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26July2017

Gyalwa Gotsangpa

Drukpa Lineage is essentially a lineage of yogis. Many great yogis, through practicing the unique and profound methods developed by the Drukpa masters, became enlightened within one lifetime. Not only that, they were able to benefit many beings during their lifetimes. One of the most celebrated masters of the Drukpa Lineage, besides Tsangpa Gyare himself and his successive reincarnations is: Gyalwa Gotsangpa (1189-1258) - He was one of the most accomplished disciples of Tsangpa Gyare who charted the route for circumambulation of the Mountain and the Lakes and started the tradition of circumambulation. The total distance, covered in a complete circumambulation of Mount Kailash according to the route charted by Gotsangpa, is 52km and takes about 13 to 15 hours.

Below is a brief account of how he developed the circumambulation route in Kailash (source, full article can be found in: The Dragon Winter 2002 Issue). Gotsangpa also discovered many holy sites and caves in the Himalayas, which later became a source of support for spiritual practitioners to progress towards Complete Enlightenment.

Chag Tshel Gang - Starting the circumambulation of the Mountain from Darchen, one reaches Lhalung-do. While proceeding to circumambulate Mount Kailash, Gotsangpa stopped on the banks of Lake Manasarovar, near Lhalung-do, to drink tea. He went to look for stones with which to make a fire. But in his pure vision he saw all the rocks as images of Buddha and mantras. So instead, he prostrated and prayed. This place came to be known as Chag Tshel Gang, meaning the 'Point of Prostration'.

Dri-ra Phug - When Gotsangpa came to open the route to Mount Kailash, he reached Drong Lung. He saw the peaks behind as the palace of 1,000 Buddhas and wanted to check if the circumambulation path covered the peaks. He went northward and suddenly a Drong Dri (a female wild yak) appeared in front of him. Thus the place came to be called Drong Lung. Gotsangpa realised that the Drong Dri was the emanation of the Lion-Faced Dakini and had been sent by his guru to show him the path. The Dri went eastward and he followed her and the Dri disappeared below the present day cave. He looked around and saw footprints of the Dri on the rock and prints of her horn on a rock in the cave to indicate that she had disappeared into the rock of the cave. He understood that it was a message for him to meditate in this cave. Hence the cave came to be called Dri Thim Dri-ra Phug, meaning, 'the cave where the Drong disappeared and left the print of her horn'.

After meditating at this cave for a long time, Gotsangpa thought it was time for him to leave, since the climate was cold and food was scarce. So he touched the rock of the cave with his head and prayed that whatever creature (whether human, animal or insect) came to his cave would be reborn in the higher realm. He left the impression of his hat on the rock. On the stone in front of the cave he left his footprint. Practitioners continued to meditate at this cave till 1965. A monastery was built at the cave, but was completely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. However, the monastery was rebuilt in 1986. Dri-ra Phug monastery is managed by Dra Dingpo Che Dhondup Thongmon Gompa of the Drukpa Lineage. Dri-ra Phug is the main holy place of Sengye Dongma or the Lion-Faced Dakini.

Jarog Dron-khang - A little further up from Dri-ra Phug is Jarog Dron-khang. During his meditation the Land Spirit of Lhalung Phu rendered great service to Gotsangpa and as an expression of gratitude Gotsangpa made an offering of Torma. A raven carried away the Torma and he followed the raven and saw it sit on a rock. When he went closer, the raven merged into the rock, leaving its imprint on the rock. He realized that the raven was an emanation of Mahakala.

Drolma La or Tara Pass - After the raven disappeared Gotsangpa didn't know where to go and wondered which way he should follow. Suddenly 21 wolves appeared. He realised that they were emanations of the 21 Taras that had come to show him the road and followed them. Reaching the top of the pass, the 21 wolves merged into one and that too merged into a rock on the pass. Since then, the pass came to be called Drolma La or Tara Pass. Impressions of a wolf and a self-born image of Avalokitesvara can be seen on the rock near the pass. There is also a footprint of Milarepa on the pass. Before reaching the Palace of Tara, there is a footprint of Yonge Rigdzin, a yogi of Khampagar of the Drukpa lineage.

A footprint of Thrinley Shinta, the seventh Gyalwang Drukpa, is also clearly visible on the right side of the road, below the lake known as the 'Bathing Pool of Dakinis' behind Drolma La.

Vajra Varahi Cave - On the river bank, near the ridge opposite the yellow and blue coloured rock known as the palace of the yellow and black Jambhala, is the meditation cave of Gotsangpa and the shrine of Mahakala. A little further down is the Vajra Varahi cave. Dordrak Lama Chonyi Sangpo of the Nyingma School built this cave. He didn't have disciples who could look after it; Druk Sangag Choeling Monastery then managed it. Later it was offered to Taktsang Repa of Ladakh and some of the reincarnations of Taktsang Repa visited the monastery housing the cave. Lang-na Tulku was given charge of the monastery. In 1941, when the Hasaks invaded Ngari, the monastery was destroyed and Lang-na Tulku passed away. The Tibetan Government of the time decided to rebuild it. Spiti Lama Yeshi Palden financed the reconstruction and the management of the monastery was handed over to Purang Shephel Ling Monastery of the Gelugpa tradition. However, the lineage of the monastery remained Drukpa.