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.

Bonpo temples in sTong che

(124) sGar ba Temple, (125) sBra ser Temple, (126) gZe ma Temple,1 (127) sKa rgya Temple

1. Name

Among the four temples (Nos.124-127), the local people call the first three as lha khang (temple) and the No.127 as spyi khang, ‘commune house’. While only the tantrics and monks in sTong che use the term gsas khang, ‘temple’ since it is the Bonpo’s own term for a temple, the common people use the word lha khang, e.g. sGar ba lha khang.

2. Location

The four temples are located in sTong che valley which is under the administration of Chu nub (Hexi) Township of Khri ka county, Tsolho (Hainan) Prefecture in Qinghai Province. sGar ba and sBra ser are located in Ba rgya village 16 km from the county town and gZe ma and sKa rgya are located in ’Bum kho village south of Khri ka mkhar, the county town of Khri ka.

3. History

About history of Bon religion in Khri ka, specifically in sTong che, the only text that briefly mentions about it, is the Gṣhen gyi dge sbyong khri ka ba kun bzang bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan gyi rnam thar, the autobiography of Khri ka Kun bzang bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan who was born in sTong che valley, but unfortunately it has only eighteen leafs and is incomplete. So there is very little information regarding the history of Bon religion and its monasteries and temples in the area. According to oral tradition, the four temples were founded by Sog btsun Ye shes rgyal mtshan who also founded Khyung mo Monastery (No.123) located in the same area. It is said that Sog btsun Ye shes rgyal mtshan came from Sog sde of the Nag chu kha region2 and according to gYung drung lhun grub, the master came from Tsan tan Monastery3 situated in that region.

The four temples were damaged at the end of the 1950s and were rebuilt in the 1980s.

4. Hierarchical system

The four temples have no special headship system. Masters from the three lineages of Khyung mo Monastery, i.e. Khyung mo, mKhar nag and sBra ser, had looked after the temples until the middle of the twentieth century. Presently it is Khyung mo sTobs ldan dbang phyug who takes care of the four temples. Since all of tantrics of the four temples practise their rituals together either in one temple or another, they are called sTong che Bon mang as a collective name, and also for this reason, they have only one suit of administrative system. However, among the tantrics of the present day, dBang ba is regarded as the leader of all tantrics. When they gather together in the temples for the rituals there are positions as follows:

  • none dbu mdzad appointed from one to four years, depending on his ability
  • one dge skos appointed for one year
  • one gnyer pa for one year
  • one mchod g-yog for one year

The positions must reelected by lay tantrics during the ritual of Khro brgya and replaced on the thirteenth of the first month each year before the ritual finishing.

5. Current number of tantrics

There are about seventy-five tantrics in the four temples together in sTong che valley and an additional thirty-five who come from the nomadic part of sTong che region.

7. Educational exchange

The tantrics of the four temples have a close relationship with Bon brgya dGe legs lhun grub rgya mtsho, the head of Bon brgya Monastery (No.100) in Reb gong.

Either they invite him to give them teachings or they often go to Bon brgya Monastery in Reb gong to receive teachings from him.

8 / 9. Rituals

  • first month: the ritual of Khro brgya from the 11th to 17th, the temples take turn to hold the ritual every year.
  • 4th month: ritual of gTer sgrub for a few days, dates are not fixed.
  • 8th month: ritual of Dam can rgya mtsho’i tshogs ’khor from the 14th to 16th; this ritual must be performed in sKa rgya Temple.
  • 10th month: rituals of gZe ma, Kun bzang, and Khro bo are performed from the 22nd to 29th in the gZe ma Temple.

10. Books held in the temples

A copy of Bonpo Kanjur and Katen of the bsTan pa’i nyi ma edition. In addition to these there are many ritual texts which are kept in the gZe ma Temple.

12. Local community

The devotees of the four temples are those who follow Khyung mo Monastery in sTong che.

14. Occupation of the local people

Agriculture

Sources

Interview

In autumn of 1996 with Tshangs dbyangs, the teacher of Khyung mo sTobs ldan dbang phyug and Khyung mo sTobs ldan dbang phyug himself who is the head of Khyung mo Monastery

Texts:
  • KTGN
  • KhKRL
  • TsGLNy
  • Sṭeng chen dgon grong gi lo rgyus lha mi dgyes pa’i ’bel gtam by gYung drung lhun grub, MS.

Notes

[1] At the beginning, this temple was known as dPon tshang lha khang since it was built by the chieftain of sTong che people. Later, the ritual of gZe ma, which is a chapter of the Khro bo text, is performed in the temple, it became known as gZe ma gsas khang.
[2] Sog Tsan tan Monastery was originally a Bonpo monastery in Sog sde of Nag chu kha. The fifth Dalai Lama had it converted with other six Bonpo monasteries and bKa’ brgyud pa together into dGe lugs pa and renamed it as Sog shod dGa’ ldan ’phel rgyas gling. See Bod ljong nag chu khul gyi lo rgyus rig gnas, Seventh volume, pp.350-358 (published by Nag chu sa gnas srid gros lo rgyus rig gnas dpyad gzhi’i rgyu cha rtsom sgrig khang).
[3] sTeng chen dgon grong zung gi lo rgyus lha mi dgyes pa’i ’bel gtam by gYung drung lhun ’grub, pp.5-8. MS.
/bonpo-monasteries/b6-4-1/

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.