Yönten Gyatso

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Yönten Gyatso (Wyl. yon tan rgya mtsho) (1589-1616) was the Fourth Dalai Lama, and the only Dalai Lama of Mongolian origin.


Yönten Gyatso was born in 1589 in Mongolia to the Chokar tribal chieftain Tsultrim Chöje, who was the grandson of Altan Khan, and his second wife Phakhen Nula.

With predictions from the state oracles and auspicious signs at his birth, the abbot of Ganden Monastery recognized him as the true reincarnation of the Third Dalai Lama and he was given the name of Yönten Gyatso. His parents, however, refused to part with their son until he was older, so he remained in Mongolia, while studying with Tibetan lamas.

In 1601, at the age of twelve, Yönten Gyatso was escorted to Tibet accompanied by his father and the former Ganden throne holder, Sangyé Rinchen, from whom he received the vows of novice monk. In 1604 he presided over the Great Prayer Festival in Lhasa. In 1614, at the age of twenty-six, he took the vows of full ordination from the Fourth Panchen Lama, Lobzang Chökyi Gyaltsen. He later became the abbot of Drepung Monastery and then Sera Monastery. In 1617, at the age of twenty-seven he died at Drepung Monastery. It was his chief attendant, Sonam Chöpel, who discovered his incarnation, the Fifth Dalai Lama.

Further Reading

  • Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz, 'The Third Dalai Lama, Sönam Gyatso (1543–1588), and the Fourth Dalai Lama, Yönten Gyatso (1589–1616)' in Martin Brauen (ed.), The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History, Serindia, 2005

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