A Brief Historical Account of Gar Monastery

A Brief Historical Account of Gar Monastery

and the successive line of Kyabje Garchen Rinpoche’s Manifestations


End of Three-Year Retreat, Gargon Monastery 2015

Limitless eons in the past, in this world there appeared a powerful Chakravartin king called Tsib-Kyi Mu-Khyü, who established the sentient beings in his realm on the path of the ten virtues. He was the father of a thousand fine princes. Finally, the king became a monk, attained enlightenment, and became the Tathāgata Light of the Nāgas. This Buddha turned the Wheel of Dharma extensively and ripened and liberated countless sentient beings with and without form. His thousand sons all became monks and gave rise to bodhichitta, except for the youngest, who was attached to royal life. Their father made a prophecy foretelling the enlightenment of his sons and which buddha they would become, each one’s family, name, and realm to tame beings. With the intention of establishing his youngest son on the path of enlightenment, the Tathāgata emanated two monks and sent them off to him. Chanting sweet songs that taught renunciation, the monks came to the place where the prince was indulging himself in sensual pleasures. By the power of the Buddha’s compassion, everything in the palace and the trees outside began to echo the sound of Dharma. The prince’s mind changed and he gave rise to disenchantment with saṃsāra. Then he prepared golden parasols bedecked with jewels and offered one to his father, the Buddha, and one to each of his brothers. He gave rise to bodhichitta and became a monk. The Tathāgata Light of the Nāgas made a prophecy that in a future aeon his thousand sons would become the thousand buddhas of a fortunate eon. The youngest son will be this eon’s last buddha, the Buddha Infinite Aspiration. This Buddha’s enlightened activities should exceed those of all the previous buddhas.

Lord Jigten Sumgon
Lord Jigten Sumgön said, “At that time I was the Tathāgata Light of the Nāgas and you, Gar Chödingpa, were my youngest son, attached to royal life.” By the power of the auspicious aspirations of the Tathāgata Light of the Nāgas and his son in the past, father and son appeared again together in India as Āchārya Nāgārjuna and his disciple Aryadeva, and again in Tibet as Lord Jigten Sumgön and his disciple Gar Chödingpa. Furthermore, Garchen Rinpoche appeared at the time of the Dharma King Songtsen Gampo as his minister Gar Tongtsen; and as Chogro Lui Gyaltsen, the disciple of the second Buddha, Padmasambhava; and as Milarepa’s heart-son Rechung Dorje Dragpa. Many of his emanations have also appeared in pure lands, such as the land of Uddiyāna, the Lion Island, Shambhala, and so forth, where he acted for the purpose of sentient beings.
When Gar Chödingpa was born as Gar Tongtsen, he brought back the daughter of the Chinese King Thangthai Dzung as a queen for King Songtsen Gampo. Together the minister and princess brought a special prayer wheel. Minister Gar preserved the wheel and, looking into the future, he concealed it at Sha’ug Tago and sealed it with a prayer that he reveal and retain it again in the future. Later Gar Chödingpa revealed the prayer wheel and set it up in a temple in Pumu Phulung below Vajra Rock. Due to the installation of the prayer wheel, the Phulung monastery started there. He preserved the welfare of beings for eight incarnations at that place. His eight incarnation at Phalung Monastery was also his first incarnation at Gar Monastery, as Gar Tenzin Phüntsog, the son of the king of Nangchen, Karma Rabten. The 20th throne holder in the Drikung succession relied on the peerless Dharma King Tenzin Phüntsog as his guru.

Achi Chokyi Dolma
Achi Chökyi Drölma prophesied to the sacred master: “Hide the precious prayer wheel in the North at a white rock in the shape of a lion leaping up into the sky.” Following the prophecy of Achi, who knew that this master and the holy object would bring about the vast benefit of beings, he traveled from Pumu to Nangchen. As the Sky Fortress of the Lion in Nangchen was consistent with the prophecy, and because he saw that that place was endowed with auspicious signs, he settled there. Thus the Gar Monastery, Sky Fortress of the Lion, was established.

According to Guru Padmasabhava’s prophecy in the great Guhyasamaja Terma revealed by Ratna Lingpa, Tenzin Phüntsog was an emanation of Avalokiteśvara. Furthermore, it states that if the cycle of Guhyasamaja teachings and the sacred objects contained in the terma reached Tenzin Phüntsog’s hands, he would bring vast benefit to the sentient beings of future generations in this world. As the instructions were clearly defined in the terma, Ratna Lingpa’s son Tsewang Dragpa collected the terma objects and set out to travel from Central Tibet to the Eastern region of Kham, in search of Tenzin Phüntsog. When they met, he offered the terma objects into his hands. Tenzin Phüntsog was overjoyed and spoke, “It seems that Guru Padmasambhava’s prophecy corresponds with my name, me an old man.” He ate a small piece of the terma substances and his feet began to hover above the ground. Ever since, Guhyasamaja Drubchens have been practiced regularly at Gar Monastery, the Sky Fortress of the Lion, and the precious prayer wheel began to spin there incessantly. Thus, signs that he would bring about the vast benefit of sentient beings became apparent. The assembly grew enormously at this place. Gar Tenzin Phüntsog was appointed the main guru of the king of Nangchen, and from that time onwards every incarnation of Garchen Rinpoche became the main guru of the king of Nangchen.

The second incarnation, Gar Tenzin Dragpa, was recognized by the omniscient Lord Chökyi Dragpa, as the incarnation of the previous Gar. From the 24th throne holder in the Drikung succession, Je Trinlé Sangpo, Gar Tenzin Dragpa received and practiced all the profound Drikung teachings. According to the intention of Mahākāla, as the assembly at the Upper Monastery became too large, the Lower Monastery Jangchubling was established; it flourished and prospered.

The third incarnation, Gar Chökyi Nyima, became the heart-disciple of the 2nd Kyabgön Chungtsang Döndrup Chögyal, the 25th throne holder in the Drikung succession. He reached high levels of attainment through depending on the practice of Chakrasamvara. He displayed many signs of accomplishment, such as flying in the sky, hanging his robe on a sunray, leaving foot and hand prints in rocks, and so forth. Although he exclusively remained in meditation retreat, he gathered a great assembly of disciples. The 27th throne holder in the Drikung succession, Kyabgön Chökyi Nyima, received his instructions of the ultimate lineage. Thus he became the the sublime lord of the family and his contributions to the Drikung Kagyü teachings were tremendous. His heart-disciples were Kyabgön Chökyi Nyima and the senior Lamas – Mingyur and Namröl – and he had many more extraordinary disciples as well.

The fourth incarnation, Gar Tingdzin Jangchub Wangpo, received, studied, practiced, and mastered many profound teachings, such as the Fivefold Path of Mahāmudrā and the Six Yogas of Naropa, according to the Drikung lineage, as well as the Yangzab and Yamāntaka cycles from Tendzin Chökyi Gyaltsen, the 4th Kyabgön Chungtsang Rinpoche and 29th throne holder in the Drikung succession, and Hlo Chökyi Gyaltsen. Then he offered many profound Drikung teachings to Chönyi Norbu, the 5th Kyabgön Chungtsang Rinpoche and 30th throne holder in the Drikung succession. Thus his activities were extensive.

Current Lho Bongtrul Rinpoche
The fifth incarnation, Garchen Tenpé Dzegyen, also called Tenpé Gyaltsen, was ordained in the presence of Dilyag Datrül, and he received, studied, and practiced many empowerments and teachings of the Drikung lineage, in particular the Yangzab cycle, from the 31st throne holder in the Drikung succession, Kyabgön Thugjé Nyima. He was a great monk, and held the three sets of vows. Bestowing the bodhisattva vows and most empowerments and teachings of the Drikung lineage to the great Tertön Hlo Bongtrül Nüden Dorje, he became the lord of the lineage.

The sixth incarnation, Garchen Pemé Gyaltsen, was recognized by the 31st throne holder in the Drikung succession, Kyabgön Thugjé Nyima, as the incarnation of the previous Gar. However, he passed away shortly thereafter.

The seventh incarnation, Garchen Trinlé Yongkhyab, was recognized by the 32nd throne holder in the Drikung succession, Kyabgön Chökyi Lodrö. From Hlo Bongtrül Nüden Dorje he received most of the empowerments and teachings of the Drikung lineage, as well as empowerments and transmissions of several of the tertön’s terma teachings. From Gar Ajin he received the Fivefold Path of Mahāmudrā and the Six Yogas of Naropa. He practiced and mastered them and attained the state of accomplishment. He took Karzang Chödrön as his consort. His main disciple was the Siddha Chime Dorje, and many other disciples from various places who also attained accomplishments, such as Palmé Khyentrül Künzang Drodül, Rathro Tertön Tashi Namgyal, and Drubwang Gejung. Because he took another consort it became troublesome to stay at the monastery, and thus he had to move elsewhere. However, two years later, he was invited back to live at the monastery again.

The eight incarnation, Garchen Könchog Ngedön Tenpé Nyima, was born in 1937. At the age of six, at the order of the king of Nangchen, he was recognized by Kyabgön Shiwé Lodrö as the incarnation of Gar Trinley Yongkhyab. At the age of thirteen he entered Hlo Lungkar Monastery where he remained for for eleven years. From Hlo Bongtrül Tendzin Drodül and the Supreme Emanation Thubten Nyingpo he received many empowerments and transmissions of the new and old classes of tantra, and in particular, according to their own lineage: empowerments and transmissions of the Eight Herukas, Assemblage of Realization, and Vajrakīlaya, as well as the Dechen Nyingpo. From Drubwang Gejung he received the Fivefold Path of Mahāmudrā and the Six Yogas of Naropa. Furthermore, from the Siddha Chime Dorje and the senior Lama Tengye he received many empowerments and teachings according to the Drikung lineage. Although he entered the traditional three-year retreat, he was abruptly forced to end his retreat due to the eruption of political turmoil. He was forced to engage in warfare, and was finally arrested. He spent twenty years in prison, where he was forced to do hard labor and subject to bitter hardships. However, his mind remained pure and never wavered from his altruistic wish to help others. He was liked by all his fellow prisoners and became an exemplary role model of an honorable man. During his time in prison he secretly received teachings on Dzogchen from Khenpo Münsel. He practiced with fierce determination and he became the heart-son upon whom Khenpo Münsel transferred ultimate lineage.

In 1980 Rinpoche was released from prison. On his way to Pemagö to meet his mother, he gathered holy objects that had been contained in the representations of enlightened body, speech, and mind that were demolished in Central Tibet. Then he returned to the monastery, and together with Mingyur Rinpoche he began to rebuild the monastery from the foundation, and thus they reinstated Gar Monastery again. Day and night he fulfilled the hopes and needs of faithful ones from far and wide. Completely forsaking his own purpose, he devoted himself solely to the purpose of others. His renown as a great bodhisattva spread like the wind. The government of Qinghai province granted him the honorary title of: “One Who Always Holds the Intention to Benefit the People.”

Furthermore, he tried to help ease the lives of others in many different ways. As his mind was always filled with the wisdom of perfect bodhichitta, he even granted the gift of fearless refuge to wild animals. He received various other honors due to his extraordinary accomplishments. Not only did he take on responsibility for his own monastery, he supported the entirety of the teachings and all beings in general, and in particular he helped rebuild all the Drikung monasteries in the Kham region. He helped them extensively by offering Dharma and material help, directly, indirectly, and in many other ways. In addition, Mingyur Rinpoche kindly began to extensively bestow the Getsül and Gelong monastic vows in various monasteries.

When Rinpoche visited him in Drikung Thil, with great delight Drubwang Pachung Rinpoche placed both his hands onto Garchen Rinpoche’s crown and spoke, “As I am passing the ultimate lineage to you, you must serve the teachings of the Drikung lineage.”

Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang and Gar Rinpoche, Nepal 2004
Rinpoche re-established Gar Monastery from a mere cornerstone and developed it into a monastery even greater than before. He also reinstated the regular ceremonies that had declined, and the practices flourished again.

In 1997 Rinpoche traveled to India and offered several empowerments and teachings to the supreme Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang Rinpoche. In addition, Rinpoche bestowed various empowerments and teachings according to the Drikung lineage at the main seat of Drikung, Jangchubling, to assemblies of hundreds of disciples on two separate occasions.

Furthermore, Rinpoche traveled around the world and turned the Wheel of Dharma for many faithful disciples according to their needs. So far Rinpoche has traveled to thirty-three countries. Only a fraction of his enlightened activities can be mentioned here. Rinpoche has opened more than twenty dharma centers around the world; in Kham Rinpoche still supports the Drikung monasteries extensively; he has established a stable, steadfast and perfectly completed ground by rebuilding the Upper and Lower Monasteries, as well as the nunnery; and in addition, he has established a retreat center, a college, and a clinic. Furthermore, he founded schools at five places affiliated with him.

This is only a brief introduction, there would be no end to a detailed account. This was written by the disciple Ven. Thubten Nyima, or also called Ven. Gape Lama.