Summary of the Biography of First Khalkha Jetsundampa Zanabazar written by Zaya Pandita Luvsanprinlei and translated by Agata Bareja-Starzynska1
This biography of the First Khalkha Jetsundampa Zanabazar is a critical hagiography of a major figure in the history of Mongolia, Qing China, and Tibetan Buddhism who lived from 1635-1723. He was trained for several years with his friend and the author of this biography, Zaya Pandita Luvansprinlei. Whether it was his intention or not, as a charismatic charismatic figure during this geopolitically tumultuous time in Inner Asia, he found himself taken away much of the time from founding monasteries and producing Buddhist art to attend to the Khalkha Mongols’ political situation. His biography is not only hagiographical but also helps people understand the interrelationships between the Mongols, Tibetans, and Manchus. In 1691, due to Zungar attacks in Mongolia, Zanabazar led his people to submit to the Kangxi Emperor as refugees. He and Kangxi became close friends in Beijing and this relationship came to embody the priest-patron relationship as previously seen between Hubilie and Phagpa. During Zanabazar’s life, the political structure of the Mongols shifted so that both religious and political authority would be shouldered by the Jetsundampa lineage. This biography and excellent translation is a critical read of an influential Buddhist sage but also of a man who greatly impacted the balance of power in Inner Asia while still finding times for friendship and almsgiving.
About the Author
According to Agata Bareja-Starzynska, Zaya Pandita Luvsanprinlei was a talent monk and scholar in his own right, living from 1642 to 1715 and joined his friend, the First Khalkha Jetsundampa Zanabazar, on many of his adventures across Mongolia, Tibet, and Qing China. Zaya Pandita wrote in Tibetan and Mongolian script. He first learned Mongolian script and then Tibetan in Lhasa. According to Bareja-Starzynska, he was one of the greatest scholars on modern Mongolia and wrote the biographies of ten Buddhist masters.1 Like Zanabazar, he was considered a descendant of Genghis Khan.2 He came from a very religious but not wealthy family and was born in Khasui in the Khangai Khan mountains. Gzungs was his father and his mother was Orkhidai.
By becoming a monk, Zaya Pandita changed his social status and was later recognized as the reincarnation of Kondolun Tsokhur.3 From 1660-1679, he studied extensively in Gelugpa monasteries in Tibet and was ordained by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama.4 He received the title Zaya Pandita Khutugtu in 1679 then left for Mongolia for the purpose of spreading the dharma in there.5 He was instructed by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama to resist the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism.6 In 1698, he fled Galdan’s invasion of Khalkha lands with Zanabazar and went to the Manchu court where his religious titles were recognized.7 He was given a seal and lands by the Manchus and mastered the five Buddhist sciences. He first learned Mongolian script and then Tibetan.8 Zaya Pandita is considered in Mongolia as one of the three most important teachers alongside Jetsundampa and Lamyn Gegeen Losang Tenzin Gyeltsen. He himself established many monasteries in Tibet and regarded the First Khalkha Jetsundampa Zanabazar as his spiritual teacher.9They both met in Mongolia before Zaya Pandita studied in Tibet and remained close friends. Unlike many biographers, he studied from teachers outside of his lineage and therefore was able to write many biographies although many were short.
According to Agata Bareja-Starzynska, he wrote this biography to employ the spiritual development of the First Khalka Jetsundampa Zanabazar as a spiritual role model.10 Bareja-Starzynska writes, “He [Zaya Pandita] is proof of the fruitful transfer of Tibetan culture to Mongolian soil. Zaya Pandita’s biography of the First Jetsundampa was very popular among the Mongolian clergy and it was used as a model followed by all later biographies of Zanabazar written in Tibetan.11 This biography can be considered a biography in the tradition of “teachings received” (thob yig) and also the “personal path leading to enlightenment” (rnam thar) genre. The prayers of Zanabazar are communicated in Tibetan, the lingua franca of the Tibetan Buddhist world. Many of his prayers are still said today in Tibetan in both Mongolia and Tibet.
The protagonist of the biography, the First Khalka Jetsundampa Zanabazar, lived from 1635-1723. Some other major figures who would impact the events in Inner and East Asia for years to come were active during this period, including the Great Fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Losang Gytso (1617-1782), the Manchu Emperor Kangxi (r. 1662-1720), the Oirat Mongol lord Galdan Boshugtu (1644-1697).12 The relationships between these leaders and their respective peoples would drastically shape the future of the military, political, religious, and social landscapes in Inner and East Asia.
At the beginning of Zanzabar’s life in the second half of the seventeenth century, geopolitics in Tibet and Mongolia was dominated by the struggle between the Eastern and Western Mongols. The Eastern Mongols also called the Khalkhas, resided in Northern Mongolia, while the Western Mongols, referred to as the Oirats or the Jungars, dominated the West and Tibet. Since the fall of the Yuan dynasty, these Mongol tribes had been fighting for hegemony over all of Mongolia while the power of the Manchus was slowing growing in the region. Furthermore, Tibeto-Khlaka-Oirat-Manchu relations at a critical juncture in the late 1600’s. Besides military campaigning and political intrigue, this period also saw the rapid spread of Tibetan Buddhism among the Mongols in Inner Asia and Mongolia largely due to Zanabazar’s influence.13
Summary of Biography
Zanabazar was the son of the wealthy Khalhka Tushiyetu Khan Gombodorji. However, as the second son, Zanabazar did not need to succeed his father as Khan but was supported by his father’s wealth in his intensive religious studies in both Mongolia and Tibet. He pursued specialized religious studies instead from early childhood and was recognized as the incarnation of the Buddhist Jonangpa scholar Taranatha Kunga Nyingpo who lived from 1575-1634. Interestingly, Tarantha Kunga Nyingpo was a major scholar of the Jonangpa School of Tibetan Buddhism and not a monk of the Gelugpa School as Zanabazar was deemed.14 This is significant in that it shows the Gelugpa adopting reincarnations of non-Gelugpa sages into the Gelugpa Church. This practice occurring not only in Tibet but Mongolia as well demonstrates the widespread strategy used by the Gelugpa to establish hegemony through the establishment of reincarnation lines of major non-Geluppa hierarchs in both regions.
Some interesting stories surround Zanabazar’s childhood are that once the tent was moved where he was birthed, beautiful flowers arose at the same site despite it being winter. At 3 years old, he recited the Chanting of the Names of Manjushri by heart though he had previously not memorized them. At his haircutting ceremony when he was 4 years old, he renounced his vows as a lay follower of Tibetan Buddhism. He was enthroned at 5 years old and many recognized the auspicious signs of Zanabazar’s birth and early childhood. A hierarch by the name of Ensa Tulku, a reincarnation of Khedub Sangye Yeshi, acted as preceptor for Zanabazar’s ordination and gave him authorization for the practices of Mahakala,15 a god of war in the Tibetn Buddhist cosmology. He was then recognized by the Fifth Dalai Lama and his regent as the first reincarnation of Jetsundampa.
Interestingly enough, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama recognized Zanabazar not only as a reincarnation of Taranatha but also of Jamyang Choje, who lived from 1379-1449 and was the founder of the prestigious Drepung Monastery.16 Therefore, Zanabazar was an incarnation of two previous Buddhist sages, one from the Gelugpa tradition in the form of Jamyang Choje and the other as a reincarnation of the Joningpa sage Tarantha. The combination of both identities provided valuable religious prestigious for Zanabazar as well as rationale for the Gelugpa Church to seize Joningpa lands. Zaya Pandita also provides the genealogy of Zanabazar all the way to Genghis Khan. This royal blood of Genghis Khan served as a strong source of political legitimacy for Zanabazar’s forefathers as rulers among the Khalkha Mongols while strengthening Zanabazar’s own mystique, even early on as only a religious figure.
As Zanabazar grew up, he became a kind of Renaissance man in his own right by engaging in political affairs in addition to religious and artistic pursuits. As described by the author of his biography, Zaya Pandita Luvsanprinlei, Zanabazar’s religious education began in Mongolia but lived in Tibet from 1649-1651 to pursue advanced religious studies. There, Zanabazar was greeted by a procession of monks and brought gifts of tea and donations from Khalkha Mongolia.17
He was later joined by his good friend, Zaya Pandita Luvsanprinlei who wrote this biography and became a significant hierarch in his own right. At this time, Buddhist hierarchs in both Tibet and Mongolia would communicate in Tibetan as it was both a strong instrument for the religious study of Tibetan Buddhist Thought while concurrently formed a linguistic communion among Buddhist hierarchs across different regions. Upon his return to Mongolia, Zanabazar took with him some artisans specializing in bronze casting.18 His innovative use of new scripts and translation methods provided more accurate Buddhist teachings in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Mongolian.
He took the monastic vow of getsul from the Panchen Lama. From the Panchen Lama, he asked for “empowerments, scriptural transmissions, and secret oral instructions as if filling a vase to the brim.”19 From the Victorious Great Omnipotent Holy Master (the Dalai Lama), Zanabazar received the empowerment of the forty two mandalas of the Vajra Garland and three auspicious Mandalas called Kriyasamucca in 1651. These forty five mandalas “completed the empowerment” of the ‘mother tantra”.20
The author of the biography, Zata Pandita uses self-effacing commentary to say that he did not obtain the Vajra Garland until Zanabazar was 63 years old. Zanabazar was actually the one to bestow this empowerment upon Zaya PAandita. Zanabazar had received these empowerments at age 17. Zaya Pandita, though only slightly younger in age, considered Zanabazar his spiritual teacher. While studying in Tibet with Zanabazar, Zaya Pandita makes fun of himself by saying “due to the fault of not applying himself (Zaya Pandita) greatly to the Dharma, he did not take notes, except [for the fact that] on the first day he pulled [information] from sutras and tantras and words of many Indian and Tibetan accomplished master…However, he [Zaya Pandita] was not able to remember everything.”21 In this way, Zaya Pandita’s self-effacing commentary emphasizes the greatness of learning ability of Zanabazar.
In Tibet, the Panchen Lama himself confirmed that Zanabazar was indeed the reincarnation of Taranatha. Zaya Pandita also expresses how modest Zanabazar was even after this declaration by the Panchen Lama, as Zanabazar followed the saying from Shuen Norbu Trengba which states, “One qualities should be hidden, other’s qualities should be proclaimed!”22 In this way, Zanabazar remained humble as a student despite his masters lavishing praise upon him. Zanabazar traveled through U and Tsang. When asking for advice from the ‘All Knowing Panchen Lama’, the lama in replied told Zanabazar “instead of striving here for religious teach it will be better for you if you go to Mongolia. You will establish a religious community and bring benefit to all sentient beings and to Dharma.”23 Indeed, Zanabazar was quick to undertake the task of establishing a strong Tibetan Buddhist presence in Mongolia.
As Zanabazar returned to Mongolia, many lamas he had known in Lhasa accompanied him including, painters, spiritual advisors, treasurers, chamberlains, artisans, and managers.24 He was invited by the Khalkhas to attend the assembly of the seven divisions of the Khalkha Mongols and he oversaw the religious ceremonies. He was greatly revered by the Khalkha nobility at all levels. One by one, after leading the prayer festivities, Zanabazar answer the request for teachings among the disciples.
Zanabazar first founded the Ribo Geye Ling monastery in Kentei Khan in 1654 and secretly returned to U and Tsang to offer prayers for the Panchen Lama before continuing on to the Drepung monastery.25 In 1656 he returned to Mongolia and invited the four divisions of the eastern wing of the Khalkha Mongols in the fall of the Erdeni Juu monastery.26 In this way, even early in his career, Zanabazar was talking an authoritative stance as a religious and political leader among the Mongols. With at least 30 of his disciples becoming respected religious teachers in their own right, a discipleship estimated around 2,000 people, and a string of newly constructed monasteries in Mongolia supported by the Gelugpa Church, Zanabazar’s influence continued to grow.
In the development of Mongol-Tibetan-Manchu relations, ethnicity became less important than mastery of Buddhist thought. Zanabazar’s younger cousin was linked to Qing China through marriage to a Chinese princess. Zanabazar represents the start of a shift from the separation of religious and political authority to the consolidated religious and political authority in the form of the Jetsundampas with the Eighth Jetsundamas being the zenith of this model of governance once al of Mongolia came under his rule.
Preaching the Buddhist gospel in Mongolia, Zanabazar was financially supported by Tibetan Gelugpa School and was aided by Tibetan Gelugpa hierarchs who dispatched fifty religious specialist to develop Buddhist at Zanabazar’s newly founded monasteries in Khalkha Mongolia.27 In Mongolia, Zanabazar’s first monastery was built near the temple complex. In 1686, he built his main seat of power in the form of the Erdeni Juu monastery. He also constructed the Ribo Geye Ling monastery among many others and had eight silver stupas commissioned.28 His followers consisted of both nobility and commoners. Though estimated at 2,000 disciples, it is hard to measure the vast influence of Zanibazar as he travelled widely and his students who later became lamas would also spread his teachings and admiration for him. He also was personally devoted to two colleges in U and Tsang provinces which, when combined, held a population of around 2,000 monks.29
In 1659, Zanabazar again convened a meeting of the seven Khalkha divisions at the blessed White Lake. Zaya Pandita here describes triumphantly how, “lamas, officials, lay people and clergy, from both extremes: people of high and low birth [the Master] turned the endless wheel of the highest dharma and brought all of them onto the path of ripening and liberation.”30 Keeping in touch with the Dalai Lama and the Regent, Zanabazar’s brother travelled to Tibet and gave the Dalai Lama and his Regent, ‘the Victorious Father and Son’, a host of gifts and food. Zanabazar would continue to keep in contact with the Dalai Lama by sending many emissaries from Mongolia to Tibet.31
A highly charismatic man, Zanabazar became the Buddhist leader of the Khalkha Mongols in a fusion of political and religious authority as described by Bareja-Starzynska. While enjoying religious studies as well as cultural and artistic pursuits, he became involved in the politics of the Khalkha Mongols.32 Zanabazar’s main rival politically and militarily was the Oirat Mongol Galdan Boshugtu. Though initially recognized as a reincarnate lama himself, Galdan Khan would eventually renounce his vows of monkhood and become the leader of the Zungar Mongols. In 1678, Galdan was bestowed the title of ‘The khan with Mandate’ by the Fifth Dalai Lama33 and saw Zanabazar as his major rival in Khalka Mongolia.
At this time, Galdan Boshugtu was the highest-ranking leader of the Western Mongols and had military dominated Tibet and the surrounding regions under the supposed mission of militarily supporting the Dalai Lama’s authority. This arrangement was according to the ‘two systems’ doctrine which was the ‘conjunction of religious law (dharma) and government’.34 Despite this doctrine, there was constant fighting among different factions for supremacy as exemplified by Galdan Khan’s pursuit of military hegemony in Inner Asia. Due to the strong military position of Galdan Khan, the Fifth Dalai Lama’s regent, Sangye Gyatso, according to the translator had little choice but to support Galdan Boshugtu in his offensive against the Manchus and the Khalkha Mongols. Galdan especially wanted to have Zanabazar brough to the court of the Dalai Lama for punishment.
Zanabazar’s biographer, Zaya Pandita, uses the story of the Buddha Sakyamuni and his rival Devadatta, a cousin of the Buddha, to describe the nature of the rivalry between Zanabazar and Galdan. In the tale, Devadatta joined the Buddha’s order but wished to supplant the Buddha as leader. He attempted to assassinate the Buddhism but eventually was only successful in causing a schism among the monks. The people he had tasked with the Buddha’s assignation were converted as true follower of the Buddha. Facing this adversity, the Buddha Sakyamuni’s virtuous Buddhist qualities were strengthened due to Devadatta’s challenges. Both Sayamuni and Devadatta’s, like Zanabazar and Galdan, were in the same religious school yet Devaddatta’s motivations were to use violence to supplant Sayamuni just as Galdan was using military aggression to pursue Zanabazar and make him submit.35 Like Devadatta’s assult on the Buddha Sayamuni, Galdan’s attacks only further ripen the virtuous qualities of Zanabazar.
In another comparison of Zanabazar to Galdan, the charismatic Zanabazar possessed both great political and religious influence in Mongolia while maintaining a very high status among the Khalkhas due to both his Chinggisid origin and legitimacy as an incarnate of a renowned lama. Military, Zanabazar was backed up militarily and politically by his brother Tushiyetu Khan Chakhundori. Galdan, on the other hand had to rely on his own military and political power while maintaining religious validation through his pious devotion to the Dalai Lama. However, criticizing Galdan, Kangxi said, “although openly you honor the Dalai Lama’s words, secretly you disobey the Dalai Lama’s orders.”36 This is mostly likely referring to Galdan Khan’s tendencies for military aggression under the purported mission of defending the Dalai Lama’s authority and to his assertion of himself as the ‘true defender of the faith’.
Galdan wrote a highly offensive letter to Zanabazar, which was in major violation of etiquette because Zanabazar was a monk while Galdan was a layman at the time. Zanabazar’s older brother led an army of the right wing of the Khalka Mongols which killed Galdan’s brother. However, Galdan launched a counterattack in alliance with the left-wing of the Khalkha Mongols who decided to join forces with the Oirats.37 This alliance of Galdan Khan and the left-wing Khalkha forces allowed them to drive deeply into Khalkha territory. Many monasteries, such as the Erdeni Juu monastery and Zanabazar’s newly constructred Ribo Gegye Ling were either heavily damaged or destryoyed.38 According to other biographies, the retreating Khalkhas, including Zanabazar, were forced to decide between seeking help from the Qing or the Russians. However, Bareja-Starzynska believes in reality, Zanabazar and the Khalha’s either had to choose submission to Galdan Khan or seek help from Kangxi, the Manchu emperor. In Dolonnuur in 16911, Zanabazar and his people submitted to the Manchu emperor and the personal relationship between Kangxi and Zanabazar grew very close as result, forming a sacred priest-patron relationship that had been practiced between Hubilie Khan and Phagpa at the dawn of the Yuan Dynasty.
Kangxi was most likely correct in his assumption that the Great Fifth’s Regent, Sangye Gyatso, assumed a pro-Galdan position in Galdan’s war against the Khalkha Manchus and his hunt for Zanabazar.39 Galdan would eventually attack Manchu troops, leading to a fierce reprisal from Beijing which sent a massive Qing force which attacked and practically led to genocide against the Zungars.
All sides in the conflict would use the doctrines of Buddhist governance as well as various cultural technologies of legitimation to secure their rule. For instance, Zanabazar could claim legitimacy as a descendant of Genghis Khan and religiously as a reincarnation. He was also supported militarily by his brother who was a military leader of the Khalkha Mongols. This was a potent combination and a possible threat to both the Dalai Lama and Galdan Khan.40 Historiographyically, the translator of this text tends to view Zanabazar more as a victim forced to engage politically in the power struggles of this definitive era in Tibeto-Mongo-Sino-Manchu history rather than as an agent who pursued greater power in his own right.
However, as the Zungar Mongols led by Galdan plundered Khalkha lands while destroying temples and monasteries new and old, Zanabazar and the Khalkhas fled to Southern Mongolia, where the protection of the Manchus over the desperate Khalkha refugees made the Manchus look like saviors to the Khalkas. In the Mongolion version of Zanabazar’s biography, this situation is explained by the reasoning that “The realm of the Emperor [Kangxi] of the Black Kita in the southis firmly established and peaceful and moreover, the Buddhist faith has spread there and in particular the garment of the Emperor of the Manchus is like the garment of Heaven.”41 From the Manchu point of view, Kangxi writes, “We are the lord of the Empire. If we do not grant asylum to, and nourish, those who come to US, then who will give asylum to them and nourish them?.”42 The priest-patron relationship between Zanabazar and Kangxi never seemed to be criticized as the Khalkha now viewed the Manchus favorably and Galdan and his forces the biggest threat. After meeting and become close friends, Kangxi and Zanabazar “experienced great joy since they felt as if they had united their minds into one.”43
In the autumn of 1692, Emperor went out on a hunt in the north and Zanabazar met up with him there. The traditional of the priest and his patron going hunting together in the fall would continue for many years. In the summer of 1693, the Kangxi Emperor fell sick and Zanabazar used rituals involving the cause of liberation to help the empreror recover. AS Zaya Pandita notes, the emperor’s illness quickly went away.44 Zanabazar gave the emperor and his two wives an empowerment after they had learned to recite it by heart. Zanibazar and the emperor visited Wutaishan with Zanibazar giving the monks residing there tea and money. 45
Zaya Pandita and Zanabazar maintained a very close friendship even as they went separate ways at times to accomplish various tasks. Zanabazar warmly welcome Zaya Pandita upon his return to Mongolia in 1680 and the two travelled to the Ribo Gegye Ling monastery. Once there, Zanabazar delightedly gave his friend religious empowerments “as well as the Master’s own personal upper robe, ten liangs of gold, a silver bowl, a throne cushion, ten pieces of fine learther, and thirty horses head by one excellent horse of the ‘White Heads” which was an elite-bred horse of Turkestan.46 In this way, the biography not only demonstrates the value Zanabazar put on friendship, but also the vast material wealth which had been accumulated at these monasteries on Mongolia he had very recently founded in 1654. At the same time, Zanabazar maintained his role as both grand chaplain at Khalkha diplomatic meetings and while often using his own monasteries to host them. Pilgrims continued to request teachings and brought offerings. Re-visiting his delight in art, Zanabazar also had his artisans from Tibet help him make bronze castings.47
Later, Zanabazar revisited the emperor’s palace and have him a golden cast image of the Buddha Manjusri,48 long held in reverence by the Manchu rulers as they themselves were incarnations of this bodhisattva. While in Beijing, Zanabazar heard new of his brother’s death and therefore decided to head to the Khalkha camp where his brother’s family was staying. He offered a funeral for his dear brother with his eulogy explain that good actions and merit would bring about rewards in the next life. After the funeral, Zanabazar continued to travel back and forth between the Khalkha homelands and Beijing, becoming a manifestation of the closer ties between the Khalkhas and their Manchu protectors. In Beijing, Zaya Pandita recalls a time where he and a few others listened to Zanabazar’s excellent storytelling which brought them to tears, especially the story of the Great Fifth who had empowered Zanabazar during his study in Tibet. Zanabazar would say, “whenever you recall the Master you should not weep, but think of him as a rare star visible during the daytime.”49 However, Zaya Pandita thinks to himself about his mixed feelings towards the Great Fifth due to his disrespect for Taranatha and his possible intention to destroy the late sage’s tomb.
The Kangxi emperor told to Zaya Pandita, “Among lamas I have not seen anyone who would be greater than Jetsundampa.”50 Zaya continues, that Beggars from “all directions of great variety on approximately one thousand occasions and at least about five hundred times were given summer and winter clothing continuously and served with food and drink…”.51 Zanazabar told Zaya Pandita he greatly trusted the guidance of the Three Jewels and was “never deceived by them.”52 In the conclusion section, Zaya Pandita writes, “To all beings without distinction he became the great treasure of compassion who reached the highest limits.”53 Despite Zanabazar’s excellent career and celebrity among both the Khalkhas and the Beijing Forbidden City, he still found time to serve the poor.
While Zaya Pandita attempted to convince him to have a biography written, Zanabazar said, “Should I tell you that I went to the palace and ate exactly this many cookies?” “He joked and let this question pass in that manner.54 However, gave it some time and was eventually successful in getting Zanabazar’s approval for a biography. Zanabazar said, “I do no such an exemplary ‘self-liberation story’ as great lamas, Nevertheless, if you start your work from recollecting the kindness of great lamas, I agree that you may write a biography as tiny as a grain. Do no write compliments with obvious fabrications!”55 Just as in his youth as a student in Tibet, in his grandeur as a powerful hierarch and intermediary between Mongolia and the Manchus Zanabazar retained his modest self-image.
Conflicting sources suggest that originally the Fifth Dalai Lama was actually suspicious of Zanabazar as Zanabazar’s development of political and religious authority in Mongol was threat to Gelugpa power. According to Tibetan scholars Johan Elverskorg and Junko Miyawaki, despite being eventually accepted into the Gelugpa Church, Zanabazar was always viewed with suspicion from Lhasa and the Tibetan Geluspa hierarchs supported Galdan Khan’s military campaign in pursuit of Zanabazar. However, Both Cyrius Stearns and Bareja-Starzynska argue that his was treated as a member of the Gelugpa since the start and by recognizing him as the reincarnation of the Jonangpa scholar Tarantha Kunga Nyingpo justified the seizure of the Jonangpa monastery in Tibet.56
The translator of the biography, Bareja-Starzynska, in opposition to other scholars of Zanabazar such as Juno Miyawaki, believes that from the start that Zanabazar was educated according to the Gelugpa tradition even though he was recognized as the reincarnation of Jamyang Cho jie of the Jonangpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Owing to their recognition of Zanabazar as Jamyang Cho jie’s reincarnation, they were at liberty to seize the Drepung Monastery from the Jonangpa.57 The translator disagrees with many scholars who cite a possible rivalry between the Dalai Lama and Zanabazar over Buddhist religious authority and instead sees this issue as a veil for deeper geopolitical antagonisms between the Khalkha and Oirat Mongol factions. While the Bareja-Starzynska acknowledges that Zanabar’s influence in Mongolia could be seen as a rival to the Tibet-based Dalai Lama, she believes pretenses of disagreements of Buddhist religious authority were convenient tools to hide what were in essence socio-political conflicts between Mongol groups.58
Translator Bareja-Starzynska notes that Zanabazar was and indeed remains a controversial figure due to his influence over the Khalkhas and their eventual submission to the Qing Empire for protection against the Oirat Mongols.59 While some see him as a devoted religious leader seeking to protect the Khalkha Mongols, others have described him as a traitor who sold his loyalty to the Qing Empire while leaving the sphere of influence of the Tibetan Dalai Lama. Many of the latter opinion instead hold Mongol leader Galdan Boshugtu, as opposed to Zanabazar, as a true hero of the Mongols who resisted Manchu hegemony. Due to his influence and decision to seek the protection of the Manchu emperor, Zanabazar’s leadership greatly shifted the balance of power in Inner Asia as the Khalkha Mongols would shift from the Tibetan government’s sphere of influence to that of the Manchus.
To Bareja-Starzynska, it is still unclear whether or not Zanabazar was brought into Khalkha political affairs of his own choosing or through coercion of the situation. She suggests that it was most likely the former due to Zanabazar’s great interesting religious studies and art. Today, Zanabazar’s reincarnation line, the Jetsundampas, retain a great importance among Tibetan Buddhist Mongols in preserving both a national and religious identity. From 1871-1924, the Eighth Jetsundampa actually ruled Mongolia as Bogd Khaan. The latest incarnation, the Ninth Jetsundampa, was a major force in leading the re-building of both Buddhism and Mongol identity in modern Mongolia. Interestingly, the Fourtheenth Dalai Lama, despite his role similar to the pope of the Gelugpa Church, respected the Ninth Jetsundampa with preserving the Jonangpa traditions. To Bareja-Starzynska, the Jetsundampa incarnations and their history demonstrate the historic close ties between Tibet and Mongolia and as a possible bridge between these regions in the present moment. 60 In 2016, the Fourtheenth Dalai Lama that a search was undergoing to find the Tenth Jetsundampa in Outer Mongolia.
Bareja-Starzyńska Agata. The Biography of the First Khalkha Jetsundampa Zanabazar by Zaya Pandita Luvsanprinlei: Studies, Annotated Translation, Transliteration and Facsimile. Warsaw, Poland: Dom Wydawniczy ELIPSA, 2015.
1. For the following citations, all pages before 99 are written by the translator, Agata Bareja-Starzynska. Beginning with pg. 99, is the writing by the author Zaya Pandita Luvsanprinlei.
2. Pg. 23
3. Pg. 26
4. Pg. 27
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28. Pg. 79
29. Pg. 180
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35. Pg. 72
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42. Miyawaki 1994: 45-67
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48. Pg. 135-126
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