Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries
by Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble and Marietta Kind
Edited by Samten G. Karmay and Yasuhiko Nagano
National Museum of Ethnology and THL
Reproduced with permission from the authors
under the THL Digital Text License.

rMe ba county

(198) mDa’ chen Monastery

1. Name

The monastery’s full name is mDa’ chen Dar rgyas gling or mDa’ chen dgon gYung drung bshad sgrub dar rgyas gling. It is also called Shel phug sKyang tshang.

2. Location

The monastery is located 76 km southeast of the county town of mDzod dge.

3. History

According to lHun grub bstan ’dzin (DzNGL p. 226), sKyang ’phags Nam mkha’ g-yung drung, born in the Iron-Bird year of the 1st Rab byung (1081), established two hermitages, sGon sTag nang and dGa’ ston that gradually became sKyang Shel phug, a residence of the masters of the sKyang ’phags lineage, hence the monastery’s second name Shel phug sKyang tshang. Although the sKyang ’phags lineage in mDa’ chen Monastery has survived to this day, the Sources concerning its history are no longer available, and the dates of many of the masters remain unknown. Following is a list of the masters of mDa’ chen ’og ma, “the Lower mDa’ chen” lineage who looked after the monastery:

  1. sKyang ’phags Nam mkha’ g-yung drung
  2. Rang grol Bla ma rgyal mtshan
  3. Gling zhig Shes rab g-yung drung
  4. Gling zhig rGyal ba bstan ’dzin
  5. Gling zhig rNam rgyal grags pa
  6. Tshul khrims rgyal mtshan
  7. Rin chen rgyal mtshan
  8. Nam mkha’ ye shes
  9. bSod nams ye shes
  10. gYung drung phun tshogs
  11. Shes rab ’od zer
  12. Nam mkha’ rin chen
  13. rNam rgyal grags pa
  14. Nam mkha’ bstan ’dzin
  15. sKyang tshang Bla ma gtsug gshen
  16. sKyang tshang gYung drung gtsug rgyan
  17. sKyang sprul Nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan
  18. bSod nams rgyal mtshan
  19. bSod nams bstan ’dzin and Phun tshogs rnam rgyal
  20. Nyi ma rgyal mtshan
  21. gYung drung kun khyab
  22. Khro bo rgyal mtshan
  23. Shes rab dbang rgyal

In addition to the above-mentioned lineage, there is another lineage known as mDa’ chen kha ma, “the Upper mDa’ chen” that originated in the dKar mo Hermitage of the monastery founded by Nam mkha’ bstan ’dzin, the fourteenth master. The succesion of this lineage is as follows:

  1. Nam mkha’bstan ’dzin, the fourteenth
  2. sKyang sprul Nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan, the seventeenth
  3. Rin chen rgyal mtshan
  4. Nam mkha’ rgyal po
  5. A drung
  6. Tshul khrims bstan ’dzin
  7. bsTan ’dzin dbang rgyal and Lung rtogs skal bzang rgya mtsho (DzNGL pp.227-229)

The mDa’ chen ’og ma is regarded as more important than mDa’ chen kha ma, because its lineage is the original lineage of the monastery, whereas mDa’ chen kha ma is an offshoot of the latter. However, all the masters of both successions had equal roles in the monastery. The assembly hall (’du khang) survived the Cultural Revolution, although not the statues and thangkas within were destroyed. The monastery was officially reopened and its reconstruction undertaken in 1982.

4. Hierarchical system

  • two incarnated lamas
  • one grwa tshang bla ma
  • one dbu mdzad
  • one dge skos
  • one spyi ba

All the incumbents are replaced every two or three years with the exception of the dgon bdag.

5. Current number of monks

There are one hundred novices and monks in the monastery.

6. Current education

There are no organized classes. The young novices are trained by the elder monks.

8 / 9. Rituals

Commemoration of mNyam med Shes rab rgyal mtshan, Phur pa for eleven days, the gYung drung klong rgyas for ten days, ritual based on the Zlas chog rin chen sgron ma occasionally, the Rigs drug rang sbyong for seven days, Ma rgyud for two days, commemoration of sKyang sprul Nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan for three days, the smyung gnas fasting for two days, the dbyar gnas fasting for two days.

There are five ja shog, “tea communties”, each ja shog in turn offers tea during retreats in the monastery for fifteen days, the anniversary of sKyang sprul Nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan for three days and the dgu gtor rite for nine days.

10. Books held in the monastery

The monastery has two printed copies of Kanjur and one printed copy of Katen (bsTan pa’i nyi ma’s edition), one copy of Shar rdza bKra shis rgyal mtshan’s collected works and one printed copy of sKyang sprul Nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan’s collected works.

11. Income and expenses

The monastery has no regular Sources of income and depends on offerings from its followers.

12. Local community

The local lay community of the monastery consists of Bab bzo, Thang skor and Cog tshang communities, collectively known as Zhing yul pa, and divided into five villages: rTswa sa gzhung with twenty-one families, Zam kha with ten families, Khang ri sgang with seven families, Lung zhing nang with nine families and Ne’u gsing lam ’og with thirteen families.

’Bras sde, rTsi nag bu gcig and dPal rtse communities, collectively known as Sha mo khag and also divided into five villages: Bab bzo tshang with forty-three families, Ra dge with fourteen families, Nyag nyi with thirty-four families, mKhar smad with thirty families and Zhing ’khyil with ten families. ’Bras sde and Ngang rab communities, collectively known as Chu tshal shog: Ka tsi with forty-one families and Ngang rab thirty-one families; ’Khrungs sa with thirty-two families.

14. Occupation of the local people



(1) Interviews

In autumn 1998: Dri med ’od zer (b.1935), the present head of A skyid sKyang tshang Monastery (No.194) and the most learned Bonpo scholar in the area

(2) Texts
  1. Bab bzo mda’ chen dgon g-yung drung bshad sgrub dar rgyas gling gi lo rgyus nyung bsdus dwangs gsal me long by Shel phug lHun grub bstan ’dzin, DzNGL pp. 218-235

Note Citation for Page

Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble, and Marietta Kind, A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries and Temples in Tibet and the Himalaya (Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 2003), .

Bibliographic Citation

Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble, and Marietta Kind. A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries and Temples in Tibet and the Himalaya. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 2003.