Rtsi-nang-dgon-pa Jonang Monastery – Aba County

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Rtsi nang dgon pa Monastery

On the road from Rnga-ba to the direction of  Gcig-sgril-in-mgo-log, in the County of Aba near the village of Rgya-stod (甲尔多乡, Jia’erduo village) is Rtsi-nang-dgon-pa Monastery (full name as  rtsi nang dgon dpal me gyur NGES Don bde chen gling, Chinese name as 孜朗寺), a Jonang School Monastery officially founded in 1429.
The Jonang School was widely believed to have been extinct after that the 5th Dalai Lama (1617 to 1682) forbid this school considered by the Tibetan community as heretic. Surprisingly this school has survived till today and it is estimated that there are around 5000 monks perpetuating the Jonang tradition between Sichuan and Qinghai provinces.
Recently restored in 1997 by Chinese and International benefactors, the monastery protects in its wall many artifacts of the Tibetan tradition, even old souvenirs from Eastern Europe, perhaps gift from foreign travelers at the end of 19th century.

Magcig Labsgron Caves

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The external view of Magcig Labsgron Caves as they appears today. During our visit two women monks welcomed us and introduced us their meditation rooms.

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A mandala representing Machig Labdron

Not far from the monastery there is a cave, known as Ma-gcig-sgrub-phug, which is as a place of retreat and meditation chose by the monk Magcig for this purpose.

Magcig was born in Grong-mtsho-mer-mo in 1055 (the year of the wodden-goat of the first Rab-byung) and died in about 1150.

Practitioner zhi-byed-pa and initiator of special school of thoughts, Magcig was a disciple of the Indian Mahasiddha  Phadampasangsrgyas, who came to Tibet from India to transmit his yogi teachings of Chöd school. With the term Mahasiddha we usually refer to tantric practitioners, sometimes also Tibetan masters who assumed this title when had special roles as meditation and yogi leaders.

Chöd is a visionary Buddhist practice of cutting attachment to one’s corporeal form. The practitioner works entirely with their own mind, visualizing the offering, and—by practicing in lonely and dreaded places, like cemeteries—works to overcome all fear. This is also why Chöd was often used to overcome sickness in order to heal oneself and others.[Wikipedia.]

The absence of any documents to demonstrate Magcig has effectively passed trough Ambdo, the origin of the name but gcig sgrub phug is therefore uncertain. Perhaps the name can be reconnected to the memory of the presence of practitioners in this town, which still testify the presence of religious activities since ancient times.

More about Rtsi-nang-dgon-pa Monastery 

It appears that it is thanks to some Jonangpa’s monks who went at that retreat that the first basis of the Rtsi-nang-dgon-pa Monastery have been set in this place. The whole project took place roughly during the Qianlong period by Kundgalhungrub, then abbot of Brog-dge-dgon Monastery. The abbot would then run the monastery as a branch of Brog-dge-dgon Monastery. When, in 1891 (Qing Guangxu seventeenth year), a dispute broke out between religious Rtsi-nang-dgon-pa Monastery  and Blabrangbkrashiskhyil, so much so that at one point that Ldabidobs, the warrior monks, came to Rngaba Rtsi-nang-dgon-pa Monastery, destroying the monastery and capturing the then abbot dbonpo Dkonmchogblogros.

In this situation of great tension and difficulty, Brog-dge-dgon Monastery invoked the help of the vajra master Ngag-dbang-chos‘-byor-rgya-mtsho, of the fourth Gtsang-chen and many others, were able to achieve a reconciliation only in 1894.

With the end of hostilities on both sides, it was possible to begin the reconstruction of the monastery. In particular,  Brog-dge-dgon Monastery took charge of building a room for practice and meditation. Then in Rtsi-nang-dgon-pa Monastery were able to resume normal religious activities.

Today the monastery has a couple of hundred monks and teachers as. Among the buildings that make up the complex, the two best preserved are the one dedicated to the practice of Gcod and one for the practice of Hayagrva.

Conclusion

The simplicity of these valleys and of the life of the Tibetans finds its complexity in its culture and symbols.

The fact that after all these centuries Rtsi-nang-dgon-pa Monastery, the Jonanpa tradition and the legend around Magcig Caves still exists and that are recovering finds its achievement in reminding us to be present and focus in this life.

A spiritual person can be efficient and practical at the same time, but surely a spiritual person is not distracted one. Because a spiritual person has the opportunity to understand the importance of the world’s variables and the beauty of the moments he lives.

What we can learn by feeling the energy of Rtsi-nang-dgon-pa Monastery, as for many others, is to understand the value of been focus in our values, in our objectives and in the moment, even for who is not a spiritual person this is a good advise.

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