Tali Dratshang

Description

Tali dratshang (monastery) is located in Tali village, Zhemgang district. The dratshang is located on a mountain slope opposite Tali lhakhang, and it overlooks the Tali village and the surrounding areas. The village can be reached via a feeder road that branches off the Zhemgang-Gelephu highway toward Buli, from a point called Dakpai. It takes approximately two and half hours by car from Zhemgang town.

History

Geshe Pema Thinlay, one the few geshes (highest Buddhist academic degree for monks and nuns) in the country then, is believed to have laid the foundation of the present day dratshang by building a small temple in 1962. He was among the few geshes who graduated from Tharpaling monastery in Bumthang founded by Longchenpa in the 14th century (Wangchuk, 2010).

He is believed to have made two visits to the village: in the first one he married a woman from Chameythang in Goling, Zhemgang, and had a daughter from her. He then left his daughter and his wife behind and went back to Bumthang to continue his religious pursuit following moments of realization and desire to pursue religion.

The geshe made his second visit to Chameythang in 1962. He came with two purposes: to meet his daughter and to spread Buddhism because he knew from his previous visit that the people there practiced Bon beliefs.

According to oral sources, the people in Tali were suffering from various illnesses and deaths. The village community invited the geshe to Tali to do some rituals and put an end to their sufferings. Upon arrival, he was ushered to Changlochen, a place where the founder of Tali lhakhang had resided in the sixteenth century. In 1962, he started a school for gomchens (lay practitioners) at Changlochen, with about 30 lay practitioners. He also renovated the Tali lhakhang in 1968, and he invited his root teacher Ponlop Khen Rimpoche to preside over the renovation ceremony. Ponlop Khen Rimpoche was also known as Thupten Kunga Gyaltsen (1896-1970), and was one of the few accomplished Dzogchen masters then (Wangchuk, 2010). Ponlop Khenpo Rimpoche is said to have advised geshe Pema Thinlay to start a school for gelongs (monks) and not for gomchens. He even advised moving the location of the school to where the dratshang stands today. Hence, the geshe started a school for monks in that same year, which was initially a small temple. Ponlop Khen Rimpoche conducted the ground breaking ceremony.

It is believed that the geshe saw the place where the initial foundation of the dratshang was laid like a Zangtopelri (Guru Rinpoche’s paradise); and he intended to modify the small temple into a Zangtopelri. However, he could not materialize his dream because he died a few years later.

A lama named Therchong was entrusted with the responsibility of completing the project. The informants said that this lama provided financial assistance and materials for the interior, and he asked the people of Tali and Goling to contribute labour and raw materials such as stones and wood. The structure was completed in 1974, and Dilgo Khyentse Rimpoche presided over the consecration ceremony.

Not long after, the lhakhang needed renovation because carpenters and labourers who helped build the lhakhang were not skilled, so the idea to renovate it ensued between 1988 and 1990. Instead of renovation, the decision to build a Zangtopelri started in 1990; but the construction work got stalled because of lack of labour and funds.

In 1992, the present Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body of Bhutan) Trulku Jigme Choda conceded to fund the construction of the dratshang/Zangtopelri. Many individuals are said to have sponsored the purchase and installation of various parts, such as statues and roofing materials for the new Zangtopelri.

The new Zangtopelri was started with about 10 monks, one lama, some statues and related relics. It was upgraded to a Shedra (monastic college or university) in 2010, and it presently houses 35 monks with a khenpo (abbot, a title received by a monk after thirteen years of intensive study). The Je Khenpo oversees the functioning of the Shedra.

Previously, the monks from Tali dratshang in Gelephu and Tali in Zhemgang (two dratshangs with the same name) used to move back and forth between the two dratshangs as summer and winter residences. In 1992, the Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choda stopped this practice; instead, the two dratshangs were put under the jurisdiction of their respective districts.

Tali Dratshang is also called Tali Thegchu Yoezercholing Gonpa, a name given by Dilgo Khyentse Rimpoche. Later, it was renamed as Kuenzang Chokorling by the present Je Khenpo.

Architecture and Artwork

Tali dratshang / Zangtopelri is a three-storey structure, with each floor tapering towards the top. It was built in accordance to the vision of its founder and reproduces the structure of the Zangtopelri /paradise.

The ground floor is called the Trulkugi Zhingkham (the paradise of the body of emanation), dedicated to Guru Rimpoche. The walls are covered with large paintings of the Dzepa Chuni (the twelve depictions of the life and deeds of Buddha), the Kagyu lamas, Gompa Chamdre Sum (Yeshey Gonpo, Palden Lhamo and Leygon Jarok Dongchen), Yutsen, Mem, and also of the lamas who contributed to the establishment of the Zangtopelri.

The statues in the altar of the ground floor include Guru Dorji Dorlo (one of the manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava), Ponlop Khen Rimpoche, Dorji Sempa (Vajrasattava), Guru Nangsi Zilnon (Guru who subjugates the 3 worlds) surrounded by the Guru Tsengay (the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava), and flanked by Khando Yeshey Tshogyal and Khando Mandarava (the two consorts of Padmasambhava), and a statue of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.

The 1st floor referred to as Lonkugi Zhingkham (the paradise of the Body of enjoyment) is dedicated to Chenrezig Thukjechenpo (Avalokiteshvara). The walls are adorned with paintings of Lam Rimjim, Rigsum Gonpo (Three Protectors: Manjushri, Avalokitesvara, & Vajrapani), Sangay Menlha (Medicine Buddhas), Mithrukpa (Akshobya), Guru Tshengay (the eight manifestations of Guru Rimpoche), Tshe Lha Namsum (deities of long life: Amitayus, Namgyalma & White Tara), and the Throwai Lhatshog (the assembly of the wrathful deities). The altar houses the statues of Sangay Shakya Thupa (the Historical Buddha) and Chukchi Zhey (eleven-faced Avalokitesvara), which is flanked by the Sempa Nyi: Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara) to the right and Chana Dorji (Vajrapani) to the left), and a statue of Longchen Ramjampa, the 14th century religious figure.

The 2nd floor, which is referred to as Chokugi Zhingkham (the paradise of the Dharma body) is dedicated to Oepamey/NangwaThaye (Ambitabha). It has paintings of the Tungshagi Lha, (the Buddhas of confession) and Oepamey Kilkhor (mandala of Amitabha, the Buddha of infinite light) flanked by Sempa Nyi – Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara) to the right and Chana Dorji (Vajrapani) to the left, and also a painting of Dorji Sempa (Vajrasattava).

The amazing part of the structure is the enormous statue of Chukchi Zhey (eleven-faced Avalokitesvara) that spans the inside of all the three floors. The renovation was completed in 2014, and later a new goenkhang (chapel of the protective deities) was added in the Zangtopelri in 2016. It contains the statues Palden Lhamo (Maha Kali, the female protective deity), Lagon Jaro Dongchen (Mahakala with Raven head), and Yeshey Gempo (Maha Kala, the male protective deity), which is flanked by the local deities Drakpa Geltshen to the left and Gomo to the right.

Social and Cultural Functions

The dratshang/Zangtopelri is revered because many rimpoches like the Peling Thukse, Ponlop

Khen Rinpoche, Geshe Pema Thinley, Dilgo Khyentse Rimpoche, and the Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choda visited and blessed the place. The locals acknowledge that the place is flourishing because of the visits and blessings of Ponlop Khen Rimpoche and others.

The dratshang performs rituals on auspicious days, and on other days it depends on the requests from the people. The government funds the rituals for Yarngo Marngo (the bi-monthly rituals), while the village community and people from nearby areas sponsor the rest of the rituals at the dratshang.

  • Rituals on Yarngo (waxing moon) Marngo (waning moon) are conducted on the 10th and 15th days respectively of every Bhutanese month.
  • Zhingdrup and Kanjur recitation are conducted in the 1st month of the Bhutanese calendar.
  • The Zhabdrung Kuchoe, the death anniversary of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel is observed on the 10th day of the 3rd month of the Bhutanese calendar.
  • Tenda Tsechu is conducted on the 10th and 25th of day of the 5th month of the Bhutanese calendar. This is similar to Yarngo Marngo, although one of the dates is different.
  • On the 4th day of the 6th month of the Bhutanese calendar, Drukpa Tshe Zhi is observed to celebrate the deeds of the Buddha.
  • A ritual is performed on Lhabab Duechen, the descending day of Lord Buddha on the 22nd day of the 9th month of the Bhutanese calendar.

The monastic school is headed by a khenpo, who is appointed by the Je Khenpo, usually for five years. The tenure may be extended on the recommendation of a committee. The khenpo is assisted by two lopens.

Informants

Tshering Samdrup, Teacher, Tali Dratshang

Tenzin Wangchuk, Former gup, mangmi, dungyi and monk, Tali Village

Reference

Wangchuk, R. (2010). Chimey lhundrup rinpoche. Retrieved from http://rigzin.org/post/Chimey-Lhundrup-Rinpoche

Researcher 

ChoneyDorji, Asst. Lecturer, College of Language and Culture Studies, Taktse, Trongsa, Royal University of Bhutan, 2017.

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