The Mandi-Pathankot National Highway is probably the best NH of the state currently. And whatever little troubles this road throws at you, a mere sight of the snow laden ranges make your woes disappear. Divert a little from the main road and you find yourself in an entirely new world.
The world of Tibetan Monasteries and Buddhist Teachings.
Along this highway between Jogindernagar and Kangra, there are 8 Tibetan Monasteries hiding underneath the shadow of the mighty Dhauladhar’s. One such monastery is the Tashi Jong Monastery located close to the Palampur Town.
Tashi Jong in Tibetan stands for ‘auspicious valley’, which is actually an entire community of monks, practitioners and realized practitioners called ‘togdens’. The Khampagar Monastery therein, is the primary school for Tibetan teachings and practices. The Indian gaddi tribal people also live in this area along with Tibetan people.
Tashi Jong is the name of the village while the name of the monastery is Khampagar Monastery and it happens to be one of the very few smoke free villages of Himachal Pradesh. The community currently situated in the Kangra valley of Himachal Pradesh and spread over 37 acres, follows the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. The community was established by the late 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche- Khamtrul Dongyu Nyima during the late sixties. Currently the Tashi Jong complex consists of the main temple, the stupa of Khamtrul Rinpoche, and the Yamantak Retreat Center which is out of bounds to general public.
The community at Tashi Jong is currently headed by the 9th Khamtrul -Rinpoche Shedrub Nyima.
The masters come from the Drukpa Kagyu lineage which was founded by the prodigal Tsangpa Gyare. He was the disciple of Lingchen Repa, an ascetic yogi who had received tutelage from many teachers. The Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism has its roots in an Indian tantric yogi – Tilopa, who is credited with developing a meditation technique called Mahamudra. Tibetans developed another technique called the ‘Kadampa’ and the synthesis of the two resulted in the Dakpo Kagyu School, of which the Khmapagar Monastery is a follower.
During the ‘Great Leap Forward’ under Mao and the subsequent Smash the Four Olds program (1958-1976), the then 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche , left Tibet along with few of his people. They first settled in Kalimpong in West Bengal, where they started a community. They eventually moved to Kangra in 1969, where they initiated a community and the construction of Khampagar Monastery with financial aid from International agencies and devotees from Sikkim and West Bengal.
A Word about Togdens
Togdens are the yogis that once used to live in the caves and forests of Tibet. Now that the beautiful Tibet and its culture are under threat, these yogis are practicing the teachings of Buddha here in Tashi Jong Monastery. Here at Tashi Jong these yogis practice at the retreat center. Meditation practices are usually continued in seclusion and sometimes these practices are carried for years. At present there are 10-15 monks who have been meditating since years.
Reaching Tashi Jong
Tashi Jong can be reached from Palampur or Baijnath. It is 10-15 kilometer from Palampur towards Baijnath. A link road branches off from the NH and takes you straight to the monastery after a short ride of 5km.
P.S. The Mountains are calling! 🙂