by José Ignacio Cabezón and THL.
One source2 tells us that DrakriBrag ri was used as a meditational retreat by Longdöl Lama Ngawang LozangKlong rdol bla ma ngag dbang blo bzang (1719-1794),3 one of the most renowned and beloved scholar-yogis of the Lhopa Regional House (Lhopa KhangtsenLho pa khang tshan) of the Jé College (Dratsang JéGrwa tshang byes). But the official founder is usually reckoned to be the famous abbot of PabongkhaPha bong kha, Pabongkha Gyatso TayéPha bong kha rgya mtsho mtha’ yas (b. eighteenth century).4 This figure is also considered to be the first incarnation in the DrakriBrag ri or “BariSba ri” incarnation lineage. The Bari Lama’s estate (Bari LabrangSba ri bla brang), therefore, owned the hermitage up to 1959. The hermitage had indirect ties to the Jé College of SeraSe ra through Bari RinpochéSba ri rin po che’s affiliation with the Tsa Regional House (Tsa KhangtsenTsha khang tshan) of the Jé College. In the absence of any historical documentation – like a “catalogue” (karchakdkar chag) of the monastery – we can say little more than this about the hermitage’s history. Drakri Hermitage became the mother monastery of Garu Nunnery (Garu GönpaGa ru dgon pa) perhaps as early as the time of its founding – that is, at the time of the first Bari lamaSba ri bla ma, Gyatso TayéRgya mtsho mtha’ yas. The Bari lamaSba ri bla mas supervised the training of the GaruGa ru nuns until 1959. We know, for example, that the Bari lamaSba ri bla ma would make at least one trip annually to Garu Nunnery to perform memorization exams for the nuns.
In 1959 the monks of the hermitage were evicted and the hermitage was converted into a prison. The prison had a reputation for being one of the most severe penal institutions in the LhasaLha sa area. After other prisons in LhasaLha sa were expanded, BariSba ri was no longer needed for this purpose and it was eventually abandoned.
The NyingmaRnying ma lamabla ma who rebuilt the hermitage sits in the main temple, engaged in prayer.
In the 1980s a NyingmaRnying ma lamabla ma from an outlying area who had been living in LhasaLha sa was searching for a site on which to build a temple and a “Nyingma practice center” (Nyingma drupdrarnying ma sgrub grwa). He wanted to do this chiefly in memory of his mother, who was a renowned doctor and who had passed away not long before. He heard about Drakri Hermitage and began to explore the possibility of transforming the abandoned GelukDge lugs hermitage into his Nyingma practice center. The first step was to obtain permission from the relevant authorities in the LhasaLha sa municipal government. Having acquired the requisite permits, he hired workers to begin cleaning the site, to repair broken walls, and so forth. After the work had begun, however, a former official of the Bari Lama’s estate, who lived in the neighboring NyangdrenNyang bran, began to object, arguing that it was inappropriate for a GelukDge lugs monastery to be converted into a Nyingma practice center. The NyingmaRnying ma lamabla ma then approached the former BariSba ri official directly and told him that he was willing to give him the hermitage – to turn the site over to him completely – if he was willing to take on responsibility for renovating it. The former Bari Lama’s estate official replied that he lacked the funds to assume such a responsibility. Rather than seeing the hermitage collapse, the NyingmaRnying ma lamabla ma decided to continue the work he had already begun, but he tells visitors who know about the contentious recent history of the site that it has never been his intention to simply take possession of DrakriBrag ri. Instead, he says, he conceives of himself as a kind of steward, and he insists that if and when the present Bari RinpochéSba ri rin po che ever comes back to Tibet (he left for India in 1983), he would be happy to return the hermitage to him. We mention this controversy simply because it gives one a small glimpse of the mechanics and politics of monastery renovation, and of the role that intersectarian rivalry can play in this regard.