Tuesday, December 22, 2015



Forming of Lawa Khangtsen
According to historical records and oral narration of the past teachers, Lawa Khangtsen—which is a department/College within the Sera Je Monastic University, of Adepts and Renown,—was first formed during the time of the Sera Je Abbotship of Keutsang Jampa Monlam, in the Earth-Sheep Year, of the thirteenth Tibetan Rabjung Calendar Cycle, circa 1775.

The Founder of Lawa Khangtsen
Keutsang Re-emanate Jampa Monlam was the founder of this Khangtsen (College). The events leading to his establishing of this Khangtsen started with difficulties concerning some dhob-dhobs (rdob-rdob; the monks of fierce character) at Sera Mey, who disregarded the rules and to whom the monastic officials could not dare reprimand. Drakpa Khedrub, the Abbot of Sera Mey, had a great difficulty with the dhob-dhobs that he told Sera Je Abbot Keutsang Rinpoche Jampa Monlam, of the former’s inability to look after those dhob-dhobs. The Reverend Keutsang Rinpoche responded, “If there is no way you can look after them, I will look them.” Accordingly, The Honourable Abbot of Sera Mey agreed fully to hand over the dhob-dhobs to Keutsang Rinpoche.
   Thereafter Keutsang Rinpoche took eight dhob-dhobs, skillfully looked after them, placed the dhob-dhobs together, within the residential quarters with that of the monks who had earlier joined the College from the affiliated monasteries of Lowé-Teng Monastery and hBom-Teng Monastery, and he thus established the Lawa Khangtsen.
   Since then the two monasteries—Lowé-Teng and hBom-Teng—became uniquely affiliated with Lawa Khangtsen, entailing a continuity of future recruits to the Khangtsen from the two monasteries. That already prior to 1698 C.E. generations of monks had come from these two provincial monasteries to join Sera Je was mentioned in the Regent Desi Sangyae Gyatso’s historical writing, The Yellow Sapphire; in latter times, since establishing anew of Lawa Khangtsen these two monasteries had become as the seed-source for new recruits of monks at the Lawa Khangtsen.

The manner how the name “Lawa Khangtsen” was labelled
Names in general can be imputed in all kinds of manners, but as regards the name “Lawa Khangtsen” there are two variant explanations in the tradition of the past sublime teachers. The first version says when this Khangtsen was first formed there arrived at the Khangtsen over a thirty lay persons, from Dhokham Yara region, wearing chupa (Tibetan native dress) of white fabric, who all joined the Khangsten as new monks. When the Khangtsen was established anew the name given was thus based on the costume of the first batch of the new monks. The significance of this is explained that there would be no pollution with the motive of new monks joining the Khangtsen, just as a cloth of white lawa-fabric is not defiled by other colours; there is such a tradition of explaining the name.
   The other version says, while this Khangtsen was being built when all the monks of the Khangtsen were thinking of a noble name to give to it, there appeared from underground where the main Shrine Hall was being newly built a white slab with the letters “Lawa” (ལྭ་བ་) naturally inscribed on it. The appearance of this item of wonder was considered by all as spontaneously-manifest dependent-link auspiciousness and thus the self-manifest letters “Lawa” were the name adopted as the Khangtsen’s name.

The author of Lawa Khangtsen’s Great Constitution
The Second Keutsang, Jamyang Monlam, was the author of the Constitution. Established by the First Keutsang, Jampa Monlam, this Khangtsang came to be fostered by the Second Keutsang, Jamyang Monlam, who bestowed upon the Khangtsen the uniquely great Constitution. Since the First Keutsang the successive Keutsang Re-emanated Ones have taken a special care of the Khangtsen.

Lawa Khangtsen Shrine Hall (within the Congregation Hall) in Tibet
Earlier in Tibet the Lawa Khangtsen’s Shrine Hall was located close to the Debate Courtyard of Sera Mey, at the front of Sermey Tsangpa Khangtsen, to the left of Gungru Khangtsen. The Main Congregation Hall had an upper storey; it had two tall pillars, and was surrounded by verandah on three storeys. Initially the Congregation Hall faced up towards Je Monastery; later a new hall was built, facing down towards Potala Palace. This new hall was built with the responsibility of its construction borne especially by the Khangtsen’s great Vinaya-Holder Teachers—led by the Vinaya Master Gaen Jatse—who had the threefold attributes of learnedness, practice and nobility (altruism). The plan-measurements of the residential quarters for the monks were done by Gaen Jatse, in accordance with Vinaya guidelines, and built as such. The monks’ residential quarters were named as “Tagmo Chikhang” (Takmo Collective Quarters); there was another Collective Quarters, a two-storeyed, at the rear of the Khangtsen’s Congregation Hall, and towards the Ngakpa Monastery.

The Represents (Holy Objects) inside the Congregation Hall
The main Represents (Represents of Enlightened Body, Speech and Mind) were a set of gold alloy statues of the threefold presence: Jey Tsongkhapa and the two principal disciples; a complete set of gold alloy statues of The Six Ornaments and the Two Supremes (the historical Buddhist adepts in India); a unique statue of Guru Rinpoche.
   There was a gold alloy statue of Āchārya Vasubhandu which was brought to the Khangtsen—by the realised dhob-dhobs, in lieu of cash-offering share at the Monlam Prayers—from the top level of Tsuklagkhang Temple in Lhasa. It is said that bringing forth of this statue to the Khangtsen auspiciously heralded, like a garland of golden beads, a continuity of learned and accomplished adepts resembling the masters styled, “The Six Ornaments and the Two Supremes” of the Land of the Exalted (India).
   When the Khangtsen was initially being built there appeared from underground a white-stone statue of the Six-Armed Mahākāla, a self-appeared statue; and also there was at the Khangtsen a statue of Chamsing, of medicinal clay, made by Kyabjey Drak-kar Rinpoche, of which the upper part formed naturally, and the statue spoke. Historical narration explains that when Drak-kar Rinpoche had completed sculpting the lower part of the statue he left the statue in the middle of the Debate Courtyard while he went for lunch in his room. During the meal it suddenly rained heavily; Rinpoche ran outside and wailed, “My Chamsing!” The statue of Chamsing spoke, “I am here!”—when Rinpoche took a closer look the upper part of the statue had already formed naturally.
   There was a thangka (scroll painting) of Paldhen Lhamo which was kept sealed-by-order, not allowed to be opened. The events leading to this was that once when the Khangtsen’s Disciplinarian was walking up from beyond the fence there was a glow of fire in the rubbish; upon going closer the Disciplinarian noticed the glow coming from a tattered old thangka of Paldhen Lhamo. He took up the thangka and placed it at the Khangtsen. Historical accounts speak of some unique dhob-dhobs of the Khangtsen absorbing into the thangka. It is said that Kyabjey Kuetsang Jamyang Monlam rolled up the thangka and decreed that from then onwards the thangka should not be opened.
   Gaen Yardong Rinpoche Gelek Gyatso had offered to the Khangtsen a butter-lamp, known as “The White-Brass Glittering Lamp” (rag-dkar-phra-koṅ-ma) which was of silver on the outside and brass inside. Earlier this lamp, lit and placed at the front, had been offered to Gaen Yardong Rinpoche by a ḍākiṇi when Rinpoche was in retreat; and it lit well, indicative of its blessing. Accounts are told of the difference in the length or the shortness of the lamp staying alight, and of it becoming alight well or otherwise, corresponding to the greatness or the smallness of merits of the benefactor, or whether or not the motive is tainted by miserliness. There is the tradition of certainly going to make light-offering with that lamp by the Khangtsen’s scholars who sit for their initial all-night debate during Fresher-at-the-Major-Texts Class and Fresher-at-Middle-View Class.

Studies at Lawa Khangtsen, when in Tibet, and its order of seniority,
In the past in Tibet there were over five hundred monks at Lawa Khangtsen, of which over four hundred resided at the Khangtsen. From the moment a monk fresher-at-studies starts joining the debates at the debate-courtyard the studies done were on the major texts, one was not allowed at all to study the common knowledge-fields (languages, arts, etc.).
   Akin to the difference in the order of the person leading a horse and the person following it, there is an order of seniority of the monks. This is determined on the basis of the time—earlier or later—in joining the Khangtsen. Those who had served the Khangtsen as the Discipline Teacher, or Store Manager (Senior and Junior Store Managers), are regarded as seniors and they can join the meetings. In general, those who have studied beyond Vinaya Class are regarded as seniors.

Unity and harmony among the Sangha, earlier in Tibet
Unless they were the students of the same Surety Teacher, it was not allowed for those of the same region and native monastery to gather in more than two persons, eating and staying together, in large numbers, in a residential room.
   It was not allowed in general conversations and speech to engage in “praise of one’s side, and defamation of others’ side”. All in the Khangtsen—the officials and the general congregation—were to forsake fully sectarian prejudice, bias of regional monasteries and so forth, rather they were required to always live with a mutual sound samaya-bondship, of faith, pure outlook, liking and reverence towards each other, although earlier coming from different regional monasteries. This has been also a principal practice of the past great beings of this Khangtsen; it is important that the followers maintain a samaya-bondship purity, as the proverbial blending into one of milk and water.

The situation after arriving at Buxor in India
At the time of the upheaval of 1959 there were some four hundred resident monks at Lawa Khangtsen. Escaping from the fears of that time, only some twenty monks were able to make it to India—following after His Holiness the Dalai Lama—and eventually arrive at Buxor Monastic Centre, a place of high humidity and very hot climate, which made many monks suffer from various illnesses. There the monks’ residential quarters were previously a huge prison during the British rule of India, a prison for Indian political prisoners who protested against the British. As for the Sangha’s living rooms, the Abbots and Re-emanated Lamas were allocated each a small room; the monks at various Khangtsens were housed ten, fifteen, twenty and thirty together in each room. All the beds, tables and shelves for the texts were made privately by the monks by cutting bamboos from the forest. Very few monks had the full set of robes on their body. The monks’ sustenance was provided by the Government of India in aids of rice, flour, ghee, milk and so on, but due to the bad works of the local officials the monks were given by the officials much stale and rotten foods, which caused a great damage to the monks’ health. Under such situation the number of the monks getting sick kept increasing, many suffered from tuberculosis; at that time except for one or two monks, the Khangsten’s monks caught tuberculosis. The central government of India set up at Buxor a new hospital for tuberculosis, provided doctors, nurses and medicines, which helped improve the situation and greatly benefitted the patients.
   Living under such an impoverished means of sustenance the monks of the Khangtsen, comprising of some twenty or so, united in thought, put together whatever money each had, appointed a Store Manager, and occasionally made tea-offering to the general congregation, performed monthly Revive Fulfil Rites of Chamsing, and kept up other spiritual programmes, thus gradually restoring to completeness the Dharma activities.
   Eventually it became difficult for the monks to remain at Buxor under innumerable hardships, and thus in December 1969 they had to move to southern India in a Tibetan settlement. When at Buxor there were at the Khangsten some twenty monks, but upon arrival at the southern settlement there were only thirteen monks left.
   There in the south the monks initially had to stay in tents, facing much hardship during the spring and summer downpours and gales. For the means of sustenance the monks had to prepare farming lands, by having to clear trees and remove weeds, and then having to work hard at farming. As there were few ploughing oxen, the monks also had to plough the land, pulling the ploughs themselves.
   Besides, the monks of our Khangtsen who had arrived south from Buxor did farming on the side to generate funds for the Khangtsen: they put together their money, bought on lease for two years farms from other people and when the common tasks of the monastery in general for the day were completed at six in the evening, they worked on the farms, spending half of their night’s sleep-time working. They thus endured hundreds of hardships. Of particular significance was that, for the purpose of preserving the Teachings of the Victorious One (Buddha), they focused on the care for their students, fostered as many students as they could, and guided the students in their studies of the major texts. Those pioneering monks of the Khangtsen have left behind sublime legacies of marvellous achievements. In brief, by the compassion of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and by the determination and altruistic dedication of those elders, we have at present at the Khangtsen the situation where we are able to do unwavering studies of the major texts, while being in harmony, unity, good order of reverence of seniority and in sound samaya-bondship; this is solely due to their kindness.            


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