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Media Coverage in Germany

Click image to read the article in English (PDF Format). The coverage in text is as follows:

The Drukpa Lineage and their supreme heads, the Gyalwang Drukpas

The Drukpa Lineage stems from the Indian Mahasiddhas Tilopa and Naropa and the Tibetan masters Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa, an unbroken lineage of masters and their adepts until today. The successive Gyalwang Drukpas are the incarnation of Naropa (1016-1100), whose tantric bone ornaments are held by the successive Gyalwang Drukpas and are worn to enable devotees to accumulate merit. The last occasion that they were worn was in Ladakh in 2004 where 100,000 devotees came to receive the blessings.

The successive Gyalwang Drukpas are also the emanation of Chenrezig, the Buddha of compassion and for more than 800 years the Drukpa Lineage has been famed in Tibet for its purity and ascetic yogic practice and conduct of life. ‘Half of the people are Drukpas, half of them are Yogis, half of them are realized’ was a well known proverb in the days of the 4th Gyalwang Drukpa, the ‘all knowing’ Pema Karpo (1527-1592). Drukpa Künleg, disciple of the 2nd Gyalwang Drukpa, is famed all over the Himalayas and especially in Bhutan as the ‘Divine Madman’ who transferred his wisdom in a down-to-earth and straight forward way to people from all walks of life, and is therefore admired and kept in their hearts until today. It is a great fortune that the Drukpa Lineage spread to those areas of the Himalayan range outside Tibet. Ladakh, Bhutan, Lahaul and Kinnaur are the traditional places where the Drukpa Lineage thrived and these regions have kept their cultural identity and religious independence, despite the political unrest and changes of the last 50 years. They are still the places where Vajrayana-Buddhism of the Drukpa Lineage is authentically practiced today.

The Drukpa Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism

The first-ever Drukpa Council will be held in Kathmandu on April 6th-15th 2009

His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, supreme head of the Drukpa Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, grants for the first time in history an invitation to this unique meeting. This will become an annual meeting, known as The Annual Drukpa Council (ADC), and will serve as a platform for teachers and followers of the Drukpa Lineage and also for those who are interested in an authentic spiritual practice. The aim of the council is to promote the teachings and exchange spiritual wisdom and experience as well as meditative practice and rituals. Rinpoches (reincarnated masters or tulkus) both young and senior, abbots and professors, all belonging to the Drukpa Lineage, who come from Ladakh to Bhutan (the traditional areas of that lineage), as well as Western Drukpa teachers such as the renowned Jetsünma Tenzin Palmo, will give Buddhist teachings including lectures about the history and spread of the Drukpa tradition.

Aims and Program of ADC

The ADC will serve as a forum to exchange views and experiences to inspire those interested in or practicing a spiritual life, by conveying the deep and always fresh wisdom of Lord Buddha‘s teachings, as practiced for over 800 years in the Drukpa Tradition. Furthermore the connection between practitioners and groups of the worldwide Drukpa Sanghas will be supported and strengthened by the ADC for these modern times where the influence of information and media flow fast and strong.

The ADC will incorporate traditional rituals and practices, including an ongoing 10 day grand Chakrasamvara ritual (Drubchen) which will be conducted by senior monks of the monastic body of Bhutan - where the Drukpa Lineage has been the state religion since the 16th century. H.H. Gyalwang Drukpa will grant the initiation of a Chod (cutting through) practice, which is particular to this lineage, known as „Senge Tsewa“. There will also be discussions and exchanges on topics that cover the practical benefit of spirituality in a fast changing world.

LIVE TO LOVE, a project brought to life by His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa will be one of the main focuses of this first ADC. Live to Love means to practice love and compassion beyond faith or belief through engaging in actively helping and connecting to those in need - both humans and animals - as well as caring for our environment. Every third Sunday of the month people are encouraged to meet in groups all over the world to practice LIVE TO LOVE thus serving and furthering the spiritual ideals of the Drukpa Lineage and developing their vitality according to the circumstances and needs of the ever changing world. For further information please contact:,, (homepage personally edited by His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa),

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Category: Print Media

The Drukpa lineage goes around the world

1 August 2008, Kuensel (Bhutan)

View original article on Kuensel Online

Over 800 years ago, when Tsangpa Gyare Yeshi Dorjee (1161-1211) reached Nam-gyi Phu near Lhasa in search of a site to build the monastery as prophesied by his Guru, Lingchen Repa (1128-1188), nine dragons, said to be manifestations of the 80 great Indian Mahasiddhas, reared up from the earth and soared into the sky with loud thunderous roars. Taking this as an auspicious sign, Tsangpa Gyare named his lineage the followers of the “Drukpa.” Tsangpa Gyare established a monastery at Nam-gyi Phu and named it Druk Sewa Jangchub Ling monastery, but it popularly became known as Nam Druk. Tsangpa Gyare also founded Ralung and Longdol monasteries. Namdruk and Ralung remained the main seats of the Drukpa lineage till the 4th Gyalwang Drukpa Pema Karpo (1527-1692) founded Druk Sangag Choling and made it its main seat.

Tsangpa Gyare’s disciple Gyalwa Gotshangpa spread the Drukpa lineage in western Tibet and his followers came to be called adherents of the Upper Drukpa lineage, while followers of Gyalwa Lorepa (1187-1250) branched to form the Lower Drukpa lineage. Onray Dharma Sengye started the Central Drukpa lineage and, from Pariwa, originated the Great Spiritual Sons lineage within the Central Drukpa one.

Drukpa lineage became famous for the simplicity, asceticism and comprehension of its adherents and the profundity of its spiritual teachings. A Tibetan proverb of the time affirmed this renown with a local saying:

”Half of the people are Drukpas,
Half of the Drukpas are begging mendicants, and
Half of the begging mendicants are Siddhas.”

It indicates a profusion of disciples and the influence of its practice at that time.

As prophesied by Tsangpa Gyare, Onray Dharma Sengye sent Phajo Drukgom Shigpo to Bhutan and he established spiritual and temporal influence of the Drukpa lineage in Bhutan. In around 1300 AD Gyalwa Lorepa visited Bumthang and founded the Chodrak Gonpa in Bumthang and spread the teachings of the Drukpa. Later, on the invitation of the descendants of Phajo Drukgom, Jamyang Kunga Sengye, Thrulshik Namkhai Naljor, Gyalwang Je, Ngawang Chogyal and his son, Drukpa Kunleg, Mipham Chogyal and Mipham Tenpai Nima visited Bhutan from Ralung and further spread the teachings of the Drukpa lineage. As per his own prediction, Kunkhyen Pema Karpo, the 4th Gyalwang Drukpa, had two reincarnations: Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Paksam Wangpo. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal left Ralung for Bhutan in 1616 and by 1651 he had unified Bhutan and established himself as the spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan. He renamed the country ‘Druk’ and the people ‘Drukpa’ to indicate the supremacy of the lineage. Ever since Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal appointed Pekar Jungne as the 1st Je Khenpo, the spiritual head of all monasteries in Bhutan, successive Je Khenpos have acted to date as spiritual regents of Bhutan. Drukpa lineage continues to thrive and flourish and benefit all sentient beings. It is supported by the state and given unconditional effort by all involved, from the lowest rung to the highest level.

Spread of Drukpa Lineage in Ladakh Area

Once Tagtshang Repa Ngawang Gyatso (1573-1651), a disciple of the 5th Gyalwang Drukpa Paksam Wangpo (1593-1641) and Drukpa Yongzin Ngawang Sangpo, was meditating at Ugyen dzong, a retreat cave near Kargil of Guru Padma Sambhava and Naropa, after his pilgrimage to the Swat Valley (now in Pakistan), when he received an invitation from King Jamyang Namgyal of Ladakh. He declined the royal invitation, saying that he did not have either permission from his Guru or guidance from the Dakinis to visit the royal court of Ladakh, and returned to Tibet. When Sengye Namgyal ascended the royal throne of Ladakh, he petitioned Drukpa Paksam Wangpo to send Tagtshang Repa to Ladakh to give spiritual guidance to the royal court and propagate the teachings of the Drukpa lineage in Ladakh. Following the instructions of Drukpa Paksam Wangpo, Tagtshang Repa arrived in Ladakh in 1624, at the age of 50, and first founded the monastery at Hanley. Two years later, he arrived at Hemis and was received by King Sengye Namgyal and members of the royal court. In 1630, he built the Hemis Jangchub Ling shrine (today called Dukhang Nyingpa) and founded the Sangha. With royal patronage, successive reincarnations of Tagtshang Repa spread the Drukpa lineage all over the kingdom of Ladakh as well as Zanskar and Lahaul.

The king of Ladakh also invited Jamgon Ngawang Gyaltsen from Bhutan to visit Ladakh, where the prime minister, the king and royal family members, warmly received him with honour and respect. He gave many teachings to the king and the people of Ladakh and displayed many miracles. Jamgon was particularly famous for his ability to perform miracles and make predictions. He also proved himself to be an expert in making Zung scrolls, mandala drawings and cross-thread objects, which can still be seen in most of the dzongs in Ladakh. Thus he also played a pivotal role in spreading the Drukpa lineage in Ladakh.

The Drukpa lineage has more than a thousand monasteries in Tibet, Bhutan, Ladakh and other parts of Himalayas and the legacy of guiding countless beings on the path of Dharma and ultimate enlightenment for more than 800 years.

The Drukpa lineage at present (Outside of Bhutan)

After the political upheaval in Tibet in 1959, the Masters of the Drukpa lineage began to set up roots in exile and preserve the practices by renovating old monasteries and retreat centres and building new ones, training monks and nuns and publishing rare scriptures and texts.

His Eminence the 8th Drukpa Choegon taught and reinvigorated the Drukpa lineage in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh. H.E. the 1st Thuksey Rinpoche founded Druk Sangag Choling Monastery in Darjeeling, West Bengal. H.E. the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche founded Khampagar at Tashi Jong near Bir in Himachal Pradesh. H.E. the late Apho Rinpoche revived and revitalised the Drukpa retreat centres and monasteries in Lahaul and Ladakh. On his advice the people of Ladakh invited H.E. the 1st Thuksey Rinpoche (1917-1983). On the invitation of the monk community and lay followers of the Drukpa lineage in Ladakh, H.H. the XIIth Gyalwang Drukpa visited Ladakh in 1974 and in 1976. Since 1978 His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa has visited Ladakh regularly, giving spiritual guidance to devout followers and practitioners, restoring old monasteries and building new ones.

H.E. Drukpa Choegon Tenzin Choekyi Gyatsho has been actively teaching and guiding beings on the path of Dharma in Ladakh (J&K) and Kinnaur (H.P.) and has established Dechen Chokhor monastery in Dehradun (Uttarakhand). H.E. Drukpa Choegon Chokyi Sengye has been guiding beings in Kinnaur (HP) as well as abroad. He has built Dechen Chokhor monastery at Buntar (H.P).

Thus His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa and many great Drukpa masters have strengthened the Drukpa lineage and benefitted many beings through their teachings. His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa developed a concept of ‘LIVE TO LOVE’ ( to promote acts of compassion and loving kindness in the form of education, medical facilities, relief and aid, conservation and promotion of spiritual heritage and conservation of the natural environment.

Today the Drukpa lineage is seemingly resurgent in the Himalayan regions of Ladakh, Kinnaur, Lahaul, etc., and around the world with a growing number of Dharma centres and followers. Drukpa lineage spiritual centres and groups have been established in places like Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan in Asia, France, Germany, Monaco, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and United Kingdom in Europe, Mexico and Peru in South America. In United States, Drukpa centres have been established in places like Los Angeles, Oregon, New Jersey and New York.

Despite many achievements with hard work and perseverance of great spiritual leaders of the past, many things remain to be done to preserve and promote the Drukpa lineage for the future, to revive its different aspects of by bestowing empowerment, transmissions and teachings, and exchanging their knowledge and practice about the secret teachings and meditation techniques unique to the lineage, and to create awareness of the 800-year old spiritual legacy of Drogon Tsangpa Gyare, Kuen Khen Pema Karpo, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and others.

H.H. the XII Gyalwang Drukpa has taken the initiative to convene the Annual Drukpa Council as a forum for the Masters of the Drukpa lineage to meet and exchange ideas and suggestions on further strengthen ing the lineage and also to give public teachings and empowerments. The 1st Annual Drukpa Council will be held at Druk Amitabha Mountain, Kathmandu, Nepal, from 8 to 15 April 2009. For complete information, one can visit the website or

Contributed by Tshering Penjor, GNH Commission

Category: Print Media

Joy Factor

This article was written by Amy Ng based on an interview with His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, Her Royal Highness Princess Pema Lhadon of Bhutan and her daughter, Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck, who is the ADC Coordinator in Bhutan, during their recent visit to Malaysia in December 2008. It was published on 9th January 2009, in The Star, Malaysia, the leading English-language tabloid format newspaper in Malaysia. We are in the midst of translating several other articles originally published in the leading Chinese newspapers in Malaysia. Click here to read the original copy of this article in PDF format.

Bhutan's wealth and prosperity is driven by a policy that focuses on the pursuit of happiness.

I WAS unprepared to meet His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, one of the most distinguished spiritual masters living today, as well as Her Royal Highness Pema Lhadon Wangchuck, the sister of the King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigma Singye Wangchuck. Never having met such eminent people had somehow convinced me that it would leave me stuttering and with the fear that everything I did would be deemed insolent.

Read more: Joy Factor

Category: Print Media

Pilgrims flock to India for Buddhist "dragon" celebration

© AFP. Text: AFP/Tripti Lahiri; Photos: AFP/Manpreet Romana (click image to enlarge view)

SHEY, India (AFP) - Pilgrims from as far afield as Malaysia and Mexico have flocked to India's isolated region of Ladakh this week for celebrations to mark 800 years of the "dragon" sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

The events have included hours of chants and prayers around the 44-year-old Gyalwang Drukpa, the head of the Dragon lineage, plus a more contemporary song contest inspired by his motto, "Live to Love."

"It was like love at first sight," said pilgrim Trent Williamson, who embraced the faith after meeting the Gyalwang Drukpa in Williamson's native Australia.

"Mentally I stopped killing. Even if there was a mosquito on me I didn't kill it," said the Australian, who took the Tibetan name Jigme Kunga Shonu or "Fearless Youth Loved by All."

Williamson, who works as a music producer in Sydney, won the song contest with a cheerful tune entitled: "In this world of great despair, the dragon man is here."

The Drukpa or 'dragon' sect was founded in the 13th century and is a part of the Kagyupa tradition, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Gelukpa line, headed by exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, established its presence in mountainous Ladakh first. But the Drukpa order gained favor under Ladakh's Namgyal royal dynasty in the 17th century.

Cristina Pandal, 61, who traveled to the scorching, high-altitude lunar landscape of Ladakh from Mexico City, said she had embraced Buddhism after tiring of the more organized Christian churches.

"Jesus had the same teachings but I don't believe much in the church and its rules and the way the teachings get manipulated -- there's too much guilt," said Pandal.

The Drukpa leader has about 10,000 foreign followers outside of South Asia, according to Drukpa Trust volunteer Lynne Chiang, who is Malaysian.

Many Malaysians made the journey to the Naro Photang Puspahari temple in Shey, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Ladakh's main town of Leh, for this week's celebrations.

Among them was a man introduced Thursday as "a godfather of Asian pop" -- record producer Chow Kam Leong, who also took part in the song contest.

But in spite of their evident reverence for the Gyalwang Drukpa, not all are completely open about their beliefs in their home countries.

Williamson said that he preferred not to tell too many in Australia -- outside of close friends -- that he follows a Buddhist master.

"Australians are very afraid of things that they don't know," he said. "They judge you. I'd rather not have the trouble."

Pandal said fellow Mexicans did find her Buddhist path strange but she didn't let it bother her.

"I respect everybody's choices in life," she shrugged.

"But I have found my way."

Category: Print Media

Bhutan Observer Interviews H.E. Khamtrul Rinpoche

8th November 2008, Bhutan Observer

BO - Bhutan Observer, one of the National Newspapers of Bhutan

KR - H.E. the Ninth Khamtrul Rinpoche

BO: Could Your Eminence say a bit about your previous incarnation's connections/activities with the Drukpa Lineage and Bhutan?

KR: Historically speaking, the successive incarnations of Khamtrul Rinpoche were responsible for spreading the teachings of the Drukpa Lineage in Kham region and established over two hundred monasteries in Kham hence the name Kham-trul or Incarnation of Kham.

However the Eighth Khamtrul Rinpoche, due to previous karmic connection, came to Bhutan. He gave many initiations for the practitioners who were doing three-year retreat in Paro, Trongsa and Wangdue. Also in Bumthang, at the Khenlop Choesum Lhakhang in Kurjey, many lay men and women were initiated as monks and nuns (Dzo. getsun). He spiritually supported and guided the establishment of retreat centers in Paro, Trongsa and Wangdue.

He was also a great ambidextrous artist, and many of the Mahakala Thangkas in Punakha Dzong were painted by him.

I heard that he really loved Bhutan and its people and used to say this is a country of Dharma. Anyway, I believe he came to Bhutan many times and after giving many Wang, Lung and teachings, he passed away in Trongsa Dzong at the age of 49.

BO: Could Your Eminence say a bit about your connections/activities (Tango Shedra, H.H. Je Khenpo, etc) in Bhutan?

KR: There are many connections between myself, my spiritual teachers, H.H. Gyalwang Drukpa and H.H. Je Khenpos, and Bhutan. Historically speaking, as many of you know, the Drukpa Lineage was first brought to Bhutan by Phajo Druggom Zhigpo (1184 - 1251) as per Drogon Tsangpa Gyare's (the First Gyalwang Drukpa [1161-1211] and founder of Drukpa Lineage) prediction.

After the famous Fourth Gyalwang Drukpa Kunkhyen Pema Karpo passed away, there were two incarnations with the sole purpose of benefiting as many beings as possible.

One was Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who came to Bhutan following the visions and predictions given by the Mahakala (Yeshe Gonpo) and not only spread the Drukpa Lineage, but unified the country and named it Druk after his lineage of Dongyud Pelden Drukpa.

Meanwhile Shabdrung Pagsam Wangpo and his reincarnations continued the responsibility of looking after many hundreds of monasteries of the Drukpa Lineage in Tibet and Ladakh.

Since then, many Drukpa masters have traveled back and forth between Bhutan and Tibet exchanging their spiritual knowledge, wisdom and initiating compassionate activities that benefited many sentient beings.

This spiritual connection is evident even today. For example, the present H.H. Je Khenpo Jigme Chodrak and His Holiness the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa (the reincarnation of Shabdrung Pagsam Wangpo) studied under the same teacher and share a deep spiritual bond.

His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa always emphasizes humility in a practitioner and he felt that many of the learned Lopons and masters of Bhutan exemplified this. Due to this reason as well as to study the unique philosophical view points (that are studied and taught mainly in Bhutan) propounded by the famed scholar the Fourth Gyalwang Drukpa Kunkhyen Pema Karpo, His Holiness decided that H.E. Thuksey Rinpoche and I should be sent to study in Tango.

BO: How is the state of Buddhism in Bhutan and how do you think it should evolve with the times?

KR: I think the answer to that is very relative. In comparison to almost any other country in the world today, Bhutan is a country filled with a rich spiritual belief and way of life, thus creating quite a peaceful country.

But looking at it from another angle, I find there many problems arising in Bhutan, especially mind related problems due to the introduction of modern way of living and thinking combined with a lack of the spiritual understanding behind the religious belief and customs.

However I feel we should still be grateful for those beliefs and customs, as this upbringing in religious beliefs does help a lot in restraining and preventing us from performing negative actions.

As to how Buddhism should evolve, firstly the essence of Dharma is the Universal Truth or Ultimate Truth. That is something Buddha realized and taught, not something he invented. Therefore this Universal Truth is there for all of us to realize within ourselves, regardless of the changing times because this Ultimate Truth is something that is eternal and unchanging.

Secondly, if there is something to change it will be the path to realizing the Universal Truth, and that will be adapted by the enlightened masters according to whatever is most beneficial for sentient beings at the time.p>

These days most of those interested in Dharma seem to be mostly motivated by how it can improve their life like success, health or developing calm mind and meditation to deal with stress. There is nothing wrong with that but one should slowly train to think beyond oneself and the temporary joy and happiness of cyclic existence.

BO: As a young generation master, what are your responsibilities and how do you deal with them?

KR: In Chokey, Masters are called Tenzin which literally means one who holds the Dharma. So generally a master's responsibility is to make sure that the Dharma, which is the only lasting path to happiness, does not disappear.

Since I was born in the form of a Drukpa Lineage holder, it is my duty to ensure that all Dharma and especially the philosophy, oral transmissions, meditation and practices unique to the lineage are preserved to guide the present and future generations to the path of enlightenment. e.g. great master Phagmo Drupa (1100-1170), who was the teacher of Lingchen Repa (1128-1188)(The Root Guru of the First Gyalwang Drukpa Drogon Tsangpa Gyare) had eight main disciples who in turn had eight different lineages, but now at present, only three of the eight lineage and their teachings exist, how sad that is. Imagine how many teachings and different approaches to the enlightenment are lost forever.

Since great enlightened beings like Guru Padmasambhava and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal has graced this country and has gifted us with so many spiritual heritages to be called as Bhutan's own. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all Bhutanese to preserve their spiritual legacy, and especially because it is inextricably linked with Bhutan's history, culture, unique identity and moral values.

Thus decline in Dharma will adversely affect all of those things too.

BO: What is the difference between the sects of Buddhism and how do we relate to them?

KR: For example, we have different departments within a government, such as Agriculture, Finance, Education etc, all these different departments are used as a means to benefit the development of the country, yet each has its own unique qualities and approaches which should be appreciated for its contribution towards the development of the country.

Similarly, the different traditions within the Vajrayana have slightly different approaches to enlightenment but the ultimate goal is the same.

So it is extremely important that we should look at the different traditions as enrichment of Buddhism as a whole and have equal respect for all.

BO: What are the activities of Your Eminences in the future (such as ADC, Live to Love and etc)?

KR: For the next one year, I think I will be busy organizing the spiritual event known as Annual Drukpa Council (ADC). It was envisioned by His Holiness the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa and many Drukpa masters as an event where spiritual masters from Tibet, Bhutan, India, Nepal and other parts of the world can work together to revive many aspects of the lineage like the teachings of the three mad yogis: i.e. Tsangnyon Heruka (1452-1507), Druknyon Kunga Legpa (Also known as Drukpa Kunleg, 1455-1529) and Unyon Kunga Sangpo (1458-1532) which are on the verge of disappearing and the lineage of female yoginis which has almost disappeared. At the same time, masters will give teachings in many languages on various topics to benefit all beings. It will be a great opportunity for the international Sangha to meet so many masters gathered in one place and receive teachings from them.

BO: Message, advice and instructions to the people of Bhutan?

KR: I have no advice as such but few thoughts and reflections to share. As it is said in the Dharma, we all desire happiness but most of us actively follow the causes of unhappiness, and feel that qualities like compassion, forebearance, generosity, patience and appreciation, caring for others are only for the spiritual people like monks, lamas and practitioners but the reality of interdependence is that we have to give others happiness in order for ourselves to experience happiness. It is especially true for us human beings because most of our joy and suffering are very much dependent on how others relate to us.

Negative thoughts and actions never give personal happiness, nor to one's circle of friends and family nor to the society at large. Anyway I am sure that reflections of our past actions, thoughts and experience will prove that.

Other than wisdom and compassion which come from practicing Dharma there is no true way of affecting a change in one's thoughts, perceptions and actions.

Therefore, along with success of one's material life one should dedicate a part of one's life for the development of spiritual or mental happiness.

That is why I think all the masters tell us and remind us to preserve the spiritual legacy given to us by Guru Padmasambhava and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal not only for our own spiritual happiness, but also for the peace and prosperity of the present and future generations.

Category: Print Media

India's Ladakhis look to museum, schools to protect culture

© AFP. Text: AFP/Tripti Lahiri; Photos: AFP/Manpreet Romana (click image to enlarge view)

HEMIS, India (AFP) - With a new museum in the revered Hemis monastery and more schools teaching its history, India's Ladakh region hopes to protect a culture that many fear is changing rapidly as tourism booms.

Tens of thousands of tourists flock each year to the "Little Tibet" in the far north, an area noted for its stark mountain landscapes and summer festivities at the Buddhist monasteries dotting the province.

Last year 40,000 tourists, including about 26,000 foreigners, visited the province.

"Things have changed quite a lot in terms of values, traditions, culture," Jigmet Wangchuck Namgyal, of the Ladakhi royal family, told AFP at the museum's inauguration Wednesday.

"I think the main driver at the end of the day is tourism."

Namgyal, who would be king if royal titles had not been abolished decades ago, said the sudden influx of cash and interaction with outsiders was leading people to adopt different lifestyles.

"People do copy. A group of backpackers come and they have different values and it's a small community so it does have an effect," said Namgyal, who heads a cultural preservation group.

To provide a counterpoint to the impact of tourism, Ladakhi community leaders are restoring and displaying ancient Ladakhi artifacts -- some of which are in a state of terrible disrepair.

"We keep Ladakhi religious paintings and statues in boxes," said the Gyalwang Drukpa, head of the 800-year-old Buddhist Drukpa sect that founded Hemis monastery in the 17th century.

"To show respect we should take these things out for people to see."

Conservationist Tsewang Phunchok hopes the old manuscripts he began restoring two months ago will eventually be catalogued and used by Buddhist researchers.

"Seepage, fungus, mice," said Phunchok, reciting a litany of the ills affecting the 400-year-old manuscripts that were heaped in a dank and dusty room.

Tsewang Rigzin, a monk at the Hemis monastery, estimates the collection includes about 2,500 thangka paintings dating back to the second century, as well as some 1,500 statues.

"We have maybe displayed one percent of the collection," he said.

Ladakhis crowded the museum in the afternoon, bowing their heads before brass and gold statues and scores of embroidered silk tapestries depicting the life of the Buddha.

The Drukpa spiritual leader has also expressed his concern about the adverse affects of interaction with tourists on Ladakhis.

"You should be adapting yourself as a tourist to Ladakhis, not the other way," he told AFP, adding that education could help locals decide better what they should adopt or reject from outsiders.

But until recently, schools did little to promote the local culture among the province's population of 260,000.

Ladakh is nestled high in the Himalayas and is a part of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, where the official language is Urdu, so primary education took place in a language that none of the children speak at home.

At age 14 they would switch to English, the result being that 95 percent would fail school-leaving exams two years later, local officials said.

Those who could afford it sent their children to boarding school in neighbouring states. The result is that some of the best-educated young Ladakhis now converse more comfortably in the national language Hindi.

Rizin Ladol, 26, a history teacher at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies, can not read or write in the Buddhist script.

"There were no good schools at the time," said Ladol, who spent her school years in India's Punjab state. "But the biggest disadvantage is that we have a certain aloofness from our culture."

In the last decade, with a push from an education reform group started by local students, more primary education has come to be conducted in English and the pass rate has risen to 50 percent.

"If you have a true education you will know how to draw the line," said the Drukpa spiritual leader, who six years ago founded the Druk White Lotus school which includes Ladakhi and local dances in the curriculum.

But one Ladakhi scholar said concern about the state of the culture may be exaggerated, even if some young Ladakhis seem more interested in "money, technology and cars" than thangka paintings and statues.

"Maybe if it is dying or half dead" you need to worry, said Ladakhi scholar Tashi Rabgais, as crowds of young monks and villagers thronged Hemis monastery.

"It is a living culture. There's no need of preservation. There is a need to adjust it to accommodate the new culture."

Category: Print Media

A Home-Coming Pilgrimage

24 September 2008, Bhutan Observer

View original article in Bhutan Observer

"If happiness is to be found in materialism, why would so many western pilgrims visit Bhutan?" -- H.E. the IX Khamtrul Rinpoche. Phuntsok Rabten reports.

Bhutan is known as a "Dharmic Kingdom" and the last surviving bastion of Vajrayana Buddhism. Recently 57 pilgrims from countries as diverse as France, Germany, England, Mexico, Chile, Holland and Peru exemplified this spiritual legacy of Bhutan.

The group was led by Drubpon Ngawang, hailing from Pemagatshel and the representative of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa in France for the last 20 years. Drubpon had been conducting such pilgrimages for the last two to three years and hopes that such activities would flourish in the future. This year's pilgrimage was mostly focused in Thimphu and Bumthang.

Read more: A Home-Coming Pilgrimage

Category: Print Media

Buddhist sect celebrates 800th anniversary in Ladakh

© AFP. Text: AFP/Tripti Lahiri; Photos: AFP/Manpreet Romana (click image to enlarge view)

SHEY, India (AFP) - Monks and nuns from monasteries across the Himalayas gathered in India's far northern region of Ladakh Tuesday to mark 800 years of the Drukpa, or "dragon" sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Starting before dawn, monks clad in maroon robes recited prayers for the long life of their spiritual leader the Gyalwang Drukpa, believed to be the twelfth reincarnation of the founder of the order, the first Gyalwang Drukpa.

One floor below, hundreds of nuns wearing saffron-fringed caps resembling mohawks chanted, rang bells, beat drums and blew on conch horns in a prayer ceremony that lasted several hours.

Followers traveled to Ladakh from as far afield as France and Australia for the ceremonies, as well as from nearby Bhutan -- where Drukpa is the official religion but with its own separate leadership -- and Nepal.

A long line of villagers bearing ceremonial gifts snaked around the temple. "Even beings in other realms wish for his presence, so these prayers show how much we want him here with us," said Choegon Rinpoche, a Drukpa monk overseeing the ceremonies.


A wide variety of headgear was on display, including top hats for men and embroidered silk hats with curving brims for women. Ladakhis from villages surrounding Shey, 15 kilometers (nine miles) south of the region's capital Leh, began trooping in from early morning for the day's festivities at the Naro Photang Puspahari temple.

"For 800 years we've been able to keep the lineage and we have to be proud of ourselves," the Gyalwang Drukpa, 44, told AFP ahead of Tuesday's ceremony.

The spiritual leader arrived after the longevity prayers to accept gifts from monasteries that included Tibetan thangka paintings, carpets and small statues of the Buddha.

"When you see him it brings tears of joys to your eyes," said Padma Dolkar, 28, a schoolteacher in Shey who was dressed in a goncha -- a long woollen robe -- and wearing traditional gold and silver jewelry.

A wide variety of headgear was on display, including top hats for men and embroidered silk hats with curving brims for women.

A statue of the Drukpa spiritual leader was paraded before the several thousand people sitting outside before being taken to be immersed in a lake.

A long line of villagers bearing ceremonial gifts snaked around the temple.

The Gelukpa, or Yellow Hat line headed by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, established its presence in Ladakh first -- but the Drukpa order gained favor under Ladakh's Namgyal royal dynasty in the 17th century.

Ladakh's largest monastery, at Hemis, 45 kilometers south of Leh, belongs to the Drukpa order but all four schools have "gompas" or monasteries here.

While the Dalai Lama's order is seen by some as more scholarly, the Drukpa sect places an emphasis on spiritual practices like meditation.

Buddhist leaders say the number of sects arose as a way to personalize the religion and make it more accessible.

"Like a company brings out different car lines, but they are all from the same company," the Gyalwang Drukpa explained.