The Kālacakra College at Tashi-lhunpo

By David Reigle on April 30, 2020 at 9:53 pm

            The Panchen Lamas, according to H. P. Blavatsky, were closely connected with the Theosophical Mahatmas. She says that the Panchen Lamas “are high initiates” (Theosophical Glossary, under “Panchen Rimboche”), something that Tibetans would not doubt. So what did the Panchen Lamas teach? Naturally, most of what they taught was standard Tibetan Buddhism. A text that is memorized and recited every day by most Gelugpas is the Bla ma mchod pa’i cho ga, the “Procedure for Offering to the Lama,” a guru-yoga practice. It was written by the first or fourth Panchen Lama, Blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan (1570-1662). He was the first Panchen Lama to be given the title Panchen Lama, so has often been called the first Panchen Lama. However, three previous incarnations were recognized and retroactively called Panchen Lamas, so he is called the fourth Panchen Lama by his own monastery, Tashi-lhunpo.

            Beyond standard Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lamas specialized in the Kālacakra teachings. The third or sixth Panchen Lama, Blo bzang dpal ldan ye shes (1738-1780), established one of the few Kālacakra colleges in Tibet at his Tashi-lhunpo monastery. The Kālacakra college monks would perform the Kālacakra ceremony every year, in which the extensive Kālacakra sand maṇḍala was constructed. Very little is known about the Kālacakra college and its course of study. So in 1982 I requested information about the Kālacakra college of Tashi-lhunpo from the re-established Tashi-lhunpo monastery in south India. At that time, there were about 20 older monks there who had been at Tashi-lhunpo in Tibet prior to 1959. Based on what they remembered, I received two accounts of this, hand-written in English by Tenzin (no other name given), of the Office of the Chodhi Tashi Lhunpo Cultural Society, Tibetan Settlement, P.O. Bylakuppe, Mysore State, India. This information should be preserved and made available. So here follow these two accounts. The Tibetan words in parentheses were given in Tibetan script in the original accounts. I have added only a few words in brackets.

April 21, 1982:

“We received your letter dated 26.3.82. You are interested in history of Kalacakra College of Tashi Lhunpo. Here in our present Tashi Lhunpo monastery there are only one or two monks who attended Kalacakra College when it was functioning in Tibet. You can know textbooks, duration [of course of study], from our following brief history of Kalacakra College of Tashi Lhunpo.

“HISTORY OF KALACAKRA COLLEGE:

“It was about two hundred and thirty-eight years from right now that Kalacakra College of Tashi Lhunpo was established by the Sixth Panchen Lama, Palden Yeshe. But the number of college students was limited. There were only twenty-five student monks because of twenty-five Rigden Rishis.

“First they attend Tantric College of Tashi Lhunpo. There they learn the four major parts of tantric [practice], voice or tune, etc. (‘don rta dbyangs).

“Then they attend the Kalacakra College. First they memorise (‘dus ‘khor mngon rtogs mkhas sgrub zhal lung) orally and give oral test in front of Dus’kor teacher and Auze (dbu mdzad). After that they memorise Dus’kor Bumdup, Dunket, Wangchok, and Monlam Shijod orally respectively. Side by side they learn dontayang, garthik (gar thig). In short, they learn inner, outer and other Kalacakra. They gave much time to study Dus’kor delchen and Khedup Dus’kor tikchen, because these two are the most important textbooks.

“Duration: In Tibet they spend the rest of their lives in studying about Dus’kor [Kalacakra]. We guess that course will take at least 8 or 9 years to complete.

“At present, we have no such college. We hope to have it in the future.”

May 29, 1982:

“We write further information on Dus’kor Da-tsang [Kalacakra College] and its teachers or abbots as you are interested.

“It was Panchen Choeki Nyima who made the previous Dus’kor wide at the Kunsek Palace (kun gzigs pho brang) in Tashi Lhunpo approximately in 1815. Panchen Rinpoche built a new house for the 22-foot square Kalacakra mandala (dkyil ‘khor) at his residence. That was the biggest Dus’kor mandala in Tibet. During his time, he (Panchen Rinpoche) built that 22-foot square mandala of dultson (rdul tshon) [i.e., sand] every year and did the Dus’kor ritual. From that time onward the Dus’kor Da-tsang followed the same up to 1959. There were (1) Khachen Jhedung Wangyal; (2) Dungrampa Sidthar Wangdu; (3) Khachen Jhedung Dawa; (4) Ngulchu Rinpoche; (5) Aali Rinpoche; (6) Dungrampa Sidthar respectively as Dus’kor teachers or abbots (which present older monks know). In 1957, Dungrampa Sidthar was teacher of Dus’kor Da-tsang.

“Moreover, Panchen Choekyi Nyima established Dus’kors in Jhang Ngamrim (byang ngam rim) monastery, Shang Dechen Rabgye (shang bde chen rab rgyas), Thopgyal Gaden Rabgye, Gyaltse Dongtse Chodhi (rgyal rtse grong rtse chos sde) monasteries.

“Gyalwa Jampal Gyatso, the VIII Dalai Lama, came to visit Tashi Lhunpo and on the way back His Holiness took Dus’kor, Lhamo’s Doechen (lha mo’i mdos chen), Gutor cham (dgu gtor chams), and established them in Namgyal Da-tsang, the Da-tsang of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

“Here, we are nearly seventy, 20 old and 50 young monks. Our main income is what we get from fields. It is these young monks who do work on the fields as well as studies. In these days, they have Chochud Lozen in the morning, English-Tibetan class from 10 A.M. to 12, and debating class in the evening when there is no sort of work. We can establish (sngags pa grwa tshang) [Tantric College] within four years (if we get more facilities such as more time to study and less work). After that  we can establish Dus’kor Da-tsang. So, we have to wait more years.

Tashi Delek.”

Category: Uncategorized | 1 comment

  • Robert Hütwohl says:

    Many years ago, in 1989, I was invited to visit (twice) and stayed at Bylakuppe, India, which is the second largest Tibetan settlement outside of Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama has his humble residence. I had to carry a special letter of permission to show the sentry at the entrance gate and during my movements at the settlement. I do not recall seeing any other westerner during my time there. Nowadays, I don’t believe those precautions are undertaken to get special permission any longer. So, one can freely visit the area, currently.

    Once in, I proceeded to the Tashilhunpo monastery where I stayed for a number of days in one of the rooms outside of the monastery. I have no doubt the Mahātmas created a heightened magnetic center at the original Tibet Tashilhunpo monastery. However, the India monastery seemed to me very special and the people were totally easy to talk to.
    Over that time, I met the head Lama, whereupon he allowed me to photograph, with my Hasselblad camera and tripod, tankhas of the Panchen Lamas which were on display in the monastery itself. They appeared quite old. I failed to ask, however, whether they were originally from the Tibet Tashilhunpo monastery. Each tankha was brought out to me to photograph in natural light at the front porch area of the monastery. The lama also gave me the name of each Panchen, in Tibetan, which I wrote down.

    Having had these photographic slides, as 6 x 6 cm format, since 1989, I will post them to my website, eventually.


  • You must be logged in to post a comment.