Mundgod (Karnataka): The Dalai Lama walked from Ganden Shartsé Monastery to the Ganden Lachi Assembly Hall, where 1000 people were sitting inside and more than 4000 more were seated in the shade outside, he was escorted by the Shartsé Abbot, Ven Jangchub Sangyé. At the head of the temple, he lit a lamp before the images of the Buddha and took his seat in front of the throne. Moderator for the inaugural session, Khensur Jangchub Choeden welcomed His Holiness, the Ganden Throne-holder, Sharpa, and Jangtsé Chöjés, Abbots, Lamas, and guests from abroad. He explained that the conference had been convened to discuss Jé Tsongkhapa’s life, thought, and legacy on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of his death. He turned to Dr. Thupten Jinpa to give an overview of the impending proceedings. Dr Jinpa remarked that holding this international conference at Ganden, the monastery Tsongkhapa founded, made it really historic. Add to that that the keynote address was being given by The Dalai Lama made it auspicious as well. He said that as a student of The Dalai Lama and a former monk of Ganden Monastery, he was humbled and honoured to be present. He suggested that Tsongkhapa became one of the pre-eminent figures in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. Born in 1357 in Amdo, by the end of his life in 1419, the three great Seats of Learning had been founded under his influence. He had attracted a huge following as a result of his extensive teaching, but also due to his insistence on developing an integrated understanding founded on critical understanding and reason, as well as strong advocacy of the role of ethics.
Dr Jinpa explained that the conference would consist of six two-hour sessions over three afternoons. These sessions would focus on several themes, including Tsongkhapa’s life, thought and legacy; his contributions to Madhyamaka and the study of the Perfection of Wisdom; the theory and practice of meditation; the stages of the path and mind training, particularly as they concern bodhicitta and compassion; and his contribution to Vajrayana thought and practice. He highlighted three aims for the conference: to honour Tsongkhapa on this 600th anniversary, to explore his thought and spiritual legacy and to examine what insights from his thought and teachings are relevant to life today. With regard to conference participants, Dr. Jinpa pointed out that it is a truly international meeting. He drew special attention to the presence among the presenters of two Geshé-mas. The award of the highest degree to nuns has come about as a result of His Holiness’s vision and encouragement.
He also made a point of welcoming the two most senior international scholars of Tsongkhapa’s tradition, Professor Jeffrey Hopkins and Professor Robert Thurman. Finally, Dr Jinpa thanked His Holiness for being such an inspiring exemplar of Jé Tsongkhapa’s tradition and expressed gratitude to everyone present for joining in this historic celebration. Before resuming his seat, Dr Jinpa offered The Dalai Lama a copy of his newly published biography of Jé Rinpoché called, ‘Tsongkhapa, a Buddha in the Land of Snows’.