Trisong Detsen

Trisong Detsen

The Dharma King

In 790 CE, another of the earlier incarnations of Dorje Shugden, Trisong Detsen, was born in Tibet. He was of royal blood and his parents were King Me Aktsomchen and Princess Chin Ch’eng Kun Chu. This young boy would eventually grow up to become one of the Three Great Dharma Kings of Tibet, laying the foundation for Buddhism to take root in the Tibetan plateau.

The Tibetan empire that the young Trisong Detsen inherited was in serious decline. After the glorious reign of King Songtsen Gampo, the first Dharma King of Tibet, the empire was disintegrating as Tibet lost several cities in Turkestan, Nepal became embroiled in a rebellion, and the Arabs began encroaching on the Western front of the Tibetan empire.

King Trisong Detsen initiated several successful military campaigns against Tang China and against the Arabs in the West. However, he is best remembered by later generations of Tibetan Buddhists for his great patronage of Buddhism. He invited Shantaraksita, Padmasambhava, Kamalashila and various other great Indian pandits to Tibet, thus initiating the first dissemination of Buddhism in the Land of Snows.

King Trisong Detsen, together with the Indian master Shantaraksita, also began the construction of Samye Monastery, the first Buddhist monastery on Tibetan soil. However, the project was plagued by a series of accidents. The building itself would collapse when construction reached a certain point, and the workers were afraid, believing that the accidents were caused by a demon that inhabited a nearby river. Therefore, Shantaraksita advised the King to invite Padmasambhava, a Tantric adept, to subdue these opposing supernatural forces.

The arrival of Padmasambhava and the eventual subjugation of supernatural forces ensured the completion of Samye Monastery and the diffusion of Tantra teachings in Tibet. Under King Trisong Detsen’s patronage, the very first ordination of Tibetan monks was also performed at Samye Monastery. The King also initiated an immense project to translate the vast corpus of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Classical Tibetan.

At that time, Buddhist masters and scholars from both China and India were propagating the Buddhist teachings in Tibet. Suspecting that the Chinese Chan Meditation Master Hvashang Mo-ho-yen was propagating misinterpreted teachings, King Trisong Detsen hosted a famous two-year debate from 792-794 CE, known by Western Tibetologists as the “Council of Lhasa” although it took place at Samye Monastery, which was quite a distance from Lhasa.

The great debate was between the Chinese Chan Meditation Master Hvashang Mo-ho-yen and the scholar Kamalashila, a student of Shantaraksita, and eventually became known as the debate between Chinese and Indian Buddhist traditions as they were represented in Tibet. Kamalashila represented the “gradualist approach” to enlightenment according to the Buddhist philosophy that flourished in India. Meanwhile, Mo-ho-yen represented the third dissemination of Chan Buddhism in Tibet. In the end, Kamalashila was victorious and the Chan master was banished. This marked the turning point during which Tibet shifted squarely towards India for its lineage and teachings of Buddhism.

King Trisong Detsen had five wives who bore him three sons and two daughters (the numbers varies depending on the source). Amongst his wives, Yeshe Tsogyal was the most famous for being later considered to be an emanation of Vajrayogini. She was offered to his guru, Padmasambhava, by the king and became the guru’s consort and student. King Trisong Detsen eventually retired to live at Zungkar, handing over power to his second son, Mune Tsenpo in 797 AD.

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3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. King Trisong Detsen ordered the great debate at Samye Monastery. The Chinese Meditation Master and the Indian scholar Kamalashila debated and the winner was Kamalashila. The debate took 2 years! Only the Indian Buddhist school was taught in Tibet after this debate. Great info! Thanks

  2. What is this nonsense!!!!
    The one who has written it, did he do even basic research..
    Who told you that Dharma King Trisong Detsen was incarnation of Dorjee Shugden? Where did you find this nonsense in any history books?
    The Dorjee shugden practitioner destroyed even Guru Padmasambhava’s statue claiming themselves as true follower of Tsongkhapa…

  3. What is this nonsense!!!!
    The one who has written it, did he do even basic research..
    Who told you that Dharma King Trisong Detsen was incarnation of Dorjee Shugden? Where did you find this nonsense in any history books?
    The Dorjee shugden practitioner destroyed even Guru Padmasambhava’s statue claiming themselves as true follower of Tsongkhapa…
    One of your Tsering rinpoche even claimed that Guru Padmasambhava was not even Buddha and his followers should call themselves Padmasambhavist!!!
    You can follow anyone but stop distorting the history by this way…

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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