Ganden Tripa
ReligionTibetan Buddhism
Ganden Tripa
Tibetan name
2nd Ganden Tripa Gyaltsab Je (1364-1432)

The Ganden Tripa, also spelled Gaden Tripa (Wylie: dga’ ldan khri pa "Holder of the Ganden Throne"), is the title of the spiritual leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, the school that controlled central Tibet from the mid-17th century until the 1950s. The 103rd Ganden Tripa, Jetsun Lobsang Tenzin, died in office on 21 April 2017.[1] Currently, Jangtse Choejey Kyabje Jetsun Lobsang Tenzin Palsangpo is the 104th Ganden Tripa.

The head of the Gelugpa order is the Ganden Tripa and not, as is often misunderstood, the Dalai Lama.[2][3] It is also often misunderstood that the Ganden Tripa is the same person as the abbot of Ganden monastery. Ganden has two abbots, the abbot of Ganden Shartse and the abbot of Ganden Jangtse, and neither of them can be the Ganden Tripa unless they have also served as abbot of Gyumay or Gyuto tantric colleges. See 'Mode of Appointment' below.

The Ganden Tripa is an appointed office directly by Lama Tsongkhapa to Gyaltsab Je, not a reincarnation lineage. It is awarded on the basis of merit which is the basis of his hierarchical progression. Since the position is held for only a 7-year term,[4] there have been many more Ganden Tripas than Dalai Lamas to date (104 as against 14).

Je Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), who founded the Gelug, is the first Ganden Tripa. After Tsongkhapa's death, his teachings were held and kept by Gyaltsab Je and Khedrub Je who were the next abbots of Ganden monastery. The lineage has been held by the Ganden Tripas.

In January 2003, the Central Tibetan Administration announced the nomination of the 101st Ganden Tripa. An excerpt from that press release gives his background:

The 101st Ganden Tripa, 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 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 the Dalai-lama to the ecumenical meetings of Assisi in Italy convened by 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[5] which he founded in 1980.[6]

The 100th Ganden Tripa, Lobsang Nyima Rinpoche,[7] retired and lived at Drepung Loselling Monastery with his labrang (office staff) until his death in 2008.[8]

Mode of appointment

6th ganden tripa Chokyi Gyeltsen (1402–1473)

The Ganden Tripa is nominated or appointed on the basis of a hierarchical progression based on merit,[9] and the appointee does not necessarily have to have any direct connection with Ganden Monastery, although if he started as a Ganden monk he could have obtained his higher Geshe degree there and risen to be its abbot.[10]

There is a traditional Tibetan saying: “If a beggar’s child has the ability, there is no stopping him becoming the Throne Holder of Ganden.” It means the post is obtained on merit alone, rather than by recognition as the incarnation of a teacher, or other means.[9]

This, and the hierarchy through which any Gelugpa monk can rise up through the ranks on merit to become the Ganden Tripa is briefly described in the November 2011 edition of Me-Long,[9] a journal published by the Norbulingka Institute, which is dedicated to the preservation of the Tibetan culture, and in full detail on "Study Buddhism".[10] The progression can be summarised as follows: first of all, a monk of any Gelugpa monastery, who, after usually 15 to 20 years of study, achieves a Tsorampa or Lharampa (higher) Geshe degree, is obliged to enter either the Gyuto Tantric College or the Gyume Tantric College, depending on his place of origin in Tibet, to continue his studies. If, after one or two years further study he then qualifies as Ngagrampa Geshe, he can rise on merit to become a Geko or disciplinarian, then to become vice-abbot (tenure 3 years); then he can be chosen and appointed by the Dalai Lama as abbot of his respective college, with a tenure of a further 3 years.[10]

On retirement as Abbot of Gyume or Gyuto, he becomes eligible to become, eventually, for former Gyume abbots the Jangtsey Chojey ("Dharma Master of the Northern Peak of Ganden Hill"), or for former Gyuto abbots the Sharpa Chojey ("Dharma Master of the Eastern Peak of Ganden Hill"). These are more elevated positions, above abbots and retired abbots, which are automatically accorded only to the senior-most surviving retired abbot, one from each respective college, with a tenure of 7 years.[10]

The Ganden Tripa is an automatic appointment occurring once every 7 years, from one or the other of these two Chojeys or Dharma Masters, on an alternating basis. The incumbent Ganden Tripa stands down, and one of the two Chojeys is elevated. If the retiring Ganden Tripa is a former abbot of Gyume Tantric College, and thus a former Jangtsey Chojey, his replacement will be a former abbot of Gyuto Tantric College and thus the current Sharpa Chojey (and vice versa).[10]

This appointment is automatic but is apparently confirmed by the Dalai Lama who, being the pre-eminent spiritual leader, publicly announces the appointment or nomination at the time of changeover.[11] The Rizong Sre Rinpoche was the 102nd Ganden Tripa, he previously served as the abbot of both Gyume Tantric College and Drepung Loseling Monastery.

List of Ganden Tripas


# name biographical data tenure Wylie transliteration further titles
1. Je Tsongkhapa, Lobsang Dragpa 1357–1419 1409–1419 tsong kha pa, blo bzang grags pa Je Rinpoche (rje rin po che)
2. Dharma Rinchen (Gyaltsab Je) 1364–1432 1419–1431 dar ma rin chen
3. Khedrup Gelek Pelzang 1385–1438 1431–1438 mkhas grub rje dge legs dpal bzang 1st Panchen Lama
4. Shalu Lochen Legpa Gyeltshen 1375–1450 1438–1450 zhwa lu lo chen legs pa rgyal mtshan
5. Lodrö Chökyong 1389–1463 1450–1463 blo gros chos skyong
6. Chökyi Gyeltshen 1402–1473 1463–1473 chos kyi rgyal mtshan 1st Tatsak Rinpoche (rta tshag rin po che)
7. Lodrö Tenpa 1402–1476 1473–1476(79) blo gros brtan pa
8. Mönlam Legpa Lodrö 1414–1491 1480–1489 smon lam legs pa'i blo gros
9. Lobsang Nyima 1439–1492 1490–1492 blo bzang nyi ma
10. Yeshe Sangpo 1415–1498 1492–1498 ye shes bzang po
11. Lobsang Dragpa 1422/1429–1511 1499–1511 blo bzang grags pa
12. Jamyang Legpa Lodrö 1450–1530 1511–1516 jam dbyangs legs pa'i blo gros
13. Chökyi Shenyen 1453–1540 1516–1521 chos kyi bshes gnyen Also called Dharmamitra
14. Rinchen Öser 1453–1540 1522–1528 rin chen 'od zer
15. Panchen Sonam Dragpa 1478–1554 1529–1535 pan chen bsod nams grags pa (gzims khang gong ma)
16. Chökyong Gyatsho 1473–1539 1534–1539 chos skyong rgya mtsho 4th Lab Kyabgön (lab skyabs mgon)
17. Dorje Sangpo 1491–1554 1539–1546 rdo rje bzang po
18. Gyeltshen Sangpo 1497–1548 1546–1548 rgyal mtshan bzang po
19. Ngawang Chödrag 1501–1551/1552 1548–1552 ngag dbang chos grags
20. Chödrag Sangpo 1493–1559 1552–1559 chos grags bzang po
21. Geleg Pelsang 1505–1567 1559–1565 dge legs dpal bzang
22. Gendün Tenpa Dargye 1493–1568 1565–1568 dge 'dun bstan pa dar rgyas
23. Tsheten Gyatsho 1520–1576 1568–1575 tshe brtan rgya mtsho
24. Champa Gyatsho 1516–1590 1575–1582 byams pa rgya mtsho
25. Peljor Gyatsho 1526–1599 1582–? dpal 'byor rgya mtsho


# name biographical data tenure Wylie transliteration further titles
26. Damchö Pelbar 1523/1546–1599 1589–1596 dam chos dpal 'bar
27. Sangye Rinchen 1540–1612 1596–1603 sangs rgyas rin chen
28. Gendün Gyeltshen 1532–1605/1607 1603–? dge 'dun rgyal mtshan
29. Shenyen Dragpa 1545–1615 1607–1615 bshes gnyen grags pa
30. Lodrö Gyatsho 1546–1618 1615–1618 blo gros rgya mtsho 5th Lab Kyabgön
31. Damchö Pelsang 1546–1620 1618–1620 dam chos dpal bzang
32. Tshülthrim Chöphel 1561–1623 1620–1623 tshul khrims chos 'phel
33. Dragpa Gyatsho 1555–1627 1623–1627 grags pa rgya mtsho
34. Ngawang Chökyi Gyeltshen 1571/1575–1625/1629 1623, 1627/1628(?) ngag dbang chos kyi rgyal mtshan
35. Könchog Chöphel 1573–1644 1626–1637 dkon mchog chos 'phel
36. Tendzin Legshe ?–1664 1638? bstan 'dzin legs bshad
37. Gendün Rinchen Gyeltshen 1571–1642 1638–1642 dge 'dun rin chen rgyal mtshan
38. Tenpa Gyeltshen ?–1647 1643–1647 bstan pa rgyal mtshan
39. Könchog Chösang ?–1672/1673 1644(?)/1648–1654 dkon mchog chos bzang
40. Pelden Gyeltshen 1601–1674 1651/1654/1655–1662 dpal ldan rgyal mtshan
41. Lobsang Gyeltshen 1599/1600–1672 1658/1662–1668 blo bzang rgyal mtshan
42. Lobsang Dönyö 1602–1678 1668–1675 blo bzang don yod Namdak Dorje
43. Champa Trashi 1618–1684 1675–1681 byams pa bkra shis
44. Ngawang Lodrö Gyatsho 1635–1688 1682–1685 ngag dbang blo gros rgya mtsho
45. Tshülthrim Dargye 1632–? 1685/1695–1692/1699 tshul khrims dar rgyas
46. Ngawang Pelsang 1629–1695 ? ngag dbang dpal bzang Chinpa Gyatsho
47. Lobsang Chöphel * 17th century 1699–1701 blo bzang chos 'phel
48. Döndrub Gyatsho * 17th century 1702–1708 don grub rgya mtsho The 1st Ling Rinpoche
49. Lobsang Dargye * 17th century 1708–1715 blo bzang dar rgyas
50. Gendün Phüntshog ?–1724 1715–1722 dge 'dun phun tshogs


# name biographical data tenure Wylie transliteration further titles
51. Pelden Dragpa ?–1729 1722–1729 dpal ldan grags pa 1st Hortsang Sertri (hor tshang gser khri)
52. Ngawang Tshephel 1668–1734 1730–1732 ngag dbang tshe 'phel
53. Gyeltshen Sengge 1678–1756 1732–1739 rgyal mtshan seng ge 1st Tsötritrül (gtsos khri sprul)
54. Ngawang Chogden 1677–1751 1739–1746 ngag dbang mchog ldan 1st Reting Rinpoche (rwa sgreng)
55. Ngawang Namkha Sangpo 1690–1749/1750 1746–1749/1750 ngag dbang nam mkha' bzang po 1st Shingsa Rinpoche (shing bza' )
56. Lobsang Drimed 1683–? 1750–1757 blo bzang dri med
57. Samten Phüntshog 1703–1770 1757–1764 bsam gtan phun tshogs
58. Chakyung Ngawang Chödrag 1707–1778 1764–1778? bya khyung ngag dbang chos grags
59. Chusang Ngawang Chödrag 1710–1772 1771–1772? chu bzang ngag dbang chos grags
60. Lobsang Tenpa 1725–? 6 Jahre blo bzang bstan pa
61. Ngawang Tshülthrim 1721–1791 1778–1785 ngag dbang tshul khrims 1st Tshemon Ling Rinpoche (tshe smon gling)
62. Lobsang Mönlam 1729–1798 1785–1793 blo bzang smon lam
63. Lobsang Khechog 1736–1792 1792 (6 months) blo bzang mkhas mchog
64. Lobsang Trashi 1739–1801 1794–1801 blo bzang bkra shis
65. Gendün Tshülthrim 1744–1807 ? dge 'dun tshul khrims
66. Ngawang Nyandrag 1746–1824 1807–1814 ngag dbang snyan grags
67. Jamyang Mönlam 1750–1814/1817 1814 (3 months) 'jam dbyangs smon lam
68. Lobsang Geleg 1757–1816 1815–1816 blo bzang dge legs
69. Changchub Chöphel 1756–1838 1816–1822 byang chub chos 'phel Yongzin Trijang Dorje Chang
70. Ngawang Chöphel 1760–1839 1822–1828 ngag dbang chos 'phel
71. Yeshe Thardo 1756–1829/1830 1829–1830 ye shes thar 'dod
72. Jampel Tshülthrim * 19th century 1831–1837 'jam dpal tshul khrims 1st Khamlung Rinpoche khams lung
73. Ngawang Jampel Tshülthrim Gyatsho 1792–1862/1864 1837–1843 ngag dbang 'jam dpal tshul khrims rgya mtsho 2nd Tshemon Ling
74. Lobsang Lhündrub * 18th century ? blo bzang lhun grub
75. Ngawang Lungtog Yönten Gyatsho * 19 century–1853? 1850–1853 ngag dbang lung rtogs yon tan rgya mtsho The 4th Ling Rinpoche


# name biographical data tenure Wylie transliteration further titles
76. Lobsang Khyenrab Wangchug ?–1872 1853–1870 blo bzang mkhyen rab dbang phyug
77. Tshülthrim Dargye ? 1859?–1864? tshul khrims dar rgyas
78. Jamyang Damchö * 19th century 1864?–1869? jam dbyangs dam chos
79. Lobsang Chinpa * 19th century 1869?–1874? blo bzang sbyin pa
80. Dragpa Döndrub * 19th century 1874?–1879? grags pa don grub
81. Ngawang Norbu * 19th century 1879?–1884? ngag dbang nor bu
82. Yeshe Chöphel * 19th century 1884?–1889? ye shes chos 'phel
83. Changchub Namkha * 19th century 1889?–1894? byang chub nam mkha'
84. Lobsang Tshülthrim * 19th century 1894?–1899? blo bzang tshul khrims
85. Lobsang Tshülthrim Pelden 1839–1899/1900 1896–1899/1900 blo bzang tshul khrims dpal ldan Yongzin Trijang Dorje Chang
86. Lobsang Gyeltshen 1840–? 1901–1907? blo bzang rgyal mtshan
87. Ngawang Lobsang Tenpe Gyeltshen 1844–1919 1907–1914 ngag dbang blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan 3rd Tshemon Ling
88. Khyenrab Yönten Gyatsho * 19th century 1914?–1919 mkhyen rab yon tan rgya mtsho Drigungpa Khyenrab Yönten
89. Lobsang Nyandrag Gyatsho * 19th century 1919?–1924? blo bzang snyan grags rgya mtsho
90. Champa Chödrag 1876–1937/1947 1920/1921–1926 byams pa chos grags
91. Lobsang Gyeltshen ?–1932 1927–1932 blo bzang rgyal mtshan
92. Thubten Nyinche ?–1933? 1933 thub bstan nyin byed 1st gtsang pa khri sprul
93. Yeshe Wangden * 19th century 1933–1939 ye shes dbang ldan 1st mi nyag khri sprul
94. Lhündrub Tsöndrü ?–1949 1940–1946 lhun grub brtson 'grus Shangpa Lhündrub Tsöndrü
95. Trashi Tongthün * 19th century 1947–1953 bkra shis stong thun
96. Thubten Künga 1891–1964 1954/1958–1964 thub bstan kun dga
97. Thubten Lungtog Tendzin Thrinle 1903–1983 1965– thub bstan lung rtogs bstan 'dzin 'phrin las The 6th Ling Rinpoche[12]
98. Jampel Shenpen 1919–1989 1984–1989 'jam dpal gzhan phan
99. Yeshe Dönden[13] ?–1995 ? ye shes don ldan
100. Lobsang Nyima Rinpoche * 1928-2008 1995–2003 blo bzang nyi ma
101. Khensur Lungri Namgyel * 1927 2003–2009 lung rig rnam rgyal
102. Thubten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu 1928-2022 2009-2016 thub bstan nyi ma lung rtogs bstan 'dzin nor bu Rizong Sras Rinpoche (2nd ri rdzong sras sprul)
103. Jetsun Lobsang Tenzin 1937-2017 2016-2017 rje btsun blo bzang bstan 'dzin To be advised
104. Kyabje Jetsun Lobsang Tenzin Palsangpo 1935- 2017-2023 skyabs rje rje btsun blo bzang bstan 'dzin dpal bzang po To be advised


  1. ^ "103rd Gaden Tripa Kyabje Jetsun Lobsang Tenzin Rinpoche Passes Away". Central Tibetan Administration. April 22, 2017. Archived from the original on April 25, 2017. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  2. ^ Powers, John. "Gelukpa Tibetan Buddhism" entry in Melton, J. Gordon, and Martin Baumann. 2002. Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO. p. 533.
  3. ^ Dr Alexander Berzin (November 2014). "Special Features of the Gelug Tradition - para. on Administration". Study Buddhism. Retrieved 6 June 2016. The Dalai Lamas are not the heads of the Gelug tradition
  4. ^ Berzin, Alexander; Tsenshap Serkong Rinpoche II (September 2003). "A Brief History of Ganden Monastery". Study Buddhism. Retrieved 2016-06-06. Expanded with Tsenshap Serkong Rinpoche II, September 2003. Original version published in "Gelug Monasteries." Chö-Yang, Year of Tibet Edition (Dharamsala, India, 1991).
  5. ^ Staff (February 2010). "Thar Deu Ling". Thar Deu Ling. Retrieved 2010-02-04. Official web site. (in French)
  6. ^ Nomination of the 101st Ganden Tripa, supreme head of the Gelugpa lineage, World Tibet Network News, Wednesday, January 22, 2003. Archived May 30, 2004, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Staff. "His Eminence Lobsang Nyima, the 100th Gaden Throne Holder". Drepung Loseling Monastery. Archived from the original on 2009-08-29. Retrieved 2010-02-04. Last updated 22 December 2007.
  8. ^ "Former Ganden Tripa Stays on 'Thukdam' for 18 Days". Phayul. 2008-10-07. Archived from the original on 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2010-05-17.
  9. ^ a b c "Window on Tibetan Culture: Different ways to select a leader". Me-Long Published by Norbulingka Institute (November, 2011).
  10. ^ a b c d e Alexander Berzin (September 2003). "A Brief History of Gyumay and Gyuto Lower and Upper Tantric Colleges". Study Buddhism. The Jangtsey and Shartsey Chojeys alternate in becoming the Ganden Tripa (dGa'-ldan Khri-pa, Ganden Throne-holder), the head of the Gelug Tradition.
  11. ^ "Nomination of the 101st Ganden Tripa, supreme head of the Gelugpa lineage". Paris, France: January 23, 2003. Archived from the original on 2015-05-18. the Dalai-lama announced in BodhGaya at the conclusion of the Kalachakra empowerment the appointment of Khensur Lungri Namgyel Rinpoche as the 101st Ganden Tripa
  12. ^ Staff. "Pabongkha Rinpoche". Buddhist International Alliance (BIA). Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  13. ^ Staff. "Buddhism: The Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism". Kagyu Office of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. Archived from the original on 2010-04-04. Retrieved 2010-02-04.