In the first post of this series, we learned about the origins of the ancient position known as Dalai Lama—leader of a Buddhist monastic sect which has been around for many centuries (and continues with the 14th Dalai Lama, alive today).
The first Dalai Lama came from humble beginnings as the son of Gonpo Dorjee and Jomo Namkha Kyi—nomadic tribespeople in central Tibet. Born in a cowshed in 1391 and given the name Pema Dorjee, he was raised as a shepherd until seven years old… when he was placed in the Narthang Monastery.
At the age of 20, he became a full-fledged monk and received his new name, Gedun Drup, as part of the vows. It wasn’t long before Gedun showed himself to be worthy of the position of abbot, and he quickly rose to prominence as one of the foremost scholar-saints in Tibet.
According to Buddhist tradition, Gedun received a vision from the sacred lake Lhamo La-tso’s female guardian spirit, Palden Lhamo, which said that she would protect the reincarnation lineage of the Dalai Lamas—essentially promising his reincarnation in a successor.
During his time as an influential scholar and spiritual man, Gedun founded several monasteries and wrote a number of philosophical texts. And unlike the Dalai Lamas of today, Gedun held no political power whatsoever.
It’s also notable that it wasn’t until long after his death in 1474—while meditating at 84 years old!—that he received the title Dalai Lama.