PAL THRANGU TASHI CHOLING
NAMO BUDDHA, NEPAL
IMPORTANCE AS A PILGRIMAGE SITE
The supreme sacred place known as Namo Buddha is located in the mountains about 2 ½ hours from Kathmandu. It is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Nepal and one of the holiest in the world. It is known as the place where the Buddha, in a previous life as a prince, gave his body to a starving tigress and her cubs. There is a very old temple in the village of Namo Buddha, located below Thrangu Rinpoche’s land, which sits on the top of the mountain. Several lamas have determined that the actual site where the Buddha gave his body is actually on Thrangu Rinpoche’s property near the retreat center. There is a cave with statues of the prince, the tigress and the cubs on this site. Namo Buddha is otherwise known by Tibetans and people of the Himalayan regions as “Takmo Lu Jin”, which is literally “Tigress Body Generosity”.
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche has built a retreat center, a college for higher Buddhist studies (Shedra), a secular school for young monks, a translation and publication house, a house for the office and staff and several guesthouses. As well, the main temple is nearing completion. The Mahakala Temple is also being finished and almost complete. Two new dormitories have been completed to house the shedra students.
THE MAIN TEMPLE
The exterior building is complete and now the process of finishing is underway. Designed by Thrangu Rinpoche as a representation of the three yanas or path, it is beautiful, elegant and filled with symbolic meaning as befits this holy Buddhist pilgrimage place.
THE MAHAKALA TEMPLE
This temple is almost complete. It will house the statues of the protectors of the Kagyu lineage. A group of monks will stay in retreat in the temple and will be performing Mahakala puja continuously.
THE DEWACHEN TEMPLE
This temple was built especially to house the cremated remains of the deceased.
Inside the temple are many cubicles where the remains can be placed in a container with the name of each person and a photo if desired. Those wishing to make use of the temple make a donation to the monks and the monks of Namo Buddha say daily prayers for the deceased as well there are ceremonies on special days. There is a shrine inside the temple with statue of “Amitabha”.
THE BRANCH SCHOOL FOR YOUNG MONKS
More than 100 young monks are attending school from nursery to Class Four at Namo Buddha. The school is a branch school of Thrangu Rinpoche’s school in Boudha (Shree Mangal Dvip). There is a school building and a separate dormitory building. The monks up to Class Ten go to the school in Boudha. The monk Tashi Wangchuk is headmaster of the Monk School and all the teachers are monks. Staying at Namo Buddha has improved their health and helped to relieve the overcrowding at both the monastery and the school in Boudha.
FOUR FOUNDATIONS RETREAT CENTRE & OTHER RETREAT FACILITIES
Due to the many people visiting Namo Buddha these days, the three-year retreat center did not have the desired isolation. New land was purchased in a more secluded setting near Bhaktapur below a famous Milarepa cave. A new retreat went in at the new center in March 2004. Five of these retreats were completed at Namo Buddha.
Thrangu Rinpoche wished to give all the monks a chance to complete Ngondro practices (The Four Foundations) which are the preliminaries for three year retreat. Now the old retreat center is being used for six-month ngondro retreats. Every six months a new group of eight monks go into retreat. As well as Ngondro, the monks also practice Vajrakilaya and learn Chod practice and torma making.
Lama Sonam, brother of Khenpo Karthur Rinpoche, is in life long Chenreyzig retreat.
There are some rooms available, deluxe and simple, for those who wish to do short retreats or just stay at Namo Buddha.
SHEDRA AT NAMO BUDDHA
These days the Shedra at Namo Buddha, previously a five-year program, has become a two-year pre-shedra program (sherim) of Buddhist studies that prepare the students to enter the five-year study program at the Vajra Vidya Institute in Sarnath, India. The students study basic Buddhist philosophy with texts such as “The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices” and also learn Tibetan grammar.
Each day in the shedra the monks chant the “Prajnaparamita” as well as Mahakala prayers after lunch.
THRANGU DHARMA KARA PUBLICATIONS
Continuing the Dharma Lineage through Dharma Books
Thrangu Dharma Kara Publications was founded by Thrangu Rinpoche at Namo Buddha Monastery in the year 2000. The committee was formed to input, in Tibetan language fonts, into the computer the many teachings that Thrangu Rinpoche has given to students in foreign countries. The head of Dharmakara Publications is Lama Karma Wangdu, who is also the retreat master at Namo Buddha.
The teachings are being transcribed from the tapes that Namo Buddha Publications in the U.S. has collected over the years. These many commentaries will then be available to Thrangu Rinpoche’s monk and nun students as well as other Tibetan speakers. As well, tapes of teachings of other great lamas are being stored in the library for future transcribing and publishing.
The monks involved in this work begin at 8:00 a.m. each day and work throughout the day. A group of nuns at Thrangu Tara Abbey are also working on this project at their nunnery. The project has been underway for the last two years. There are hundreds of tapes needing to be transcribed. The Dharmakara house has an office, a large computer room, an audio/ visual library for all the monks and rooms for the Dharmakara main staff.
The publication committee plans to publish the teachings and commentaries on important texts of great masters beginning with Thrangu Rinpoche’s teachings on Ngondro Practice (The Four Foundations Practices), teachings on Mahamudra, teachings on the Uttaratrantrashastra (Gyu Lama) and commentaries on Lo Jong (Seven Points of Mind Training). The committee is also redoing the three-year retreat practice texts so that the texts will be easy to read. As well, they plan to publish a book in simple and colloquial words intended for those who have less knowledge and for beginners to Buddhism.
For the purpose of the First Vajra Vidya Retreat, 2001, Dharma Kara published its first text, The Seven Points of Mind Training in Tibetan in three parts. The first part is the main text, the second is the commentary by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and the third is the teachings by Thrangu Rinpoche based on this commentary. According to Rinpoche’s wish, the first edition of 2000 copies was distributed to other Dharma Institutes and monasteries, especially those in remote mountain districts.
NAMO BUDDHA MEDICAL CLINIC
This free clinic was established to help the people of the area surrounding Namo Buddha who previously had no medical care. Some of the monks were trained in medical care and first aid. A Gurkha doctor who was previously in the military and who lives in the area comes three days weekly to the clinic. Thousands of poor people have been treated who would not have the means to even travel to the nearest town for treatment. Tilganga Eye Center holds eye screening days at the clinic to determine those who are in need of cataract surgery. The clinic is funded by donations from Himalayan Medical Foundation and other sponsors.
As the clinic is now too small and has no running water, funds are needed to build a new clinic building.
THE VAJRA VIDYA TEACHING RETREAT FOR THE MONKS AND NUNS
At the Request of the Sangha, to Continue the Dharma Lineage
Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche is one of the most venerated teachers among the four main sects. His students from all over the world regularly invite Rinpoche to teach the Dharma in their countries. Rinpoche frequently spends at least 10 months of each year abroad, which leaves only a small amount of time in Nepal for his sangha students.
Over the years the lamas at the Thrangu Monastery had an earnest common wish that their beloved Rinpoche could spend more time at Nepal. They barely have time to get a glimpse of Rinpoche, much less to ask him for teachings. Rinpoche is also eager to transmit his practices and experience to all his Sangha students, but unfortunately his time is very limited and the monks are mainly taught by Rinpoche’s lamas and khenpos.
The monks and nuns understand that Rinpoche has so many other commitments to attend to, such as well as tirelessly seeking sponsorships for over 1000 of his sangha.
Rinpoche is also getting on in years and in future it may be too late to ask for dharma teachings. Recently, realizing the importance of this situation, all the Khenpos of Thrangu Dharma Institutes and the lamas of Dharma Kara Publications, representing the Sangha of all the monasteries, reverently supplicated Rinpoche to give them regular teachings each year for two weeks, at Nepal. To the joy of all, Rinpoche happily gave his consent.
In October 2001 Thrangu Rinpoche taught Seven Points of Mind Training (Lo Jong) to monks and nuns at Namo Buddha. Rinpoche’s teachings focused on the essence of these teachings. The Dharma Kara Publications published, in Tibetan, two books for the seminar; the root text of the Lo Jong and Rinpoche’s commentaries on Lo Jong. Most of Rinpoche’s lamas living in centers abroad also attended the teachings.
Since 2001, there has been yearly Vajra Vidya teaching retreats in Nepal.
FUTURE OF NAMO BUDDHA
When the temple is complete and more living accommodations are built, many of the monks of Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery in Boudhanath, Kathmandu will move to Namo Buddha thereby making the monastery much less crowded. There will be a large monastic sangha that will be engaged in every aspect of monastic life, study, retreat, the daily prayers and work.