Gorampa Sonam Sengge

Gorampa Sonam Sengge (c. 1429 – c. 1489)
Lamdre Tsogshed Lineage

Gorampa Sonam Sengge was born in the Tibetan Earth Bird Year 1429. He was the sixth throneholder of Ngor Monastery, serving in that position from 1483 until 1486.

Due to his great intellect, Gorampa was widely recognized as the reincarnation of Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen, Sakya Tradition’s third Patriarch.

As a child Gorampa mastered reading effortlessly. When he attained the age of ten, Gorampa observed that all living beings who dwell in the world are afflicted by many various kinds of sufferings. Hence, he resolved to renounce the world and begged his parents’ permission to do so. He took monastic vows at age eight or ten and continued his early studies. It was recorded that Gorampa’s teachers were extremely impressed with his intellect.

By the time Gorampa had attained the age of nineteen, he had mastered the wide variety of texts, including the texts of logic and Paramita. He then went to Nalendra Monastery where he met and received teachings from the great Sakya master Rongton Sheja Kunrik.

In his early twenties, Gorampa fell ill and was prevented from going on a tour of various monastic colleges as he had intended. Instead, in 1453, he went to live at Ngor Monastery–Ngor Ewaṃ Choden where he began to study tantra extensively under Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (founder of the Ngor school). Gorampa was fully ordained when he was twenty-six. He received the full Lam Dre teachings twice as well as many other tantric instructions from Kunga Zangpo and the other teachers at Ngor.

In 1466 Gorampa founded Tanak Serling Monastery, where he stayed and taught for several years, although he also made occasional teaching trips to other monasteries. He wrote prolifically during that period and composed some of his most important works, receiving support from nobles associated with the Rinpung court in Tsang.

In 1473 Gorampa founded another monastery called Tanak Tubten Namgyel, where he established a curriculum that thoroughly addressed both exoteric and esoteric subjects. He taught there for most of the following decade.

In 1483, Gorampa was enthroned as the sixth abbot of Ngor, the Ngor Khenchen. He taught various esoteric and exoteric subjects there, particularly Lam Dre, until 1486.

After turning over the throne at Ngor, Gorampa returned to Tanak where he taught and wrote extensively until the end of his life. He passed away in 1489.

Gorampa’s writings fill thirteen volumes. His most well-known and influential work was the Distinguishing of the View, a highly influential study of Tibetan Madhyamaka that describes in detail different interpretations of the Middle Way philosophy debated in Tibetan monasteries.