MONASTERIES IN BHUTAN

6 FAMOUS MONASTRIES IN BHUTAN

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Taktsang Monastery, famously known as Tiger Nest Monastery, is located in Paro, Bhutan. The monastery is one of the most venerated places of pilgrimage in the Himalayan. The legend of Taktshang (Tiger’s lair) evolved form 747 AD when Guru Padmasmbhava chose a cave on a sheer rock face to meditate and, assuming a wrathful form, Guru Dorji Drolo, astride a tigress, subdued athe evil spirits n
the locality. Taktshang thus became one of the most important Buddhist monuments in the Himalayan Buddhist world Then name “Taktshang” – Tiger’s Lair – was derived when the people in the locality came across a tigress residing in one of the caves. Legend has it the
tigress actually was Yeshi Tshogyal, a consort of Guru Rinpoche, who has transformed herself into the fearsome animal to subjugate spirits Taktshang clings to the rock towering 800 meters (over 2,600 feet) above the valley, and is located 2,950 meters (9,678 feet) above the sea level. It takes about 2 hours walk to reach the monastery from the road at Ramthangkha, 12 kilometers from Paro town.
The history of this sacred place goes back to the eighth century when Padmasambhava, an extraordinary saint who founded the Mahayana school of Buddhism, visited the site. He assumed the terrifying form of Guru Dorje Drolo and cleansed the place of evil spirits to preserve the integrity of Buddhist teachings.
An account has it that Yeshe Tsogyal transformed herself into a tigress and carried the Guru on herback from Singye Dzong in eastern Bhutan to Taktshang. In a cave there, the Guru then performed meditation and emerged in eight incarnated forms (manifestations).
At Taktshang the Guru revealed the Mandala of Pelchen Dorje Phurpa, and delivered sublime teachings to his disciples. He spent four months in the cave, taming and subjugating the malicious spirits, and concealed profound treasures for the benefit of sentient beings.

Tirst temple was built by Sonam Gyaltshen – a Nyingma Budhist master – probably in 1508 at Taktsang Pelphug. In 1645 the whole site was offered to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the founder of the nation state of Bhutan.

It was at Taktshang, during the Tibetan war of 1644/46, that Zhabdrung and his Nyingmapa teacher, Terton Rigdzin Nyingpo, first performed a ritual invoking Padmasambhava and the protective deities. Ihe Zhabdrung instructed Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye, who subsequently became the fourth temporal ruler of Bhutan, to build the temple of the Eight Manifestations of the Guru there. Ihe work began on the 10th month of the Water Monkey Year (1692) and the two-storied temple was completed in 1694.

Between 1961 and 1965, the monastery was renovated by the 34th Je Khenpo, Shedrup Yoezer. Additions were made in 1861-65 and 1982-83, and then in 1992. On April 19, 1998, Taktshang was damaged in a tragic blaze. It was restored to its original glory by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King Of Bhutan.
The story goes that the statue of the Guru was sculptured by Pentsa Deva at Punakha Thangdzong and taken to Taktshang. On arriving at the entrance of the sacred site of Taktshang, the statue is supposed to have spoken: “Do not worry, for someone shall come to carry me to Taktsang!” The statue was miraculously transported and, thereafter, the place is known as the Temple of the Self-Speaking Statue of the Guru.The shrine contains beautiful paintings of the eight manifestations of Guru and his twenty five chief disciples on the rockface (facing face). It also contains the throne used by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye.

All the sacred objects pertaining to the Eight Manifestaions of Guru were built by famous Niwari artisans Pentsa Deva, Dharma Deva and Dharmashri. The climb to the monsatery takes about 3 hours on a comfortable pace. Frequent trekker and gym enthusiast can complete it in about 2 hours. The total distance walked is about 4 km one way with 700m in elevation gained.

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Kyichu Lhakhang is a Buddhist temple in Paro. It is one of the oldest monasteries in the country built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demoness lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638 the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demoness. This is one of the oldest monasteries in Paro district. There’s a belief that the two orange trees here in Kyichu Lakhang bears fruit throughout the year.

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During the 8th century, Sendhu Raja who was the king of Bumthang fell ill and he invited Guru Rinpochhe who brought Buddhism into Bhutan to cure him. Guru Rinpochhe found out that the King’s illness was caused by the local deities including the powerful Shelging Karpo. Finding the cause of the illness, Guru chased the deities into a cave, and Guru meditate d inside the cave for three months. Guru then subdued the deities including the powerful Shelging Karpo and left his body imprint inside the cave, thus giving the name Kurjey (Body Imprint). Beside the Monastery is a tall cypress tree which is believed to have sprouted from the walking stick of Guru Rinpochhe.

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Jambay Lhakhang is said to be one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Goenpo in 659 AD on a single day to pin down an ogress to earth forever. A supine demoness was causing obstruction to the spread of Buddhism and the temples were constructed on her body parts that spread across Tibet, Bhutan and the border lands.
The best known of these temples are Kichu in Paro, Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang and Jokhang in Lhasa, Tibet. Other lesser known temples in Bhutan have been destroyed. The temple of Jambay Lhakhang was later visited by Guru Rinpochhe and later restored by Sendhu Raja after Guru restored his life force.

Jambay Lhakhang has been repaired and rebuilt several times over time.During the 8th century, Sendhu Raja who was the king of Bumthang fell ill and he invited Guru Rinpochhe who brought Buddhism into Bhutan to cure him. Guru Rinpochhe found out that the King’s illness was caused by the local deities including the powerful Shelging Karpo.
Finding the cause of the illness, Guru chased the deities into a cave, and Guru meditate d inside the cave for three months. Guru then subdued the deities including the powerful Shelging Karpo and left his body imprint inside the cave, thus giving the name Kurjey (Body Imprint). Beside the Monastery is a tall cypress tree which is believed to have sprouted from the walking stick of Guru Rinpochhe.

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The Tango Goemba site has had religious significance since the 12th century when it was the home of the Lama who brought the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism to Bhutan. The monastery was built there in the 15th century by Drukpa Kunley (“The Divine Madman”).

Tango is the highest center of Buddhist learning in the country; almost every Je Khenpo (religious head of Bhutan) completed the 9-year program there. After completing that program, monks traditionally spend 3 years, 3 months and 3 days in mediation at the nearby Cheri Goemba retreat, built in 1619 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder or first unifier of Bhutan. It is currently the home of an 11-year-old boy believed to be the seventh reincarnation of the fourth desi, or ruler, of Bhutan.

According to a local legend Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, pro-founder of the teachings of Dodeyna who was on a visit to this place during his teaching mission heard the neighing of a horse coming from the direction of the Tango. Concurrently, he witnessed the cliff in the form of god Tandin (horse head or Hayagriva) engulfed in flames. The deity appearing before Zhigpo prophesied that the place was meant to build a monastery for meditation. The prophecy also mentioned that Zhigpo would marry the Dakine, Khando Sonam Peldon and establish the Drukpa Kagyu School of Buddhism in Bhutan. The earliest history traced to this location is when Guru RInpochhe on a visit to the place in the eighth century had identified the place as representing the Hayagriva or horse head. It was only in 1222 that the place again got its recognition when Phajo Drugom Zhipo, the profounder of Drukpa Kagyu School of Buddhism, witnessed the cliff in the form of god Tandin (horse head) or Hayagriva.
Many other notable Buddhist saint including the divine mad man Lam Drukpa Kuenley, his son Lama Ngawang tenzin and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, later visited tango. Zhabdrung meditated wrote down the Nga Chu Drugma (My sixteen accomplishments) in Tango. His late father Tenpai Nyima was also placed inside the cave of the deity Hayagriva.
 The present day Monastery was built in 1689 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgyal at the age of 51. The three-storied monastery was built with the help of the locals and was completed within two months.

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Chhime Lhakhang lies on the periphery of the expansive valley of Lobesa where the borders of Thimphu, Punakha and Wangduephodrang districts meets. Perched on top of a little hilltop overlooking the Puna Tsang Chhu, Chhime Lhakhang is auspiciously surrounded by the nine Khas or villages namely Sosokha, Yuwakha, Gangmakha, Septokha, Sembjikha, Pachakha, Buewakha and Gangkhar.
Around the time when Drukpa Kuenley first visited Bhutan, a demon called Loro Duem resided on a high pass presently called Dochu La. She terrorised all who tried to cross the pass and the people in the valley lived in fear. Two more demoness lived on two smaller passes and the three of them caused people misery and suffering. When Drukpa Kuenley heard of this, he hunted down the demoness at Dochula and the three demoness recognising Drukpa Kuenley power ran down the valley and two demons dissolved into the body of Loro Duem. When she reached the plains of Lobesa, she transformed herself into a dog to avoid detection. But Lam Drukpa Kuenley recognised the demoness dog, killed it and buried it under the mound of a hill, which he said resembled the breast of a woman. He then said “Chi-med” (no dog), and built a black chorten on top of this mound. Before killing and burying the demoness, he made the demoness pledge service to the Buddha and become a protector of the dharma. She is now the local deity called Chhoekim who is the guardian deity of Chhime Lhakhang.
 His cousin Lam Ngawang Choegyal later built a Lhakhang in honour of his illustrious relative and named it Chhime Lhakhang.
 It is widely known today that most of the thousands of people who visit the lhakhag do so to pray for children either to ask for children by those who are childless or to seek protection for children that they already have. While Chhime Lhakhang is renowned for its fertility blessings, it also fulfils the other religious and spiritual needs of the people.

Sources : various from web

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