What immediately comes to mind when we hear or see the name, Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen, are two things – he built Ganden Monastery, which stands to this day, and he offered it to his Guru, Lama Tsongkhapa.
These two great deeds alone would be enough to illustrate what kind of Lama and disciple this extraordinary individual was.
Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen was well known for being a great holder of the vinaya (the monks’ vows), or pure morality. It is said that he held his vows so purely and his monkhood that his body smelled of clean, fragrant flowers. This is why they called him “Duldzin” – “dul” means vinaya; and “zin” means hold. Thus, a direct translation of his name means “Holder of the vinaya”.
He was considered as an emanation of Lama Tsongkhapa himself, as his attainments were said to be of Tsongkhapa’s equal. In this case, Duldzin emanated as a direct disciple of Lama Tsongkhapa in order to play the role of “Teacher and Student”. This arrangement enabled Dharma to be brought to many others.
It was Duldzin who raised the funds needed to construct Ganden, the first and greatest Gelugpa monastery in Tibet. He also personally oversaw the construction of Ganden until its completion. Upon its completion, Duldzin offered the monastery to his Guru, Lama Tsongkhapa.
Duldzin was so highly respected among the Sangha that he was offered the position of the first Ganden Tripa (Tsongkhapa’s successor or throne holder) after Tsongkhapa’s passing. However, he turned down the offer. He chose instead to dedicate the rest of his life to upholding these precious teachings. It was with this incredible devotion and commitment that he made a promise to arise as an “Uncommon Protector” to preserve and guard the lineage of his teacher, Tsongkhapa.
This promise was made to Nechung, a worldly spirit subdued by the 8th Century Indian Master Guru Rinpoche to be the general Dharma Protector of the Buddhadharma, who appeared in one of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings as a white dove.
It was said that one day while Lord Tsongkhapa was giving teachings in the Ganden prayer hall among a vast assembly of Sangha, a white dove appeared and flew about the prayer hall, creating a disturbance. It even hovered above Tsongkhapa’s head.
After the teachings, Tsongkhapa descended from the throne and retired to his quarters. Duldzin recognised that the dove was not a mere dove, and remained behind to investigate.
Then the dove, who was actually Nechung, transformed into a young boy dressed in white and spoke to Duldzin. He requested Duldzin to become an “Uncommon Protector” of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings on Nagarjuna’s precious philosophy of the Middle Way.
An ‘Uncommon Protector’ is not a general protector but one who arises specifically to protect something. In this case, Nagarjuna’s Madyamika view, as taught by Lama Tsongkhapa.
Duldzin promised Nechung that he would do so. Nechung then said, “Don’t forget your promise, I will come back to remind you.” Then the boy left.
Later, after he had completed building Ganden Monastery, Duldzin went into retreat in a cave and passed away.
Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen is the Drakpa incarnation that began the lineage of the uncommon and most powerful Protector, Dorje Shudgen.