Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

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Negodong Hermitage
by José Ignacio Cabezón
January 30, 2006
Section 2 of 4


Nuns outside the main entrance to the nunnery.

Little is known about the early history of NegodongGnas sgo gdong. Tradition has it that it was originally used as a retreat site by the great scholar of the Jé College’s (Dratsang JéGrwa tshang byes) Gomdé Regional House (Gomdé KhangtsenSgom sde khang tshan), Namkha GyeltsenNam mkha’ rgyal mtshan (1532-1592).2 It was founded as a formal monastery with seventeen monks.3 We do not know precisely when the site came under the aegis of the Khardo Lama’s estate (Khardo LabrangMkhar rdo bla brang), although it obviously must have been sometime after the founding of KhardoMkhar rdo in the eighteenth century.4

Initially the nuns in this region lived not at NegodongGnas sgo gdong but in the more remote NenangGnas nang (up-valley and east, about a one-hour walk from NegodongGnas sgo gdong). Living so far from the village, the nuns were afraid for their safety, having been attacked, robbed and raped by brigands at least once before.5 They asked to move closer to KhardoMkhar rdo, and so the Khardo LamaMkhar rdo bla ma had the monks residing at NegodongGnas sgo gdong trade places with the nuns. NegodongGnas sgo gdong thus became a nunnery, and the more remote NenangGnas nang (the original home of the nuns) became a hermitage for male monks. This occurred sometime around 1930.

According to a former monk of Khardo Hermitage, sometime in the 1930s or early 1940s (we do not know exactly when) there was talk that the nunnery was too close to the village. Around this same time the Tibetan government’s “money printing press” (ngülgyi parkhangngul gyi par khang), which had been located in DodéDog bde where NegodongGnas sgo gdong now sits, moved, and the large complex of buildings was bought by the Khardo Lama’s estate. The Khardo Lama’s estate then moved the nuns into this much larger facility, and took the site that was originally the nunnery and made it into a large residence that became the headquarters of the Khardo Lama’s estate in the DodéDog bde Valley. After all of the possessions of the Khardo RinpochéMkhar rdo rin po che were confiscated by the Tibetan government in the wake of the RadrengRwa sgreng (d. 1947) affair,6 the government decided to move the nuns back into the mansion-like residence (which was, in fact, their original residence before they were sent to the printing house buildings). All of the buildings comprising the printing house complex were then destroyed by order of the Tibetan government. This took place sometime around 1949 or 1950.

The nunnery was close to being in complete ruins after the Cultural Revolution. In the 1980s, one of the former nuns of NegodongGnas sgo gdong, Püntsok TrinléPhun tshogs ’phrin las (twentieth century), went on a begging tour throughout different regions of Tibet to raise money to rebuild the nunnery.

Before 1959, the principal deity inside the main (three-story) temple was a statue of Lokeśvara made of sandalwood with a figure of Padmasambhava (Pema JungnéPadma ’byung gnas) on its crown. It is said to have been donated to the monastery by the Seventh Dalai Lama Kelzang Gyatso (Dalai Lama Kutreng Dünpa Kelzang GyatsoDa lai bla ma sku phreng bdun pa bskal bzang rgya mtsho). The protector deity of the nunnery is Lhamo Nyima ZhönnuLha mo nyi ma gzhon nu. All of the statues inside the temple today appear to be new.

[2] According to an informant, GomdepaSgom sde pa (1532-1592) was given permission to build the hermitage by the Third Dalai Lama (Dalai Lama Kutreng SumpaDa lai bla ma sku phreng gsum pa). The monastery, by order of the Dalai LamaDa lai bla ma himself, was to specialize in the ritual practices of the Medicine Buddha (MenlaSman bla). This informant claims that when GomdepaSgom sde pa decided to go back to his home region in Eastern Tibet, he asked the first Khardo LamaMkhar rdo bla ma to take responsibility for the monastery. However, the first Khardo LamaMkhar rdo bla ma, Khardo Zöpa GyatsoMkhar rdo bzod pa rgya mtsho (1672-1749), lived almost one hundred years after GomdepaSgom sde pa, making this scenario impossible.
[3] The number of monks at the time it was a male monastery is based on an oral account by a former monk of KhardoMkhar rdo monastery.
[4] That is, after 1706, the date of the founding of Khardo Hermitage, and before the founding of NenangGnas nang. (To go to the NenangGnas nang webpage now, click here).
[5] This is according to an oral account by a former KhardoMkhar rdo monk. One must be careful about claims like this, however, for they sometimes serve as justification for bringing independent nunneries into the control of a male authority figure.
[6] On this event, see the Introduction to the Hermitages.
Negodong Hermitage , by José Ignacio Cabezón

Table of Contents

  1. Location and Layout
  2. History
  3. Glossary
  4. Notes
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