What is now referrred to as “Tsongkhapa Day” is actually the celebration of the ‘parinirvana’ or the enlightenment of the great Lama Tsongkhapa (1357 – 1419) whose birth and enlightent activity was prophesized by the Buddha himself. In the root tantra of Manjushri, Buddha mentions that ‘after my teachings become diluted, you, Manjushri, will appear in the land of Snow and perform the deeds of an enlightened one’.
Lama Tsongkhapa’s Annual celebration of his enlightenment falls on the 25th instance of the 10th lunar month of the Tibetan calendar. Therefore the day is also referred to as “Nga choed” in Tibetan which means the “Offering Practices of the 5th”, the “5th” deriving from “25th”.
From the spiritual practice point of view, Tsongkhapa Day is extremely significant. Since Guru Yoga practice is the heart and soul of path towards enlightenment, the celebration acts as a reminder for all of us to engage in Guru devotion and seek the blessings of all the direct and lineage masters. On this day devotees (both lay people and monks) make expensive offerings and engage in Guru puja practices. The fundmental reason is that there are no holier objects of worship and offering than the Guru/Gurus when it comes to accumulation of merit! In the great monasteries of Sera, Gaden, and Drepung, the monks make extensive offerings of lamps and then engage in Guru Pjua Tsog practice.
On the 24th instance of the 10th Tibetan Lunar month, the day just before the Lama Tsongkhapa Day, another important celebration takes place: the celebration of the parinirvana of Jamchen Choeje, one of Tsongkhapa’s foremost disciples and the founder of Sera Monastery. The Day is usually known among the Tibetans as “Dzi choed” or the “offering practices of the 4th” as it is celebrated on the “24th” instance of the month. When Tsongkhapa was invited to China by the Chinese emperor, he sent his disciple Jamchen Choeje as his representative.
In Tibet, both of these Days are celebrated with great joy, devotion and offerings. In India, however, the Parinirvana of Jamchen Choeje tends to be less and less emphasized.