Adzom Monastery

Adzom Monastery

According to the book “The Historic Record of Palyul County”, Adzom monastery was built in 1742 by Manda Rigdzin Chenpo, a descendent of the Yong-ru family who were of the Qinhai-Mongolian tribe.

In 1855, Adzom Monastery became famous for its Dzogchen Longchen Nyingthig lineage. Many monks and scholars came afar from countries like India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim to study here. Among the different incarnate Tulku lamas to be found in Adzom monastery, Kyabje Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche is regarded as the most significant master in the Longchen Nyingthig lineage and many dharma texts on Dzogchen were composed by Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche.

Introduction to Adzom Monastery

The full name of Adzom monastery is Adzom Ösel Thegchog Ling. It is located at the upper Changchoe River, a tributary of Jinsha River. It is located in the Ma-Qiong village, Chang-tai District, Baiyu County, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province of China.

The monastery is built on Tashi Dungkar Khyil Mountain (Auspicious Spiralling White Conch Shell Mountain) which is about 4500 meters above sea level.

In front of the monastery peaks of mountains rise which resemble the Eight Auspicious Symbols. On top of the mountain, it is like being well protected by Changpa Dagyi. The monastery faces the auspicious Dungral Mountain, which is a holy place of Padmasambhava connected with his qualities. It is one of the five holy places of Padmasambhava with regard to his attainments in body, speech, mind, qualities and activities aspects.

Dungral Mountain is also regarded as one of the twenty-five auspicious mountains in Jambudvipa according to the cosmology of Tibetan Buddhism. It is believed that there are numerous termas (hidden dharma treasures concealed by Guru Rinpoche) concealed in this mountain.

Up in the mountain, there is cave in which Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal stayed and practiced. There are also a number of auspicious places where termas were revealed by the First Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche. At the foot of mountain, Changchoe River is as clear as a mirror. The river surges all the way from the south to the north. At the riverbed, there are hoof prints left by the horse of King Gesar.

Blessed by Tara, Adzom Monastery has a long historical background and has maintained its ancient Buddhist traditions. The main prayer hall, constructed when the 1st Gyaltse Rinpoche served as abbot, was built in the traditional Tibetan style of construction in which clay and wood were the main materials used.

It consists of two stories. On the lower floor, the walls are covered by large thangkas. This floor is used mainly for giving teachings by the Masters and for the general Sangha to do their daily prayers. With only the thrones for the Masters, there are no Buddha statues here. In the upper floor, there is a small prayer room where stupas of the 1st Gyaltse Rinpoche and the 2nd Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche, as well as many other sacred objects of previous masters can be found.

On the left side of the main prayer hall building, there is a newly built prayer hall building. The lower floor of this new building is decorated and arranged according to the old prayer hall as dictated by the 1st Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche. It is said that originally the monastery possessed a statue of Padmasambhava in subduing gesture with extremely strong blessings but it is no longer there.

Right behind this new building is the residence or ladrang of Gyaltse Rinpoche. The 1st Gyaltse Rinpoche and the 2nd Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche gave teachings here a few times. In 2002, Jamga Rinpoche as the new abbot, bestowed the teachings known as Yeshe Lama for the first time here.

Going up the mountain from Gyaltse Rinpoche’s Ladrang, there is the Ladrang of Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche. Both the 1st and the 2nd Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche used to live here.

During the time of the 2nd Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche there used to always be a long queue of people in the open ground in front of his two storey Ladrang seeking an audience with him. Nearby the Ladrang is the printing house which contains a large collection of xylograph blocks including Longchen Rabjam’s Seven Treasures.

If we walk from the printing house up the mountain, there is a Stupa hall built by the 1st Gyaltse Rinpoche. At the centre of the Stupa hall, there is the Stupa of the 1st Adzom Drugpa, Rigdzin Drodul Pawo Dorje. On its left and right side are the Stupas of his daughter, Jigme Wangmo and his son, Pema Wangje. The bodies of his daughter and son are inside the Stupas. Right next to the Stupa hall is the retreat house of Pema Wangje. And at a near distance, there is the retreat house of Jigme Wangmo.

The retreat houses of the 1st Adzom Drugpa and Gyaltse Rinpoches used to be midway up Auspicious Spiralling White Conch Shell Mountain but they no longer exist now.

The retreat house of the 1st Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche is now the Ladrang of Jamga Rinpoche. At the foot of the mountain is Adzom Buddhist Institute, built by the 2nd Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche. The Adzom Buddhist Institute consists of a lecture hall and dormitories for the monks. There is a small prayer room in which the Stupas of the 2nd Adzom Drugpa and Khenchen Chojor are placed. Next to the Buddhist Insitute, on the upper slope, is the Stupa hall of the 2nd Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche. With a yellow glazed tile roof and the double cornice in ancient Chinese style, the building looks quite grand. In the centre of the hall, there is a large Stupa of the 2nd Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche. Drawings of all the Adzom lineage masters grace the surrounding walls. It is said that sometimes the Stupa would naturally produce an auspicious showering of relics.

On the slope in front of the Adzom Monastery is a giant rock on which the 1st Gyaltse Rinpoche and the 2nd Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche left their footprints. Beside it there is a rock on which the words of the Vajra Mantra of the Six Realms naturally appear. Down the mountain by the shore of the Changchoe River near the Dungral Mountain, there is a giant rock with the handprint and footprints of the 1st Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche. It is said that they were left here when the young Drugpa Rinpoche flew over the river from the opposite shore and landed on the rock. There are many other holy places, including a giant rock with the footprints of Rigdzin Chenpo and the rock with a naturally appearing image of Tara.

Historically, Adzom Monastery had many sub-branch monasteries. This includes Palden Monastery in India, a few sub-branch monasteries and retreat centres in Nepal, a monastery in Ngari (western of Tibet), Gelong Monastery in Chabdo, Si-De-Ke Monastery, Ke-Cha Monastery, Ludag Monastery, Akung Monastery, Kung-Nyi Monastery, Thubten Jangchub Ling, Gaje Dra-Ma Ling and Drakung Monastery and so on. These monasteries are all under the Adzom lineage. Teachings, practice and even the faculties of these monasteries follow the guidance of the Adzom masters and Khenpos.

Adzom Monastery was built in the mid-16th century. Initially, it was called Zi Khang Mar (Red Roof Tempe) and located in the Li Thang County of Tibet. This piece of land was granted by the Third Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso. Tashi Pen built the monastery here. After a few years, Benlug Tulku of Kathog Monastery stayed here as his main residence, thereby the monastery became a sub-branch of Kathog. Later, Benlug Tulku moved to Drung-Yig Gonpa in Barung of Palyul County. And thus the monastery was moved also.

When Benlug Tulku entered parinirvana, Pa Sangye Tashi became the Abbot. The family of Pa Sangye Tashi had five sons in total. Because all of them were tulkus and also carried Tashi (which means auspicious) in their name, the servant of their family whose name is Khage, found it inexplicably surprising and kept saying “A Cha Mu! A Cha Mu! It’s really A Cha Mu!” (Very rare! Very rare! It’s really very rare!) Since then, everyone called the Ladrang as A-zom. This is how Adzom Monastery got its name.

Rigdzin Chenpo, the reincarnation of Pa Sangye Tashi, was a Terton (discoverer of hidden treaure). Rigdzin Chenpo was appointed as the chief minister of Derge. In the downstream of Changchoe River, he built a monastery called Kegu Yama Thing in a forest. The monastery was of great renown as Rigdzin Chenpo gave teachings and accepted disciples there. At that time, there were about 500 monks living in the monastery. It also gained a few Sakya and Nyingma monasteries as a sub-branch in the neighborhood, thus becoming the largest monastery in that region.

Rigdzin Drodul Pawo Dorje, the reincarnation of Rigdzin Chenpo, was the 1st Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche. He renovated a monastery called Phuntsok Gatsal which is in the valley opposite to Dungral Mountain. Then, he renovated Ösal Thegchog Ling, which is the current Adzom Monastery.

At the time when Gyaltse Tulku, the son of Rigdzin Drodul Pawo Dorje, was appointed as the Abbot of Adzom Monastery, the monastery was already built to its current size consisting of a large prayer hall, printing house, teaching hall, Buddhist Institute and so on.

During the ten years of chaos of the Cultural Revolution, like many other monasteries, Adzom monastery was destroyed. Many precious xylographs were lost. At the time of Reform and Opening-up, during the 80’s of the last century, the 2nd Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche tried to restore and repair the monastery. After nearly two decades of effort, not only has the Buddhist Institute been restored, but many Buddhist scriptures and statues were also acquired. Some of the xylograph blocks were newly made. All these revitalized Adzom Monastery.

Successive Abbots of Adzom Monastery

The 1st Abbot : Tashi Pen (about 16 century)
The 2nd Abbot : Benlug Tulku (about 17 century)
The 3rd Abbot : Pa Sangye Tashi (17-18 century)
The 4th Abbot : Rigdzin Chenpo (1756-1840)
The 5th Abbot : 1st Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche, Drodul Pawo Dorje (1842 – 1924)
The 6th Abbot : 1st Adzom Gyaltse Rinpoche, Rigdzin Gyurme Dorje (1896-1960)
The 7th Abbot : 2nd Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche, Thupten Pema Thrinle (1926-2001)
The 8th Abbot : Adzom Jamga Rinpoche, Jamyang Chokyi Nyima (1951-

Traditional Teachings of Adzom Monastery

Adzom Monastery is renowned for Dzogchen teachings. All the successive abbots of Adzom Monastery practiced Dzogchen and achieved attainment. Throughout the 400 years history of the monastery, the practice of Nyingma Dzogchen has been uninterrupted.

The Adzom Dzogchen lineage consist of numerous teachings, the majority of which belong to the Terma lineage (hidden treasure lineage). Within the Terma lineage, ‘Longchen Nyingthik’ by Jigme Lingpa, ‘Four Branches of Heart Essence’, ‘Trilogy of Natural Ease’, and ‘Seven Treasures’ of Longchen Rabjampa are the main practices. The monastery annually teaches and explains ‘Yeshe Lama’ in the spring and autumn; and based on the conditions, other teachings would also be given as supplementary teachings. In winter, ‘Words of My Perfect Teacher’, the preliminary teachings of Longchen Nyingthik is given. This is followed by the practice of Powa with guidance and empowerments of Longchen Nyingthik.

In addition, masters would evaluate the conditions and bestow termas by Rigdzin Chenpo and the 1st Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche; in particular ‘The Luminous Secret Vajra Treasures’, the terma of the 1st Adzom Drugpa Rigdzin Drodul Pawo Dorje.

As all the abbots of Adzom Monastery are very well learned masters, their knowledge is not limited to Nyingma teachings. They also are familiar with teachings of Sakya, Gelug, and Kagyu. When conditions are right, teachings of other traditions are also be given.