International Drikung Kagyu Council
Honoured to organise the 800th Commemoration of Lord Jigten Sumong's Maha Parinirvana.

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Phyang  |  Lamayuru  |  Sharchukhul

Shar001Sharkhul Phuntsog Choling (shar khul phun tshogs chos gling) is one of the three main Drikung Kagyu Monasteries in Ladakh. It is one of 3525 monasteries prophesied by Lord Jigten Sumgon. Some say that Sharchukhul was the first Drikung monastery in Ladakh established by Denma Kunga Drakpa. With the passing of time the small monastery of Serbumchen and the White Monastery founded by Chenga Sherab Jungne three centuries earlier, fell into decay. Legend tells that Denma Kunga Drakpa ordered the monks of Sharchukhul to carry the old statue of Jigten Sumgon from Serbumchen into their new monastery. As they made a pause on the way, they were not able to move the figure any more. It is said that the statue then flew to Sharchukhul monastery.

When the 6th Chungtsang Chokyi Lodro (1868-1906) visited the three main Drikung monasteries of Ladakh in 1897 he spent the summer at Sharchukhul. During that time while gazing at the snow mountains he saw Dakinis. Chokyi Lodro composed the ritual text Tsugtor Namgyal Tongcho (gtsug gtor rnam rgyal stong mchod) at Sharchukhul. While he performed a religious ceremony ('jam dpal gshin rje sgub chen) in the winter time, nectar flowed from the skull head. 

Shar002In earlier times Sharchukhul Monastery used to be a branch of Phyang Monastery. During the visit of Kyabgon Chokyi Lodro a new rule was put in power that assigned to the three parts of Ladakh each their own independent main monastery: Sharchukhul, Phyang, and Lamayuru. Thus the monastery that had been under the care of thirty one Dharma masters (chos rje) was officially recognized as the main monastery of the Chanthang region in Ladakh under the 31th Choje Togden Konchok Tenzin Damcho Gyurme. 

Later, the old monastery was fully renovated and new structures added by Chagdzo Phurbu with generous donations and support from the monks and lay followers. Upon the completion of the renovation it was named Shargon Phuntsog Choling. Presently, the monastery has more than one hundred resident monks and a dozen of branch monasteries spread all over Chanthang. 


Phyang  |  Lamayuru  |  Sharchukhul

Lamayuru003Yungdrung Tharpaling (g.yung drung thar pa gling), known today as Lamayuru, is the most ancient monastery of Ladakh. Legend has it that the region where Yungdrung Tharpaling is situated today, approximately 127 km to the west of Leh, the capital of Ladakh, at the time of Buddha Shakyamuni was under a big lake, which was home to many Nagas. Rising prominently from the eastern part of the lake was a little dry hill which was locally called Skambur. It is said that the Arahat Madhyantika, when he visited the lake at Lamayuru and made water offerings to the Nagas, made a crack into the ground of the lake with his walking staff to leak out the water. He also pronounced the prophecy that in the future, the teachings of Sutra and Tantra unified will flourish in this place.

Thereafter, Mahasiddha Naropa (1016–1100) visited the place coming from Zanskar. He spent a long time in strict retreat in a cave there and turned the place into a sacred land. The cave still exists, well preserved and forms part of the main shrine of Lamayuru Monastery. In 1038 the great translator Rinchen Zangpo (958–1055) built five temples at Lamayuru. These were among the 108 temples and stupas he erected in Spiti and Ladakh. One of the five temples at Lamayuru is still in perfect condition. 

Lamayuru002During the 16th century, when Denma Kunga Drakpa came to Ladakh upon invitation of King Tashi Namgyal, he was offered a little palace the king owned at Lamayuru, together with the whole surrounding land. When Denma Kunga Drakpa first visited Lamayuru, he saw the cave of Naropa and the grains of barley Madhyantika had used in his water offering, now sprout into the shape of a swastika (g.yung drung). Considering such blessings the land had received, he established a monastery and named it Yungdrung. The king of Ladakh and the ruler of Balti put down the law that even the cruelest criminal will escape execution if he personally visited or sent his hat to Yungdrung Tharpaling before the judgment day. Therefore, this monastery was also named “Tharpaling”, the land of liberation, thus Yungdrung Tharpaling, commonly known as Lamayuru. This ruling regarding the criminals was obeyed by not only the kings of Ladakh and Balti but also by the rulers in Kashmir. The kings’ ruling was inscribed on a mirror in the Urudu and Pharsi scripts and kept in the Kingdom of Kashmir. Soon, a large number of monks congregated and the Drikung Kagyu lineage started flourishing all over Ladakh. 

Even when the Kashimiri Tambi Malik invaded with his three hundred soldiers Ladakh, he ruled that Lamayuru was tax exempted and no sound of bullet was allowed in this sacred land. Thus, Lamayuru became a holy place for not only the Buddhist and Muslims of Ladakh and Baltistan but also the Muslims of Kashmir. Whenever the Kings of Ladakh and Balti had differences of opinion they came to Lamayuru for negotiation and reconciliation, and the monks had to be the witnesses. Both kings unanimously freed Lamayuru of all kinds of taxes. Thus, Lamayuru enjoyed a special autonomy no other monastery in Ladakh had. 

In the early days Lamayuru Monastery had more than 500 resident monks. They studied, contemplated on and practiced the teachings of Buddha in general and the teachings of the whispered lineage of the Mahasiddhas Tilopa and Naropa in particular. There were outstanding scholars of the sublime text Gongchig (dgongs gcig,The Same Intention) by Lord Jigten Sumgon and other Indian and Tibetan commentaries. Through them the teachings of the Kagyu Lineage spread far and wide.

Lamayuru001In 1834 Ladakh was invaded by Zorawar Singh who was the general of the army of King Gulab Singh of Jammu. During the invasion many of the monks of Lamayuru monastery were massacred and only few managed to escape to the mountains. The monastery was completely ruined and the main shrine was turned into a herd for horses. The doors and windows were used as firewood the texts torn into pieces. All valuables were looted except for a statue of the 4th Chetsang Tenzin Peme Gyaltsen (1770-1826) and a pair of cymbals. This violent destruction was done to revenge of the devastation of a Hindu temple in the town of Leh. When Zorawar Sing left Lamayuru, the monks hiding in the mountains returned. There were only six of them left. They were completely shattered to find nothing at the site of their monastery except for carcasses and ruins. They tried very hard to resume the spiritual activities of the monastery but it was next to impossible. Having nothing left, they had to use a set of clay cups as offering bowls. They bought one bell without the handle from someone in the village and played it during their rituals. 

During those days Kyabje Bakula Rangdol Nyima Rinpoche was in Rangjung Monastery in the village of Dhomkhar in western Ladakh. The people of Lamayuru sent some representatives to inform him of what had happened. They beseeched him to lead them in reconstructing the monastery. Rinpoche was very sad to hear the tragic news but was astonished to find the lay people so concerned and courageous for the sake of the Buddha Dharma. He generously donated his own wealth for the project and went all around Ladakh to find contributions. Within two years, the monastery was rebuilt. Statues and texts were brought in and the monastery resumed its traditional Dharma activities. 

Thereafter, a succession of Choje’s (Dharma Masters) took care of Lamayuru Monastery for some generations, and in 1904 the 31st Choje Togden Konchok Tenzin Damcho Gyurme built the present five-floor monastery. Presently, together with the more than 30 branch monasteries in and outside Ladakh, Lamayru Monastery is home to 350 monks, all under the spiritual guidance of H.E. Choje Togden Rinpoche.

Most of the senior monks of Lamayuru were educated and trained in spiritual activities in Drikung Thil and Yangrigar monasteries, in Tibet, before the Chinese invasion in 1959. To name a few notable monks and yogis:

  • Bakula Rangdrol Nyima Rinpoche
  • Kyabje Chosgotsang Rinpoche
  • Drubpon Sonam Jorphel Rinpoche (retreat master of Lamayuru meditation center and the founder of Drikung Kagyu Dharmaraja in Nepal)
  • Drubpon Jamspa Rigzin (retreat master of Almora meditation center and the founder of the Drikung Kagyu monastery in Pithoragad)
  • Drubpon Konchok Samten (founder and resident teacher of Drikung Kyobpa Choling in Escondido, California, USA)
  • Drubpon Sonam Kunga (retreat master of the Drikung Kagyu Institute in Dehra Dun)
  • Drubpon Konchok Sangye (resident teacher in the Baltic states in Europe)
  • Drubpon Konchok Ozer (retreat master of Limi region in Nepal)
  • Khenpo Dorje (abbot of Atitse Shedra, graduated from the famous Nyima Changra Institute in Tibet)
  • Khenpo Konchok Tashi (former abbot and principal of the Drikung Kagyu Institute, now in his sixth year of strict retreat in Lapchi)
  • Khenpo Dr. Tashi Samphel (reader at the Tibetan University in Varanasi and Director of the Songtsen Library in Dehra Dun)
  • Khenpo Konchok Rangdrol (principal of Kagyu College , Dehra Dun)
  • Khenpo Konchok Rigzin (abbot of Drikung Kagyu Dharmaraja, Nepal)
  • Khenpo Konchok Tamphel (resident Dharma teacher and translator at the Songtsen Library, Dehra Dun)
  • Khenpo Sonam Tondup (resident Khenpo at Drikung Rinchen Palri Monastery in Nepal)
  • Khenpo Konchok Gyaltsen (resident Khenpo at Drikung Rinchen Palri Monastery in Nepal)
  • Khenpo Konchok Phande (one of the greatest contemporary scholars in Ladakh)
  • Dr. Konchok Rigzin (chief research officer at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies , Ladakh)
  • Lama Yeshe Jamyang (one of the best painters and the only monk to have a complete authority on every rites, rituals and vajra-dances of the Drikung Kagyu tradition, trained in Yangrigar and Drikung Thil )

Lamayuru also has a well established retreat center, started in year 1970’s by the great Yogi Kyunga Rinpoche. His Holiness Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche had started his three year retreat at Lamayuru under Kyunga Rinpoche upon his return from the USA in 1978. At present, there are a dozen of monks in strict retreat under the spiritual guidance of Drubpon Sonam Jorphel Rinpoche, the foremost disciple of Kyunga Rinpoche. 


Phyang  |  Lamayuru  |  Sharchukhul

Phyang001Gangon Tashi Chodzong (sgang sngon bkra shis chos rdzong), popularly known as Phyang Monastery is situated at a distance of approximately 20 km to the west of Leh, the district capital of Ladakh. The name of the monastery is derived from the blue mountain (Gang Ngonpo) behind the monastery. It was established by Choje Denma Kunga Drakpa in the 16th century with the sponsorship of his disciple Chogyal Tashi Namgyal, the 21st Dharma King of Ladakh. The site where the monastery now stands was once a part of the numerous monastic properties, offered during the time of King Tashi Namgyal to Denma Kunga Drakpa.

According to legend, in search for a place to build a monastery, Denma Kunga Drakpa came to the area of Phyang where he set up his tent on a field, contemplating the beautiful surroundings. He was especially intrigued by a hill, revealing three different animal shapes. While meditating he had a vision of the protectress Achi on her blue horse. He interpreted this as an auspicious sign and decided to build the monastery on top of the hill. Later a rosebush sprouted and grew on the hill which can be seen inside the monastery to this day. 

Phyang002The monastery has been served by a succession of Chojes appointed directly by the Drikung Kyabgons. Presently, it is headed by Kyabje Togden Rinpoche, the 33rd Drikung Choje of Ladakh. There are a number of sacred shrines situated inside the monastery complex. Also, there are a number of exquisite wall paintings, dating from the royal period, adorning the monastery. Phyang’s oldest temple is the Gomkhang (Mahakala Temple). It was built and painted at the time of the founding of the monastery in the 16th century. The exquisite old murals show Mahakala and other protector deities. Gangon Tashi Chodzong monastery also houses a collection of masterly painted old thangkas and statues, extremely precious for the iconography of the Drikung tradition. These cultural treasures have recently been documented in the beautiful book Hidden Treasures from Ladakh published by Otter Verlag. 

Phyang Monastery became the primary and most influential center of the Drikungpa mission in Ladakh until the present time. His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang made his residence at Phyang Monastery after escaping from Tibet and before the DKI was established at Dhera Dun, India. There are more than 100 resident monks in Phyang at present. At Phyang Monastery, Ratnashri School was founded to provide the younger monks with Buddhist and modern education. Classes offered include Tibetan, English, Hindi, mathematics, and the monastery's ritual prayers.

Main Monasteries in Ladakh

Phyang  |  Lamayuru  |  Sharchukhul

The Drikung Kagyu in Ladakh

Historical Overview

Kunga002As early as during the reign of the 12th King of Ladakh Lhachen Ngodrub (reigned 1290-1320) one of the main pupils of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon, Chenga Sherab Jungne (spyan snga shes rab 'byung gnas, 1187-1241) visited Ladakh while he was staying in the Kailash region in western Tibet. He entered Ladakh (then called Mangyul, mang yul) through the region of lake Pangong. In its vicinity he spent some time meditating in a cave at Pangmig Serbumchen (pang mig gser bum can). Chenga Sherab Jungne used to walk down to the lake from his retreat cave along a path lined by flowers with golden blossoms called Serbum (gser bum). Hence also the monastery later built at this place was called Serbumchen (gser bum can).

At the shrine of Serbumchen a statue of Jigten Sumgon was erected during the lifetime of Sherab Jungne. Nearby the White Monastery (gon dkar po) was founded with a retreat center for practitioners. Serbumchen and Gonkarpo were the first establishments of the Drikung Kagyu lineage in Ladakh. The antiquity of the presence of the Drikung Kagyu order in Ladakh is also evident from a lineage inscription preserved on the third floor of the Three-Storeyed Temple (gsum brtsegs) in the famous, very ancient and astonishingly beautiful and well-preserved temple complex of Alchi. In this inscription on the entrance wall, Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon is mentioned as the last person in the lineage, making the temple relatively well dateable to the early 13th century.

Mani001Mila001However for three centuries there was no expansion of the order in the region. This situation changed remarkably with the arrival of Denma Kunga Drakpa (ldan ma kun dga' grags pa) as the new Dorzin (meditation master) at Gyangdrag Monastery at Mount Kailash in the early 16th century. His fame spread to the neighboring country and he accepted an invitation from the king of Ladakh, Tashi Namgyal (bkra shis rnam rgyal, ca. 1555-1575). According to a later legendary tradition, Denma Kunga Drakpa is linked to the Ladakhi King Jamyang Namgyal ('jam dbyang rnam rgyal, ca. 1590-1616). Purportedly no physician could heal the king from his leprosy and eventually an oracle pronounced that only Kunga Drakpa at mount Kailash could cure him. Upon receiving the invitation Kunga Drakpa went to the shore of lake Manarasowar (mtsho ma pham) to meditate and pray for guidance, when he lifted two stones out of the water: a black stone inscribed with the mani mantra and a very small pebble with a self-arisen image of Milarepa. He took these as auspicious signs, went to Ladakh and cured the king. 

However this story cannot be sustained by chronology. In was already some decades earlier that Kunga Drakpa had followed the invitation from the Ladakhi king Tashi Namgyal when he journeyed to Mangyul. Kunga Drakpa became the root master of the king and was rewarded for his spiritual guidance with land and monasteries. It was due to his impressive personality and his efforts that the main monasteries of the Drikungpa were established in Ladakh: Phyang, Lamayuru, and Sharchukhul.

During the 18th century the 6th reincarnation of Togden Rinpoche, Tenzin Chodrak, had renewed the influence of the Drikungpa in Ladakh. He was the first tulku of his reincarnation lineage to leave central Tibet and settle in Phyang Monastery for a long time, where he became the teacher of two kings of Ladakh. The 8th Togden Ngawang Lodro Gyaltsen, who was the son of Jigme Kunga Namgyal, a prince of Ladakh, received his monastic training in Yangrigar Monastery. After his return he renovated the monasteries of Phyang and Lamayuru. The present 9th Togden Rinpoche Konchog Tenzin Thubten Tenpe Gyaltsen, born in 1938 in Dorkhul, a small village in eastern Ladakh, is one of the most learned and influential men in the spiritual life of Ladakh. He is also the 33rd Drikung Choje (Dharma Master) of Ladakh.

The Birth of Buddha
Buddha's Renunciation
In Search of Truth
Turning the Wheel of Dharma
Buddha's Parinirvana
Buddha's Teachings

The Four Noble Truth
Dharma Practice

What is the Mind?
Loving Kindness and Compassion

What is Vajrayana?
Why Practice Vajrayana?
Authentic Vajrayana
Levels of Vajrayana
Attachment and Vajrayana
What to Meditate On
Sitting in Meditation
Preparing for Meditation
The Meditation Session
A Meditation Schedule

The Kagyu Lineage
Meaning of Hung Symbol
Meaning of Drikung
Life Story of Achi
The Three Protectors