Monday, May 25, 2015

The Story of the Hidden Land and the Shedra at Pemayangtse

Profile of Ogmin Sangchen Pedmayangtse Shedra (Ngayur Tho Lop Legshed Ling)


Lama dGons-dus Lung-Ten bKa-GyaMa denotes:
Oh! Those gathered [here] listen;
Because of the land [Dremojong] is place of the masters,
Peaceful and wrathful Yidams, Dakas and Dakinis;
Many deities dwell in the valleys, mountains, lakes, Caves and trees of this place,
For this reason, Dremojong is considered real Buddha field;
Even by the mere hearing of the sound of the name Dremojong;
One accumulates innumerable merits from immeasurable birth.

With this opening stanza, I would like to dwell upon a brief history of the Pemayangtse Shedra. Bayul Dremojong or Sikkim is the most blessed land in the Himalayas. It is said that in the primordial times, when Avalokiteshvara was showering his blessing on Tibet, he recognized this land as the most sacred land in the Himalaya. After that, Lord Indra descended on the top of Khang-chen Dzod-nga and made an auspicious opening of the door of the hidden land. Later, five divine incarnates entered this land and named it “Bayul Dremoshong”.
Thousands of years later, corresponding to the era of the 8th century, a great saint, Guru Padmasambhava paid a visit to this land along with 25 disciples and blessed it in a profound way during his quest for a hidden land around Tibet.
In the year 1373 AD, a celebrated saint from Tibet, Rikzin God Ki Dem Trul Chen Nyedrup Gyaltsen (1337-1408) arrived here and blessed this land and despatched information to Tibet about this sacred land.
Thereafter, in the year 1568 AD, the second incarnation of Rikzin Godem Chen, Ngari Rikzin Legden Je (1500-1613) visited this land and built a hermitage at Pawo Hungri in West Sikkim and revealed many secret treasures for the flourishing of the Buddha Dharma.
Eventually, in the year 1642, three saints - Gyalwa Lha-Tsun Chenpo (1597-1652), Ngadag Sempa Chenpo (1592-1656) and Kha-Thog Rikzin Chenpo entered this Sacred Land from north, south and western gates as a religious way of opening a sacred land in order to carry out their holy mission of introducing the Buddhist Dharma here. The three lamas first assembled at a place called Norbu-Gang in West Sikkim which was later called “Yuk-sam” by the Lepchas. "Yuk" means - Lama or nobel man, "Sam" means three in the Lepcha language, and the name Yuksam translating as “the meeting place of three superior ones”. The lamas, acting on the basis of the Guru's prophecy, sent a search party towards the east direction to find the fourth person destined to be Chogyal, the Dharma king of the place. The party, wandering through the steep hills and valleys, finally reached Gangtok and found the man called Phuntsok as mentioned in the prophecy text. They conveyed to him the message given by the noble saints. Shortly afterwards, he left for Yuksam with his family and attendants. The three lamas welcomed him and accordingly consecrated Phuntsok Namgyal (1604-1670 A.D.) as the Chogyal of Sikkim in the year 1646 A.D. The four of them were known as Naljor Ched Zhi or four Yogi Brothers. They built Monasteries, assembled a spiritual community in the hidden land and worked for the flourishing of the Buddha Dharma to continue the pious work of spreading and preserving the Dharma, many monasteries were built in this holy land, and one of them is Sangchen Pemayangtse Monastery.
Pemayangtse Monastery is one of the major and premier monasteries of the Nyingma School in Sikkim, and the main holder of Lhatsun’s tradition. It is situated on the summit of the hilltop above Gyalshing bazar in West Sikkim. It started originally with a small shrine called Tsangkhang founded by Lhatsun Chenpo on the spot west of the present monastery probably in the year 1647 AD. Later, Chogyal Chagdor Namgyal (1686-1716 A.D.) and Khenchen Rolpai Dorjee shifted this Lakhang to the present site and re-established it in the year 1705 AD and named it “Sangchen Pemayangtse” monastery which means (most secret lotus summit monastery). The monastery started with an enrolment of 108 monks. Due to resentment between the Chogyal and his sister, Phen De Wangmo, a cold war began and he fleed to Tibet, stayed there, and made a great connection of Dharma friends with Terdag Lingpa (1646-1714) and the 3rd Lhatsun Tragthung Jigmed Pawo (1682-1735 A.D.) When the war subsided, he returned to Sikkim. Thereafter, Pemayangtse became the main branch of Ogmin Ogen Mindroling Monastery of Tibet, founded by Pedma Garwang Gyurmed Dorje in 1676 and introduced the rituals of Mindroling like dances, drawing mandalas, etc. Due to these, the Nyingma tradition flourished here in all its strength and is thriving till date.
The New Ngagyur Tholop Ledshed Ling Shedra was expanded by the Dor-U-Cho Sum (Vajra Master, Leader of Craft and Performance and Proctor) and the managing committee of Pemayangtse Monastery in the Tibetan year of Wood-Horse, corresponding to the lunar date of 28th march and modern date of 26th May 2014, inspired by many followers of Lhatsun Chenpo and sponsors of monastery. The main aim to expand the monastic school to college level was to give additional focus on preserving the dying tradition of the visionary revealed teachings of Rikzin Sogdrup, Dorje Nyingpo etc of Lhatsun Namkha Jigmed’s school of thought.
This Higher Nyingma Buddhist Studies Centre is mainly under the guidance of the Monastery, the Ecclesiastical Affairs Department, Government of Sikkim, and the sponsors of the monastery. It includes five years of primary level and nine years of college level studies. At the primary level, the tradition of Lhatsun rituals, Tibetan Grammar, Basics of Buddhist Philosophy, Lhatsun’s oral instructions, Sikkim’s History, English, etc, are taught. After completing primary school, one has to go for preliminary meditation of Rikzin Sogdrup for one year and thereafter, to college, where deep level of Buddhist philosophy is taught by learned Khenpos and Lopons.
The students of the Shedra have to sit for examinations twice a year. The first examination is held mid-session and the annual examination takes place at the end of academic session. The session starts in March and ends in December.  
On 16 May 2015 the Pedmayangtse Shedra celebrated the anniversary of the Shedra with special daylong prayers headed by Dor-U-Cho Sum and teaching faculty of the Shedra at the monastery and the Rabdentse ruins nearby.
On behalf of the Pemayangtse Monastery's Dor-U-Cho Sum and teaching faculty of the Shedra, I would like to thank all Sikkimese people in general and particularly all the lamas and zindas for their contributions and in helping set up this Shedra. We hope that in future, with your tremendous support, we continue to be able to preserve Buddhism and Lhatsun tradition.
Lastly, I would like to wish that may all the sentient being comes to get enlightenment and, may the Lhatsun tradition continue for all time to come... aeons and aeons and aeons!
Tashi Delek
[The writer is with the Dor-U-Cho Sum of Sangchen Pedmayangtse Monastery]

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