Drak Yerpa is only a short drive to the east of Lhasa, Tibet, and consists of a monastery and a number of ancient meditation caves that used to house about 300 monks. It’s located on a hillside in Dagzê County. The entrance to the Yerpa Valley is about 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) northeast of Lhasa on the northern bank of the Kyichu. From there, it is another 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) to the famous ancient meditation caves in the spectacular limestone cliffs of the Yerpa Valley. There is an ancient sky burial site opposite the main caves.
The famous legendary hero Gesar of Ling is said to have visited the valley. The holes his arrows left in the cliffs are believed to be evidence of his presence.
There are a number of small temples shrines and hermitages and the cliffs contain some of the earliest known meditation sites in Tibet, some dating back to pre-Buddhist times. Among the shrines and hermitages, the more famous are those traditionally connected with Songtsen Gampo (604–650 CE), who's the 33rd king of the Yarlung Dynasty and the first emperor of a united Tibet. His Tibetan queen, Monza Triucham, founded the Drak Yerpa temple here.
He and his two foreign-born queens are said to have meditated in the 'Peu Marsergyi Temple' and in the 'Chogyel Puk', and to have discovered 'self-originated' symbols of the Buddha-body, speech and mind. Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche (late 8th to early 9th century), meditated and practiced tantric yoga with his yogini Yeshe Tsogyal here, and to have spent 7 months in meditation in the 'Dawa Puk', which is considered to be one of his three most important places of attainment. After Lhalung Pelgyi Dorje assassinated the anti-Buddhist Bon Emperor Langdarma in 842 CE he is said to have hidden in a cave and meditated for 22 years. His hat was kept there until 1959.
Yerpa became one of the three most important centers of meditation and retreat in Central Tibet. Several of Guru Rinpoche's disciples are also said to have meditated here. Atisha (982 – 1054 CE) preached extensively in the valley. Atisha's hermitage is in ruins but had 300 monks in the 19th century and was the summer quarters for the Ramoche Monastery (the Upper Tantric College).
Later histories record that both Songtsen Gampo and Trisong Detsen (756–797) founded temples at Yerpa, and Klu-mes Tshul-khrims did some refurbishing in the 11th century. Tradition says that after Songtsen Gampo's only son, Gungri Gungsten, was born to Mangza Tricham, Princess of Mang, one of his wives: "A shrine and a stupa dedicated to the tutelary deity of mother and son were built upon the lap of a rocky mountain that resembled a seated image of the Holy Tara in the region of Yerpa."
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