Shar Gaden Nampar Gyalway Ling Monastery, a full-fledged Gelug monastic seat for higher Buddhist studies was established on 23 February 2008 by monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery’s Dokham Khangtsen in order to provide an avenue for those with karmic affinity with the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden to study, practise and uphold their lineage.
To give some perspective, both Gaden Jangtse which is also known as ‘North Peak’ and Gaden Shartse which is also known as ‘East Peak’ make up Gaden Monastery. For administrative efficiency, both Gaden Jangtse and Gaden Shartse have autonomous khangtsens, similar to fraternity houses.
Gaden Jangtse which housed Lama Tsongkhapa’s residence at first had 13 khangtsens, namely Lubum, Tsawa, Samlo, Hardong, Serkong, Trehor, Gyalrong, Bati, Ngari, Dora, Dranyi, Gowo and Kongpo khangtsens. In current times, there are only 12. Bati and Ngari khangtsens were dissolved, and Phara Khangtsen was added.
Gaden Shartse has 11 khangtsens, namely Dokham, Phukang, Nyagre, Lhopa, Zungchu, Tepo, Choni, Ta-on, Ngari, Sogpa and Gungru khangtsens. Dokham Khangtsen was generally recognised as the ‘right hand’ of Gaden Shartse Monastery on account of its sustained contributions over many centuries towards the preservation of monastic tradition and discipline.
Monks join khangtsens based on their place of origin and dialect spoken. Each khangtsen has several sub-houses or Mi-tshan, which are also divided according to the place of origin of the monks living in them.
The lineage and history of Shar Gaden Monastery can be traced back to Lama Tsongkhapa and even to Buddha Shakyamuni. Gaden Monastery’s history dates back to the time of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, who made a prediction about how Lord Manjushri would later emanate as Lama Tsongkhapa to establish Gaden Monastery. In the Manjushri Root Tantra, the Lord Buddha said,
After I have passed away from this world, when the Earth becomes desolate, you will take the form of a child and enact the deeds of a Buddha. At that time there will be a great monastery called Rabga (Rab-dga’) in the Land of Snows. “Ga” is the first syllable of “Gaden”
In the Sutra Taught to King Dam-ngag-bogpa, upon Buddha Shakyamuni accepting the offering of a crystal rosary from Lama Tsongkhapa as a small boy in a previous life, Buddha Shakyamuni exclaimed,
O Ananda. This small boy who has given me a crystal rosary will restore my teachings. At a degenerate time in the future, he will found a monastery called ‘Ge’ (dGe) at the border between Dri (‘Bri) and Den (lDan). His name will be Lozang. “Ge” is a variant of the first syllable of “Gaden”
In return, the boy was given a conch shell that had been presented to Buddha Shakyamuni by a naga king. Buddha Shakyamuni then entrusted this shell to his disciple, Maudgalyayana, who buried it in Tibet as a treasure auspicious for the future spread of the teachings.
According to records, the original location of Gaden Monastery, Drogri Mountain, was approximately 50 kilometres east of Lhasa. The site was personally chosen by Lama Tsongkhapa following his disciples’ insistence to build him a monastery at any site of his choice as they were concerned about the effects of constant travel on his health. Lama Tsongkhapa personally consecrated the land and named the monastery Gaden, or Tushita in Sanskrit, after the pure land of the future Buddha, Maitreya.
Lama Tsongkhapa’s student, Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen who is one of the previous lives of Dorje Shugden, was primarily responsible for overseeing the construction of Gaden Monastery. The monastery, which comprised of a main temple and over 70 smaller buildings took only a year to build and was completed in 1409.
In 1410, a year after the completion of Gaden Monastery which was constructed in strict adherence to the Indian monastic rules, Lama Tsongkhapa unearthed the treasure conch shell that was buried by Maudgalyayana on a hill behind Gaden Monastery. In 1416, Lama Tsongkhapa gave the Gaden Conch to his disciple, Jamyang Chojey, who founded Drepung Monastery later that year. The Gaden Conch has been kept at Drepung Monastery ever since.
The construction of Gaden Monastery was Lama Tsongkhapa’s fourth great deed and became his main seat. When he passed away in Gaden Monastery, his disciples accordingly kept his remains there.
Since its founding, Gaden Monastery has been the seat of the Gaden Tripa or the ‘Holder of the Golden Throne of Gaden’, who serves as the spiritual leader or head of the Gelug tradition. The Gelug tradition is also called the Gaden Tradition and is named after Gaden Monastery. “Lug” means tradition, and “Gelug” is an abbreviation of “Gaden Lug.” The term of office for a Gaden Tripa is seven years and the position alternates between the Sharpa Choje and Jangtse Choje.
After the Tibetan Uprising in 1959, Gaden Monastery was relocated to the Tibetan refugee settlement (Camp 1) in Mundgod, south India. After a difficult beginning during which great masters including His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche played a pivotal role in keeping up the spirits of the displaced monks, both Gaden Shartse and Gaden Jangtse continued to flourish and have produced many great masters, scholars, monks and practitioners.
In accordance with the rich history of Gaden Monastery, Shar Gaden Monastery adopts a combined study program of Sutra and Tantra based on texts composed by Lama Tsongkhapa and his two main disciples, Gyaltsab Je and Khedrub Je, and supplemented by commentaries and textbooks developed to explain the finer points of the teachings. The textbooks commonly referred to include:
- The Jetsunpa textbooks composed by Jetsunpa Chokyi Gyaltsen which are used by Gaden Jangtse, Sera Jey and Sera Ngagpa Colleges.
- The two sets of textbooks composed by two disciples of Jetsunpa, one of whom is Khedrub Tendarwa. It is said that Jetsunpa intentionally asked his two disciples to write commentaries explaining some of the major texts slightly differently than he had, so that future disciples would be able to sharpen their intelligence by debating their discrepancies.
- The Panchen textbooks composed by Panchen Sonam Drakpa which are used by Gaden Shartse, Drepung Loseling and Drepung Ngagpa Colleges.
- The Kunkyen textbooks which were composed several centuries later by the first Kunkyen Jamyang Zheypa Ngawang Tsondru and which are used by Drepung Gomang and Drepung Deyang Colleges, Labrang Monastery in far-eastern Amdo and most monasteries in Inner and Outer Mongolia, Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Tuva.
Each of the textbook traditions includes several additional texts written by later scholars.
Similar to Gaden Shartse Monastery, Shar Gaden Monastery places importance on the Panchen set of textbooks. The author of these books, Panchen Sonam Drakpa, is considered to be one of the previous lives of Dorje Shugden and hence an emanation of Manjushri. Thus, it is no surprise that his texts are still used as an essential part of the standard monastic curriculum and for debates, a benchmark of the geshe accreditation programme of study.
It is apparent that the establishment of Shar Gaden Monastery plays an important role in the preservation and spreading of the Gelug lineage and by extension, the practice of Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden. The current throneholders of Shar Gaden Monastery include His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche, the current incarnation of the late Kyabje Yongdzin Trijang Dorjechang who was the junior tutor and spiritual guide of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama; His Holiness Gaden Trisur Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal Rinpoche, the 101st Gaden Tripa; His Eminence Kyabje Domo Geshe Rinpoche Losang Jigme Ngak-Gi Wangchuk, the great meditator and master; His Eminence Kensur Rinpoche Losang Phende, the venerable abbot emeritus of Shar Gaden Monastery and the current abbot, Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Jinpa. These great masters are just some of the recognised and realised holy beings who look to Shar Gaden Monastery as their spiritual home.
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