His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa is shown below on the left.
His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje, the spiritual
leader of the Kagyu lineage is shown above on the right.
Born in the eastern region of Kham, Tibet, His Holiness Urgyen Trinley Dorje
was recognised as the 17th Karmapa by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in June,
1992. An emanation of the Buddha of compassion, the Gyalwa Karmapa engages
in all the enlightened activities of the Buddha.
Chodrak Monastery was founded by
Venerable Langre Dagpa Gyaltsen, an emanation of Manjushri, in 1361.
The monastery is located in the high, pristine province of Kham in east
Tibet, in a location chosen by Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava as a place
for retreat and meditation. The monastery adheres to the Barom Kagyu
lineage and its first teachers were renowned saints. There are now four
main Rinpoches at the monastery – His Eminence Saljey Rinpoche,
Tenying Rinpoche, Dhungkar Rinpoche and Aten Phuntsok Rinpoche.
The four main Rinpoches of Chodrak Monastery
The structure of the monastery
is traditional, complete with diverse schools for learning and retreat.
At the philosophical institute, Karma Leksheg Ling, monks study the
Kangyur and Tengyur, the original teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni and the
commentaries of Buddhist masters throughout the centuries. Theksum
Choekar Ling is a school dedicated to the study of Marpa
Lotsawa’s teachings. There are several retreat and meditation
centres: Zhamo Gon, Sangchub Choeling, Gyalyam Retreat Institute, the
Nargong Meditation Institute and Lhundrup Ling, the centre for
intensive retreat. There is also a centre for the study of the secret
mantra of the Barom Kagyu lineage. In addition to the accommodation and
teaching centres for monks and nuns, Chodrak monastery exemplifies the
compassionate teachings of the Buddha by supporting Jampa Ling, a
traditional medical institute, which is an integral part of the
monastery, offering heavily subsidised treatment to those in need.
Monks participating in traditional philosophical debate.
Perfect Teachers and Living Saints
Because they themselves know
And help others to know every aspect of the knowable,
Because they have relinquished and help others relinquish
Those things which must be relinquished,
Because they teach and make taught and
Because they have attained and help attain
The utterly stainless highest attainment
They truthfully tell others their own realization
And in doing so are unhindered in any way.
- Uttara Tantra
Chodrak Monastery holds many
statues, thangkas and religious artefacts of exquisite beauty and great
antiquity. However, it is the precious relics of past spiritual masters
that are Chodrak Monastery’s most important treasures. Amongst
these are the foot prints, impressed in rock, of Guru Rinpoche
Padmasambhava, who is often called the Second Buddha, and of his
consort Yeshe Tsogyal who, like Milarepa, gained enlightenment in this
life time through her unswerving faith, dedication and devotion to
The great sages of Chodrak
Monastery attained the most profound perception by persistent effort,
great compassion and purity of heart. Having gained pure and accurate
perception of appearances as insubstantial and devoid of substance,
they have, in their compassion, left a lasting testimony of their
spiritual accomplishments, tangible evidence of the Buddha’s
teaching as inspiration to ordinary practitioners, whose perception is
clouded by the veils of karma. As Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche has
explained, the display of miracles, such as leaving imprints in rocks,
arises from the samadhi (a state of meditation that is non-dualistic in
that it does not differentiate between self and other) that all
phenomena are uncreated and are, in fact, illusory. Whatever is
required to benefit beings can be magically manifested out of the
samadhi realising this emptiness.
Clockwise, below, are images attesting to these extraordinary accomplishments:
A stone, carried by Tenzin
Zangpo in his sen (monk’s robe), upon which appeared
Chenrezig’s mantra, a footprint of Chodrak Monastery’s
founder, Venerable Langre Dagpa Gyaltsen, hand and foot prints of the
Great Master Chodrak Choje and Chodrak Karma Tseten , Guru
Rinpoche’s footprint and the foot and hand prints of Tak Long
Sangye and Tang Zangpo.
Chodrak Monastery continues to
be blessed with teachers and yogis whose realisations are very pure.
Having renounced all worldly pleasure and gain, they bring tremendous
benefit not only to Buddhist practitioners but to the whole world.
Venerable Yeshe Rabje and Venerable Chadral Tsultrim Tarchen at
Barom Dharma Wangchuk's first monastery. Both are considered living saints.
The monastery has great concern
for both the spiritual and physical wellbeing of the community. It runs
a discount store so that poor people who cannot afford to buy goods at
regular prices can do so at a discounted price, and also maintains a
large hospital for the neighbouring counties, offering Chinese and
Tibetan medical treatments. Chodrak Monastery is also a focal point for
annual festivities and celebrations, such as Losar, Tibetan New Year.
Ceremonies such as those offered on the 10th of each month for Guru
Rinpoche are famous in the region and well attended by the community.
Among the most popular events
are the Cham performances, commonly referred to in the west as lama
dancing. This Vajrayana tradition was revealed by the 8th century
tantric master, Guru Rinpoche. He used Cham as a method of subduing
powerful demons of the Tibetan region. He appears in an extremely
wrathful form with fearsome sounds, using his perfect wisdom and
awareness to transform all negativities in beings and their
environment. Cham is not an ordinary form of entertainment. It is a
spiritual practice that the dancer undertakes as meditation, relying on
the blessings of the lineage in order to generate bodhicitta and
liberate beings from the suffering of samsara.
In Tibet, it is considered very
sacred and is thought to bring good luck to those who view it.
Practitioners attend the day- long dance ceremonies, believing in the
power of the dance to remove obstacles and bestow blessings upon those
who witness them. The brightly coloured masks and costumes are worn to
assist ordinary people in the audience to visualise the tantric deities
which the Cham dancers embody and intensify their experience.
Both the lamas Chodrak Monastery
and the nuns of Chodrak Dechencholing Nunnery participate in the Cham
performances at the annual Barom Kagyu Chodrak Monlam.
The monks at Chodrak Monastery evoke peaceful and wrathful deities during Cham.