Himalayan Art Resources

Teacher: Shar Kalden Gyatso

Shar Kalden Gyatso | Gelug Tradition

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Shar Kalden Gyatso Description
- Biography (below)
- Ngawang Trinle Gyatso
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

Jeff Watt 1-2019

Shar Kalden Gyatso (1607-1677 [TBRC P711])

Shar Kelden Gyatso (shar skal ldan rgya mtsho) was born in 1607, the fire-sheep year of the tenth sexagenary cycle. His family was located in Rebkong Gyeltang (reb kong rgyal thang) in eastern Amdo. He was the third son of his father, Kharbumgyel (mkhar 'bum rgyal) and mother, Nyingmo (snying mo).

When he was four years old he was taken to live with his uncle, Lobzang Tenpai Gyeltsen (blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan), under whose guidance he began to learn basic Tibetan writing and reading at the age of seven. His uncle gave him lay vows and the name Kelden Tsoknyi (skal ldan tshogs gnyis).

At the age eleven he accompanied his uncle to Ganden monastery, where he became a disciple of the thirtieth Ganden Tripa, Lodro Gyatso (blo gros rgya mtsho, 1546-1618), who gave him novice vows and the name Shar Kelden Gyatso. Later he enrolled in Jangtse (byang rtse) college at Drepung monastic university, where he studied Buddhist philosophy under Jamyang Tsultrim Chopel ('jam dbyangs tshul khrims chos 'phel, the Thirty-second Ganden Tripa?) and Kachen Lodro Namgyel (dka chen blo gros rnam rgyal, d.u.) for three years. He trained in Madhyamaka, Vinaya, Abhidharma for seven years with Gyelrong Khedrub Tenpai Dargye (rgyal rong mkhas grub bstan pa dar rgyas, d.u.).

At the age of twenty he received full ordination from the Fourth Paṇchen Lama, Lobzang Chokyi Gyeltsen (blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1570-1662) at the Jokhang temple in Lhasa. He returned to Amdo the following year, where he continued his training, studying Guhyasamāja with Cho Gyatso, the second abbot of Kumbum Monastery (sku 'bum khri 02 chos kyi rgya mtsho, 1571-1635). He learned both sutra and tantra traditions from thirty-three masters, including Choje Tendzin Lobzang Gyatso (chos rje bstan 'dzin blo bzang rgyal mtsho, 1593-1638) and Tsultrim Gyatso (tshul khrims rgya mtsho, d.u.).

In 1630 Kelden Gyatso built a Geluk college, Rongwo Tosam Ling (rong bo thos bsam gling), at the ancient Rebkong religious establishment of Rongwo, first established in the early fourteenth century as a Sakya monastery. This marked the Geluk conversion of the place, which had for centuries enjoyed Chinese Imperial support, through the Yuan, Ming, and now Qing Dynasties; two Imperial tablets were hung above the gate. Some thirty years later, at the age of sixty-one, Kelden Gyatso installed one thousand statues of Amitāyus at Rongwo, with the support of the local chief, Junang (ju nang). Rongwo Dechen Chokhor Ling (rong bo bde chen chos 'khor gling) eventually grew into the third largest monastery in Amdo, after Labrang and Kumbum.

At the age of twenty five he was invited to give Buddhist teachings at Genden Pelgye Ling (dge ldan 'phel rgyas gling), which began a long-term relationship between the two monasteries. When he turned thirty he begun to pursue ascetic practice in more than one hundred different hermitages in Amdo.

In 1653, when the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobzang Gyatso (ngag dbangs blo bzang rgyal mtsho, 1617-1682) passed through Amdo on his way to Beijing, Kelden Gyatso went to meet him at Tsongonwo (mtsho sngon bo). He offered the Dalai Lama many gifts and received from him teachings.

In 1662, when he received word of the passing of the Fourth Paṇchen Lama, Kelden Gyatso arranged for the monks of Rongwo to hold prayer services, during which he gave teachings and participated in the chanting.

Eight years later, in 1670, at the age of sixty four, he entered into solidarity meditation which he maintained until the end of this life, in 1677, the fire-snake year of the eleventh sexagenary cycle. His reincarnation, the Second Rongwo Drubchen, was identified in the person of Ngawang Trinle Gyatso (ngag dbang 'phrin las rgya mtsho, 1678-1739).

Shar Kelden Gyatso's three most prominent disciples were Yu-ngog Samten Gyatso (g.yu rngog bsam gtan rgya mtsho, 1616-1678), Tetsang Manipa Sherab Tashi (rtis tshang ma Ni pa she rab, 1647-1716) and Loncho Lobzang Chodrak (blon chos blo bzang chos grags, d.u.).

His writings were collected into four volumes, and include works on Vinaya, doctrinal exegesis, and a history of Amdo.

He is the first of the Rongwo Drubchen or Shar Kelden incarnation line.

Tsering Namgyal is a scholar in Xining.
Published April 2011

Anon. 1999.Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang. InYab rje bla ma skal ldan rgya mtsho'i gsung 'bum, vol. 1, pp. 10-59. Lanzhou: Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun khang.

Brag dgon pa dkon mchog bstan pa rab rgyas. 1982.Mdo smad chos 'byung. Lanzhou: Kan-su'u mi dmangs dpe skrun khang, pp. 305-308.

Dung dkar blo bzang 'phrin las. 2002.Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, p. 2329.

Grags pa 'byung gnas and Blo bzang mkhas grub. 1992.Gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod. Lanzhou: Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun khang, p. 1690

'jigs med dam chos rgya mtsho. 1997.Sku phreng dang po grub dbang skal ldan rgya mtsho. InShar skal ldan rgya mtsho'i skyes rabs rnam thar, pp. 107-261. Xining: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang.

Mi nyak mgon po. 1996.Gangs can mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rnam thar mdor bsdus. Beijing: Krung go'i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, 744-750.

Rje 'jigs med dam chos rgyal mtsho.1997.Shar skal ldan rgya mtho’ skyes rabs rnam tar bzhugs so. Xining: Mthso sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang.

[Extracted from the Treasury of Lives, Tibetan lineages website. Formatted for inclusion on the Himalayan Art Resources website. January 2019].