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.

Dolpo (Nep. Dolpa) District

(220) gYung drung shug tshal gling Monastery

1. Name

The village dgon pa is called gYung drung shug tshal gling.

Twenty minutes’ walk to the east is a hermitage called Brag dgon. The latter is said originally to have been called Brag gung dgon pa. It is officially registered under the Nepalicised name Takun.

2. Location

The village of Bar sle (Nep. Bajibara) is situated high above Tarakot on the northern side of the Bheri river and on the western side of the Tarap river. gYung drung shug tshal gling, the main village temple, is some twenty minutes’ walk above the village. Brag dgon hermitage is a further half-hour walk to the east in a steep exposed corner above the valley.

3. History

3.1. gYung drung shug tshal gling

There used previously to be two other temples: one further up and one to the west, but these are now both in ruins.

The main temple, above the village and next to the house of Bla chung lhag pa is called gSer thang. It is said to be around 500 years old, but no documentary evidence could be produced. It was renovated by a householder priest, the father of gTsug phud rgyal mtshan, and repainted recently by a local thangka-painter called Zla ba.

Bla chung lhag pa is the main bla ma of the dgon pa. The late gTsug phud rgyal mtshan was his paternal uncle. He is a married bla ma, and his eldest son will be his successor. There are eleven family members in the household, and their livestock includes yaks, cows and horses. Due to the early death of his father, Bla chung lhag pa’s education was not completed.

3.2. Brag dgon hermitage

This hermitage was built by gTsug phud rgyal mtshan. He helped his father with the rebuilding of gYung drung shug tshal gling, but did not want to follow in his footsteps as a householder priest. He went to bSam gling (No.223) and remained there for three years. After that he stayed for two years in the area of Ri bo dpal ’bar mountain, meditating in a hermitage. After returning to the village he wanted to build a dgon pa and began to search for a place. He found a steep, rocky place, where there was a stone with a painting of sTon pa gShen rab, and some rocks that resembled a stupa. He believed that this was a sacred place, connected with Me lha or Phyag gi dbang po, whose handprint is to be seen on one of the first rocks encountered on the circuit around Mt. Ri bo dPal dbar.

Encouraged by all these auspicious signs, he started to build the first part of Brag dgon temple while living in a cave on the mountain. About this time he was joined by a nun, who was then 21 years old. The first chapel was completed in 1962, and other sections were added subsequently.

4. Hierarchical system of gYung drung shug tshal gling and Brag dgon

At first there were two ordained monks, but this lineage ended and has been followed by householder priests (sngags pa). gTsug phud rgyal mtshan was an exception, since he had taken monastic vows. Bla chung lhag pa, his brother’s son, is a householder priest who maintains gYung drung shug tshal gling.

The lineage of gTsug phud rgyal mtshan and Bla chung lhag pa is called dMu tsha.

5. Number of monks/ priests

5.1. gYung drung shug tshal gling

Bla chung lhag pa is the main householder bla ma. An old man is taking care of the prayer-wheel house. His son is currently undergoing training in sMan ri Monastery (No.231) in Dolanji. There are no children receiving religious education here at the moment.

In Bar sle there are altogether eleven householder priests.

5.2. Brag dgon hermitage

Only gTsug phud rgyal mtshan and the nun were in residence when the present fieldwork was carried out in 1998. There were no children being educated.

6. The present educational system

From time to time gTsug phud rgyal mtshan used to teach Tibetan language to boys.

7. Personnel and educational exchange of monks between monasteries

7.1. gYung drung shug tshal gling

The son is presently being educated in Dolanji.

7.2. Brag dgon hermitage

gTsug phud rgyal mtshan himself travelled a great deal in his youth. He lived in bSam gling for three years and later received initiations from Slob dpon bsTan ’dzin rnam dag in Kathmandu and from Sangs rgyas bstan ’dzin in Dolanji. He moved to Klu brag in the latter years of his life to take up residence in the restored dGon phug dgon pa.

8. Description of daily rituals of the monastery

See no. 10 below

9. Description of annual rituals of the monastery

Name of ceremony Tibetancalendar(tshes/ zla)
Lo gsar 1-3/ 1
mNyam med dus chen (birthday of mNyam med Shes rab rgyal mtshan) 4-5/ 1
Bla ma mchod pa (established here by gTsug phud rgyal mtshan) 2nd month
sTag la’i zlog pa 3rd month
sByin sreg (herbs and grains placed in a bowl and set on the mountain for the protection of the village) 4th month
rNam rgyal stong mchod; this ceremony, which was performed until recently in Bar sle, has been discontinued 7th month
Circumambulation of nearby Ri bo dpal ’bar 7th month

10. Daily life of an individual monk

10.1. gYung drung shug tshal gling

Bla chung lhag pa alone reads scriptures and makes offerings in the morning. During the daytime he works in the fields and with the animals. In the evening he again performs a ritual in the temple.

10.2. Brag dgon

The daily practice of gTsug phud rgyal mtshan was as follows:

  • Rise at 5 a.m., perform various acts of worship, especially propitiation of Srid pa rgyal mo
  • Perform fumigation ceremony (bsang)
  • Make gtor mas, light butterlamps
  • Two to three hours of meditation in the afternoon
  • Reading scriptures, chanting mantras
  • Dinner is made by his sister, the nun
  • One hour of practice (more on special days) before bed

The nun-sister cooks, helps out, and follows her own ritual practice (she is learning to read).

11. Books and manuscripts kept by the monastery

11.1. gYung drung shug tshal gling
  1. Complete set of mDo mang
  2. Dri med gzi brjid
  3. bKa’ ’gyur and brTen ’gyur

12. Economic circumstances of temples

12.1. gYung drung shug tshal gling

They receive only occasional support from the village, mainly at the time of the ceremonies performed in the course of the ritual calendar.

12.2. Brag dgon

They are supported by their own families and by occasional donations.

13. Number of local villages or nomads

Bar sle (Bajibara) village is divided into seven parts. The villagers are of mixed religion, some being Buddhist and some Bonpo. There are said to be no coflicts between people on religious grounds, and they visit each other’s temples and pilgrimage sites.

14. Economic occupation of the local population

Mainly agriculture and animal husbandry


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.