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Touching History

An old text from Dolpo, Nepal written in gold.  Photo credit: Unknown.

Sacred Music

monk playing large cymbals Triten Norbutse

A monk plays the cymbals during a ritual at the Yungdrung Bon monastery of Triten Norbutse near Kathmandu, Nepal

Women of Dolpo

Women of Dolpo, Nepal

Young women of Dolpo, Nepal

Yungdrung Bon in Mustang

A Yungdrung Bon temple in Jomson, Mustang

Dispelling the Darkness

Triten-Norbutse-hung-with-l

The Yungdrung Bön Monastery of Triten Norbutse near Kathmandu, Nepal draped in light

Pilgrimage: Yanggon Monastery

Yang gon Monastery edited

Location: The full name of this monastery is Yanggon Tongdrol Phuntsok Ling, Temple of the Yangtön Lineage, Land of Complete Fulfillment that Liberates upon Seeing.   However, it is commonly referred to simply as Yanggon Monastery.  At 14,160 ft above sea level, it is located in the highest village within the remote area of Dolpo, Nepal.  This is the village of Charka (Tsarka in Tibetan.  Charka is the common Nepali pronunciation.)  It is located at the junction of two rivers appropriately named The Big River and The Small River.  The monastery complex consists of the first temple which is now in ruins, the second temple which was originally built in the mid-nineteenth century and later moved in the early 90’s and consolidated with the third temple which was built in 1988 by the current head lama, Yangtön Lama Tashi Gyaltsen.

Charka village highest village in NepalThe village of Charka

History: The history of the Yangtön lineage is closely interwoven with the history of the Yungdrung Bön tradition itself.  It is said that two of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap’s disciples were Yangtön lamas.  And during the reign of the first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsenpo in the second century B.C., the official priest for the king and the kingdom was a Yangtön lama.  The original seat of the family was at Taktsé Jari in Upper Tsang, Western Tibet.  The great lama, Yangtön Sherab Gyaltsen was the first to travel away and eventually settled in Mustang, Nepal where he established a hermitage.    Another lama, known as Lama Ngakpa, settled in Mustang for a time but then made his way to Dolpo.  Because all of his children died at a young age, he brought a boy to Dolpo from the original family seat of Taktsé.  This prompted the rest of the family to follow and settle in Dolpo.  It was this boy, Yangtön Gyaltsen Rinchen, who founded the nearby monastery of Samling.  He was also a teacher to the esteemed Dru Gyalwa Yungdrung who wrote a practice manual for the Oral Transmission of the Zhang Zhung Dzogchen teachings.

Lama Tashi editedYangtön Lama Tashi Gyaltsen

Currently: The head lama of the monastery is Yangtön Lama Tashi Gyaltsen.  He was the first of the Yangtön lamas to receive his Geshe, Doctorate of Religion and Philosophy, from Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India.  His younger brother soon followed and is now the head teacher of the monastery, His Eminence Menri Lopön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche.  Their nephew, Yangtön Geshe Tenzin, has also received his Geshe degree and, like his uncles, he travels throughout the world teaching as well as spending time in the village of Charka organizing building projects and offering rituals and teachings to the villagers.  In addition to his activities of building and preserving the family temples, monks’ living quarters and building projects, Yangtön Lama Tashi is also responsible for the teaching and spiritual guidance of a small group of young monks.

Yaks carrying wood in DolpoYaks carrying lumber

Because of the remoteness of the village, all supplies for building must be carried in on foot.  This is a slow and arduous process.  Building supplies must be brought by animal from Jomsom, Mustang via a narrow, single-track path.  This can take up to seven days.  Large beams for construction must be carried by humans from Tibet.  The cost of getting the supplies to the remote village can average 4-5 times the actual cost of the supplies themselves.  Rocks for a building’s foundation can only be gathered in Winter because they are located on the opposite side of the river and it is necessary to wait until the river freezes enough to be walked across.  In recent years, in spite of the difficulty, the Yangtön lamas have been able to build and begin to establish a much needed medical clinic in the village that will serve the 500-600 villagers.   The clinic is located on monastery grounds and is supervised by the monastery.  Before the establishment of the clinic, the nearest medical support was over a hundred miles away.  Common medicines were rare and infection from minor cuts and injuries easily became life threatening.  Infant mortality was over 50%.  Construction of the free healthcare clinic began in 2009.  Three people are being trained as doctors who will staff the clinic.  One is learning Western medicine, one is learning traditional Tibetan medicine and a third is specializing in being a midwife.  In addition to medical intervention, the staff will also educate the local population about hygiene and first aid.

Charka clinic 2010Medical Clinic in the village of Charka

For more information about Yanggon Monastery, http://www.yanggon.org/

For more information about the free healthcare clinic and its current needs, http://kwling.org/projects/clinic/

Monastic Training

young and older monks practising debate

Young monks learning to debate at Triten Norbutse Monastery near Kathmandu, Nepal

Yungdrung Bon Temple in Mustang, Nepal

Bon gompa in Jomson Mustang Nepal

This Yungdrung Bön temple is located in the village of Jomson in Mustang, Nepal.

For more on Yungdrung Bön in Mustang, see the documentary film Mustang to Menri.

The First Temple in Exile: Dorpatan Monastery

Dhorpatan Bon Monastery

The official name of this monastery is Tashi Gégye Thaten Ling.  However, it is commonly referred to as the Dorpatan Monastery.  This was the first Yungdrung Bön temple in exile. It is located in Nepal, south of Dolpo, in the village of Dorpatan.  In addition to the monastery, there is also a medical clinic which serves the local population.  The settlement is now roughly divided into an area inhabited by the Bönpo and an area inhabited by the Buddhists, mostly Kagyu.  However, the religious practices and festivals are predominantly Yungdrung Bön.

map of dhorpata

In the early 1960’s after the Chinese invasion, a refugee camp for the Bönpo was established in Dorpatan by The Red Cross.  At that time, the spiritual head of the Bönpo and 32nd Abbot of Menri Monastery, Kündun Sherap Lodro, was staying in Kathmandu after having fled Tibet.  He traveled to Dorpatan and initiated the construction of a temple.  Kündun Sherap Lodro later went to India and management of the temple was taken over by Tsultrim Nyima.  He was the father of the current abbot of Triten Norbutse monastery in Kathmandu, Khenpo Tempa Yungdrung Rinpoche.  Tsultrim Nyima was strongly devoted to his work with the temple but was unfortunately killed at a relatively young age.  At that time, management of Dorpatan Monastery was taken over by Sonam Gyaltsen.  After his death, Geshe Tenzin Dargye was appointed as the abbot and continues in this position until today.

Khenpo Tamdin smaller(Khenpo Tenzin Dargye, also called Khenpo Tamdin, is the current abbot of Dorpatan Monastery.)

Khenpo Ratsa Geshe Tenzin Dargye was born in 1966 in Jomsom Mustang, Nepal.  His father, Yungdrung Gyal, is the 36th in the Phong la Ratsa lineage of East Amdo.  His mother, Konchok Dolmo, is of the Amchi lineage, a Tibetan doctor.   Khenpo Tenzin Dargye was tutored at home by his father until the age of nine and then sent to study in India.  At the age of sixteen, he decided to become a monk.  In 1996, he received his Doctorate of Religion and Philosophy, or Geshe Degree,  from the Dialectic School of Menri Monastery. After this, he worked as the organizer of the Bön Children’s Welfare Center and the medical dispensary for seven years. In 1996, he was asked by the 33rd Menri Trizen to transfer and to become the abbot of Dorpatan Monastery.  Over the years, Khenpo Tenzin Dargye has worked to improve the monastery.  Together with Dr. Tsultrim Sangye, they established a medical clinic in order to provide much needed medical services to the local and surrounding area.  Khenpo regularly travels and teaches throughout Asia, the United States, Mexico and Europe.

In the region surrounding Dorpatan Monastery, the main agriculture consists mostly of potatoes although there has been an effort to establish apple trees.  During the summer, there is also a great deal of animal husbandry.  During the Winter, many people migrate south and trade potatoes for salt, rice and wheat.

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