Chamdo, also known as Changdu, is a prefecture-level city in the eastern part of the Tibet Autonomous Region in China. Chamdo is Tibet’s third largest city after Lhasa and Shigatse. Its seat is the town of Chengguan in Karub District.
Overlooking the town of Chamdo, situated on a hill known as the Tamala Pass above the confluence of the two tributaries of the Mekong in Tibet, Dza Chu and Ngom Chu, is the monastery of Chamdo Jampa Ling. It was founded as one of the earliest Gelugpa institutions and has since grown to become the largest Gelug monastery in Kham. It is also known as Kelden Jampa Ling, Chamdo Chokhor Jampa Ling, Chamdo Monastery, Jampa Ling or Chokhor Kelden Jampa Ling.
Chamdo Jampa Ling’s existence was prophesied by Lama Tsongkhapa when he travelled from Amdo to Central Tibet via Chamdo in 1373. The prophecy that the Buddhist doctrine would flourish there came true when in 1437, one of Lama Tsongkhapa’s disciples named Jangsem Sherab Zangpo laid the foundations for a monastery. This monastery was completed seven years later in 1444.
Jangsem Sherab Zangpo was a native of Karma, Kham who first studied at Sera Monastery in Lhasa. He was very impressed with the high standards of spiritual and intellectual attainments of the many scholars there and thought to himself,
On my return home, I should like to do something similar for the welfare of the people.
Byan[g] chub hbum, an important personage at Sera, read his mind and invited him to his own room. Jangsem Sherab Zangpo was given many gifts and was told, “I understand you will soon return to Kham to propagate the doctrine, hence I offer you these small gifts.” He was surprised and responded, “I did not speak of returning to Kham. Do I understand that I am not welcome here? I shall ask Gyaltsab Je about this. Maybe he will let me stay.”
Travelling to Gaden Monastery to seek out Gyaltsab Je, Jangsem Sherab Zangpo was not persuaded to stay but instead urged to go to Chamdo. He was even given many more gifts for his journey. Subsequently, Jangsem Sherab Zangpo left for Kham in 1426. In 1437, he began building Jampa Ling Monastery in Chamdo.
In its golden age, Chamdo Jampa Ling had five main temple buildings and housed about 5,000 monks. It was divided into five colleges: Lingtod, Lingme, Nupling, Kuchuk and Chagra-khapa, and administered 130 subordinate monasteries in the Kham region, mostly concentrated in Chamdo, Drayak, Pagshod, Shopado, Sang-ngag Choling, and Powo.
However, Chamdo Jampa Ling was destroyed in 1912 and only the main building which was used as a prison survived. Works to rebuild the monastery started in 1917, and continued to its current form with many small chapels surrounding it. It has a Main Assembly Hall, a Guardian Hall, the Tara Hall, the Sutra Debating Hall and 12 Dratsangs (Sutra studying schools). The monastery currently has 1,300 monks and is the largest belonging to the Gelug tradition in Chamdo.
The main relic is the statue of the Jampa, the future Buddha Maitreya, after which the name of the monastery, Jampa Ling, is derived. The monastery still keeps the brass seal granted to the 6th Pakpa Lha during the Kangxi Emperor’s reign after Jampa Ling helped the Qing Emperor in his war against the Dzunggar Khanate.
Chamdo Jampa Ling is especially famous for its annual Holy Dance or Lama Dance during the Butter Lamp Festival. The Lama Dance was created by Guru Rinpoche in the 8th Century with the purpose of removing or destroying the obstacles or negativities to the development of Buddhism. It is usually performed on the 28th and 29th of the last month of the year, before Losar, which is the Tibetan New Year.
On the first day of dancing, the monks wear elaborate robes and on the second day, they wear ornate costumes and full ritual masks. The dance clears all obstacles and negativities accumulated over the past year and starts the New Year anew, amidst positivity, purity, auspiciousness and joy.
Chamdo Jampa Ling Monastery is the seat of the Pakpa Lha and Zhi Wa Lha incarnation lineages. The Pakpa Lha incarnation lineage dates back to the 15the Century when Dechen Dorje (1439-1487) declared himself, at the age of eight, to be Aryadeva. He became known as the 1st Pakpa Lha. Aryadeva was the son of a Sinhalese King, a disciple of Nagarjuna and the author of several important Mahayana Madhyamaka Buddhist texts. He is also known as Kanadeva, the 15th patriarch in Chan Buddhism, and as Bodhisattva Deva in Sri Lanka.
The Zhi Wa Lha incarnation lineage originates with the 2nd Pakpa Lha, Pakpa Sanggye identifying Sanggye Jungne as the reincarnation of his master, Pelden Chokdrub (1454-1523). Pelden Chokdrub was posthumously recognised as the reincarnation of the Indian Pandit Shantideva, author of the Bodhisattvacaryavatara.
Special Thangkas and Images found at Chamdo Jampa Ling
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