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Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries
For those visiting India, Tibet, and Nepal, must-see spots... :-)
Drepung Loseling Monastery (Mundgod, S. India) - Drepung Loseling Monastery was one of Tibet's largest monastic universities. Located in the hills on the northern outskirts of Lhasa, it was established in 1416 as an institute of higher Buddhist education by Khenpo Lekden, a direct disciple of Lama Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), founder of the Geluk School. The First Dalai Lama was also a disciple of Lama Tsongkhapa, and the Second Dalai Lama built a residence in Drepung, called the Ganden Potrang, which remained a hereditary seat of all subsequent Dalai Lamas. At its zenith Drepung Loseling housed some ten thousand monk students. These were drawn not only from Tibet, but also from China, Himalayan India, Mongolia, and the Mongol regions of Eastern Russia. The Chinese Communist takeover of Tibet in 1959 resulted in the destruction of all but a dozen of Tibet's 6,500 monasteries, and in the closure of Drepung, with most of the monks being either killed or imprisoned. Approximately 250 of Loseling's monks managed to escape as refugees in India, where eventually they built a monastery on land generously donated by the Indian government in Karnataka State, southeast of Bombay. Here they worked to preserve their ancient traditions. The population of Loseling in India today stands at about 2,500.
Gaden Jangtse Monastery (Mundgod, S. India) - Named Gaden (Tushita in Sanskrit), the abode of the Future Buddha Maitreya, the monastery was officially established near by Lhasa, Tibet in 1409. Gaden thus became the first main monastery of the Gelugpa tradition; a huge monastic complex (second largest of the tradition) housing up to 6,000 monks at its peak. Gaden was devided into two colleges: Shartse and Jangtse. In 1959 Gaden, along with the vast majority of Tibetan monasteries, was ransacked and bombed into rubble by the Communist Chinese army, now occupying Tibet. About 300 Gaden monks were able to escape from Tibet moving to the South of India. Here, a small Gaden Monastery was rebuilt in 1969 allowing the monks to continue their studies and practice of Dharma. Now the same Monastery serves over 3,000 monks. The North College, Gaden Jangtse cares for over 1,400 monks, from 6 to over 80 years old, who spend their entire live working for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Gaden Shartse Monastery (Mundgod, S. India) - The full name of this monastery recorded in the Chronicle of Geluk Tradition Authored by the Regent Desi Sangye Gyatso in late sixteenth century is Gaden Nampar Gyalwai Ling. In 1409, after the completion of Grand Prayer Festival in Lhasa, Tsongkhapa decided to build up Gaden Monastery in the Central Tibet hillside of Drogri Mountain, a calm, peaceful and highly suitable place for spiritual development. Following the invasion of Tibet by China and destruction of Gaden in Tibet, two hundred monks of Gaden, who managed to escape the invasion by fleeing out to India felt the strong responsibility to re-establish Gaden. The present Gaden Monastery was re-established in 1969 in Mundgod, in the Southern State of Karnataka, India, with well planned programs to preserve the educational, spiritual and cultural activities of historical Gaden monastery.
Gyuto Tantric University (Bomdila, India) - is one of the most outstanding Monasteries in Tibet, and it is the place for studying Buddhist philosophy, Tantric meditations and ritual arts. The main disciple of Lama Tsongkhapa "Jetsun Kunga Dhondup" founded the Gyuto monastery in 1474 in Eastern Tibet. Since then the Gyuto monks have practiced major Tantric texts such as Guhasamaja, Chakrasambara and Yamantaka Tantras and have passed these lineages on to the younger generations without any disruption. In 1959 when the Chinese Communist government took over Tibet, The Gyuto Monks re-established their university in Bomdila, India, where they have initiated hundreds of young monks from Tibetan refugee communities. The monastery is currently located in a small Tibetan settlement called Tenzin Gang in Arunachal Pradesh, a very remote and isolated area of India squeezed between Tibet, Bhutan and Burma and totally inaccessible to visitors. Here they are taught Mathematics, Tibetan Culture and Buddhist Philosophy, in addition to the traditional religious teachings. Despite many difficulties in the new settlement they still managed to practice and educate over 400 monks, mostly young refugees from Tibet. The Gyuto monastery and the monks are well known in Tibet and were always admired by the Tibetan community, because of their services to their people. (For some years the monks have been planning to relocate to Dharamsala to be closer to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to be in a position where they can access health and education facilities and from which they can travel more easily to and from the rest of the world and also receive the occasional visitor. These plans started to come to fruition when the Dalai Lama opened the main temple of New Ramoche Monastery in Sidbhari near Dharamsala in 1996, but lack of resources since then has hampered the completion of living quarters for the monks, thus delaying their move. Work began in earnest in late 1999/early 2000 to build and complete three accommodation blocks around the main monastery and it is now hoped that the bulk of the 500 strong monastic population will be able to make the transition to the new premises sometime late in 2003.)
Kopan (Boudhanath, Nepal) - Just north of the ancient Buddhist town of Boudhanath is the Kopan hill (pictured left), rising up out of the terraced fields of the Kathmandu valley and visible for miles. Dominated by a magnificent Bodhi tree, it was once the home of the astrologer to the king of Nepal.It was to this hill that these lamas first came with their first Western students in 1969. Now Kopan is the site of a thriving monastery of 320 monks, mainly from Nepal and Tibet, and a spiritual oasis for hundreds of visitors yearly from around the world. Nearby is Khachoe Ghakyi Ling Nunnery, home to 290 nuns. Both the monastery and the nunnery are under the spiritual guidance of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and the care of the abbot, Khenrinpoche Geshe Lhundrup Rigsel. And it is the wellspring of the FPMT, a network of some 140 centers and activities world-wide, themselves expressions of the Buddha activity of Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
Namgyal (Dharamsala, N. India) - In 1575 Sonam Gyatso, the Third Dalai Lama, officially founded a monastery, which later came to be known as Namgyal Dratsang (Victorious Monastery). Since its inception, the monastery has assisted the Dalai Lamas in their public religious activities and performed ritual prayer ceremonies for the welfare of Tibet. From the beginning, the monastery has been a center of learning, contemplation and meditation on the vast and profound Buddhist treatises.
Nechung (Dharamsala, N. India) - Nechung monastery has an important place in the history of Tibet. It is the seat of Nechung Kuten, Tibet's State Oracle. The oracle is the medium through whom Dorje Drakden (Nechung), the principal protector of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government, communicates with His Holiness and the Kashag (cabinet). Major decisions of the state are also made in consultation with the Nechung Oracle. [I stuck this entry here, even though it is probably more properly a Nyingmapa monastery, because it operates under the auspices of HH the Dalai Lama...]
Sera Monastery (Mysore, S. India) - Sera monastery is situated in beautiful rural hill country to the west of Mysore in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Modeled on its predecessor near Lhasa in Tibet, Sera monastery can be compared to a 'university town' and is the home to some three and a half thousand Tibetan Buddhist monks, as well as a hand-full of monks from other countries. The monastery is divided into two colleges called Sera Je and Sera Me, which follow slightly different timetables and syllabuses for their study programs.
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery (Karnatak, S. India) - Historically, the monastery of the Panchen Lama, Tashi Lhunpo has also been established in exile. In 1447 the Monastery was founded by His Holiness the 1st Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Gendun Drup, in Shigatse, Tibet's second largest city. It is one of the four great monasteries of Central Tibet and was supervised and looked after by the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas of the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) tradition. It has the glory of producing thousands of renowned scholars in the field of Mahayana Buddhist Philosophy and Tantra. In 1972, under the patronage of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery was re-established in the Southern Indian state of Karnataka. The monastery has monks coming from Tibet and the Himalayan regions of Spithi, Khunu, Ladakh, Ghashar and Sangkhar. Occupying a central position in the Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe, there are over 250 monks including many Tulkus (reincarnate lamas) studying and performing various religious practices.
Dzogchen Monastery (Dhondenling, S. India) - Dzogchen Monastery has now been reestablished at the Dhondenling Tibetan Settlement in South India, and is the official seat of the seventh incarnation of the Dzogchen Rinpoche. The site was chosen personally by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on land close by to his own residence. Before the foundations were laid, and again when building had begun, to everyone's surprise the Dalai Lama came unannounced to consecrate and bless the ground. Other great masters too, such as His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and His Holiness Dodrupchen Rinpoche, hoped very much that Dzogchen Monastery would be reestablished in exile. In addition to information here, please visit Dzogchen Monastery's sister site, developed at Dzogchen India.
Namdroling Monastery (Byalakuppe, India) - A monastery started by HH Penor Rinpoche in South India. Today, Namdroling Monastery in Byalakuppe is a thriving community and home to thousands of lamas, monks and nuns, making it the largest Nyingmapa teaching center in the world.
Mindrolling Monastery (Dehra Dun, N. India) - Set in the foothills of the Himalayas in Dehra Dun in North India, Mindrolling is one of the largest Buddhist centers in India today, and includes the following schools: Ngedon, Gatsal Ling, Primary and Secondary Buddhist schools, and Ngagyur Nyingma College, and Institute of advanced Buddhist studies.
Kilung Monastery (Dzachuka, East Tibet) - Two hundred years ago on a mountainside, a small group of lamas took a phurba (a three-bladed ritual dagger), and struck it into the ground. Immediately gushed forth a spring of perfect drinking water which still flows today next to Kilung Monastery. Never freezing in winter and always ice-cold in summer, it continues to provide perfectly for all — even the crowd of one to two thousand who come for the recently revived sacred lama dancing. This story is retold today by the reincarnation of one of those lamas, Kilung Rinpoche, who, two centuries ago, built the original monastery, its college, and place of retreat. Though the buildings are now in a state of disrepair, the teachings continue to flow to the monastery’s eighty-five monks and nuns, and to this largely nomadic community of 2,500 in the region of Dzachuka Region of Kham, East Tibet.
Shechen Monastery (Boudhanath, Nepal) - The Tibetan tradition of culture and religion, preserved intact over a thousand years, not only has great value to Buddhists but is also significant for the world as a whole. Now it is threatened with extinction. As a nucleus for the preservation and transmission of this wisdom tradition, Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery was built in Nepal (a few hundred yards from the great Stupa of Boudhanath) in the early eighties. (**Dilgo Khyentse's reincarnation, Ugyen Tenzin Jigme Lhundrup, is installed here.)
Rumtek (Gangtok, Sikkim) - From its perch on a hilltop facing the city of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, the monastery complex at Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre embodies the vision and aspiration of the Sixteenth Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, to establish his seat-in-exile to help spread the teachings of the Buddha throughout the world. The monastery, the largest in Sikkim, is home to the monks community, the place where they perform the sacred rituals and practices of the Karma Kagyu lineage.
Thrangu Tashi Choling (Boudhanath, Nepal) - In 1982 Thrangu Rinpoche built his first monastery outside of Tibet in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. The Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery in Boudhanath is the center of monastic life for nearly 250 monks. This means they receive complete training in the Dharma, learning and practicing all aspects. They also take turns learning the different jobs of the monastery each year, including such things as discipline master, shrine master, and even cooking and management of the monastery. Eventually, those that take full ordination will study in the shedra and also do the traditional three year, three month, three day retreat training.
Sherab Ling (Palpung) Monastery (Himalchal Pradesh, India) - the seat of HE the 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche. Sherab Ling was developed on 30 acres of land located in the Himalayan foothills of north India and is now a lively monastic community with approximately 100 monks of all ages who are engaged in traditional Tibetan Buddhist practices. The surrounding Indian and Tibetan communities also participate in handicraft, art and health programs designed for lay people.
Tharlam Monastery (Boudhanath, Nepal) - The original Tharlam Monastery, which had been established in Eastern Tibet in 1436, was destroyed by the Chinese communists in 1959. Of the original three hundred monks, Deshung Rinpoche gathered together the forty who survived the dangerous journey out of Tibet, and though strenuous efforts they re-established Tharlam Monastery near the Great Stupa at Boudhanath (Nepal). The monastery is replete with exquisite Buddhist statues and a complete collection of sacred texts.
Tsechen Damchos Ling Buddhist Monastery (Mundgod, S. India) - Tsechen Damchos Ling is a small monastery following the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Founded in the eleventh century in Purang, Western Tibet, the original monastery was totally destroyed by the invading Chinese Communists. Fortunately a handful of monks escaped into exile in India, where they have re-established their thousand-year old spiritual institution. Now based in the Tibetan Colony in southern India (Mundgod), the monastery has recently entered a new phase of its development with the admission of eleven novice monks. These young monks are receiving an education in Tibetan and English language, as well as their religious training.
Dzongsar Monastery (Derge, Eastern Tibet) - This Sakyapa monastery was the residence of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1821-1894) and Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1896-1959). During the lives of these two extraordinary spiritual leaders, Dzongsar Monastery became a centre for the rime or non-sectarian approach to the study and practice of Buddhism, and great lamas of all the four Tibetan traditions went there to study. The Monastery has been rebuilt in recent years subsequent to its destruction under Communist rule. The present Dzongsar Khyentse incarnation, Thubten Chokyi Gyamtso, supervises the Institute where 250 monks are being educated.
Dzongsar Institute (Bir, Himachal Pradesh, India) - The Institute has an intensive study program. The first 4 years concentrate on the Philosophy of the Madyamika - "The Middle Way" which is seen by the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism as the central philosophy of the Lord Buddha's teachings. The original texts are of Indian origin, translated into Tibetan. Further commentaries both by early Indian scholars and their later Tibetan heirs are studied to assist in the understanding of the sutras and treatises. In each year the students undertake two major texts or commentaries together with minor subjects such as logic, grammar, the study of the vows of novice monks, and poetry.
fyi, for a listing of
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