The Ganden Tripa (Holder of the Ganden Throne; Wylie: Dga’-ldan Khri-pa) 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 1950. The Dalai Lama is the temporal head of the school, a position of greater political authority but lower spiritual rank.
The Ganden Tripa is an appointed office, not a reincarnation lineage. It is awarded by the Dalai Lama on the basis of compeditive examination. Since the position is not a life-long one, there have been many more Ganden 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 Ganden Tripa.
In January 2003, the Government of Tibet in Exile announced the nomination of the 101st Ganden Tripa. An excerpt from that press release gives his background:
- “The 101st Ganden 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 Ganden 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 ( ) which he founded in 1980.”