The Gaden Tripas

The History of Gaden Tripas

Throne holders of Tsongkhapa and Supreme Head of the Gelugpa School of Buddhism

The Ganden Tripa or Gaden Tripa (tib. dGa’-ldan Khri-pa) (“Holder of the Gaden Throne”) is the title of the spiritual leader of the Gelug (Dge-lugs) school of Tibetan Buddhism, the school which controlled central Tibet from the mid-1600s until 1950s. He is identical with the respective abbot of Gaden Monastery. The present head of the Gelugpa order is the 102nd Gaden Tripa Thubten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu and not, as is often misunderstood, the Dalai Lama.[1]

The most recently retired Gaden Tripa, now known as Gaden Trisur, is Khensur Lungri Namgyal, who was the 101st Gaden Tripa.

The Gaden Tripa is an appointed office, not a reincarnation lineage. It is awarded on the basis of competitive examination. Since the position is held for only a 7-year term,[2] there have been many more Gaden Tripas than Dalai Lamas to date (101 as against 14).

Either Tsongkapa (Tsong-ka-pa) (1357–1419), who founded the Gelug sect, or his successor, Gyaltsab Je (Rgyal-tshab-rje), may be considered to have been the first Gaden Tripa. (After Tsongkhapa’s passing, his teachings were held and kept by Gyaltsab Je and Khedrub Je who were the next abbots of Gaden monastery. The lineage has been held by the Gaden Tripas – the throne holders of Gaden Monastery.)

In January 2003, the Government of Tibet in Exile announced the nomination of the 101st Gaden Tripa. An excerpt from that press release gives his background:

The 101st Gaden Tripa, the Venerable Khensur Lungri Namgyel rinpoche was born in 1927 in Kham (eastern Tibet). Ordained at eight years old, after fifty years of meditative practices and studies he was elevated by H.H. the Dalai-lama as successively abbot of Gyutö Tantric College (in 1983), and as abbot of Gaden Shartse Monastic University (in 1992).

In 1986 he was the special envoy of H.H. the Dalai-lama to the ecumenical meetings of Assisi in Italy convened by H.H. the Pope John Paul II. He is a French national and has been living in Paris, France for more than 20 years. He transmits the Buddhist teachings of his lineage in a Dharma Center, Thar Deu Ling[3] which he founded in 1980.[4]

The 102nd Gaden Tripa His Eminence Jangtse Choeje Rizong Rinpoche Thupten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu was elected on 26th October 2009, the 3rd day of the 9th month, 2136 year of Tibetan calendar.

List of Gaden Tripas

No Name Biodata Tenure Wylie Further Titles
1. Tsongkhapa, Lobsang Dragpa 1357–1419 1409–1419 tsong kha pa, blo bzang grags pa Je Rinpoche (rje rin po che)
2. Dharma Rinchen 1364–1432 1419–1431 dar ma rin chen Gyeltshab Je (rgyal tshab rje)
3. Khedrub Geleg Pelsang 1385–1438 1431–1438 mkhas grub rje dge legs dpal bzang 1. Penchen Lama
4. Shalu Lochen Legpa Gyeltshen 1375–1450 1438–1450 zhwa lu lo chen legs pa rgyal mtshan
5. Lodrö Chökyong 1389–1463 1450–1463 blo gros chos skyong
6. Chökyi Gyeltshen 1402–1473 1463–1473 chos kyi rgyal mtshan 1. Tatsak Rinpoche (rta tshag rin po che)
7. Lodrö Tenpa 1402–1476 1473–1476(79) blo gros brtan pa
8. Mönlam Legpa Lodrö 1414–1491 1480–1489 smon lam legs pa’i blo gros
9. Lobsang Nyima 1439–1492 1490–1492 blo bzang nyi ma
10. Yeshe Sangpo 1415–1498 1492–1498 ye shes bzang po
11. Lobsang Dragpa 1422/1429–1511 1499–1511 blo bzang grags pa
12. Jamyang Legpa Lodrö 1450–1530 1511–1516 jam dbyangs legs pa’i blo gros
13. Chökyi Shenyen (Dharmamitra) 1453–1540 1516–1521 chos kyi bshes gnyen
14. Rinchen Öser 1453–1540 1522–1528 rin chen ‘od zer
15. Penchen Sönam Dragpa 1478–1554 1529–1535 pan chen bsod nams grags pa (gzims khang gong ma)
16. Chökyong Gyatsho 1473–1539 1534–1539 chos skyong rgya mtsho 4. Lab Kyabgön (lab skyabs mgon)
17. Dorje Sangpo 1491–1554 1539–1546 rdo rje bzang po
18. Gyeltshen Sangpo 1497–1548 1546–1548 rgyal mtshan bzang po
19. Ngawang Chödrag 1501–1551/1552 1548–1552 ngag dbang chos grags
20. Chödrag Sangpo 1493–1559 1552–1559 chos grags bzang po
21. Geleg Pelsang 1505–1567 1559–1565 dge legs dpal bzang
22. Gendün Tenpe Dargye 1493–1568 1565–1568 dge ‘dun bstan pa dar rgyas
23. Tsheten Gyatsho 1520–1576 1568–1575 tshe brtan rgya mtsho
24. Champa Gyatsho 1516–1590 1575–1582 byams pa rgya mtsho
25. Peljor Gyatsho 1526–1599 1582–? dpal ‘byor rgya mtsho
26. Damchö Pelbar 1523/1546–1599 1589–1596 dam chos dpal ‘bar
27. Sangye Rinchen 1540–1612 1596–1603 sangs rgyas rin chen
28. Gendün Gyeltshen 1532–1605/1607 1603–? dge ‘dun rgyal mtshan
29. Shenyen Dragpa 1545–1615 1607–1615 bshes gnyen grags pa
30. Lodrö Gyatsho 1546–1618 1615–1618 blo gros rgya mtsho 5. Lab Kyabgön
31. Damchö Pelsang 1546–1620 1618–1620 dam chos dpal bzang
32. Tshülthrim Chöphel 1561–1623 1620–1623 tshul khrims chos ‘phel
33. Dragpa Gyatsho 1555–1627 1623–1627 grags pa rgya mtsho
34. Ngawang Chökyi Gyeltshen 1571/1575–1625/1629 1623, 1627/1628(?) ngag dbang chos kyi rgyal mtshan
35. Könchog Chöphel 1573–1644 1626–1637 dkon mchog chos ‘phel
36. Tendzin Legshe ?–1664 1638? bstan ‘dzin legs bshad
37. Gendün Rinchen Gyeltshen 1571–1642 1638–1642 dge ‘dun rin chen rgyal mtshan
38. Tenpe Gyeltshen ?–1647 1643–1647 bstan pa rgyal mtshan
39. Könchog Chösang ?–1672/1673 1644(?)/1648–1654 dkon mchog chos bzang
40. Pelden Gyeltshen 1601–1674 1651/1654/1655–1662 dpal ldan rgyal mtshan
41. Lobsang Gyeltshen 1599/1600–1672 1658/1662–1668 blo bzang rgyal mtshan
42. Lobsang Dönyö 1602–1678 1668–1675 blo bzang don yod Namdak Dorje
43. Champa Trashi 1618–1684 1675–1681 byams pa bkra shis
44. Ngawang Lodrö Gyatsho 1635–1688 1682–1685 ngag dbang blo gros rgya mtsho
45. Tshülthrim Dargye 1632–? 1685/1695–1692/1699 tshul khrims dar rgyas
46. Ngawang Pelsang 1629–1695 ? ngag dbang dpal bzang Chinpa Gyatsho
47. Lobsang Chöphel * 17. Jh. 1699–1701 blo bzang chos ‘phel
48. Döndrub Gyatsho * 17. Jh. 1702–1708 don grub rgya mtsho
49. Lobsang Dargye * 17. Jh. 1708–1715 blo bzang dar rgyas
50. Gendün Phüntshog ?–1724 1715–1722 dge ‘dun phun tshogs
51. Pelden Dragpa ?–1729 1722–1729 dpal ldan grags pa 1. hor tshang gser khri
52. Ngawang Tshephel 1668–1734 1730–1732 ngag dbang tshe ‘phel
53. Gyeltshen Sengge 1678–1756 1732–1739 rgyal mtshan seng ge 1. gtsos khri sprul
54. Ngawang Chogden 1677–1751 1739–1746 ngag dbang mchog ldan 1. Reting Rinpoche (rwa sgreng)
55. Ngawang Namkha Sangpo 1690–1749/1750 1746–1749/1750 ngag dbang nam mkha’ bzang po 1. Shingsa Rinpoche (shing bza’ )
56. Lobsang Drimed 1683–? 1750–1757 blo bzang dri med
57. Samten Phüntshog 1703–1770 1757–1764 bsam gtan phun tshogs
58. Chakyung Ngawang Chödrag 1707–1778 1764–1778? bya khyung ngag dbang chos grags
59. Chusang Ngawang Chödrag 1710–1772 1771–1772? chu bzang ngag dbang chos grags
60. Lobsang Tenpa 1725–? 6 Jahre blo bzang bstan pa
61. Ngawang Tshülthrim 1721–1791 1778–1785 ngag dbang tshul khrims 1. Tshemon Ling (tshe smon gling)
62. Lobsang Mönlam 1729–1798 1785–1793 blo bzang smon lam
63. Lobsang Khechog 1736–1792 1792 (6 Monate) blo bzang mkhas mchog
64. Lobsang Trashi 1739–1801 1794–1801 blo bzang bkra shis
65. Gendün Tshülthrim 1744–1807 ? dge ‘dun tshul khrims
66. Ngawang Sanggye 1746–1824 1807–1814 ngag dbang snyan grags
67. Jamyang Mönlam 1750–1814/1817 1814 (3 Monate) ‘jam dbyangs smon lam
68. Lobsang Geleg 1757–1816 1815–1816 blo bzang dge legs
69. Changchub Chöphel 1756–1838 1816–1822 byang chub chos ‘phel – Yongzin Trijang Dorje Chang
70. Ngawang Chöphel 1760–1839 1822–1828 ngag dbang chos ‘phel stag brag pandi ta, 1.stag brag
71. Yeshe Thardo 1756–1829/1830 1829–1830 ye shes thar ‘dod
72. Jampel Tshülthrim * 19. Jh. 1831–1837 ‘jam dpal tshul khrims 1. khams lung
73. Ngawang Jampel Tshülthrim Gyatsho 1792–1862/1864 1837–1843 ngag dbang ‘jam dpal tshul khrims rgya mtsho 2. Tshemon Ling
74. Lobsang Lhündrub * 18. Jh. ? blo bzang lhun grub
75. Ngawang Lungtog Yönten Gyatsho * 19 Jh.–1853? 1850–1853 ngag dbang lung rtogs yon tan rgya mtsho
76. Lobsang Khyenrab Wangchug ?–1872 1853–1870 blo bzang mkhyen rab dbang phyug
77. Tshülthrim Dargye ? 1859?–1864? tshul khrims dar rgyas
78. Jamyang Damchö * 19. Jh. 1864?–1869? jam dbyangs dam chos
79. Lobsang Chinpa * 19. Jh. 1869?–1874? blo bzang sbyin pa
80. Dragpa Döndrub * 19. Jh. 1874?–1879? grags pa don grub
81. Ngawang Norbu * 19. Jh. 1879?–1884? ngag dbang nor bu
82. Yeshe Chöphel * 19. Jh. 1884?–1889? ye shes chos ‘phel
83. Changchub Namkha * 19. Jh. 1889?–1894? byang chub nam mkha’
84. Lobsang Tshülthrim * 19. Jh. 1894?–1899? blo bzang tshul khrims
85. Lobsang Tshülthrim Pelden 1839–1899/1900 1896–1899/1900 blo bzang tshul khrims dpal ldan – Yongzin Trijang Dorje Chang
86. Lobsang Gyeltshen 1840–? 1900–1907? blo bzang rgyal mtshan
87. Ngawang Lobsang Tenpe Gyeltshen 1844–1919 1907–1914 ngag dbang blo bzang bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan 3. Tshemon Ling
88. Khyenrab Yönten Gyatsho * 19. Jh. 1914?–1919 mkhyen rab yon tan rgya mtsho Drigungpa Khyenrab Yönten
89. Lobsang Sanggye Gyatsho * 19. Jh. 1919?–1924? blo bzang snyan grags rgya mtsho
90. Champa Chödrag 1876–1937/1947 1920/1921–1926 byams pa chos grags
91. Lobsang Gyeltshen ?–1932 1927–1932 blo bzang rgyal mtshan
92. Thubten Nyinche ?–1933? 1933 thub bstan nyin byed 1. gtsang pa khri sprul
93. Yeshe Wangden * 19. Jh. 1933–1939 ye shes dbang ldan 1. mi nyag khri sprul
94. Lhündrub Tsöndrü ?–1949 1940–1946 lhun grub brtson ‘grus Shangpa Lhündrub Tsöndrü
95. Trashi Tongthün * 19. Jh. 1947–1953 bkra shis stong thun
96. Thubten Künga 1891–1964 1954/1958–1964 thub bstan kun dga
97. Thubten Lungtog Tendzin Thrinle 1903–1983 1965– thub bstan lung rtogs bstan ‘dzin ‘phrin las Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche[6]
98. Jampel Shenpen 1919–1988/1989? ? ‘jam dpal gzhan phan
99. Yeshe Dönden[7] ?–1995 ? ye shes don ldan
100. Lobsang Nyima Rinpoche * 1928 1995–2003 blo bzang nyi ma
101. Khensur Lungri Namgyel * 1927 2003–2009 lung rig rnam rgyal 2. ri rdzong sras sprul
102. Thubten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu * 1937 2009- thub bstan nyi ma lung rtogs bstan ‘dzin nor bu Rizong Sras Rinpoche

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4 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Thank you for this history and the list of the throne holders of Gaden. It is very useful when one needs to make a quick reference. The position of Gaden Tripa is not hereditary. Gaden Tripas are chosen based on their performance and service to the monastery and they command great respect from both lay and ordained people.

  2. Je Tsongkapa is the founder and 1st Gaden Tripa of the Gelug School of Buddhism. There is a difference between the Gaden Tripa and Dalai Lama. Dalai Lama is only Tibet Leader and King whereas Gaden Tripa is the Throne Holder or Spiritual head of the Gelug School of Buddhism. There are more Gaden Tripas than the Dalai Lamas which had existed. The difference is there are only 14 Dalai Lamas and 102 Gaden Tripas. Gaden Tripas are appointed to their post while Dalai Lamas are reincarnations. The most recently retired Gaden Tripa now known as Gaden Trisur is Khensur Lungri Namgyal. And now 102nd Gaden Tripa is H.E. Jangtse Choeje Rizong Rinpoche Thupten Nynima Lingtok Tenzin Norbu.

  3. I read somewhere that Gaden Trisu Khensur Lungrig Namgyal has joined Shar Gaden????? Wasn’t he nominated by by the Tibetan Government in Exile???

  4. There are so many Gaden Tripa since when Je Tsongkapa has built the Gaden monastery and taught his students about Buddhism.

    The Gaden Tripa is not being mixed with the political scene because he is the Throne Holder or Spiritual Head of the Gelug School Buddhism. If the Gaden Tripa mixes with the political scene, it is very hard for him to help the growth in Buddhism. Reason being that he would be so involved with all the activities that he would not be able to focus on his main purpose of spreading Je Tsongkapa’s teachings to the world.

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