Gendun Drup, 1st Dalai Lama

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Gendun Drup (1391–1474), also known as Gendun Drub and Kundun Drup, is considered retrospectively to be the first of the Dalai Lamas of Tibet, who are believed to be reincarnations of Chenresig (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara), the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Gendun Drup was born in a cowshed in Gyurmey Rupa, near Sakya in the Tsang region of central Tibet, the son of Gonpo Dorjee and Jomo Namkha Kyi, nomadic tribespeople.[1] He was raised as a shepherd until the age of seven. His birth name (according to the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, his personal name) was Pema Dorje (Tibetan: པད་མ་རྡོ་རྗེ་Wylie: pad ma rdo rje, Vajra Lotus/Lotus Vajra). Later, he was placed in Nartang (Nar-thang) Monastery. In 1405, he took his novice vows from the abbot of Narthang, Khenchen Drupa Sherab.

When he was 20 years old, in about 1411, he received the name Gendun Drubpa upon taking the vows of a fully ordained monk, or Gelong, from the abbot of Narthang Monastery.[2] Also at this age, he became a student of the great scholar and reformer Tsongkhapa (1357–1419),[3] who some say was his uncle.[4] Around this time he also became the first abbot of Ganden Monastery, founded by Tsongkhapa himself in 1409.[5] By the middle of his life, Gendun Drup had become one of the most esteemed scholar-saints in the country.

Tradition states that Palden Lhamo, the female guardian spirit of the sacred lake, Lhamo La-tso, promised the First Dalai Lama in one of his visions "...that she would protect the reincarnation lineage of the Dalai Lamas." Since the time of the Second Dalai Lama Gendun Gyatso, who formalized the system, monks have gone to the lake to meditate when seeking visions with guidance on finding the next reincarnation.[6]

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