Zhangjia Hutuktu was a highly regarded “Living Buddha” of Tibetan Buddhism in Inner Mongolia. Many people believed that he was a manifestation of Manjusri Bodhisattva. Zhangjia Hutuktu (Tibetan) and Javzandamba Hutagt (Mongolian) are recognized as the two major living Buddhas in Mongolian Lamaism.
According to his biography, Zhangjia [also spelled Chang-chia] Hutuktu had been reincarnated nineteen times.
Master Zhangjia, the 19th Zhangjia Hutuktu, was born in 1890 in Qinghai Province. His autonym was Luosunbendiandanbirongmei.
The locals did not address him as “Great Master.” Instead, they regarded him as a respected “Hutuktu.” “Hutuktu” is a Mongolian word which means “enlightenment” and “free from reincarnation.” He was one of the four Hutuktus of the Yellow Sect in Tibetan Buddhism and is better known as one of four great Lamas who prevailed over Inner Mongolia.
At the age of three, Master Zhangjia was proclaimed the reincarnation of the 18th Zhangjia Living Buddha. He was later escorted to Chaozang Monastery where he studied Buddhism with Master Daqizhamusu.
At the age of seven, Master Zhangjia became a monk. During his Enthronement Ceremony, he was conferred the title of 19th Zhangjia Hutuktu. At the age of nine, he was escorted to the capital, Beijing, to accept offerings at the imperial palace. At the same time, he was also given the title 19th Zhangjia Hutuktu by Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi.
The teaching area of Great Master Zhangjia is said to have encompassed forty-nine counties in Inner Mongolia and twenty-nine in Qinghai. Time Magazine said in their March 18, 1957 issue that the Great Master was “among the most important ‘Living Buddhas’ ... spiritual leader of thousands of monks and millions of Buddhists in east and north China ….” The more than 300 monasteries who followed Master Zhangjia accommodated anywhere from 300-4000 people each. When he went on his yearly trip around Inner Mongolia, tens of thousands of people would prostrate and pay respect to him daily at each offering ceremony. He was the faith centre of people in Inner Mongolia.
The 19th Zhangjia Living Buddha was the national master and received special honors from three different Chinese governments, those of the Empress Dowager Cixi, the Northern Warlords, and Chiang Kaishek. Zhangjia Living Buddha was enthroned with the title Jasakeda Lama and presented with the seal “National Great Master of Universal Kindness and Compassion” by Emperor Guangxu. He remained in Beijing.
After 1912, Master Zhangjia was still held in esteem by the government. He was bestowed honorific titles of National Master as/of “Light of Great Charity,” “Awaken People by Expounding Causality and Truth,” and “Protecting Country and Assisting Education by Purifying and Enlightening People.” He was appointed to many important positions including Member of the Mongolia and Tibet Committee, Messenger of the Mongolian Region, President of the Chinese-Buddhist Committee, Representative of the State Congress, and Advisor to the Presidential Office.
Immediately after World War II, Master Zhangjia moved to Taiwan, where he was influential in the propagation of Buddhism and the distribution of free Buddhist materials. He is especially known for three achievements.
First, he negotiated with the Japanese government. Master Zhangjia brought a parietal bone relic of Master Xuanzang [one of the two greatest sutra translators in China] back to Taiwan. The relic is now enshrined at Xuanzang Temple in Nantao County, Taiwan.
Second, he propagated Buddhism in Taiwan. Master Zhangjia and Master Daoyuan traveled from the north of Taiwan to the south by train, stopping at Keelung, Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Pingdong in order to propagate Buddhism.
Third, he initiated and organized the publishing of the Taisho Great Buddhist Canon. This was truly his greatest contribution to Buddhism.
Master Zhangjia was an exemplary master in the living Buddha lineage. He was always composed, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down. He was cautious in his conduct, and upheld the precept of not eating after midday. He lived simply and practiced diligently all his life. He disciplined himself strictly in accordance with the Buddha’s teaching. He was erudite and proficient in Chinese, Manchurian, Mongolian, and Tibetan. He delved deeply into the Mahayana sutras. He explained the teachings and principles of Esoteric and Exoteric Buddhism clearly and perfectly. His cultivation and achievements were outstanding and his residual wisdom was profound.
Master Chin Kung, before he became a monk, at the age of twenty-six became a student of Great Master Zhangjia, who at the time was sixty-five. He continued to study with the master for three years until the great master’s death. Master Zhangjia told his student to read the Chronology of Buddha Sakyamuni and the Biography of Buddha Sakyamuni. Great Master Zhangjia also taught his student to see through and to
let go, thus helping him to firmly establish a solid foundation to learn Buddhism.
On March 4, 1957, at the age of sixty-eight, Master Zhangjia calmly succumbed to stomach cancer the National Taiwan University Hospital. His body was cremated at Beitou, Taipei. After the cremation, there were more than six thousand relics.
We can see clearly that Zhangjia Hutuktu’s title of Great Master came from his manner of living and his achievements, not from his impressive status or his lineage of sage's reincarnations, for these could not ensure the title. His title of Great Master came from his sincere practice and his broadmindedness—his every thought was to benefit all beings.
Master Zhangjia died more than fifty years ago. Even though we may be of a different generation, we find that his positive influence has not diminished with the passage of time. Decades after his death, the example he set for all practitioners is still perfect.
Even though we may be of a different generation, but when we read about his life, we find that his positive influence has not diminished with the passage of time.
Zhangjia Living Buddha