Dorje Drak Monastery is located in Changguo Township, Gonggar County, Shannan, Tibet, at the foothills of Zongyong Mountain and on the bank of the Brahmaputra River. "Dorje" means "Vajra", and "Drak" means "stone mountain". The name of the monastery is derived from the naturally formed vajra pattern on the back mountain, which is sometimes translated as "Dorje Monastery".
Along with Mindroling Monastery, Dorje Drak Monastery is one of the six most important Nyingmapa monasteries. With a remote and romantic location, it is less accessible than Mindroling Monastery and consequently gets few Western visitors.
Dorje Drak Monastery was founded by the 1st Rigdzin Godemchen Ngodrub Gyeltsen. In 1632 the monastery relocated from Tsang to its present tranquil setting on the north bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, or Brahmaputra, when the young 3rd Rigdzin Ngagiwangpo and his ruardian Jangdak Tashi Topgyel were forced to flee the wrath of the kins of Tsang. Their successor, the erudite 4th Rigdzin Pema Trinle greatly enlarged the monastery before his untimely death at the hands of the Dzungar Mongolians, who sacked the monastery in 1717.
The main assembly hall has statues of Guru Rinpoche and Pema Trinley, the 4th Rigdzin. The Samsum Namgyel Gonkhang to the right has 5 butter sculptures representing the chapel’s 5 protectors. A cabinet holds the monastery’s treasures, including a fragment of a staff belonging to Milarepa that was smashed in the Cultural Revolution. The upstairs chapel sells lovely ground juniper incense.
A demanding 1/2 hour kora leads around the back of the dorje-shaped rock behind the monastery, up to a ruined retreat atop the rock. The path overlooks some dramatic sand dunes and the views from the retreat are simply stunning.
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