Some Important Monasteries and Caves Around Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarover
Meditation and Retreat on the roof of the world and on the abode of snow is one of the chalenging itself for everybody. But it is the way to have peace of mind and achieve nirvana. As Kailash is considered "Path toward heaven", Everybody dreams of the stairs of the heaven, We are the first Agency to make different way for the peace of mind and purify yourself and ourselves being meditator in the Kailash Region. We Know it gives every participant a inner satisfaction.
As described Kailash is only one place "Center of the universe" to purify yourself and to take religious path. Only circumambulation of Kailash would not be enough to purify yourself. We have designed this program to take a path in every religious sites and meditate there to have inner peace. This is our small attempt to show you the path of peace.
Manasarovar Lake is on the right and Rakshastal Lake on the left. Nowadays, vehicles can drive round the holy lake though most pilgrims prefer to walk as it is one of the most important parts of the pilgrimage. The road has caused disagreement between the current government and those who are concerned about the lake's spiritual significance.
According to Tibetan Buddhism, there are "Four Purification Gates" (Khrus Go) at the lake: the eastern gate is where pilgrims eat a small pinch of Five-Coloured Crystal Sand (Jema Nanga); at the southern gate pilgrims collect a type of plant which is burned as incense (Pho Nanga); the western gate is where the white soil is found which is used as a flavouring in tea (Bul Nanga); at the northern gate pilgrims search for small stones on which are found natural images of Buddhas and Tibetan writing. These four things are sought after as purification for negative deeds and as a blessing from the holy lake. Pilgrims take them, with water and dried fish from the lake, to their family and friends as a blessing.
Serlung Monastery (Serlung Gompa) - Seralung is the eastern monastery. It was founded by Dordzin Konchok Gyudzin, the Dordzin of Mount Kailash and a disciple of Konchok Trinley Zangpo, who was then throne-holder of the Drikung lineage. Konchok Trinley Zangpo instructed his disciple to establish this monastery on the eastern shore of Lake Manasarovar.
After its founding, Seralung Monastery was headed by successive rebirths of Serlung Tulku. It was destroyed in the Chinese invasion, but rebuilt in 1981 by Khenpo Konchok Chopel Rinpoche, who lives there today with a group of monks.Nyego Monastery is the south-eastern monastery. When Atisha visited Lake Manasarovar on pilgrimage and walked round the lake, he stayed at this spot for a few days, finding it very pleasant. Atisha made some tsa tsas (little clay statues produced with a mould) and then erected a building to house them.
Later the Sakya Lama, Nyorchen Kunga Lhundrup, extended the little house into a full-sized monastery. Because of its beginnings as a resting place for Atisha, the monastery was named “Pleasant Start.” Destroyed during the Chinese invasion, Nyego Monastery has not yet been rebuilt.
Milarepa Cave - Milarepa is the most famous mystic and composer of Tibet and Known as Tantrik Yogi in Tibetan Buddhism. He lived during the late 11th century. In his early adult life, he became involved in a family feud. In a fight, which broke out, he killed his uncle and he spent all his life repenting for this sin. He lived, totally isolated, in a cave right here in the mountains of Tibet, much of the time in meditation.
Turgo Monastery (Turgo Gompa) - Trugo Monastery is on the southern shore of Lake Manasarovar. This monastery was also destroyed in the Chinese invasion, but was partially rebuilt in 1985. Trugo Monastery is now the largest monastic community, due to the hard work of Lama Lobsang Samten (known locally as Lama Chungma). He has also begun several projects to support the local economy, including the production of mineral water, souvenirs and so on. Trugo monastery offers accommodation and catering and is a pleasant place to stay on the shore of the holy lake.
Gosul Monastery (Gosul Gompa) - Gossul Monastery is the south-western monastery. When Atisha visited Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, he spent a week on this spot. Gyalwa Gotsangpa later undertook a three month retreat on the site and then founded Gossul Monastery there. Because this monastery was the first branch of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage in Western Tibet, it was named “Gossul” or “Start.”In the middle of the 19th century, the Gelugpa Lama, Gelong Jinpa Norbu, came to Gossul Monastery and greatly increased its size. At this time the monastery’s affiliation shifted from Drukpa Kagyu to Gelug. Gossul Monastery was destroyed during the Chinese invasion in the last century and has now been partially rebuilt.
Chiu Monastery (Chiu Gompa) - Chiu Monastery lies on the western shore, built on a boulder which resembles Zangdokpalri, the palace of Guru Rinpoche. When Guru Rinpoche brought Buddhism to Tibet, he remained in the country for 54 years. When he left in 876 AD, he stopped at a cave to the west of Lake Manasarovar and stayed there for a week. Chiu Monastery grew up around this cave.At Chiu Monastery you can still see a footprint which Guru Rinpoche left in his cave and a statue of Guru Rinpoche, called Guru Nadrama. This statue is believed to have been made by Guru Rinpoche himself, and is said to resemble him closely.Chiu Monastery belongs to the Drukpa Kagyu tradition. It was destroyed during the time of the Chinese invasion but a small monastery has been rebuilt which still houses its precious statues.
Chirkip Monastery (Chirkip Gompa) - Chirkip Monastery is in the north-west. In the sutras, the Buddha described a miraculous trip he took with 500 arhat disciples to Chirkip, a place north of Bodh Gaya. There, on a cliff overlooking Lake Manasarovar, he found many caves in which he and his disciples undertook retreats.
Later Chena Drikung Lingpa went with 500 other practitioners for a long retreat on the same spot. Thus, Chirkip and its caves became a Drikung Kagyu retreat center. Today there is not a formal monastery, but there are a few monks staying in retreat in Chirkip’s caves.Langbona Monastery is the northern monastery. It was founded by the Drukpa Kagyu master, Druptob Nyemowa Samten Puntsok, who found a ridge shaped like an elephant’s trunk on the northern shore of Lake Manasarovar and spent many years in retreat there. The monastery that grew up around him was therefore called “Elephant’s Trunk.” After his death, Druptob Nyemowa Samten Puntsok’s reincarnation line was traditionally linked to Langbona Monastery, which was rebuilt in 1986.
Bonri Monastery (Bonri Gompa) - Bonri Monastery lies at the north-eastern point. It was founded by Gugewa Khedrup Lozang Norbu who had studied at Sera Monastery in Lhasa. From its inception, therefore, it belonged to the Gelug tradition. Bonri Monastery’s name means “Bon Mountain.”, so-called because it sits on a mountain which is holy to the Bon religion. Destroyed in the Chinese invasion, Bonri Monastery has not been rebuilt.
Gyangdrag Monastery - Gyangdrag Monastery is the oldest and most important Drikung monastery in the region. It was founded by Ghuya Gangpa in the beginning of the 13th century. Because it was located so close to the holy places it was called Gyangdrag (rgyang grags), which means „calling distance“. It still is the main Drikung monastery in that area. Ghuya Gangpa organized the spiritual life of his hermits under the supervision of a retreat master (rdor 'dzin) and controlled the spread of the Drikungpa in the region for 25 years. Tsang Nyon Heruka (gtsang smyon he ru ka, 1428-1507), the famous “Mad Saint” of Tsang, made several pilgrimages to the Kailash region. During his last visit around the year 1500 he stayed for some time at Gyangdrag as the guest of the Drikung Dorzin. When Denma Kunga Drakpa became the Dorzin at Gyangdrag Monastery around the middle of the 16th century, the monastery was in an advanced state of decay. He practically had to rebuild the monastery and at the same time sent many of his pupils from Western Tibet to study at Drikung. After an invitation by the king of Ladakh he left the Kailash region and established himself in Ladakh.
In the late 17th century Gyangdrag received some support from the 5th Dalai Lama and from the regent Sangye Gyatso. Although funding from governmental sources seems to have ceased after this period, the series of Dorzin continued without interruption until present. Since the founding of Gyangdrak Monastery, there have been 33 Vajra Holders. The first was Ghuya Gangpa. In 1984 the Ngakpa Wangthang Dorje (dbang thang rdo rje), a native from the Kailash region was installed as the Dorzin at Gyangdrag. In 2007 he was removed from his post by Chinese authorities, accusing him of having erected a statue of Guru Rinpoche without permission.
Serlung Retreat Center - Gyangdrag Monastery is situated above Darchen. The monastery was rebuilt in 1986. Not far from is the Serlung Retreat Center, which was founded by Dordzin Konchok Gyudzin, a disciple of the 2nd Chetsang Thrinle Sangpo (1656-1718). Thrinle Sangpo had instructed his disciple to establish this monastery on the eastern shore of Lake Manasarovar. After its founding, Serlung Monastery was headed by successive rebirths of the Serlung Tulku. It was destroyed after the Chinese invasion, but has been rebuilt in 1981 by Khenpo Konchog Chopel Rinpoche, who lives there today with a group of monks.
Dzutrul Phuk - Nyo Lhanangpa (gnyos lha nang pa, 1164-1224), another ripa and important pupil of Jigten Sumgon sent out to Mount Kailash, founded a hermitage in a place called Lhanang (lha nang) from which he took his name. On the eastern side of the mountain in the area where Milarepa fought his famous contest of miracles against Naro Bonchung he established the shrine of Dzutrul Phuk (rdzu 'phrul phug), “The cave of magical powers”. This cave was the result of the magical powers used by Milarepa and Naro Bonchung to build a shelter in the rock as it was raining very heavily. The current monastery was rebuilt in 1985. There are foot and hand prints on the ceiling of the building and footprints on the roof. The current monastery was rebuilt in 1985. Among the main effigies of the monastery are statues of Shakyamuni Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and Jigten Sumgon. A small group of monks is responsible for the monastery.
Darchen is the base camp, located right in front of Kailash, at an altitude of 4,560 meters (14,957feet). At Dechen, tourists have a choice of accommodation, catering services and transport. The views from the base camp are much admired by visitors. To the north, is Kailash, like a glorious crystal mandala, radiating a wonderfully attractive sight at different times of the day and night. In addition, there is a permanent twinkling light from the Darchen river, which flows from the very heart of the holy mountain. To the south, there is the vast Bharka plain, full of natural beauty and containing nothing man-made. To the east, there are the Kailash mountain ranges. In the west, there are two lakes, called Manasarovar and Rashal Tal, and the giant Namo Nanyi Mountain, 50 kilometers away.
Gyangdak Monastery and the Serlung Retreat Center are situated in front of Kailash, above Darchen. It takes an hour to reach it on foot but there is also a road for vehicles. The monastery was rebuilt in 1986. Historically, it was the first monastery established at Mount Kailash and Manasarovar. Most pilgrims go on a day trip to Gyangdak and the Serlung Retreat Center. If you walk towards Kailash, you come to a waterless white lake, known as Tsokal Pa, before finally reaching the bottom of the rocky mountain, covered in snow and ice.Chaktsal Gang - Walking westward from Darchen, you come to the first of the four Chaktsal Gangs. In Tibetan, Chaktsal Gang means " peak to do prostration". Chaktsal Gangs are selected because they offer the best views of Mount Kailash. Commonly, there are piles of stones, which symbolize the offerings of the universe, and posted prayer flags, which are meant to send printed prayers of well-being to all sentient beings.
Sershong Tharchen - Prayer flags attached to a tall pole are called Sershong Tharchen. Each year, on the 15th day of the fourth month in the Tibetan calendar, the Festival of Re-adorning the Prayer Flags is celebrated. In fact, Tibetans believe this date is the birthday of Lord Buddha and it is thought that observing religious practices during this month (Saka Dawa in Tibetan) accumulates one hundred times more merit. The first Sershong Tharchen was posted in the 17th century by Gyaden Tsewang, who liberated the three Ngari from the occupation of the Lhadak Kingdom.
Chorten Kang Nyi - Next to Sershong Tharchen, there are two stupas, which are built like a gate. It is believed to be auspicious to walk underneath the archway formed by the two legs of this chorten.Grachom Ngagye Dorsa is one of the four sky-burial places around Mount Kailash. It is located just above Sershong Tharchen. Pilgrims go there to perform an act of death and believe that, having had sky burial there, they will be reborn in a higher rebirth in the next life. Many spill a drop of blood by pricking their finger with a needle and tearing a piece of cloth as if they were dead.Choku Monastery is located on a steep hillside, on the left side of Kailash. The monastery was rebuilt in 1985. Currently, there are three monks in charge of it. Choku monastery houses some precious objects, which were taken to Bhutan during the Cultural Revolution, including a marble statue of Buddha Amitabha, called Choku, a conch shell, which originally belonged to the Indian master Naropa, a large bronze pot, and a pair of elephant tusks. The monastery was named after the statue of Buddha Amitabha. It is believed there were five precious Buddha statues, which appeared out of a lake of milk in Garsha, in the northeast of India. Three of them were lost during the Cultural Revolution and only two remain - one in Garsha and the other in Choku monastery.Drira Pug is located behind Kailash and was rebuilt in 1986. Usually there are two monks who explain the holy objects and the history of the monastery to pilgrims and visitors. The original monastery was founded by the first person who walked around Mount Kailash, Gyalpa Gotsangpa. According to the history of Kailash, Gotsangpa saw a female yak ahead of him and knew that she was an emanation of the Dakini Sengdongma. Then she disappeared, leaving behind a miraculous hoof-print on a rock. Gotsangpa decided to meditate there and slowly a stone hut grow around him. The hut was named "Drira Pug" or "Cave of the Female Yak's Hoof". (Dri means female yak, Ra means hoof.)
The altitude of the area is about 5,208 meters and pilgrims who are unable to walk long distances camp near Drira Pug or stay in the guest house at the monastery on the north face of Mount Kailash. The three lower hills in front of Mount Kailash are known as Manjushri, Avalokitesvara and Vajrapani, and represent wisdom, kindness and power. Starting from Drira Pug, you need to cross the wooden bridge over the Lha Chu river, which some believe is the true source of the Indus.Khado Sanglam, (Kha-do means "space-goer" and Sang-Lam means "secret path".) This path is a shortcut around Kailash and Tibetans believe it should only be taken after you have circled the mountain 12 times using the normal path. It is always covered in snow and is protected by a Dakini (goddess).
Shiva-Tsal is the second sky-burial place. There are piles of clothing here and sometimes pilgrims lie on the ground and have a Lama or monk perform the "Chod" ritual for them. Dikpa Karnak is a hole, through which pilgrims test their sin. It is believed that no matter how important you are, if you are a sinner, you face great difficulty, perhaps even death.
Dolma La, at 5,630 meters, is the highest point on the path around Kailash. There is a large rock representing Jetsun Dolma (Tara) at the peak of the pass, where prayer flags are posted and squares of printed paper are thrown on the ground. There pilgrims recite prayers loudly and prostrate themselves. Then many make a fire to burn incense and hang up new prayer flags and remove the old flags to take home as a blessing. Tibetans wear these around their necks. It is traditional to leave and take something - coins, butter, or other offerings attached to the rock. Around the area, people collect a type of grass which Tibetans call Kailash incense, "Gang Pes".Tsokalpa is a lake half way down from the Dolma La. A Hindu story says the lake was the swimming pool of Dakini Pranite, the wife of Lord Shiva. A Tibetan story says a woman carrying her only child on her back let the child fall while she was trying to drink some water. So she renounced her worldly life and circled around Kailash one hundred and eight times and achieved liberation.
Shabje Drakthok - At the bottom of the Dolma Pass, there is a huge rock, on which there are footprints as if left by some angry people. Pilgrims believe the footprints are those of Milarepa and Naro Ponchung, who were arguing over which way they should go around Kailash and pulled each other in different directions. Buddhists go clockwise whereas Bon go anti-clockwise. In fact, the rock is about half way round Kailash and today other pilgrims still meet Bon pilgrims near the Shabje Drakthok.
Zutul-puk Gonpa, "Cave of Miracles"- The great Tibetan Yogi, Milarepa, and Bonpo master, Naro Bon Chung, used their magical powers to make a shelter as it was raining very heavily. There are foot and hand prints to see on the ceiling of the building and footprints on the roof. The current monastery was rebuilt in 1985. The main contents of the monastery are statues of Shakyamuni Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and Jigten Sumgon. A small group of monks is responsible for the monastery.
Sa Ser Mar, "Yellow and Red Ground" It is believed some foreign intruders sold the Choku monastery's bronze pot and at this spot they made some tea in the pot. When their tea boiled, it was blood and pus. So they emptied the pot on the ground, which turned into those colours.