Reting Monastery(热振寺) is located in Tanggu township, Linzhou county, 240 kilometers north of Lhasa. Reting means "to eradicate all worries and continue to detach from the Three Realms of Samsara". It's the seat of Reting Rinpoche. As the first monastery of the Kadam Sect in Tibetan Buddhism, with a history of more than 900 years, Reting Monastery was founded in 1057 by Dromtön, who's also the founder of the Kadam school. It was initially associated with Atisha (Jowo-je) but in its later years, it had an important connection with the Gelugpa order and the Dalai Lamas. Two regents – the de facto rulers of Tibet for the interregnum between the death of a Dalai Lama and the majority of his next reincarnation – were chosen from the Reting abbots.
Reting Monastery is graced by surrounding cypress forests. A 40mins kora leads from the guesthouse around the monastery ruins, passing several stone carvings, a series of eight chortens and an active sky burial site. Further up the hillside is the medication retreat where Tsongkhapa composed the Graduated Path, a Key Gelugpa text. The large escarpment draped with prayer flags to the right is the Sengye Drak (Lion’s Rock), where there are several more retreats.
History of Reting Monastery & Reting Rinpoche
Reting Monastery was built in 1056 by the great disciple of Atisha, Dromtönpa Gyelwé Jungné (1004–1064). In 1041, Atisha (982～1054) was invited to Ali by the descendants of the King of Tubo, Prince Isiwo and Jiangquwo of Guge, and taught for three years. After nine years of preaching in Ü‑Tsang, he passed away in Nyetang Drölma Lhakang (in the territory of Qushui County today) in 1054. When he passed away, he designated Dromtönpa as his successor. In 1055 (Tibetan Year of the Wooden Sheep), Dromtönpa presided over a ceremony to mourn Atisha in Nyetang and built Nyetang Temple. Soon, the leaders of the Damxung area in northern Tibet gathered and sent people to invite Dromtönpa to teach in Reting. At the beginning of 1056 (the year of the fire monkey in the Tibetan calendar), Dromtönpa led the other disciples of Atisha to Reting along with the remains of Atisha. In the same year, Reting Temple was built and the remains of Atisha were enshrined in a silver stupa in Reting Monastery. Dromtönpa was the first Reing Khenpo (monk's formal title, similar to an abbot), performing administrative duties like an abbot. The Kadam Sect was based on the Reting Monastery, and it was developed by Dromtönpa who inherited the teachings of Atisha.
At the beginning of the 15th century, it was converted to Gelug Sect and belonged to Sera Monastery. In the 16th century, Gelug’s living Buddha system was established. Reting Khenpo started to be inherited by the reincarnated Rinpoche.
Reting Rinpoche has a very high authority and reputation in Tibetan Buddhism. He was canonized as Tulku by Qing Dynasty. Reting Rinpoche is one of the six living Buddha lineages served as regent in history. They are eligible to act as a regent of Tibet before the Dalai Lama takes over the reins of government upon coming of age. According to the monastery records, the living Buddha has reincarnated to the seventh life.
What To See at Reting Monastery
The main Buddha worshiped in the Reting Monastery is Guhyasamāja vajra. And there are a lot of historical sites to see. The main temple pillars are said to be presented by Dragon King with gold and jade pillars during construction. There are 30,000 ancient cypress trees around the temple, which are more than a thousand years old. Legend has it that the Avalokitesvara bodhisattva once practiced in the mountains. After he succeeded, he shaved off his hair, which became the ancient cypress forest and it never withered. Another legend is that there used to be a barren mountain without grass. Later, the king of Tibet, Songtsan Gampo, made an inspection tour here and sprinkled the water washed his hair to the hillside, and prayed for blessings. Thus, 30,000 green cypress trees grew on the mountain. "Reting" means to eradicate all troubles and last till detaching the samsara.
On the west side of the temple is the famous "Phabantang". "Phaban" means huge stone, and "tang" means lawn or dam. According to Tibetan folklore, on July 15 of every lunar goat year in the Tibetan calendar, hundreds of thousands of goddesses, headed by Dakini, set up altars to expiate the sins for all beings. For this reason, this traditional festival has been formed in history. On this day, devout men and women from hundreds of miles away would gather on this beautiful rocky pasture, present various offerings, chant mantras, pray for peace and prosperity, and perfect merit.
Every year on the 15th of July in the Tibetan calendar, it is the most exciting and grand day of the Phabantang Festival. Originally it was a purely religious activity. Later, it gradually developed into a comprehensive festival for farmers and herdsmen to exchange various commodities and carry out recreational activities. That day, there is a horse race in the morning. At 12:30 p.m., it’s the time when hundreds of thousands of goddesses set up the altar, there’s a ceremony to serve the gurus and chant sutras. God dance in the afternoon is the climax of the festival. With the vivid dancing, ups and downs of the dharma horn and drum music, people can understand the emotions of truth, goodness, beauty, and the good wishes of exorcising demons and carrying forward the dharma from various dancing gestures, masks, and forms of ghosts and gods.
How To Get To Reting Monastery
Reting Monastery is 224 km away from Lhasa and it takes 5.5 hours by car. Along the way, the scenery is beautiful. The driver would usually stop to let you take photos. Our suggested itinerary is a 2-day tour. On the first day, you can visit Namtso scenic spot, then stay overnight in Damxung; On the next day, before returning to Lhasa, we can drive you from Damxung to Reting Monastery. You can also get there by bus at Lhasa's eastern suburb station. The fare is 50 yuan. The monastery opens at 07:00-19:00.
This journey starts from exploring Lhasa city, then drive to Namtso for a ‘Heavenly Lake’ experience. On the way, you will enjoy the vast grassland and charming natural scenery. The last station is to head to Tsedang for discovering the "cradle of Tibetan civilization" and Samye Monastery, the first monastery in Tibet.
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