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A Brief Introduction Of The Shelkar Monastery

Shelkar Choedhey Monastery was situated at a place, which was by Tibetans, considered spiritually sacred site. It is situated in the western part of Tibet , DingRi District. The exact location where the Monastery is established in is known as Shelkar Immutable Adamantine Fort. The place is surrounded by various special geographical and spiritual characteristics: The rear Monastery surrounding stands like a hoisted victory banner, The Monastery’s front look like gem, the mountains to the right and left are in the manner of receiving Dharma teachings. Beside, it is surrounded by four great pilgrimage sites, four snow capped mountains, four great towns, four great rivers and also surrounded by seven auspicious signs. There is the Shelkar Choedey Monastery. During the time when Tibet was in disintegrated political situation, there came two main rulers called Lhodak  and Jangdak.

During the period when Lhodak Dhonyoe Palsang was residing at the Palace Gyaltrom Rinchen Po, the great scholar Pang lotsawa Lodoe Tenpa  visited  Shelkar Monastery, a small retreat monastery then, which was built in the year 1264 at the Gyalmo Ri or the Dolmai Ri, which means mountain of queen or the Tara Mountain. Pang Lotsawa blessed the monastery and became the First Khenpo of the monastery and he wished it to become a great academic monastery. Pang Lotsawa  with a prophesy  asked Lhodak Dhonyoe Palsang if he build a Shedra there it would flourish, but owing to the problems from the ‘Jangmak ‘ (war from the Jang Dhak ) lhodak Dhonyoe Palsang could not fulfill it. Again the second Khenpo of  Shelkar monastery Venerable lochen Jangchup Tsemo  with the Prophesy  of Pang LoTsawa

Again insisted Lhodhak Dhonyoe Palsang to build a shedra at the shelkar monastery, but it went in vain. Therefore, for the third time, Lochen Jangchup Tsemo with the prophesy of Pang lotsawa earnestly requested Sidhue Choekyi Rinchen who was the prince of Lhodak Dhonyoe Palsang.  Also Lochen Drakpa Gyaltsen aspired to build shedra at Shelkar and he was invited there by Sidue Choekyi Rinchen and requested to be the Khenpo of  shekar monastery,  Lochen Drakpa Gyaltsen accepted the request. Lhodak Sidue Rinchen who is the manifestation of Dharma Raja Dawa Sangpo prepared the construction work of shedra  at shelkar Monastery in the year 1385, Sixth Rabjung wood- ox Tibetan year and Lochen Drakpa Gyaltsen himself started the construction work of the new shedra and become the  first Khenpo, and over eight hundred and fifty monks engaged in the study and practice of Buddha Dharma. In due cause of time, there came about forty monks who graduated in the study of Buddhist scriptures like Prajnaparamita  and its commentary etc..Beside there came many  hundreds of Gyeshes who have professed the Major Buddhists texts, the graduates are called( Ka-Zhi) and (Ka-chu) which means knower of four major texts and knower of ten major text respectively.

During that time there were twenty one Dra-Tsangs within the Shelkar monastery. They are seven Dra-Tsangs of Sakyapa, seven Dra-Tsangs of Bodhong tradition and seven Dra-Tsangs of Gelugpa.  During that time over eight hundred fifty monks gather there for summer and winter religious practice and study, Jetsun Redhawa also did lot of practice, composition and debate in Shelkar Monastery. Especially Je Gedhun Drupa with a retinue of twenty one disciples visited and stayed at shelkar Monastery for half a month and engaged in religious debate with Kunkhyen Choelo on the major religious texts. The great Pang Lotsawa-the former Khenpo of Shelkar monastery, second Khenpo Lochen Jangchup Tsemo, third khenpo Lochen Drakpa Gyaltsen,  fourth Khenpo Bodhong Chokley Namgyal so on and so forth altogether eighteen successive khenpos came and they made it sure the study of both sutrayana and tantrayana flourish in the monastery. According to the ‘Gadhen Choejung Besar’ a Religious Annals, it states lord Tsonkhapa and the first Dalai Lama Gedhun Dupa visited  shelkar monastery, performed immense religious activity and the monastery became a focus of education.  Then unfortunately due to the prayers and evil intention of ‘Dhudmo Nyonyur Nagmo’—a she-devil, the Jang Dhak’s power was seized by Zhing Shak pa (another ruler) during which the monastery faced degeneration, the monks loose the Monastic Discipline ( Dhul-Trim)  and the academic system collapsed. When the monastery was in such a sorry state, His Holiness the Fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso with his previous prayers and intentions revived normal life in the monastery, His Holiness ordered those who have lost the Monastic Discipline to leave the Monastery and put Shelkar Monastery in the   Gelukpa  school in the year 1645.  The remaining monks in the monastery who are from Serling, Burze, Po, Kunzom, Ney – Og, and Shelkar (names of villages)  were kept,  and  His Holiness asked to enroll monks from Nyenang  and other places under the tradition of enrolling one son to the monastery if the parents have three sons. His Holiness rebuilt the monastery and again the number of monks crossed over three hundred, Dramtsowa Lekpa Dhondup became the first Khenpo of the Monastery. After that Chapnagpa Sangye Paljor was the second Khenpo, third khenpo Tashi Gyatso and altogether there came thirty four Khenpos until 1959 when Tibet was invaded by the Chinese.

The 5th Dalai Lama bestowed a Monastery discipline decree, ShelBam Rimpoche (a religious text) and introduced the study of Buddhist texts in accordaince with the tradition practised in Drepung Monastery. After that Miwang Pholha came to Shelkar Monastery and gave the printing Materials of the Kargyur and setup a printing room. It is considered that the Shelkar Monastery was the first in central Tibet to print both Kagyur”and Tengyur.

During the Later time, when there came several Gorka battles

Kalon shedra and many Tibetan armies came to Shelkar, the Monastery has met all the provisions for them. For their service, the 8th Dalai Lama showed great appreciation for the Monastery’s job and bestowed the title of Khanchung to the chant master of the Monastery.

During that time the Monastery has ‘Tsok-chen’ which means a great assemblage, a tantric department, dialectic department,  six Khantsens or sectional block  and nine inter communities . Numerous practioners and scholars visited the monastery and the study and practice of both the Sutra and Tantra flourished again, successive Sangten Tulku Rinpoches, successive Lingka Kagyur Rinpoches, Chusang Rinpoche, Kunsang Tse Rinpoche and Khari Rinpoche have studied from Shelkar Monastery. These are some out of hundreds of scholars, practioners graduated from this monastery. Regarding the subjects studied, from the sutra side the five Major texts which are perfection of wisdom, middle way philosophy, valid cognition, treasure of knowledge and the monastic discipline.  Tantric subjects focused for study in the shelkar monastery are the four classes of tantra with their construction of mandala.

The Compound of the Shelkar Monastery has enough space. Inside the Monastery there was the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha built from gold and copper which was one storey high. There was a statue of Buddha built from white diamond with the size of one tho’ (distance between the tip of the stretched thumb to the tip of the middle finger) and so many statues of Buddhas, There was a statue of Maitreya Buddha which is one storey high, a statue of Vajra Gogini with coral at the heart centre, and   Bodhisattvas, deities and large  number of  Buddhist  texts.

As all know, in 1959 when the political situation changed, all the monks of the Monastery suffered under the communist aggression. Over sixty high level   monks including HE. Lingka Jampa Lobsang the reincarnation of the previous Lingkha Rinpoche were arrested and taken to Shigatse and later many died under Chinese torture. Some committed suicide, those who managed to survive were just twelve and many got disrobed. The monastery itself was completely destroyed.

Just ten of the Shelkar monks managed to flee into exile. Under the kindness and guidance of HH the14th  Dalai lama they stayed some years in the Solokhumbu area and then in 1981 they moved down to the capital of Nepal,  Kathmandu,  and at present the Monastery has study  and practice of Buddhist philosophy along with the modern Subjects.  Currently there are over seventy monks who engage in the study and practice of Buddhism. Regarding the subjects, from the Sutrayana section, the monks here study all the texts which are being studied in the Sera-myed Buddhist University which is the five major texts. From the Tantrayana section they study rites and rituals, madala construction, of Vajrapani, Chakrasamvara and Vajara bhaharava (Jhigs-Byed). Beside these traditional subjects the monks also study modern subjects like English language, Tibetan language and literature, Nepali language, maths, and Chinese language. Here end the brief History.