Tsongkhapa (Book Review)

Tsongkhapa, a Buddha in the Land of Snows by Thupten Jinpa

Reviewed by Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D. 

Tsongkhapa, a Buddha in the Land of Snows is Buddhist scholar Thupten Jinpa’s contribution to Shambhala Publications’ remarkable series, The Lives of the Masters, which seeks to memorialize the contributions of some of the most important thinkers in Buddhist philosophy. 

Tsongkhapa, who lived from 1357-1419, is considered to be one of the greatest Buddhist philosophers and teachers that ever lived. He is known for his many insights and accomplishments, not the least of which is his key role in what is called the Ganden Renaissance. The Ganden Renaissance created a ripple effect in inspiring new scholarship, new interpretations of traditional teachings and the establishment of new centers of study in Mahayana Buddhism. 

Interestingly, one of the sources of this upswelling in original thought and inspiration arose out of Tsongkhapa’s relationship with the Buddha of wisdom, Manjushri. Tsongkhapa established a relationship with Manjushri through the medium, Lama Umapa, who himself had encountered Manjushri in a visionary experience that changed the course of his life. Jinpa describes this relationship in depth in this book and provides important new insights on the way in which this collaboration provided new perspectives on classic texts, including Nagarjuna’s and Atisha’s teachings. Tsongkhapa would bring the finer points of these texts to Manjushri through Lama Umapa and request elucidation and teachings on them. Manjushri’s answers were then recorded and applied to the classic interpretations through Tsongkhapa’s clear analysis. 

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