The Mystic Ganden Hearing Lineage – A Clarification

Guest Author: D. Choegyal

The Dalai Lama’s Advice on the Three Deities of Yamantaka, Guhyasamaja and Heruka as Well as the Dharma Protectors of the Three Scopes is In Perfect Concordance With the Instructions of Tsongkhapa in General and the Ganden Hearing Lineage in Particular

Tsongkhapa (1357–1410)

These days issues regarding the practice and history of the Ganden hearing lineage are not always fully understood or recorded. In order to understand the intent of this hidden lineage of Je Tsongkhapa’s instructions, we must first study the story of how he received it from Buddha Manjushri. This is well explained by Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltsen, sometimes called Khachen Yeshe Gyaltsen, a qualified lineage holder of the Ganden hearing teachings. In his commentary to the Lama Chopa he states:

Je Tsongkhapa made limitless outer, inner, secret and suchness offerings to Protector Manjushri and made extraordinarily powerful requests whereby Venerable Manjushri bestowed the complete set of oral instructions of the Hearing Lineage on the complete body of the path of both sutra and tantra. At that time, Tsongkhapa made a request to Manjushri by inquiring “What is the absolute quickest method for progressing to the state of Vajradhara?” To which Manjushri replied, “You must take as the life of the path this very yoga where the guru and deity are inseperable. Also, not everyone is capable of being a guru, for they must be able to lead one through the entire path. Furthermore, you must also practice Heruka, Guhyasamaja and Yamantaka without separation. As for dharma protectors, you should rely upon Six-Armed Mahakala, Oath-Bound Dharmaraja and Vaishravana. For companions, they must be in harmony with your guru, deity and dharma protector.” At this point, Manjushri bestowed upon Je Rinpoche and Drubchen Jampal Gyatso, as well as a few fortunate gods, the complete oral instructions of the Hearing Lineage together with the Great Emanation Scripture.¹


From this account by a blessed son of the lineage, the great Khachen Yeshe Gyaltsen, fortunate students can understand the inseparability of these instructions of the hearing lineage from the three essential yidams of the Gelug Tradition of Je Tsongkhapa, namely Yamantaka, Guhyasamaja and Heruka. Therefore, the complete practice of these three deities is not only crucial for the doctrine of Tsongkhapa in general, but also for the doctrine of the Gaden Hearing Lineage in particular. There can be no practice of the lineage without the explicit practice of these deities.

Hence, in order to restore the intention of Tsongkhapa regarding the practice of tutelary deities, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso has tirelessly upheld their practice. He has given extensive advice regarding the preservation of all aspects of the teachings of Je Tsongkhapa’ three deities, and how their practice conjoined with guru yoga is the very essence of the path of the Ganden tradition.

One must fervently pray to the guru by taking the guru yoga practice as the life of the path, through this practice and the path one can actualize the pure illusory body and meaning clear light – the factors that lead practitioners to resultant Buddhahood. Therefore, the followers of Tsongkhapa traditionally take the practice of guru yoga as the life of the path and undertake a practice which integrates the three deities of Yamantaka, Guhyasamaja and Heruka.²

We see also that the 14th Dalai Lama’s advice regarding the protectors of the Gelug lineage is in perfect accordance with the instructions received by Je Tsongkhapa from Manjushri as written aboveby Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltsen, and upheld by holders of the Hearing Lineage. Indeed, the words of the Dalai Lama regarding this issue echo the words Manjushri himself proclaimed to Tsongkhapa.

Concerning the Gelugpa protectors, there are protectors of the people of the three scopes, Mahakala, Vaishravana and Kalarupa. In the center of the row is six armed Mahakala, the wrathful aspect of Avalokiteshvara, who protects practitioners of highest scope. Vaishravana is appropriate for those who observe pure morality, there is special reason for this, for although all protectors must be good for such people, Vaishravana is particularly pleased by purity. As those of middling scope are primarily concerned with ethical purity, Vaishravana is the appropriate protector for them. Those of lowest scope are primarily concerned with observing the law of cause and effect; and as Dharmaraja is the witness of wholesome and unwholesome actions he is their protector.

… these three being fundamentally important there is no need of a protector other than these for the Gelugpas.³

¹ Yondzin Yeshe Gyaltsen’s Commentary on the Guru Puja, translated into English by David Gonzales as “Manjushri’s Innermost Secret, A Profound Commentary of Oral Instructions on the Practice of Lama Chopa”.

² 14th Dalai Lama’s commentary on the Lama Chopa, translated into English by Geshe Thupten Jinpa and published under the title “The Union of Bliss and Emptiness”.

³ Mahakala, Kalarupa/Dharmaraja and Vaishravana: The Three Protectors of the Gelug Tradition – Talks by H.H. The Dalai Lama

Notes: The Ganden Hearing Lineage is a hidden and closely guarded mystical lineage of oral instructions attributed to direct interactions Je Tsongkhapa had with the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri. (see here)

  • Some Practices of the Ganden Hearing Lineage include:
  • Instructions on Yamantaka, Guhyasamaja and Heruka
  • The Chöd Severance Practices of the White and Black Dakinis,
  • White Heruka Longevity Practice
  • Yellow Yamantaka Longevity Practice
  • Highest Yoga Tantra Tara practice with body mandala of Chittamani Tara
  • Vajrayogini Phowa
  • White Heruka Longevity Practice and Chu-Len (Taking the Essence)
  • Lama Chöpa
  • The Uncommon Sadhana Practice of Heruka Vajrasattva with consort