Sunday, 14 November 2010
CASE 177 - Dalai Lama’s Yellow Hat Sect
The Dge-lugs-pa sect was founded in the late 14th century by Tsong-kha-pa, who was himself a member of the austere Bka’-gdams-pa school. Tsong-kha-pa’s reforms represented a return to tradition. He enforced strict monastic discipline, restored celibacy and the prohibition of alcohol and meat, established a higher standard of learning for monks, and, while continuing to respect the Vajrayāna tradition of esotericism that was prevalent in Tibet, allowed Tantric and magical rites only in moderation. Three large monasteries were quickly established near Lhasa: at Dga’ldan (Ganden) in 1409, ’Bras-spungs (Drepung) in 1416, and Se-ra in 1419. The abbots of the ’Bras-spungs monastery first received the title Dalai Lama in 1578, and a period of struggle for the leadership of Tibet followed, principally with the Karma-pa sect. The Dge-lugs-pa eventually appealed to the Mongol chief Güüshi Khan for help, and his defeat in 1642 of the king of Gtsang, who favoured the Karma-pa, secured the temporal authority of Tibet for the Dge-lugs-pa. They continued to rule the country through their leader, the Dalai Lama, until the Chinese communists took over the country in 1950. During a popular revolt at Lhasa in 1959, the Dalai Lama escaped to India. A new Paṇchen Lama, installed as a figurehead by the Chinese, was dismissed in 1964.
The name Yellow Hat refers to the distinctive yellow headdress adopted by the Dge-lugs-pa to distinguish themselves from the Karma-pa sect, whose monks wear red hats.
The Yellow Hats (Gelupa) emerged in the 15th century. They were given a big boost in the 16th century when the Mongols decided to support them. The sect became preeminent in the middle of the 17th century, through the efforts of Mongolian supporters and Tibetan supporters inspired by the charismatic 5th Dalai Lama. The Yellow Hats took control of the central plateau and maintained control until British and Chinese incursions into Tibet in 19th century.
The 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (1617-82) is regarded as the greatest of the Dalai Lamas. Born in Chongye in the Yarlung Valley, he unified Tibet and set the precedent for future Dalai Lamas. He was the first Dalai Lama to exercise temporal power and ruled benevolently as both a spiritual and political leader and initiated construction of the Potala palace. In paintings he wears a yellow hat and holds a thunderbolt in his right hand and a bell in his left hand. He is sometimes shown holding a lotus flower, a Wheel of Law or another sacred object.
The Yellow Hat (Gelugpa) order is the largest Tibetan Buddhist order. It is lead by the Dalai Lama and was founded by Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), a lama who established a monastery at Ganden. Tsongkhapa attracted a number of followers who were disgusted by the corrupt rule of the Sakyapa and Kagyupa orders. After his death his followers established more monasteries and their movement came to be called the Gelugpa (“virtuous”) order and the their leaders, the Dalai Lama. The Yellow Hats have dominated Tibetan Buddhism since the 17th century, when they pushed their rivals, the Black Hats, from power with the help of a Mongol prince. The Mongols coined the name Dalai Lama and helped the Yellow Hats gain dominance over the their rivals. The Red Hats have also traditionally been rivals of the Yellow Hats. The yellow hats are worn with red robes by monks during religious ceremonies. The hats look like large yellow bird claws or crescent moons and are worn with the concave side facing forward.
The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama is a Buddhist leader of religious officials of the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" branch of Tibetan Buddhism. The name is a combination of the Mongolian word Далай "Dalai" meaning "Ocean" and the Tibetan word བླ་མ ་"Blama" (with a silent b) meaning "chief" or "high priest." "Lama" is a general term referring to Tibetan Buddhist teachers. In religious terms, the Dalai Lama is believed by his devotees to be the rebirth of a long line of tulkus who are considered to be manifestations of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteśvara. Traditionally, the Dalai Lama is thought of as the latest reincarnation of a series of spiritual leaders who have chosen to be reborn in order to enlighten others. The Dalai Lama is often thought to be the director of the Gelug School, but this position belongs officially to the Ganden Tripa, which is a temporary position appointed by the Dalai Lama who, in practice, exerts much influence. For certain periods of time between the 17th century and 1959, the Dalai Lamas sometimes directed the Tibetan Government, which administered portions of Tibet from Lhasa. From 1959 to 2001, the 14th Dalai Lama controlled the Central Tibetan Administration ("Tibetan government in exile"). He has indicated that the institution of the Dalai Lama may be abolished in the future, and also that the next Dalai Lama may be found outside Tibet and may be female.