July 2014 - Rootless Wanderer

Tsangyang Gyatso: the Sixth Dalai Lama

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.

“White crane!
Lend me your wings
I will not fly far
From Lithang, I shall return”

So wrote a desolate and lonely Tsangyang Gyatso (whose name means ‘Ocean of Melodious Songs’), the Sixth Dalai Lama of Tibet, wrote to a lady-friend of his in Shol town in 1706, when he was being forcibly taken away to China by the Mongol soldiers of Qosot Lhazang Khan — away from his people and the Potala palace. No one understood the hidden meaning contained in the song nor did anyone suspect that the young Dalai Lama had decided to end his earthly manifestation and yield the Tibetan spiritual and temporal realm to the care of the next Dalai Lama. But when that very year the sad and shocking news of the ‘disappearance’ or more probably the ‘murder’ of Tsangyang Gyatso at Gunga-Nor lake spread across Tibetan landscape, the secret meaning of last of his many songs dawned on the grief-stricken and bewildered Tibetan masses who dearly longed for his presence during a turbulent turn of history, and anxiously looked towards Lithang for the next incarnation. It may be more correct and safer to state that some of the verses indirectly show his deep knowledge and practice of of tantra, as it is clear from the one song in which he has claimed:

“Never have I slept without a sweetheart
Nor have I spent a single drop of sperm”

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