The Great Tsong Kha-pa

Tsongkhapa - Je Rinpoche

“As a supplement to the Commentaries there are many secret folios on the lives of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and among these there is one on Prince Gautama and another on His reincarnation in Tsong-Kha-pa. This great Tibetan Reformer of the fourteenth century, said to be a direct incarnation of Amita Buddha, is the founder of the Secret School near Shigatse, attached to the private retreat of the Panchen Lama. It is with Him that began the regular system of Lamaic incarnations of Buddhas.”

“The records preserved in the Gon-pa, the chief Lamasery of Tashilhumpo, show that Sang-gyas [i.e. the Tibetan name for Buddha] left the regions of the ‘Western Paradise’ to incarnate Himself in Tsong-Kha-pa, in consequence of the great degradation into which His secret doctrines had fallen.”

– H.P. Blavatsky (See “Reincarnations in Tibet”)


It is said that before the birth in India 2,600 years ago of Siddhartha Gautama – he who became the Buddha, the Enlightened One – the gigantic blue lotus known as the Nila Udumbara burst into flower, something which is always regarded as an important spiritual omen of wonderful things to come. It is also said that the same thing occurred, this time near a lake at the foot of the Himalayas, just before the birth of Tsong Kha-pa in 1357 A.D. at Amdo, Tibet.

In the “Theosophical Glossary”, H.P. Blavatsky speaks of Tsong Kha-pa as “a famous Tibetan reformer of the fourteenth century, who introduced a purified Buddhism into his country. He was a great Adept, who being unable to witness any longer the desecration of Buddhist philosophy by the false priests who made of it a marketable commodity, put a forcible stop thereto by a timely revolution and the exile of 40,000 sham monks and Lamas from the country … Tsong-kha-pa … is the founder of the Gelukpa (“yellow-cap”) Sect, and of the mystic Brotherhood connected with its chiefs.”

This “mystic Brotherhood” and the “Secret School” referred to by HPB in the earlier quote are vitally and inseparably connected with the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood and Esoteric School that are spoken of in Theosophy, although the latter pre-dates Tsong Kha-pa and the Gelugpas by over 1,500 years and owes much of its origins to the original Aryasanga. The acting chief of the Brotherhood is the great Lama spoken of as the Maha Chohan. It is in the famous “Maha Chohan Letter” that we find these words, referring to the Dalai Lamas and the Panchen Lamas:

“The incarnations of the Bodhisattva, Padmapani, or Avalokiteshvara and of Tsong-kha-pa and that of Amitabha … we are the humble disciples of these perfect Lamas.”

One of HPB’s “inner group” of twelve specially chosen esoteric students was Alice Leighton Cleather who in 1920 was one of the very first Westerners to be received into the Gelugpa order of Tibetan Buddhism.

In her book “Buddhism: The Science of Life,” she wrote, “Tsong-Kha-pa, the Hobilgan (Initiate) mentioned by K.H., was an incarnation of the Buddha for the purpose of reforming Tibetan Lamaism. He founded the Gelugpa or Yellow Order and the Hierarchy of the Tashi Lamas [another name for the Panchen Lamas] in whom he continues to re-incarnate in the manner described by K.H., in order to continue his work for Buddhism and humanity.”

The Master K.H., the Master M., Their Master the Maha Chohan, the great soul who was known to us as “HPB,” and all the other adepts, initiates, and chelas of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood, sometimes called the Tibetan Brotherhood, are connected in some way or another with the Gelugpa branch of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, which has the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama as its outer representatives in the world.

As we have seen, the Gelugpas (literally meaning the “Virtuous Ones” or “Models of Virtue” and also originally known as the New Kadampas, besides being called the “yellow hats” and “yellow caps”) were founded by Tsong Kha-pa and to the Masters this equates the Gelugpas – and also Tsong Kha-pa’s Esoteric School – with being founded by Gautama Buddha himself, since they maintain that Gautama reincarnated in – not as but in – Tsong Kha-pa in order to rescue Buddhism from the terrible mess that it had fallen into in Tibet.

The Mahayana Buddhism of Tibet has two aspects to it; the Sutra teachings and the Tantra teachings, which are also known respectively as the Paramitayana and the Vajrayana.

It’s often said that the spiritual aspirant must become properly developed and established in the Bodhisattva ideal and the Bodhisattva Path of perpetually practising the Paramitas (the “glorious virtues” or “transcendental perfections”) before entering upon training and practice in Vajrayana, literally meaning the “Diamond Way.”

In Tibetan Buddhism, the term “Esoteric Buddhism” usually equates specifically to the Vajrayana teachings and practices.

All the schools of Tibetan Buddhism – from the Gelugpa to the Kagyupa to the Sakyapa and the Nyingmapa – have their own system of Vajrayana. And all of them, including even the Gelugpas, include specific elements and practices of sexual tantra, which according to HPB and the Masters is the very worst type of black magic.

It certainly has nothing to do with genuine Buddhism or with Buddha himself. Although it may come as a surprise to some, even the Dalai Lama, in his bestselling books, openly endorses, promotes and teaches, sexual tantra, speaking of it in such ways that no student of Theosophy would want to quote or repeat.

He believes, as do most Tibetan Buddhist teachers, that only men can achieve enlightenment and that women should hope to be reborn in a male body so that they too can attain it, the distinction being due to the different roles played by male and female (the active being viewed as superior, the passive as inferior) in sexual tantric practices performed for purposes of “enlightenment.”

This may sound shocking and even disturbing but anyone can verify for themselves that these are indeed the unfortunate facts.

It is impossible to believe that this could be the reformed and purified Buddhism of Tsong Kha-pa’s vision and efforts. If anything, it sounds more like the corrupted and degraded pseudo-Buddhism which he had sought to eradicate, a system owing much to the Indian tantric sorcerer Padmasambhava, founder of the Nyingmapas, the earliest school of Tibetan Buddhism, and littered with elements carried over from the indigenous Bon religion and also imported from Hindu tantrism.

Students of Theosophy ought to be aware that there are Dugpas even amongst the Gelugpas and that the teachings and writings of Tsong Kha-pa very soon encountered a similar fate to the teachings and writings of all great religious reformers and spiritual teachers throughout history, in that they were subjected to interpolations, alterations, and so on, in order to better serve the purposes of the ambitious and ill-willed.

In more recent times, we have seen a similar thing befall the writings of H.P. Blavatsky. Within only the first two years of her passing, “The Key to Theosophy,” “The Voice of the Silence,” and “The Secret Doctrine” were subjected, in that order, to revisions, alterations, deletions, interpolations, etc. at the hands of Annie Besant and G.R.S. Mead.

If one is to believe the present day Gelugpa Lamas, Tsong Kha-pa was always a teacher and practitioner of sexual tantra and from the very beginning this was an accepted part and parcel of the Gelugpa system. If one believes HPB and her Adept Teachers, this could by no means have been the case. Knowing what we do about both, we prefer to place our confidence in the Masters and Their Messenger, in this as in other matters.

“Tantra” itself is not a bad word and merely means “continuum” or “expansion.” In one sense it can be looked upon as a synonym for practical occultism. Tantra is not always something sexual. However, sexual tantra is an aspect of some of the publicly available translations of Tsong Kha-pa’s writings and in light of all the above we feel justified in presenting the plausible view that this was written into his writings after he had left the scene and not written by him.

One should not assume that the published and accessible translations of Tsong Kha-pa’s works are entirely the “real thing” or that they give the whole picture.

Just in the last few years, several volumes of his writings have been published in English and made readily and affordably available to the general public. The central of these is his principal work, called the “Lam Rim” or “Lam Rim Chen Mo,” which HPB was writing about as far back as the 1880’s. Titled in English “The Great Treatise On The Stages of The Path To Enlightenment,” three volumes of it are available from Shambhala Publications, who describe it as “one of the brightest jewels in the world’s treasury of sacred literature.”

All ought to acquaint themselves with it at some point.

Yet HPB writes, “this grand Reformer burnt every book on Sorcery on which he could lay his hands in 1387, and . . . he has left a whole library of his own works – not a tenth part of which has ever been made known.”

These include the original book of the Kalachakra, “re-written by Tsong-Kha-pa, with his Commentaries” and a text quoted from in “The Secret Doctrine,” referred to as “The Aphorisms of Tsong Kha-pa.”

Many Westerners, including many Theosophists, have quite a naive and romanticised view of Tibetan Buddhism, especially if they don’t do their own detailed research into the subject.

But this was not the position or attitude of H.P. Blavatsky. She did not hesitate to assert that “the field of exoteric and official Buddhism of the Churches of both North and South, those of Tibet and Ceylon, is covered once more with parasitic weeds” (“Misconceptions” article) and “Since the reform produced by Tsong-ka-pa, many abuses have again crept into the theocracy of the land,” (“The Theosophical Glossary” entry for “Lama”).

T. Subba Row, Hindu colleague of HPB and initiated disciple of the Master M., explained that:

“The Himalayan Brotherhood has Buddha for its highest Chohan and Avalokitesvara for its patron. It wanted to have two men overshadowed by these two: in one they succeeded, because a portion of Buddha overshadows the Tashi-Lama. The Dalai Lama is supposed to be overshadowed by Avalokitesvara, but really is not so. All the Initiates say that Avalokitesvara is their Patron and Buddha their great Guru. He teaches them directly. He opens their eyes and aids their minds, infusing them into a portion of His divine life.” (“T. Subba Row Collected Writings” Vol. 2, p. 422)

On a philosophical note, the Prasangika-Madhyamika “Emptiness” teaching holds full sway in today’s Tibetan Buddhism, particularly amongst the Gelugpas, who are the most tenacious proponents of emptiness and voidness. HPB has described that doctrine or worldview – the idea that the Ultimate Reality is Emptiness, an emptiness which is even empty of emptiness itself  and all the ideas that are inevitable ramifications of that – as an exoteric travesty, sophistic nihilism, and an anti-esoteric and highly rationalist system of thought.

Ironically, it’s the Gelugpas, as mentioned above, with which HPB and the Masters of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood identify themselves. This would indicate that there must be an almost entirely unknown esoteric undercurrent within the Gelugpas which teaches something different from this. A certain degree of evidence for this can be deduced from taking note of the information presented in our article titled “The Voice of the Silence” – An Authentic Buddhist Text.

Yes, of course there must be, for HPB writes that Tsong Kha-pa was “the founder of the Secret School near Shigatse . . . the mystic Brotherhood connected with [the Gelugpa] chiefs.”

In his highly recommended book simply titled “Buddhism,” Christmas Humphreys states that Tsong Kha-pa’s “religious reforms were far from complete, but though he did not abolish the tantric influences in Tibetan Buddhism [i.e. the negative tantric influences involving sorcery and sexual magic], he went far to remove them.” He later adds, “It is not surprising, therefore, that the memory of this great man is venerated throughout the length and breadth of Tibet, for though his visible reform of Buddhism was enormous, his unseen work was greater still.”

The Master K.H. refers to “the highest form of adeptship man can hope for on our planet” and says that Gautama Buddha – who he calls the greatest and holiest man that ever lived – attained it and that the most recent person since Buddha to reach to such a state was Tsong Kha-pa. This assertion is a very serious statement and deserves our thought and attention.

The majority of Gelugpas believe Tsong Kha-pa to have been an emanation or embodiment of the celestial Bodhisattva Manjushri. In her article “Reincarnations in Tibet,” HPB writes that “This reformer is not the incarnation of one of the five celestial Dhyans, or heavenly Buddhas, as is generally supposed,” but rather an incarnation of Buddha himself.

In the 1950’s, Tibet was brutally invaded, violently massacred, and forcefully occupied by the Chinese, who still occupy it to this day. There is now no longer a country called Tibet on our maps. It has been mockingly renamed “The Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.” A staggering 95% of all the Buddhist monasteries in Tibet have been destroyed by the Chinese and over 1,000,000 Tibetans killed – for no valid reason at all – by their cruel oppressors.

The current Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was abducted by the Chinese in 1995, when he was just a young child, and has not been seen or heard from since. In the worst kind of insult, however, the Chinese have produced a “Panchen Lama” of their own, the son of hardline communists, who travels the world talking about how wonderful the Chinese government is.

The fact that this has even been allowed to happen, and that there is no Panchen Lama in the world today (it is feared by many that the abducted one has been murdered) surely does not bode well for humanity at large, if we give credence to what the Masters and HPB say about the great esoteric importance and role of the Panchen Lama, who they speak of as being spiritually higher in position than the Dalai Lama.

Many Theosophists are unaware that amongst the many letters received from Masters by various individuals during HPB’s time is a brief letter or note from the Panchen Lama himself. It has been transcribed in the book “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett.”

Tashilhunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama at Shigatse – a place of such importance to the Masters and to HPB – has now been turned into a tourist attraction by the Chinese. Where are the Masters? Some of them were once based near Shigatse, or were at least frequent visitors from their main base in the Trans-Himalayan region near Ladakh and Lahaul, but by the 1920’s people in that region of Tibet were saying that the mysterious Masters and their disciples had moved away and were not there anymore.

Alice Leighton Cleather, in her book “H.P. Blavatsky – Her Life and Work for Humanity,” says that “she [H.P.B.] once told us that They were preparing to move even further away from the ever-encroaching foot of the Western “invader” with his materialistic civilisation.”

All Theosophists are familiar with the idea that in the last quarter of every century an effort is made by the Great Brotherhood (of which the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood is the chief, but not the only, centre) to bring about a progressive degree of spiritual awakening for humanity, especially the humanity of the western world.

At the end of the 18th century, Franz Anton Mesmer was the main public agent of the Brotherhood for that effort and we read in the “Theosophical Glossary,” “It was the Council of “Luxor” which selected him – according to the orders of the “Great Brotherhood” – to act in the XVIIIth century as their usual pioneer, sent in the last quarter of every century to enlighten a small portion of the Western nations in occult lore. It was St. Germain who supervised the development of events in this case; and later Cagliostro was commissioned to help, but having made a series of mistakes, more or less fatal, he was recalled. Of these three men who were at first regarded as quacks, Mesmer is already vindicated. The justification of the two others will follow . . .”

At the end of the 19th century, it was of course H.P. Blavatsky, who was helped and assisted the most effectively in the work by her friend and associate William Quan Judge.

It would seem that no attempt at all was made at the end of the 20th century, for reasons outlined in other articles on this site. Perhaps part of the answer and explanation to all of these things can be found in these words written by HPB, which were not published until after she had passed away, although they do appear in an abbreviated form in her article “Tibetan Teachings”:

“Among the commandments of Tsong-Kha-pa there is one that enjoins the Rahats (Arhats) to make an attempt to enlighten the world, including the “white barbarians,” every century, at a certain specified period of the cycle. Up to the present day none of these attempts has been very successful. Failure has followed failure. Have we to explain the fact by the light of a certain prophecy? It is said that up to the time when Panchen Rimpoche (the Great Jewel of Wisdom) condescends to be reborn in the land of the P’helings (Westerners), and appearing as the Spiritual Conqueror (Chom-den-da), destroys the errors and ignorance of the age, it will be of little use to try to uproot the misconceptions of P’heling-pa (Europe): her sons will listen to no one.”

~ Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK ~

SOME RELATED ARTICLES: Alaya – The Universal Soul (this article identifies the Trans-Himalayan Esoteric School with the Esoteric Yogacharya School of “pure Buddhism”), Self and Non-Self in Buddhism and TheosophyTheosophy and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Should Theosophists get involved with Tibetan Buddhism?The Mystery of The Buddha, The Two Paths, The Four Noble Truths, Maitreya in the Light of Real Theosophy, The Secret Book of Dzyan, “The Voice of the Silence” – An Authentic Buddhist TextThe Letter from the Maha ChohanPraise for H.P. Blavatsky and Theosophy, Who was William Quan Judge?, Tibetan Master or Christian Priest? (Uncovering the real inspiration behind the Alice Bailey Books), and Theosophy – An Explanation and Overview.


  1. It is said, that “The Secret Doctrine” contains preparation for the true Kalachakra initiation.

    An aspect of his reform, was on inner planes, an Occult reform. An aspect of this was that the head of the Red Caps had to incarnate in his “dominion.”

    This cycle, in one sense, an intense battle for the thinking, the ideas, of humankind,

    There is a direct relationship between the thinking ( the basis of action) and actions of humanity, that generate causation that aids or hinders the work OF THE GREAT BROTHERHOOD.

    IT IS NO ACCIDENT that Shigatse has been lost. The head of the Red Caps no longer has to incarnate at……………….

    The statues of Bamiyan target practice for the Taliban in Afghanistan. No accident.

    It is suggested, that a great inner battle is waging. All attempts being made to negate the work and teachings given by those GREAT TEACHERS that are behind the true effort of Presenting Theosophy to the world.

    Distort and materialize their teachings, and the key is lost to the right understanding of the Teachers, their teachings, and the end in view that leads to …………….

    In older versions of “Light on the Path” there is at the beginning-


    Distort the original teachings and how to enter the ancient current is lost.

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