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Oral Construction of Exile Life and Times of Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang

  • Centre for Bhutan & Gross National Happiness Studies
Oral Construction of Exile Life and Times of Künkhyen
Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang*
Dorji Penjore**
Common people who have been often left out of monastic and
modern education systems have their own rich literary
traditions which serve similar socio-cultural, education and
entertainment functions. Bhutanese oral literary genres like
srung (folktale), glu gzhas (folksong), gab tshig (riddle), dpe
gtam (proverb, saying, maxim, and adage), dgod bra (joke),
gtam rgyud (legend, fable, tale), blo ze (ballad) are some of the
rich oral traditions. Modern education was introduced only in
the late 1950s, and before that the monastic education
system, which provided Buddhist education, was accessible
only to a few privileged families. Women were excluded, with
exception of a few nuns. But folk composition, narration,
acquisition, memorization, and the daily use of indigenous
knowledge through oral mediums have been a continuous
process. It is the today’s equivalent of universal education.
Children who could not avail either monastic or modern
education for various reasons have always resorted to the
traditional education system.
This paper attempts to construct the exile life and times of
Künkhyen Longchen Rabjam in Bhutan through use our rich
oral tradition (kha rgyun rtsom rig) and what people on the
* This paper, presented in the Fifth Colloquium on Tangible and
Intangible Culture, National Museum of Bhutan, February 2005, is
based on oral information provided by 73-year-old Meme Ngonjungla
alias Sonam Tshering of Samling village. It was recorded from 5-7
November 2004 in Tharpaling and Samling. There may be different
oral versions. Where available, I have referred some written
sources to crosscheck oral sources.
** Researcher, The Centre for Bhutan Studies
Oral Construction of Exile Life and Times of Künkhyen
Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang
ground find affinity or affiliation, indifferent to what
inaccessible scriptures inform. The information was drawn
largely from the oral sources.
Künkhyen Longchen Rabjam (1308-1363) was one of the
most important Buddhist luminaries to visit Bhutan. He was
the greatest Dzogchen ‘adept, meditator, philosopher, and
writer’ after Guru Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra. Born in
1308 to Tensung, a son of Lhalung,1 he was the incarnation
of Thrisong Deutsen’s daughter, Princess Pemasal, to whom
Guru Padmasambhava entrusted with transmission of
Nyingthig, the Innermost Essence teachings of Dzogchen2
when she was dying. Guru Padmasambhava gave the
transmission of Khandro Nyingthig in Longchen’s vision and
named him Drimed Odzer. Terton Pema Lingpa (1450-1521)
was one of his incarnations. Longchen is known by different
names: Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjam (kun mkhyen klong chen
rab ‘byams), Samyepa Tshulthrim Lodro (bsam yas pa tshul
khrims blo gros), Dorji Zijid (rdor rje gzi brjid), Drimed Odzer
(dri med ’od zer), Kunkhyen Ngagi Wangpo (kun mkhyen ngag
gi dbang po). Dorji Zijid was given by Khadro Yeshe Tshogyal
while Longchen Rabjampa, meaning ‘Possessor of the Great
Expanse of Knowledge’ was given by Tai Situ Changchub
Gyaltshen, ruler of Tibet, after they were reconciled.
Longchen Rabjam came to Bumthang on ‘self-exile’. His exile
years are important since he lived for 55 years only and spent
his last and most productive years in Bhutan. Spiritual
matters completely overshadow secular matters in any
biography of great Buddhist figures, and so it is with
Longchen where the available literatures (rnam mthar)
contain little or no information on his ‘other’ life. But Samling
village in Bumthang, the place where Longchen is believed to
have settled first, has preserved a rich account of his life in
exile more than 644 years after his visit. This account has
been preserved and passed orally through the generations.
His religious and secular activities continue to influence the
people’s way of life. Different places around Samling village
and nearby areas such as Tharpaling, Domkhar, Urok,
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Gyalsa are associated with his life. Samling households still
farm the land offered by his patrons and devotees. It is not
important to question the authenticity of the oral account of
Longchen’s life and deeds; that the people believe it to be
true, and that it continues to influence their life is adequate
to put aside our rational minds and suspend our disbelief.
Longchen came to Bhutan following his conflict with Tai Situ
Changchub Gyaltshen (tai situ byang chub rgyal mtshan) of
Phagtru who became the ruler of Tibet in 1349. Tai Situ
Changchub Gyaltshen and his officials disliked Longchen
after he became a teacher of Gompa Kunrig of Drikung – the
most powerful rival of Tai Situ. Once when Longchen was
traveling to Lhasa, the hostile forces of Yarlung attempted to
assassinate him, but he became invisible to his foes because
of his enlightened power. Longchen indeed averted a war in
Tibet by winning Kunrig to the Dharma, and prevented the
invasions of Ü and Tsang provinces by Kunrig.
The exact arrival and return years are not known. Perhaps,
Longchen arrived in Bhutan towards the end of 1350 because
the main reason for his exile was his conflict with Tibet’s ruler
Tai Situ Changchub Gyaltshen who became a ruler in 1349,
and at 42 (1350) he repaired the ninth century monastery
Zha Pema Wangchen at Dra, Tibet. The beginning of 1351 is
the next most probable year since a daughter was born to
him in Tharpaling in 1351, followed by a son Drakpa Odzer in
1356. The second reason was to avoid the war of 1359 which
he had predicted. So the probable year of his return seems to
be 1360 at the earliest; he died in 1363.
In Bhutan Künkhyen Longchen is known for establishing the
eight lings (locations where he meditated on, taught, and
wrote the Dzogchen): Babron Tharpaling, Shingkhar
Dechenling and Tang Ugyencholing in Bumthang,
Kunzangling in Lhuntse, Kothang Pemaling (or Rinchenling)
and Menlok Kunzangling in Wangdue, Nyenlong Drechagling,
and Paro Samtenling. Perhaps, his exile years in Bhutan gave
him peace in contrast to Tibet which was then rife with
Oral Construction of Exile Life and Times of Künkhyen
Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang
conflicts and strife. He was known to have written and
composed his major sacred and scholarly works in exile.
Right on the summit of a mountain overlooking Tharpaling
and Samling, there is a rock where Longchen was believed to
have composed and written almost half of Longchen Dzod
Dun (klong chen mdzod bdun).3 While Longchen composed
and dictated the texts, Drasung Za Rahula (gza’ ra-hu-la - the
sage of the Za (class), the mantra protectress Ekajati (e-ka-
dza-ti, sngags-srung-ma) and Vajrasadhu (rdo rje legs pa)
wrote the text, and prepared ink and paper, all seated on that
sacred rock now known as Longchen Zhugthri (bzhugs khri ).4
In Bhutan Longchen’s well-known religious establishment is
Tharpaling (thar pa gling) – the land of liberation.
Approximately one hundred thousand devotees who had a
wish for liberation gathered to receive his teachings. The eyes
of Longchen’s statue in Tharpaling (called bar dgon pa) were
deliberately made to look up to the sky after a popular lore. It
is believed that more than one hundred monks attained
enlightenment in one day, and Longchen who was meditating
in the lhakhang looked up to the sky from the window to see
where his monks had reached. He saw a hundred of his
monks soaring in the sky.
It is said that the name and fame of Tharpaling spread
throughout Tibet, and many Tibetan devotees joined him at
Tharpaling. The Tibetan border guards disallowed Longchen’s
devotees to go to Bhutan (then Monyul) if they simply replied
they were going to Bhutan; but the moment they heard the
word Tharpaling, guards would take out their tongues in
respect and allow them to proceed. In Tibet even a simple
monk coming from Tharpaling was entitled to a seat since he
was considered a geshey (dge bshes). Such was the extent to
which the fame of Tharpaling resonated even after Longchen
returned to Tibet.
We will show you the way to water
Longchen arrived at Bumthang from Tibet and took up a
residence at the present day Samling village below Tharpaling
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monastery. Many disciples accompanied him, including his
syce (a drung) who looked after his horses. He soon
discovered that there was no water around Samling, and he
thought of moving to another place. But one night five girls
(mkha’ ‘dro) appeared in his dream and said:
Your aspiration is to live in this place; but the lack of water
should not deter you from staying. At dawn walk out of the
house, and we will show you the way to the water.
Longchen remembered the dream in the morning and
followed the girls’ instruction. To his surprise, he saw a yellow
flower in front of the door, though it was not a flowering
season. He walked towards the flower only to find another
flower ... and then another. Following a series of flowers led
him along the ridge above Samling. When flowers suddenly
disappeared he looked around and found footprints of cattle
beneath a tree (sangmaiseng). As he removed the leaves,
water oozed out of the ground and soon filled the site like a
lake (mtsho). Longchen named it Nyenlam Zangmoi Tsho (rmi
lam bzang mo’i mtsho, a lake of auspicious dream). Also
known as a mochu it is as large as a size of average
Bhutanese house. About 100 meters from Nyenlam Zangmoi
Tsho in the direction of Urok, Longchen found a waterfall
cascading from a small cliff and named it phochu. Today
phochu is very frightening and only a few people can
approach it alone. It is a water source for villages of Urok,
Rangbi, and Thrungbang, whereas mochu serves as water
source for Samling village.
Longchen brought water to Samling through a canal. Waa
were used along ridges where canals could not be dug. The
remains of old rotten or decayed waa can be seen even now.
Today, at least 13 water bubbles can be seen in the lake,
signifying 13 water sources. The nearby areas shake with the
force of water bubbling from beneath the lake.
I never knew you were Rahula
Longchen entrusted the care of his horses to his adrung.
Oral Construction of Exile Life and Times of Künkhyen
Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang
Looking after horses was a difficult job since Longchen did
not have any grazing land. Lands of Domkharpa, Urokpa and
Gyalsapa surrounded Samling from all directions. Adrung
would carry a packed lunch and go out to look after horses
every day while Longchen went with his own work.
Surprisingly, the people of Domkhar kept on complaining that
his horses had been destroying their wheat crop in Pangri,5
the land east of Samling. He found the complaints
incredulous since his adrung was taking care of his horses.
Cha-ralpa (the Curly-Haired One) was then the ruler of
However, Longchen wanted to find out the truth of the
allegation. One morning when adrung was about to leave with
horses, Longchen struck the end of thread ball on back of
adrung's attire using a needle without his notice. As he
travelled with horses unaware of the thread on his back, the
thread ball began to unravel until it stopped. Longchen then
followed the thread. Surprisingly the thread did not lead to
the east where his horses were supposed to graze but along
the ridge above Samling. The thread took him to a small lake
called Shawabumpai Tsho above Urok. He saw various ritual
objects and instruments around the lakeshore and his
adrung who was swimming. His lower body had been
transformed into a snake. Longchen immediately recognized
that his adrung was not a man but the Nyingma drasung
Rahula. When Longchen accidentally stepped on some dry
leaves, Rahula (adrung) threw all objects into the lake on
hearing the rustling sound. All Longchen could get was a
cymbal (rol mo). Today the same cymbal is kept in Samling as
a ter. Prostrating before Rahula, Longchen explained that he
had never known the true identity of his adrung. The lake
came to be known as Drasung Latsho (bla mtsho). Longchen
built a Zakhang (gza’ khang) for Rahula in Samling. There is a
debri (painting) of Rahula painted by Longchen using his own
blood in the zakhang. Rahula is a wrathful protector of the
Nyingma Treasure Tradition who seizes the sun and the
moon, and eclipses planets. Also known as the eclipse maker,
Rahula is green in colour with nine heads, two hands and the
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lower body that of a serpent and upper body that of
It will be better for me to return than for all of you to die
The complaints made by the people of Domkhar were true.
Following that, the people of Domkhar disliked Longchen’s
neighbourhood and started to revolt, much against the advice
of the people of Urok who revered him. Their king Charalpa
led the revolt. Longchen fled to the Dakpa region in eastern
Bhutan. Before he left, Longchen made a prayer against the
people of Domkhar. Following his departure, it so happened
that for ten days and nights it was neither day nor night in
Domkhar. Charalpa made astrologers divine the cause, and
every divination pointed to Longchen.
At that time there were nine tax-paying households (khral pa)
in Domkhar. Charalpa summoned a man each from every
household and sent them to receive Longchen from Dakpa.
The king threatened to throw them from Kayteygangzam, a
bridge across Chamkharchhu below Zhurkace village in
Chumey, if they failed to bring Longchen back.
As commanded, nine men went to Dakpa and prostrated
before Longchen.
“Why did you come here?” Longchen asked.
"Our king requests you to come back to Bumthang and we
came to receive you," they submitted.
But Longchen refused, saying that the people had revolted
against him and that his life was in danger.
"If you refuse, then we all are going to die before you; please
make a prayer for us," they said, and explained their king’s
threat. They threatened to commit suicide and asked
Longchen to conduct mi shi dbang skur after they were dead.
"It is better for me to return than for all of you die," Longchen
finally agreed.
But if I take it, I will suffer this pain
Longchen returned to Tharpaling following the Dakpa-
Bumthang traditional route. Before Longchen escaped to
Oral Construction of Exile Life and Times of Künkhyen
Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang
Dakpa, he had appointed a gomchen (a lay monk) as his
representative (bla tshab) in a small monastery he had built
in Tharpaling. When bla tshab heard about Longchen’s
return, he became envious and feared the loss of reverence
and privileges he had enjoyed as bla tshab. So he requested a
nun (ani) to kill Longchen by offering him poisoned tea and
promised to give her a yu or turquoise as a bribe. The nun
When Longchen was approaching Tharpaling, the nun
crossed the gorge of Zanglaiteg and waited at Zanglaitegi Gor
(stone of Zanglaiteg) where the main road branches into two –
the first one leading to Chudrag Goenpa and the second one
to Tharpaling. Ani received Longchen and offered the
poisoned tea on a huge flat rock.
"I will have to drink your tea. If I don't, you will not get a yu.
But if I take it, I will suffer this pain," Longchen said, throwing
the tea on the rock.
The rock instantly split into two. A huge rock split from the
middle can still be seen today.
They promised never to revolt in future
After Longchen’s return, the people of Domkhar and their
ruler Charalpa took an oath in a place called Portopong and
swore that they would never revolt in future. There is a Naa-
do (oath stone) submerged beneath the earth in Portopong
today. The king and the people offered Longchen their land
(Pangri and Najong) where his horses once grazed on their
A white-faced snake looked back at Longchen
The whole valley, what is now Urok village, was beneath a big
lake (mtsho). Its tshomen (mtsho sman) affected the people,
and no one even dared to go near it. There were a total of 100
tax-paying households who had settled along ridges and
slopes above the lake. The people of Urok requested Longchen
to subdue the tshomen. Longchen meditated on a ridge called
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Portopong between Urok and Samling. After nine days and
nine nights of meditation on tagchung nyanpa (rta khyung
bsnyen pa) a horse’s neigh was heard coming from the body
of Longchen’s horse standing beside him. The neigh
reverberated across the valley and frightened the tshomen to
run away. Longchen watched the tshomen escape towards
Chumey. When it reached at a place called Tonglakhag (below
Sonam Kunphen School), it looked back at Longchen. The
tshomen (snake) had a white face – so the place was named
Dongkar (gdong- face, dkar - white). So Domkhar is the
corruption of Dongkar. The grateful Urokpas became
Longchen’s patrons.
No more Drupchen (sdrub chen) in Samling
Longchen started the annual Drupchen (sgrub chen) in
Samling. It was held on the courtyard of Samling Nagtshang
and it lasted for three days. On the second day, the cymbal
(ter) was shown to the public. The cymbal was beaten to
divine the luck of the people for the coming year. Good sound
foretold an auspicious year for the people and cattle free of
epidemics and diseases, and good harvest.
Lamas and monks who came from Samling household were
also the hosts (tsa wa); Domkharpa provided dancers,
Gyalsapa provided firewood and water, while workers such as
cooks came from Urok. Champon (lead dancer) had to be from
Samling Chhoje or lama, and Chamjug from drapa (slaves).
People who came for the Drupchen had to be provided with
free food. Later Samling Nagtshang and Buli Lhakhang took
turns to conduct the Drupchen. It continued to be held
alternately in Samling Nagtshang and Buli Lhakhang until
Samling stopped the practice in the early 1960s. Today, Buli
Drupchen is held every two years. A ritual called kangjug was
held for seven days until it was discontinued in 1982.
No dirty water from above, no smoke from below
Longchen later offered to build a new zakhang for Rahula and
asked him to give any preference for the place. Rahula
demanded that it should be build in the place where there
Oral Construction of Exile Life and Times of Künkhyen
Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang
was no dirty water from above, no smoke from below, and in a
place where there is a do-yurung (stones structure in shape of
a swastika) in the western direction. The choice fell on
Shingkhar village. The caretaker (sku nyer) of Shingkhar
Lhakhang was sent from Samling, including phod and ration.
The oral account only mentions that a Zakhang was built by
Longchen. The present Shingkhar Dechenling Lhakhang was
built by Tsezang Thaye Drakpa, Longchen’s great grandson,
who was the first Shingkhar Lam. The throne of Longchen
was discovered in the basement of the monastery while it was
being renovated. The throne measuring 5.5 square feet and
1.7 feet in height was found when the soil of the basement
was dug to prevent the decay of planks.
We have nothing , but the land to offer you
When Longchen was visiting the Mon region of Mangdey
(Trongsa), he arrived at the present village of Shengleng in
Baleng. There he gave teachings to the devotees, performed
mi shi dbang skur for the dead, rim gro for the sick and other
spiritual services. He built a lhakhang in Baleng as his winter
residence and named it Shengleng Goenlha (dgun lha) or
winter lhakhang. The local people who were practicing Bon
became his patron and offered him about 20 langdo (glang
dor) of chu zhing. Longchen was to reciprocate the offer by
visiting and staying in dgun lha in winter months. Moreover,
Longchen had to sponsor the annual Samling Drupchen with
the rice harvested from the land offered to him. As agreed,
Longchen visited the village in winter and sponsored Samling
Drupchen with the rice. The lhakhang can still be seen today.
From there, he went across a river to the next Mon village
called Wangleng. His visit coincided with death of a man, and
the people requested him to conduct mi shi dbang skur. The
people did not find anything of worth to offer as yon (fee) and
offered some of their farmland and tsamdo (rtsva ‘brog).
This was how the Samling household came to possess some
chuzhing and tsamdo in Trongsa. The cattle of Samling
migrated to Wangleng in winter until the early 1980s before
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the ownership of tsamdo was reverted to the local people after
they complained that they cannot grow any winter crop due
to the presence of Samling cattle in winter months, and that
their ignorant fore-fathers had offered the tsamdo to
Longchen in return for his religious service. There were two
tsamdo in Wangleng – a smaller one on a mountain slope
surrounded by cliffs on three sides, and a bigger one near the
village. Chuzhing at Shengleng is still owned and farmed by
Samling household.
Wear this Longchen’s Seal as protective talisman in the war
An oral source has it that Samling Ashi Choiten Zomba was a
distant relative of the first Deba? (Jigme Namgyal?). Before he
left for the war at Sharcho Dewathang, Samling Ashi asked
him to wear the Seal of Longchen (phyag dam) as mtshon
thub (protective talisman), to which the Deba agreed. It is
said that Deba refused for the seal to be sent through a garpa
and he personally rode to Samling, saying that ‘whatever I
want for my personal use must be acquired personally’. The
Duar War, 1864-65 was led by the Trongsa Penlop Jigme
Namgyal. Ugyen Wangchuck (b 1862) was then only 3 years
Deba gave Samling Ashi all types of lands (chu zhing, skam
zhing, tshod bsre ldum ra, wetland, dryland, vegitable garden)
belonging to six khral pa (taxpayers) in Tashiding and four
khral pa in Baling, Trongsa, after he returned victorious. The
household of Samling still own and farm those lands. The
chuzhing at Baling (20 langdo), which used to yield 6 nyishu
(120 dre) of rice was sold to Trongsa Dratshang. The names of
the dead taxpayers and details of lands can be found in the
old sathram.
Later when the Kurjey Lhakhang was being built by the Deba,
Samling Ashi contributed dolma gsung byon ma’i sku (the
Tara statue which spoke) as its zung as per the divination.
The second Kurjey Lhakhang known as Sampa Lhundup –
complete fulfilment of one’s mind and thoughts or Anabhog
bhavana – was built in 1900 by Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck
Oral Construction of Exile Life and Times of Künkhyen
Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang
when he was the Trongsa Penlop.
Fire burned Samling Nagtshang, not Longchen’s Seal
In 1351 Longchen had a daughter born to Kyidpala (skyid pa
lags) and a son Trulku Tragpa Odzer (sprul sku grags pa ‘od
zer) or Dawa Drakpa (zla ba grags pa, 1356-1409?) born in
the year of the fire-monkey. Dawa Drakpa or Thugsey Dawa
as he is popularly referred now was the manifestation of
Tadrin (rta mgrin) who later became a great scholar and a
holder of the Nyingthig lineage.
Longchen built a residence (nag tshang) for his son Thugsey
Dawa in Samling, followed by a lhakhang. Samling is the
alteration of Samterling (bsam gter gling). It is believed that
nag tshang used to house a zot-full (a big wooden box) of
Longchen’s ter such as rol mo, bla rdo, statues and
scriptures. Some of the ter can be seen even today in
Samling. When Dorji, the only son of Samling Ashi Choiten
Zomba was recruited as a garpa to serve in the court, and it
is believed that Samling Ashi gave Longchen’s ter, one after
another, as gifts to the court so as to relieve her son from
garpa duties. Nagtshang caught fire in 1982 (15th day of 11th
Bhutanese month) but luckily, the most important ten of the
Nagtshang, the seal of Longchen, was saved.
Stream which never freezes in winter
Longchen's son Thugsey Dawa was born inside a cliff below
the road between Tharpaling and Zanglaipogto. Ani used a
large stone bowl (zhong) to wash the baby with the water
flowing from the cliff. The large stone bowl can still be seen
today. The water flows down between Samling and Zhitsar.
There was a water-mill on the stream near Chumeychhu.
When all streams in the area freeze during winter months and
watermills are idle, this particular stream which has its
source in the cliff surprisingly never freezes and the water-
mills works all the year round. It is believed that the stream
does not freeze after it was blessed by bathing of Thugsey
Dawa in the upstream. The ruin of the mill is visible even
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Household that inherited Longchen’s property
Oral memories can trace the ancestors of Samling Ashi house
as far as Ashi Choiten Zomba who was perhaps a
contemporary of Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal. It is also
said that she was related to Jigme Namgyal through a
marriage. It was Ashi Choiten Zomba who offered the sacred
Seal of Longchen as protective talisman to Jigme Namgyal
during the war with Phelingpa (British) in Dewathang (Duar
War). Oral account has it that she was the direct descendent
Longchen’s son and inherited Longchen’s land, property and
samter. The main Samling household owns Longchen’s Seal
and other sacred objects, though the fire burnt most
Longchen Rabjam (1989). The Practice of Dzogchen
(introduction, translation and annotation by Trulku
Thondup; edited by Harold Talbott). Ithaca, New York:
Snow Lion Publication
Padma Tshewang, et al (1995). The Treasure Revealer of
Bhutan: Pema Lingpa, the Terma Tradition and its
Critics; Bibliotheca Himalayica, Series III, Volume 8.
Kathmandu: EMR Publishing House
Dudjom Rigdrel Yeshey Dorji (1991). The Nyingma School of
Tibetan Buddhism, Volume Two; Reference Material;
Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (trans.), Boston:
Wisdom Publication
Roerich, George N. (trans.) (1996). The Blue Annals. Delhi:
Motilal Banarsidass Publisher
Tibetan sources
gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod by ko zhul
grags pa ‘byung gnas and rgyal ba blo bzang mkhas
Oral Construction of Exile Life and Times of Künkhyen
Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang
1 Lhalung was a son of twenty-fifth descendant of the nephew of
Gyalwa Choyang - one of the 25 chief disciples of Guru
2 Pema Ledreltsal (1291?-1315) the incarnation preceding Longchen
discovered the Nyingthig teachings, and it was later known as
Khadro Nyingthig.
3 The rest were written in Mount Kailash (Personal communication,
Dr. Yonten Dargye, National Library of Bhutan; February 2005). The
seven mdzod are: Yid bzhin rinpoche’i mdzod, Mang ngag rinpoche’i
mdzod, Chos dbyings rinpoche’i mdzod, Grub mtha’ mdzod, Thegs
mchog mdzod, Tshig don mdzod, and gNas lugs mdzod.
4 “In many instances, his disciples saw Dharma protectors in his
room. Ekajati, Vajrasadhu (rdo rje legs pa) and Rahula used to
prepare paper and ink for his writing.” Harold Talbott edition (1996),
The Practice of Dzogchen, p.155
5 Now it is called Zhisar (new settlement) after the Tibetan refuges
had settled in the area.
6 People refer to him as Domkhar Dungpa. Domkhar was named
only after the revolt, while Dungpa was a later coinage.
... From the perspective of Bhutanese Buddhist literature, which is the focus of this paper, Bhutanese nuns have been mostly invisible. They are hardly ever mentioned in religious biographies or oral stories, and when they are mentioned, they are portrayed as killers (Penjore 2005) or beings of lesser intellectual capacity who require male figures to liberate them from the cycle of saṃsāra. 1 Furthermore, nuns remain invisible in contemporary Bhutanese religious literature and modern academic writing (Mittra & Kumar 2004). ...
... However, Phuntsho's work did not consider nuns' monastic education at all, which is unsurprising as nuns lack access to monastic education in Bhutan. Only Penjore (2005), in his analysis of Bhutanese folktales and education, describes the lack of access to monastic education among nuns. ...
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Traditional androcentric sociology has reinforced biased views of women and portrayed women as silent research objects of minor importance that figure marginally in academic writing, thereby distorting the knowledge base. The same tendencies have been observed in Buddhist religious literature. The bone of contention in the feminist critique of Buddhism is the omission of women from religious literature. Although Buddhist women’s spiritual prowess was well documented in early Buddhism in religious literature such as the Therīgatha, later Buddhist literature began to demonstrate androcentric tendencies, in most instances completely ignoring the religious lives of women. Since women have been largely sidelined in Buddhist texts, it is important to go beyond textual dimensions to gain deeper insights into women’s religious lives. The feminist Buddhist scholar, Rita Gross (2009), in her monumental work, A Garland of Feminist Reflections, emphasised the need to explore various ways other than our own to think, live and practice religion to broaden our horizons to avoid a narrow-minded approach to academic research. Citing two case studies of Buddhist nuns in Bhutan, this paper argues for ethnography as an alternative to traditional text-based scholarship on religious studies whereby women tell their stories and paint their own reality.
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Ancient monasteries in Bhutan are an immense asset to the country both in terms of tangible architecture and intangible cultural and religious values. Initially, they were built owing to the interconnected spatial and spiritual significance of the particular place and its concerned divine master. These monasteries have prolifically aided in the propagation of Buddhism as well as defining the very architecture of Bhutan. However, due to the unavailability of rigorous research about it, many monasteries are off the radar of government and scholars with some of them in dire need of restoration. The paper attempts to document and highlight the spatial and spiritual significance of Tharpaling, particularly the Choedrak monastery, which is located in Chumey village under Bumthang district, Bhutan. Having been impregnated sacredness by the visit of Guru Rinpoche (precious master), the subsequent visit of Gyalwa Lorepa reassured the impetus for the transformation of a mere cave into a monastery complex. In conjunction with it, Choedrak is revered as one of the four sacred Drak (cliff) temples of Guru Rinpoche and attracts tourists as well as locals to receive blessings and for extended retreat purposes. Architecturally, the main temple of the Choedrak is a resemblance of a typical monastery architecture of Bhutan incorporating traditional features such as whitewashed tapering stone wall adorned with wooden windows, floating-like roof, and colorful elegance of the interiors. The current study is intended to further signify its place in the cultural heritage dictionary of Bhutan and consequently harness opportunities from the relevant agencies such as the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS) for appropriate and sound solutions for the preservation of the monastery.
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Biological invasions are a serious threat globally, but particularly in developing countries. Bhutan is unique among South Asian countries in that it has a rich biodiversity, and its people have a ‘sacred’ responsibility to protect the environment and native biodiversity; conversely it is also considered a ‘crisis ecoregion’ because of significant threats to biodiversity from anthropocentric activities. Managing biological invasions is difficult without a comprehensive baseline of the alien species present. An alien plant inventory for Bhutan was created by examining an extensive array of information and data sources such as herbaria records, published floras, unpublished documents, and from personal communications. The alien plant flora including cultivated taxa in Bhutan comprises 139 families, 545 genera and 964 species. Of these, 626 species occur only in cultivation, whilst the other 338 species occur in the wild (spontaneous); 131 (39%) casuals, 103 (31%) naturalised and 101 (30%) invasive. The major of naturalised alien plants were introduced as pasture species (32%), ornamentals (24%) and from unintentional sources (22%). Whilst, the major of invasive species were introduced unintentionally (76%), as ornamentals (15%) and pasture species (3%). Because a large proportion of alien plants have been deliberately introduced, implementation of both pre-border weed risk assessment and post-border weed risk management approaches can be effective in Bhutan, despite the country’s open and porous borders. Such a biosecurity approach could also be implemented on a plant import sector basis, as only four sectors account for 86% of alien plant introductions, largely through one entry point. The baseline inventory and analysis will shape future management and policy directions for alien plants in Bhutan.
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  • Gyurme Dorje
  • Matthew Kapstein Roerich
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Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (trans.), Boston: Wisdom Publication Roerich, George N. (trans.) (1996). The Blue Annals. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publisher Tibetan sources gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod by ko zhul grags pa 'byung gnas and rgyal ba blo bzang mkhas grub Oral Construction of Exile Life and Times of Künkhyen Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang
The Practice of Dzogchen (introduction, translation and annotation by Trulku Thondup
  • Longchen Rabjam
Longchen Rabjam (1989). The Practice of Dzogchen (introduction, translation and annotation by Trulku Thondup; edited by Harold Talbott). Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publication
The Treasure Revealer of Bhutan: Pema Lingpa, the Terma Tradition and its Critics
  • Padma Tshewang
Padma Tshewang, et al (1995). The Treasure Revealer of Bhutan: Pema Lingpa, the Terma Tradition and its Critics; Bibliotheca Himalayica, Series III, Volume 8. Kathmandu: EMR Publishing House Dudjom Rigdrel Yeshey Dorji (1991). The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, Volume Two; Reference Material;
The Blue Annals. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publisher Tibetan sources gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod by ko zhul grags pa 'byung gnas and rgyal ba blo bzang mkhas grub
  • Gyurme Dorje
  • Matthew Kapstein
Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (trans.), Boston: Wisdom Publication Roerich, George N. (trans.) (1996). The Blue Annals. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publisher Tibetan sources gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod by ko zhul grags pa 'byung gnas and rgyal ba blo bzang mkhas grub