THE HISTORY OF GARJE KHAMZHUNG MONASTERY
As Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche’s seat in India, Lhundrub Chime Gatsal Ling can be regarded as a branch of Garje Khamzhung Monastery, Rinpoche’s monastery south of Palyul in eastern Tibet.
Garje Khamzhung Monastery has a long history. In former times the Garje region was dominated by Bonpos but in the latter half of the thirteenth century, Mani Rinchen, the lord of siddhas from Kathok, gave a gift of three horses to his patron, a man of great influence from the Ga clan named Gachen Ngari Dorje, and said, “Leave here and go to the low-lying land between Rekhe and the Jang River. There, at the junction of three passes and the confluence of three rivers is a place where the sky and earth are shaped like a seed of grain. If you take possession of it, the Buddhist teachings will flourish and thrive while your secular activities will spread wide like the sky.” As predicted, after Gachen Ngari Dorje occupied Garje Tirado, where the Dri, Jang and Zherang Shi rivers converge, he took a wife who bore him two sons, Ga Atro Palgye and Anyan Dampa. In time this patriarch of the Ga clan and his two sons came to be revered as the lords [Je wo] of the area. Thus the place took its name from the family, and came to be known as the ‘Garje Region,’ that is, the ‘Lord of Ga’s Region.’
Atro Palgye ruled over the eighteen tribes of Garje and their lands while his brother Ga Anyan Dampa Kunga Drakpa [1230-1303] founded Garje Khamzhung Monastery on a site preordained by Ka Dampa Deshek [1122-1192]. About a century prior to the founding of Garje Khamzhung, Ka Dampa Deshek and his followers had established the first monastic seat of Kathok at Garje Tirado on the site of an old monastery where the land bears a natural resemblance to the Tibetan letter KA. But the merit of disciples there could not sustain the project and he was forced to move on to where Kathok is today, in the district of Horpo.
On his way to the eventual site of Kathok, while stopped for a rest at the Yada Pass, the wind carried Ka Dampa Deshek’s hat away. Looking to see where it had landed, he found it had landed at a site called ‘the Lama’s Stone Cairn’ and predicted that, in the future, an emanation of Vajrapani would found a new monastery there where the teachings would be studied and practiced on a great scale.
Ga Anyan Dampa’s monastery followed the ways of the old Kathok tradition until it fell into decline. It was eventually rebuilt by Ga Trungpa Chokyong Gyatso [1598-1683] who was lama to the vidyadharas Longsel Nyingpo [1625-1692] and Kunzang Sherab [1636-1699].
Since it was founded, Khamzhung Monastery has been guided by a succession of lamas: Ga Anye Dampa, Nyima Gyaltsen, Tseten Dorje, the Lord Tulku Ga Trungpa Chökyong Gyatso, Tenpa Gyatso, Namkha Chönyi Gyatso, Phulung Ajo Lama, Orgyen Tashi, Akyab Lama, Tsewang Lama, Tashi Gyatso, Thekchok Dorje, Dorje Namgyal, Jamyang Sherab, Jamyang Dondrup, Gyurme Dorje and Tenpai Gyaltsen.
Both Lhundrub Chime Gatsal Ling and Garje Khamzhung Monastery are branches of Orgyen Mindroling Monastery.
In 1670 or 1676, with the urging and support of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, Terdak Lingpa founded Orgyen Mindroling Monastery in the Drachi Valley south of Lhasa. Under Terdak Lingpa, it swiftly emerged as one of the premier Buddhist institutions in Tibet.
There are several distinctive lineages associated with Mindroling. The first is the Southern Terma tradition, the lineage of Terdak Lingpa’s revealed treasures which include the Heart Drop of the Vidyadharas, Ati Vajrasattva and the Gathering of Sugatas. The second is the lineage of the Nyingma Kama traced back to Terdak Lingpa and his son, Gyalse Rinchen Namgyal. The third is a distinctive Atiyoga lineage wherein all three classes of Dzogchen (the divisions of Mind and Expanse as well as that of Pith Instructions) are transmitted. This lineage was passed on by Terdak Lingpa’s daughter, Jetsun Mingyur Paldron. The fourth is the Eastern monastic ordination lineage passed on by Terdak Lingpa’s brother, the great translator Lochen Dharma Shri, who introduced the study of the Vinaya (the monastic rules and regulations) into the curriculum and emphasized its importance.
Although Mindroling was destroyed in 1718 by the Dzungar Mongols it was later rebuilt and its noble tradition continued intact. Though renowned for its scripture college, Mindroling has always emphasized practice, as evidenced by the monastery’s annual performance of the mandala rites for each of the Eight Commands of Sadhana Practice. Mindroling was reestablished in 1965 by His Eminence Khochen Rinpoche outside of Dehra Dun in northern India.