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Jetsun Sherab Senge

Jetsun Sherab Senge, an outstanding scholar of the great tantric treatises, was one of Tsongkhapa’s six closest disciples.  Tsongkhapa instructed him to propagate his tantric teachings and gave him a skullcup full of nectar, a bronze statue of Guhyasamaja Tantra, a copy of the two great commentaries on it as well as a mask and costume of Yama. He thereby made him successor to his tantric tradition and asked him to go to Tsang to spread the teaching of the tantras, prediction that he would find good students there. 

On arriving there Jetsun Sherab Senge first performed a Vajrabhairava retreat during which he was served by a spirit woman. He then established Se Gyupa Tantric Monastery and a little later established Gyudme Monastery in Lhasa. He saw to it that the tradition of tantric teachings flourished in both monasteries. Among Jetsun Sherab Senge’s many eminent disciples Jetsun Kunga Dondrub was outstanding. Born in 1419 at Gyaltse Tanag in Tsang, he took ordination at Narthang Monastery at a very early age. He studied logic and valid cognition with Jetsun Sherab Senge and higher knowledge with Kenchen Pal Be’o at Drepung Monastery. He also received extensive tantric teaching including instruction on the Guhyasamaja Tantra and its commentaries from the great master Jinpa Pal of Gyudme and thus became erudite in all aspects of the Mahayana tradition. 

Jetsun Dragpa Zangpo and Jetsun Jinpa Pal, the abbots of Gyudme, passed away in successive years and a majority of the monks at Gyudme wished to see Jetsun Kunga Dondrub appointed as teaching abbot. However, another section of the monks led by the master of Ceremonies Donyo wished to have Jetsun Tashi Gyaltsen appointed. This episode caused some dissension among the monks of Gyudme which deeply pained Jetsun Kunga Dondrub. To avoid even the slightest friction among the monks he decided to withdraw from the monastery and left for Uto taking with him on image of Buddha, a thangka of Mahakala and a skullcup as his share of shrine materials.

He began there with five disciples but within a short time the group numbered thirty-two which was considered most auspicious for the flourishing of the teachings, since there are thirty-two deities in the Guhyasamaja mandala. The monks begged alms in the villages of Lungsho and prayed before the image of Maitreya Buddha at Uto Jampa Ling where they eventually settled. During their stay there, both teaching and practices flourished. 

After ten years Jetsun Tashi Gyaltsen was elevated to the position of Jangtse Choje and Jetsun Kunga Dondrub was requested to become abbot of Gyudme Tantric Monastery. At first he felt inclined to accept this offer but some bad omens appeared in his dreams and because he remembered that Jetsun Sherab Senge had given him the rules for a monastic institution and asked him to establish one for the promotion of tantric teachings in general and the practice of Guhyasamaja in particular, he declined. Instead he remained in Uto and in 1474 established Gyuto Tantric Monastery where he taught in accordance with the traditions of Jetsun Sherab Senge and Jetsun Jinpa Pal. He remained head of the monastery for thirteen years.

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