The 1300 year old Thrangu Monastery
Qinghai, China (Kham)
In the autonomous region of Qinghai, China (formerly known as Kham- Eastern Tibet), lies the famous Thrangu Monastery, which is situated 5 km from the small county town of Jyekundo in Yushu County. This small town of Jyekundo is approximately 800 km from the provincial capital city of Qinghai i.e., Xining. The journey by car is twelve hours through one of the most beautiful highlands in the world, untouched by modern civilization. Majestic mountain peaks and turquoise blue lakes compete with the azure sky to form picturesque postcard sceneries that never fail to take one's breath away.
This mountainous region is also the home of the source of the three Asian mighty rivers: the Hwang Ho (Yellow River), Yangtze Kiang and the Mekong.
Amidst this ethereal and conducive background and setting, the Thrangu Monastery has thrived for more than a thousand years and has produced and attracted many realized Buddhist masters of all lineages.
One must relate the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet without forgetting the role of the Princess Wen Cheng Temple which incidentally is situated about 10 km away and managed by Thrangu Monastery. This temple is more than 1300 years old and built by the Chinese Princess Wen Cheng who married the famous Tibetan King - Tsongtsen Gampo in the 7th Century A.D. She brought with her the famous Sakyamuni statue (that was personally blessed by the Buddha himself) and is still venerated today at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.
Both Princess Wen Cheng and Thrangu Monastery have been the source of inspiration and the catalyst for the spread of Buddhism throughout the Kham province and especially the Karma Kagyu teachings.
The 7th Karmapa, Chodrak Gyamtso rebuilt and expanded this Monastery six hundred years ago and installed Sherap Gyaltsen - who was an emanation of Shuwu Palgyi Sengey, one of the 25 illustrious disciples of Guru Rinpoche - as the 1st Thrangu Rinpoche and Abbot of the Monastery.
This very auspicious place where the Thrangu Monastery is situated is indeed a pureland in this Saha world where emanations of Amitabha Buddha and Nagajurna have manifested.
Previous Karmapas such as Dusum Khyenpa, Jigten Sumgon (founder of the Drikung Kagyu), Nyimapa masters such as Mipham Rinpoche, the previous Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, previous Tai Situ Rinpoche and other highly realized masters have either meditated, performed retreats or expounded Buddhist Dharma and Philosophy in this very place.
The blessings of the Triple Gems and the many enlightened masters of the Buddhist pantheon will continuously manifest in this Mandala of the myriad Buddhas and will bring immeasurable benefits to sentient beings.
At its peak, this Monastery had more than 10,000 lamas and was known as the "Monastery of the 10,000 Lamas". Due to the nature of impermanence and the passing of all conditioned things, this great centre of learning has deteriorated to its current state.
There are four Rinpoches who have guided and benefited this magnificent monastery. They are the Venerable Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Dzuri Rinpoche and Lodro Nyima Rinpoche. These Rinpoches have continuously reincarnated many times together in this Monastery to uphold this sacred and holy place out of compassion so that beings in the future can continue to benefit from the Buddha Dharma.
A notable lama once said "To see the greatness of a mountain, one must keep one's distance; to understand it's mood, one must experience it from above and below, at sunrise and sunset, in all weather and during the various seasons. The life of a mountain is as intense and varied as that of a monastery. There is a deep inner relationship between the mountains and monasteries, the true embodiment of the spirit of the Himalayas. What monasteries and mountains have in common is Greatness, Simplicity, Strength, Aloofness and Endurance. Wherever beauty, solitude and grandeur conspire to produce an atmosphere of awe and religious inspiration there will be found a sanctuary, a hermitage or monastery, or a place of pilgrimage. These citadels of faith amidst the most challenging forces of nature are the fulfillment of nature on a higher plane, expressing its transcendent spirit through the ascending aspirations of Man". This really captures the spirit of Thrangu Monastery.
This Monastery still practices and maintains its famous heritage and traditions and this is evident from the Great masters that hailed from this place such as the 9th Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Khenpo Kathar Rinpoche and the 9th Traleg Rinpoche.
In 1982, when permission was given by the authorities to rebuild this Monastery, all the lamas here had the heavy responsibilities of seeking the means to see that this Monastery recapture some semblance of its glorious past.
The heavy responsibility of rebuilding now falls on the shoulders of the remaining Rinpoche that still resides in this monastery and he is the 9th Lodro Nyima Rinpoche.
Lodro Nyima Rinpoche's 1st reincarnation is the celebrated Bengar Jampal Zangpo who was the spiritual heir of the 6th Karmapa. When he realized Mahamudra, he spontaneously sang the Dorje Chang Tungma which has continued to be the lead chant in all Karma Kagyu centres today. He subsequently became the root guru to the 7th Karmapa.
The monastery now has grown in the last few years to accommodate about 250 lamas and 65 children. A new Temple has been built over the original site that was destroyed and plans are in place to restore it to its glorious days.
With the kind support of Thrangu Rinpoche, Traleg Rinpoche and Khenpo Kathar Rinpoche and other well wishers, this Pureland of the myriad Buddhas in the current Saha world known as Thrangu Monastery will once again play a major role in liberating sentient beings from Samsara.
May the blessings of the Triple Gems be on all and by the dedication of this merit, may all sentient beings achieve the Four Immeasurables and gain release from Samsara.