6th Dalai Lama

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Religion Buddhism
Born (1683-03-01)1 March 1683
Tawang (present-day Arunachal Pradesh, India)
Died 15 November 1706(1706-11-15) (aged 23)
Qinghai (presumed, last appearance)
Senior posting
Title 6th Dalai Lama
Predecessor Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso
Successor Kelzang Gyatso

Tsangyang Gyatso (Tibetan: ཚངས་དབྱངས་རྒྱ་མཚོWylie: tshangs-dbyangs rgya-mtsho) (1683-1706) was the sixth Dalai Lama. He was was born at Urgelling Monastery in the northwestern part of present-day Arunachal Pradesh.[1]

He had grown up a youth of high intelligence, liberal to a fault, fond of pleasure, alcohol and women.[2]

The popular image of the Sixth Dalai Lama is of a poet and libertine, fond of alcohol and of the brothels in the village of Shol (shol) to the south of the Potala. Poems ascribed to him were collected into two texts, of which the shorter (tshangs dbyangs rgya mtsho'i mgu glu) has been frequently translated into English. Both this text and the longer text (tshangs dbyangs rgya mtsho'i gsung mgur) consist of brief popular lyrics (gzhas) on the themes of love, the natural world and spiritual life. There is, however, no firm evidence for the ascription of these poems to Tsangyang Gyatso.[3]

He disappeared near Qinghai, on his way to Beijing in 1706.

Early life

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

Tsangyang was born in 1683 in Mon Tawang (in modern Arunachal Pradesh, India) to Lama Tashi Tenzin of Urgelling, a descendant of the treasure revealer Pema Lingpa, and Tsewang Lhamo, a Monpa girl hailing from a royal family of Bekhar Village.[4]

Historical background

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 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.[4]

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. In October 1697, Tsangyang Gyatso was enthroned as the 6th Dalai Lama.[4]

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.[4]

Life as a Dalai Lama

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 men, and writing love songs.[5][6] He visited the 5th Panchen Lama in Shigatse and, requesting his forgiveness, renounced the vows of a novice monk.[4] 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

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.[7] 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.[7][8] However, Ngawang Yeshey Gyatso is considered by Tibetans to have been an incarnation of Avalokiteśvara.[9]

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."[citation needed][10] Tsangyang disappeared mysteriously near Qinghai on 15 November 1706, which is why there is no tomb for him in the Potala Palace.[11]

According to a secret biography later revealed, by a Mongol monk Ngawang Lhundrub Dargye he lived until 1746[12].

From this moment, there are two alternative histories available to us, which are both offered as an explanation of why his body was never recovered and returned to the Potala. According to the first, Tsangyang Gyatso died at Kunganor, most probably from fever, on November 15 1706. According to the second, which is related in his so-called “secret” or “hidden” biography, written by a Mongol monk named Ngawang Lhundrub Dargye (ngag dbang lhun grub dar rgyas) in 1756, Tsangyang Gyatso in fact escaped from Kokonor and only died in 1746.

The Dalai Lama presented in this alternative history presents a character quite different from the more popular version. He is a dedicated and serious practitioner, who takes on the rebuilding of Jakrong (jag rong) monastery, in modern Qinghai province. This text contains a mixture of stories which appear fantastical, such as an account of Tsangyang Gyatso’s appearance at the enthronement of the Seventh Dalai Lama in Lhasa in 1720, and detailed and prosaic descriptions of events, such as his attempts to rebuild Jakrong monastery in the face of Chinese opposition.

In Alashan, according to the secret biography, one of the Sixth Dalai Lama's principal patrons was Gushri Khan’s grandson Abo who, with his wife, also became one of his most constant lay students. From this connection, he developed good relations with representatives of the Manchu Emperor, who were keen to have him occupy a position of importance within the Buddhist hierarchy. In addition to his involvement with Jakrong, he became the abbot of thirteen monasteries.

The Tibetans appealed to the Dzungar people, who invaded Tibet and killed Lha-bzang Khan in late 1717.[7]

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

External Links

Videos - Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama

The songs attributed to the sixth Dalai Lama remain popular amongst the Tibetan people, and beyond

Search for videos:

Selected videos:

  • Songs of the 6th Dalai lama
    Description: Tenpa Dugdak Tsangyang Gyatso, who was enthroned with grand ceremony as the Sixth Dalai Lama on the golden throne in the Potala palace in 1697, was a special Dalai Lama. Born in renowned Nyingma family and brought up at a late age in Gelugpa tradition, Tsangyang Gyatso proved to be an uncomfortable blend of the two traditions. But, leaving aside the unfortunate politics that surrounded his desolate life, Tsangyang Gyatso brought to holy Lhasa and Shol taverns some of the purest and most beautiful lyrics of all times. Extraordinary as a lover of wine and women, melodious as a singer of love songs and above all, tragic as a national hero of the status of a Dalai Lama, reduced to become a heroic pawn at the hands of the Qosot Lhazang Khan, the Sixth Dalai Lama became a legend within his short lifetime. Worshipped and loved by Tibetan people with stainless faith, Tsangyang Gyatso's songs became famous in every corner of Tibet receiving once again the fascination of simple folk poetry.
  • Tsangyang Gyatso - the Sixth Dalai Lama
    Description: the Sixth Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso Datai
    tshethung dila (In the short walk of this life)
    Dekha tsamzhig zhune (We have had our share of joy.)
    Tingma jipai lola (In the youth of our next life)
    Jelzom ayong tawo (Let us hope to meet again.)
    Song title: Nyelu
    Artist Hubert von GoisernHubert von Goisern
  • It snowed
    Description: Lyrics copyright "Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama " from the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala from Mariangela Celeste ‎– I Shall Return


  1. The Dalai Lamas of Tibet, p. 93. Thubten Samphel and Tendar. Roli & Janssen, New Delhi. (2004). ISBN 81-7436-085-9.
  2. Cordier, Henri; Pelliot, Paul, eds. (1922). T'oung Pao (通報) or Archives. XX1. Leiden: E.J. Brill. p. 30. 
  3. Treasury of Lives, The Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 ""The Sixth Dalai Lama TSEWANG GYALTSO."". Archived from the original on 2007-06-10. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  5. Alexandra David-Neel, Initiation and Initiates in Tibet, trans. by Fred Rothwell, New York: University Books, 1959
  6. Yu Dawchyuan, "Love Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama", Academia Sinica Monograph, Series A, No.5, 1930
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Stein, R. A. (1972). Tibetan Civilization, p. 85. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-0806-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-8047-0901-7 (paper).
  8. Chapman, F. Spencer. (1940). Lhasa: The Holy City, p. 127. Readers Union Ltd. London.
  9. Mullin 2001, pp. 274-5
  10. བྱ་དེ་ཁྲུང་ཁྲུང་དཀར་པོ།། ང་ལ་གཤོག་རྩལ་གཡར་དང་།། ཐག་རིང་རྒྱང་ནས་མི་འགྲོ།། ལི་ཐང་བསྐོར་ནས་སླེབས་ཡོང་།།
  11. 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.
  12. The Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, The Treasury of Lives


  • Mullin, Glenn H. (2001). The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation, pp. 238–271. Clear Light Publishers. Santa Fe, New Mexico. ISBN 1-57416-092-3.

Further Reading

  • Dargyé, Ngawang Lhundrup. The Hidden Life of the Sixth Dalai Lama (Studies in Modern Tibetan Culture), Lexington, 2011
  • Dhondup, K. "Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama", Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1981. Bilingual, Tibetan and English. [ISBN: 81-85102-11-2]
  • Rick Fields, Brian Cutillo & Mayumi Oda, The Turquoise Bee: The Lovesongs of the Sixth Dalai Lama, Harpercollins, 1994.
  • Thomas Laird, The History of Tibet—Conversations with the Dalai Lama (London: Atlantic Books, 2006), pages 181-195.
  • Geoffrey Waters, White Crane: Love Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama, White Pine Press, 2007
  • Paul D. Williams, Songs of Love, Poems of Sadness: The Erotic Verse of the Sixth Dalai Lama, I.B. Taurus, 2005. [ISBN: 1 85043 479 4]
  • Michael Aris, Hidden Treasures & Secret Lives: A Study of Pemalingpa (1450-1521) and The Sixth Dalai Lama (1683-1706), Routledge, 2016. [ISBN: 978-1138992191]
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