Baso Chokyi Gyaltsen (1402 – 1473)

Name Variants: Chokyi Gyaltsen; Ganden Tri 06 Chokyi Gyaltsen; Lhanwa Sowa Chokyi Gyaltsen; Tatsang 01 Chokyi Gyaltsen

Baso Chokyi Gyaltsen (ba so chos kyi rgyal mtshan) was born in 1402 in Lato (la stod), the younger brother of Tsongkhapa’s disciple Kedrub Je Gelek Pelzang (mkhas grub rje dge legs dpal bzang). His father was a nobleman, Tashi Peltsang (bkra shis dpal bzang) and his mother was Budren Gyelmo (bu ’dren rgyal mo). He ordained young, and soon came under the tutelage of Yongdzin Kedrub (yongs ’dzin mkhas grub), as well as his esteemed elder brother.

Chokyi Gyaltsen next studied with Jampel Gyatso (’jam dpal rgya mtsho, 1356-1428), who gave him initiations in Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara, Vajrabhairava, and Cho, and the transmission of the Ganden Mahamudra (dga’ ldan phyag chen), together with the root text of the transmission, the Trulpai Legbam Chenmo (sprul pa’i glegs bam chen mo).

Chokyi Gyaltsen traveled to Tsang, where he either founded or took over the monastery of Baso Lhundrub Dechen (ba so lhun grub bde chen dgon), earning himself the epithet Baso Choje (ba so chos rje). He founded a hermitage nearby, Wenne Dechen Puk (dben gnas bde chen phug) near Senggetse (seng ge rtse) in Tsang Shabto (gtsang shab stod) where he taught to many disciples.

Intent on removing himself to yet more isolated territory, Chokyi Gyaltsen was preparing to go to Kashmir when he was ordered to assume the throne of Ganden Monastery. According to hagiographies, it was Tsongkhapa himself who appeared in a dream and charged him with the duty, although the actual call came from the previous throne holder, Choje Lodro Chokyong (chos rje blo gros chos skyong) and the Gendun Drub (dge ’dun grub), who was then residing at Tashilhunpo (bkra shis lhun po) in Shigatse. Lodro Chokyong had asked Gendun Drub, who declined, recommending Chokyi Gyaltsen in his stead.

Chokyi Gyaltsen assumed the throne of Ganden in 1463 and remained until his death in 1473. There, among other accomplishments, he is credited with transforming the main chapel of Ganden into a large temple, and installing the gold gilt image of a form of Manjushri known as Sanggye Sengge Ngaro (sangs rgyas sengge nga ro) which is behind the golden throne.

Chokyi Gyaltsen had three principle disciples, known collectively as the “Three Dorje Brothers” (rdo rje mched gsum): Chokyi Dorje (chos kyi rdo rje, b. 1457), Pelden Dorje (dpal ldan rdo rje) from Tolung, and Dorje Pelwa (rdo rje dpal ba), from Kham. Little is known of the latter two.

With the discovery of his reincarnation, Wonpo Lhakyab (dbon po lha skyabs), the Tatshag (rta tshag) line of incarnations was instituted, with Chokyi Dorje being identified posthumously as the first.

Baso Chokyi Gyaltsen


Tshe mchog gling yongs ’dzin ye shes rgyal mtshan. 1970 (1787).Biographies of Eminent Gurus in the Transmission Lineages of the teachings of the Graduated Path, being the text of: Byang chub Lam gyi Rim pa’i Bla ma Brgyud pa’i Rnam par Thar pa Rgyal mtshan Mdzes pa’i Rgyan Mchog Phul byung Nor bu’i Phreng ba. New Delhi: Ngawang Gelek Demo, vol 1, p. 923 ff.

Willis, Janice D. 1995. Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition. Boston: Wisdom Publications, pp. 48-55.

Willis, Janice D. 1985. “Preliminary Remarks on the Nature of rNam-thar: Early dGe-lugs-pa Siddha Biographies.” In Soundings in Tibetan Civilizations. Barbara Aziz and Matthew Kapstein, eds. Delhi: Manohar, pp. 304-319.

Alexander Gardner
December 2009


Jampel Gyatso b.1356 – d.1428
Khedrubje Gelek Pelzang b.1385 – d.1438 (Name Variants: Gelek Pelzang)
blo bzang grags pa’i dpal
blo gros sbas pa


shes rab seng+ge
kun dga’ bde legs
grags pa bsam grub
rin chen bshes gnyen
yon tan rgya mtsho
‘phags pa lha
kun dga’ bde legs rin chen
ye shes rtse mo
dpal ‘byor lhun grub
Chokyi Dorje b.1457? (Name Variants: Cho Dorje; Drubchen Chokyi Dorje; Wensa Nyomba)
kun dga’ don grub
dpal ldan rdo rje
rdo rje dpal ba




One Response to “Baso Chokyi Gyaltsen (1402 – 1473)”
  1. Sarah says:

    Baso Chokyi Gyeltsen (Baso Je) was very learned and became known as “the Greatly Learned One”. He also held other titles such as “King of Dharma”, and “Panchen”. He had fully mastered the Gaden oral tradition and had many students. It was said that anyone who saw, heard, or came into contact with Baso Choje would immediately become his student. One of his disciples, the Shabdrung of Neynying, Kunga Delek said: “I do not take pride in having been born into an ancient lineage; but I do take pride in being a student of Baso Choje”. (Janice D. Willis, 1995, “Enlightened Beings”, p. 46)

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