Saturday, February 9, 2019

Dechenphu Monastery

Dechenphu (cave of consummate bliss) is a sacred place and the most important place of the protector deity for the followers of Drukpa Kargyu. The site at Dechenphu was dedicated to Geynyen Jagpa Melen from time immemorial.

Geynyen Jagpa Melen is actually the emanation of Yidam Tandin. However, he was born as a product of Noejin Yobshue and Sinmo Dongmar. Hence, his conduct was not very virtuous. In order to transform him, Yidam Tandin delivered the first kago damzhag on Geynyen. Geynyen also received kago damzhag from Guru Rinpoche at Yangleyshey. This leads to an account of the control that Guru Rinpoche exerted on various malignant spirits in the Himalayan region,including Geynyen, before they became protector deities.

12 years after Guru Rinpoche visited Bumthang, Guru was at Yangleychey in Nepal on his way to Tibet. As the malignant spirits of the mountains of Himalayas came to know of Guru’s intention to subdue them, they got together to obstruct his plans. However, four Geynyens, such as Geynyen Kula Khari, Damchen Dorji Lekpa and Geynyen Jagpa Melen (as Dechenphu Geynyen is called) decided to be in support of Guru Rinpoche who bestowed kago damzha on them at Yangleychey. This was the first occasion when Guru and Geynyen came into contact. Later, Guru came to Bhutan including Cheri and Tango, from Tibet. Guru bestowed kago damzha on Geynyen for the second time.

Besides the Neykhang at Dechenphu, there are seven Neykhangs of Geynyen: Samye Chinphu, Tisi in Joe Ngari, Puri in Tsari Kongpo, Dueyul Khura Gogu, Monyul Dungla Kar, Tsenyon Zangthang Marpo and Drug Ralung. But Dechenphu is the only one with such an old and august structure. Very often, no matter where in the Himalayas and Tibet invocations and rituals of Geynyen are conducted, in visualizations, he is envisaged arising and coming from Dechenphu in Bhutan. Because of this Dechenphu Geynyen Neykhang is of importance to the whole Mahayana Buddhist world.

Phajo Drugom's son Dampa constructed the Dechenphu monastery and became the first chief abbot.

Dampa at his older age made his son Kuenzang Dorji the second chief abbot of Dechenphu monastery. Kuenzang Dorji established more drubdeys in Dechenphu in addition to the Dechenphu lhakhang, which Dampa had founded.

At the last stage of Dampa’s death, Kuenzang Dorji cried and prayed to his father to live longer. In response, Dampa promised that he would return as Kuenzang Dorji’s son, which did happen the following year when Kuenzang Dorji had a son.

Kuenzang Dorji’s son was named Damtrul Loden Gyalpo, and at the age of three years he gave a clear account of his previous life as Dampa. Damtrul Loden Gyalpo, was therefore, enthroned as the third chief abbot of Dechenphu. Damtrul Loden Gyalpo went to Druk Ralung to receive transmission of precepts. When he was at Druk Ralung, he recognized Jamyang Kuenga Sengye (1314-1347) as the seventh chief abbot of Druk Ralung.

Damtrul Loden Gyalpo stayed for a long time in Druk Ralung in close association and service of Jamyang Kuenga Sengye. Jamyang Kuenga Sengye became abbot at the age of 13 and remained on the abbot's throne for 21 years. Damtrul Loden Gyalpo than invited Jamyang Kuenga Sengye to his place at Dechenphu in 1345.

When Jamyang Kuenga Sengye stayed at Dechenphu, Damtrul Loden Gyalpo and Jamyang Kuenga Sengye built the present structure of Neykhang of Geynyen and installed inside the statue of Geynyen. During that occasion Geynyen appeared in person to Jamyang Kuenga Sengye, and Jamyang Kuenga Sengye administered Kago Damzha on Geynyen while directing Geynyen to be the principle protector of the doctrine of Palden Drukpa.

Damtrul Loden Gyalpo had two sons, Drungdrung Gyalchog and Drungdrung Gyalzom. The title Drungdrung is similar in meaning to Zhabdrung. Drungdrung Gyalzom became the fourth abbot of Dechenphu monastery and thereafter his descendants held the abbot's post of Dechenphu.

Drungdrung Gyalchog went to Druk Ralung to study, and later went to settle at Hungrey in Paro and built Paro Rinpung Dzong. When Drungdrung Gyalchog was in Druk Ralung, the chief abbot of Druk Ralung was Gyalwangje Kuenga Peljor (1428-1478) who was the first incarnation of Palden Drukpa Tsangpa Jarey.

Drungdrung Gyalchog invited Gyalwangje Kuenga Peljor to Dechenphu and Gyalwangje Kuenga Peljor in fact lived for four months in Dechenphu. Once again, Jewangje Kuenga Peljor administered kago damzha on Geynyen. Thereafter, Drungdrung Gyalchog and Gyalwangje Kuenga Peljor left for Paro.

Given the fact that Geynyen was bound by oath by various lamas such as Damtrul Loden Gyalpo, Jamyang Kuenga Sengye (1314-1347) and Gyalwangje Kuenga Peljor to serve the doctrine of Pelden Drukpa, Geynyen was found working in person for various Drukpa hierarchs who visited Bhutan. For example, when Drukchen Ngawang Chogyel (1465-1540), half brother of Drukpa Kuenley, was in Bhutan, Geynyen was in attendance. Likewise, when Drukchen Ngawang Chogyel’s elder son Thethok Tenpai Gyaltshen also known as Ngawang Drakpa (1506-1530) who founded Fangyul Dagye Goenpa in Wangdi, was in western Bhutan, Geynyen was constantly in attendance, guiding Thethok Tenpai Gyaltshen out of dangers and inconveniences.

Drukchen Ngawang Chogyel’s younger son was Ngagi Wangchuk (1517-1554). The son of Ngagi Wangchuk was Mipham Chogyal (1543-1606) and Mipham Chogyal’s son was Mipham Tenpai Nyima (1567-1619). Mipham Tenpai Nyima’s son was Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. All of these hierarchs of Pelden Drukpa starting from Dampa, the son of Phajo Drukgom Zhigpo, were guarded, protected and supported incessantly by Geynyen. Geynyen is a protector of all Buddhist doctrine but especially of Pelden Drukpa.

When Shabdrung Rinpoche arrived at Lunana from Tibet, Genyen went all the way from Thimphu with his mermaid consort Pangri Zampa Aum Tshomem to receive Shabdrung . Later, he went back to Gasa and escorted Shabdrung all the way to Thimphu Pangri Zampa Druk Phodrang. While Shabdrung was residing at Pangrizampa, Genyen was constantly at his service. He also made other un-subdued and malignant spirits work for Shabdrung.

One story speaks of Shabdrung meeting all the un-subdued and malignant spirits around Thimphu near the present day Pangrizampa Lhakhang. Shabdrung was seeking their help while he stayed in their territory. Spirits and deities are known to be very territorial in nature like animals. It is being said that Genyen, without consulting others present, volunteered on their behalf help Shabdrung and also be protector of Buddhism. The other spirits and deities were infuriated and at the same time engulfed with fear. They didn’t like the idea of Genyen speaking for all of them. They felt that pledging heart and soul for all times to come was too much for them to fulfill. After the meeting was over, Genyen landed up tolerating the temper and abuses of other spirits and deities. However, Shabdrung was very impressed with Genyen though. He was rewarded for volunteering to help him and be the protector of Buddhism.

The Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck initiated the most significant restoration and rehabilitation works on Geynyen Neykhang. The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty the King Jigme Singye Wangchuck envisioned the institution of a sacred festival for the public to honour the beneficence of Geynyen Jagpa Melen, the chief deity of Pelden Drukpa and at His personal initiative a Tsechu dedicated to Geynyen Jagpa Melen was introduced on the 10th Day of Ninth Month in Water Sheep Year corresponding to November 3, 2003. It is now an annual event.

Please when in Thimphu, visit this important Lhakhang.


Photo Courtesy: Bhutan Chronicles

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