University of Calgary

Maitreya’s Tuṣita Heaven as a Pure Land in Gelukpa forms of Tibetan Buddhism


Buddhism of Pure Lands: A Thematic Anthology of Primary Sources


An overlooked aspect in the study of Tibetan Buddhism is the Gelukpa (dge lugs pa) understanding of Tuṣita Heaven as a pure land (dag pa’i zhing khams). Ever since Tsongkhapa Losang Drakpa (Tsong kha pa blo gzang grags pa, 1357–1419) founded the monastery of Ganden (dga’ ldan, Tuṣita, “Heaven of Joy”) his Gelukpa followers have placed devotional emphasis on creating merit to form links with the Buddha Maitreya, and Maitreya’s pure land within Tuṣita Heaven. The Gelukpa understanding of Tuṣita Heaven as a pure land develops based upon a long history of Maitreya worship in Tibet, upon the aspirations for rebirth in Tuṣita by previous Indian and Tibetan scholars, and in relation to events during and after Tsongkhapa’s life that are connected to Maitreya and Tuṣita Heaven. The practices and devotions surrounding the understanding of Tuṣita Heaven as a pure land are inter-connected with the history of the institutional development among those who follow Tsongkhapa and are centered around the Ganden monastery he founded, an institution that has the very name of the heaven itself. Practices and beliefs related to Tuṣita were developed among Tsongkhapa’s immediate followers and over the course of several centuries and were exported to wherever the Gelukpa tradition thrived, which included areas throughout Tibet, a vast area from Kalmuck Mongolian regions, Inner and Outer Mongolia, the Buriat Republic of Siberia, and even temples in China. The later popularity of these beliefs and practices was also related to the ascendancy of political power of the Gelukpa school in Tibet, particularly from the seventeenth century, and contributed to social cohesion among Gelukpa followers. The following chapter provides a brief historical background to Maitreya and Tuṣita in the life of Tsongkhapa, describes the context for the understanding of Tuṣita Heaven as a buddha-field among Tsongkhapa’s followers, and concludes with a description of the characteristics of Maitreya’s field as a pure land.


University of Hawai’i Press
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