Tsangyang Gyatso, 6th Dalai Lama

ཚངས་དབྱངས་རྒྱ་མཚོTsangyang Gyatso, (Tibetan: ཚངས་དབྱངས་རྒྱ་མཚོ,Wylie transliteration: Tshang dbyang Rgya mtsho), (1683 – November 15 1706) was the sixth Dalai Lama. He was a Monpa by ethnicity.


Early life

Tsangyang was born in Tawang to Lama Tashi Tenzin of Urgeling, a descendant of the treasure revealer Pema Lingpa and Tsewang Lhamo, a Monpa girl hailing from a royal family of Bekhar Village.

The birth of Tsangyang had several legendary tales. His mother, Tsewang, had experienced a few miracles prior to the birth of Tsangyang Gyamtso. One day, within the first month of her pregnancy, she was husking paddy in the stone mortar. To her surprise, water started accumulating in the mortar. On another occasion, when Tsewang drank water at a near by place, milk started gushing out in place of water. Since then, this stream was known as Oma-Tsikang, literally known as milky water.

In the course of time, Tsewang gave birth to a boy who was named Sanje Tenzin, with Tsangyang’s grandfather and Nawang Norbu with his father. Due to this fact, legend said that he would not drink his mother’s milk from the day after their birth. One day, when his face began to swell from an infection, Tsangyang could hardly open his eye, two local diviners were summoned. They prescribed purifactory rite and said that his name should be changed to Ngawang Gyamtso.

His recovery was credited by the regent to the intervention of the Dalai Lama’s own guardian deity, Dorje Dakpa. The grandfather dreamt that the child was constantly being protected by heavenly beings. The mother dreamt, as she took a rest from her weaving, that a great company had arrived to take him off. His parental grandmother dreamt of two suns shining in the sky.

A party of lamas from Tibet came to Tawang 1697, after the fifth Dalai Lama, Lobsang Gyatso claimed that he will be the re-incarnation of the Dalai Lama upon his death. At that moment, Tsangyang was playing with his playmates at a place about a kilometer east of Urgelling Gompa. Upon hearing that his mother was shouting for his immediate return, he used his finger and wrote on a stone slab the words lama kheno (“God knows”). Miraculously, these words were inscribed on the slab and to this day, they can still be found on it.

Life as a Dalai Lama

As a Dalai Lama, Tsangyang had composed excellent works of songs and poems, but often went against the principles of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. For example, he decided to give his Getsul vow to the Panchen Lama Lobsang Yeshi Palsangpo at eighteen, instead of taking the usual Gelong.

The Panchhen Lama, who was the abbot of the Drepung, Sera, Ganden and other monasteries, and Prince Lhazang, the younger brother of the Po Gyalpo Wangyal, persuaded him not to do so.

Tsangyang Gyatso had always rejected life as a monk, although this did not mean the abdication of his position as the Dalai Lama. Wearing the clothes of a normal layman and preferring to walk than to ride a horse or use the state palanquin, Tsangyang only kept the temporal prerogatives of the Dalai Lama. He also visited the parks and spent nights in the streets of Lhasa, singing drunken songs and having amorous relations with girls. Tsangyang retreated to live in a tent in the park near the northern escarpment of Potala. Tsangyang finally gave up his discourses in public parks and places in 1702, which he was required to do so as part of his training.

Deposition and disappearence

In response to his uncivil lifestyle, Ligdan Khan declared him as a fraud and took to the Mongol camp at Lhalu, near Lhasa. On the June 28 1706, Ligdan deposed Tsangyang, and instated the Lama Ngwaang Yeshi Gyatso as the next Dalai Lama in 1707, claiming that he was the true rebirth of Lobsang Gyatso. However, the Gelukpa dignitaries rejected Lhazang Khan instatement of the Dalai Lama.

The deposition and exile of Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso was the first time in the history of the Dalai Lama as the head of Tibet. Whilst being taken out of the country, Tsangyang died mysteriously at Gongganor, south of Kokonor, on November 15th, 1706, although rumours claimed he had escaped and lived in secrecy somewhere between China and Mongolia. The mysterious disappearance of Tsangyang Gyatso both shocked and saddened the Tibetans.

Tsangyang was succeeded by Kelsang Gyatso.


Upon the discovery of a new monkey species hanging in the forest of West Kameng, the Indian government has now created a new protected area in 2003, which is known as the Tsangyang Gyatso Biosphere Reserve.


Tsangyang Gyatso is a subject in the Chinese new age singer Dadawa’s song “The Sixth Dalai Lama’s Love Song“.

Preceded by:
Lobsang Gyatso
Reincarnation of the Dalai Lama Succeeded by:
Kelzang Gyatso
buddha monk

buddha monk