by José Ignacio Cabezón and THL.
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 ḍodéḍog 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.