Panchen Lamas.[9]

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

He remained the abbot of Tashilhunpo Monastery until he died while meditating in 1474 at the age of 84 (83 by Western reckoning).[6]

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

Some of the most famous texts Gedun Drupa 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 Gautama Buddha
  • Song of the Eastern Snow Mountain, a poem dedicated to Je Tsongkhapa
  • Praise of the Venerable Lady Khadiravani Tara, an homage to Tara


  1. "Short Biographies of the Previous Dalai Lamas". DalaiLama.com. Retrieved 2018-05-13. 
  2. "dge 'dun grub pa". Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  3. Gedun Drupa Archived 2005-12-13 at the Wayback Machine. at Dalai Lama website.
  4. Thubten Samphel and Tendar (2004), p. 75.
  5. Farrer-Halls, Gill. World of the Dalai Lama. Quest Books: 1998. p. 77
  6. 6.0 6.1 Thubten Samphel and Tendar (2004), p.35.
  7. Simhanada, The Lion's Roar of Mahayana Buddhism.
  8. 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
  9. Chö Yang: The Voice of Tibetan Religion and Culture. (1991) Year of Tibet Edition, p. 79. Gangchen Kyishong, Dharmasala, H.P., India.
  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

  • 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

Buddhist titles
Preceded by
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Dalai Lama
Posthumously recognized
Succeeded by
Gedun Gyatso

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