Lama Tsongkapha was a Buddhist saint and scholar, known for starting the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Every year, according to the lunar calendar, Buddhists that practice within the Gelug tradition celebrate Lama Tsongkhapa’s birthday. This usually involves doing pujas and other practices, and then dedicating the merit created by these practices for the benefit of others.
I saw this interesting video series the other day with Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, who also coincidentally has an intersting Buddhist or Dharma blog. To celebrate Lama Tsongkhapa day, he talks about the importance of changing the mind towards altruism and compassion, and some other general basic Buddhist practices. Since Lama Tsongkhapa founded the gelug tradition, there is also a meditation practice centered around him called Lama Tsongkhapa guru yoga. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche explains this practice and also the importance of a yidam, a meditation deity a practitioner focuses on to help them develop good qualities like compassion, wisdom and patience. Its not like a god being prayed to, but more a representation of an embodiment of good qualities. In this case, Tsem Tulku refers to Lama Tsongkhapa as a yidam.
For many practitioners within the gelug tradition, Lama Tsongkapha Guru Yoga (also known as Ganden Lha Gyama) or the more extensive version in the form of Lama Chopa Guru Puja, is a foundational practice. A practitioner see’s one’s root teacher as inseperable as Lama Tsongkapha in the meditation, in order to increase the blessings of the practice and to receive further inspiration in the future.
As my own teacher calls it, this practice is a wisdom bootcamp. One develops mental space and flexibility when dealing with other people (especially difficult people) and the world in general. Even though I havn’t exactly developed these good qualities, I can say that my patience has increased a little through this practice.
As some people who are familiar with Tsem Tulku, he likes to add lots of humor into his talks and is very playful with this students. He’s someone who has a very strong appeal to western students, who live a busy life and don’t want to move to a cave, but at the same time want to receive teachings from a teacher well versed in Buddhist philosophy and meditation.