Je Tsongkhapa became the founder of the largest school of Tibetan Buddhism due to the power of his Buddhist practice, scholarship and philosophical reasoning, which he commended to posterity in a huge corpus of brilliantly lucid exegesis of all aspects of Buddhist theory and practice.

About half of Je Tsongkhapa’s 175 compositions included in the Je Yabse Sungbum are devoted to Sutra and half to Tantra. In addition to commentaries on theory and practice, he wrote poems of spiritual experience and prayers. The compositions are very disparate in size, ranging from the very lengthy to pithy poetry.

SUTRIC WRITINGS. Je Tsongkhapa’s most famous masterpiece is the Lamrim Chenmo, which has been translated into English by a team of 11 outstanding scholars and published in three volumes as The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. Below are two descriptive reviews of this treatise:

“Ultimately, this is a classic of religious thought and is essential for libraries with a demonstrated interest in Buddhism or comparative religion. It should also be considered for all larger research collections and public libraries.” — Library Journal.

“The Great Treatise is one of the world’s great monuments of philosophy and spirituality as well as one of the most renowned works of Buddhist thought and practice to have been composed in Tibet.” — Professor D.S. Ruegg.

The Stages of the Path (Lamrim) genre of Tibetan Buddhist literature was initiated by Jowo Atisha, a Bengali scholar saint who travelled to Tibet in the 11th century. Jowo Atisha’s disciples established a remarkable Kadam tradition of Buddhism in Tibet. Je Tsongkhapa, being a revivalist of the Kadam tradition, wrote many Lamrim compositions of various lengths. He also composed treatises and commentaries on philosophy including works that serve as textbooks

in the Geluk university advanced philosophy and religious studies curricula, e.g.: Ocean of Reasoning (Rigs pa’i rGya mTsho), a commentary on Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Treatise on the Middle Way (Mula-madhyamaka-karika) and Elucidation of the Intention (dGongs pa Rab gSal) on Chandrakirti’s Entry to the Middle Way (Madhyamakavatara), and Essence of Eloquence (Legs bShad sNying po), his treatise delineating definitive and interpretable Sutras.

After years of extensive study, intensive spiritual practice and retreats, Je Tsongkhapa achieved a dramatically enhanced spiritual maturity around age 40. After his most profound spiritual experience, Je Tsongkhapa composed a hymn, In Praise of Dependent Origination, the profound philosophy taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. This and other works of poetic praise and prayers express Je Tsongkhapa’s profound spiritual realizations.

TANTRIC WRITINGS. Tantra is the subject matter for about half of Je Tsongkhapa’s compositions including six of his 12 longest works. The Great Exposition of Tantra (sNags Rim Chen mo), for example, is a systematically comprehensive exposition of the stages of the path of the esoteric tantras that complements the Lamrim Chenmo, and three commentaries on the Guhyasamaja and Chakrasamvara tantric systems. Several volumes of The Great Exposition of Tantra translated into English by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D. have been published.


Both Gyaltsab Je Dharma Rinchen (1364-1432) and Khedrub Je Gelek Palzang (1385-1438) composed treatises on sutra and tantra. However, Gyaltsab Je’s sutric treatises are essential texts for students engaged in Geshe curricula studies, while Khedrub Je’s tantric commentaries, particularly on the Kalachakra tantric cycle, are considered invaluable. One of Khedrub Je’s sutric texts has been published in English.

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