An Introduction to the Hermitages of Sera

An Introduction to the Hermitages of Sera

by José Ignacio Cabezón

April 18, 2006


As the saying goes, “Sera is surrounded by hermitages, Ganden is surrounded by self-arisen images, and Drepung is surrounded by dharma protectors.” Sera Mahāyāna Monastery (Sera Tekchen Ling) is therefore surrounded by hermitages as numerous as the stars on the fifteenth day of the lunar month.



Purchok Hermitage (Purchok Ritrö), to the east of Sera.

Among the three great seats of learning of the Geluk school, Sera is the one renowned for its hermitages (ritrö). At least nineteen such institutions are found tucked away in the mountains behind and around Sera.2 In this section of the Sera Project website, you will learn more about each of these hermitages. To go directly to the Hermitages interactive map, please click here.

The Tibetan compound word ritrö – the word that we translate here as “hermitage” – literally means “in the midst of” or “on the side of” (trö) “the mountains” (ri).3 Hermitages are small monasteries found in relatively isolated mountain locations. At least in their early stages, they were the homes of individuals variously called “retreatant” (tsampa), “meditator” (gomchen), “recluse” (chikbupa or ensapa), and of course “hermit” (ritröpa). A hermitage often began as the residence of a single individual,4 but most of them grew. When they became relatively large, they often ceased to be called hermitages and began to be called “monasteries” (gönpa), but the dividing line between these two terms – hermitage and monastery – is fuzzy. There are some hermitages, for example, that have more monks than many institutions that bear the name “monastery.” Many of Tibet’s greatest monasteries began as the hermitages of individual monks.

Hermitages usually begin as the retreat places of individual monks, tantric priests (ngakpa), pious male lay practitioners and, less frequently, nuns and laywomen.5 They are the places where these individuals settled for intensive, solitary practice. Originally, these sites may have had no buildings at all but only caves. When a cave did not exist, a monk might have built a simple stone and mud hut for his personal use. A monk often chose as the site of his hermitage a place that was considered holy (né tsa chenpo) – places where former saints had lived, places associated with certain deities, or places marked by certain geosacral signs such as self-arisen images or magical springs with curative powers. Holy places are said to bring blessings (jinlap) to those who reside there. Like a magnifying glass, they have the power to amplify or increase the merit derived from any religious practice performed there, and in general they are said to increase the chances of success in religious practice.

What would a monk have done in his hermitage? He would have engaged in meditation, ritual, study, writing, memorization, and a host of spiritual practices classified together under the general rubric of “ accumulation and purification” (sakjang).6 Or he might have engaged in a combination of all of these various activities. Even monks who were not committed to eremiticism as a permanent way of life often settled in isolated locations for limited periods of time – for example, when they engaged in short or longer-term deity-focused practices like the so-called “enabling retreat” (lerung) or “approximation retreat” (nyenpa).7

Many hermits traveled widely before settling on one spot as their permanent residence. And some, of course, never settled at all, but remained itinerant throughout their entire lives. Those monks who chose to settle usually picked a site that provided them with privacy. But the site also had to be relatively close to a populated area – close enough to allow them to obtain food and other necessities (usually in the form of donations from the laity). After remaining at a particular site for some time, the monk might gain a certain level of renown. In this case, he might attract students. If he did, an institution would begin to coalesce around him. First, students would build their own huts close to that of their master, and eventually they might build a temple where the monastic community could come together for rituals and teachings. If the community managed to attract the financial sponsorship of lay patrons, the hermitage would grow. When the original lama-founder died, the reincarnation might be identified, and in this way the succession would be maintained, and the hermitage would continue to develop as an institution. This is how private retreats evolved into more formal hermitages, and (in some instances at least) into larger monasteries. This is a well-known pattern in the history of Tibetan religious institutions. It is a model applicable not only to the evolution of Sera’s hermitages but also to other monasteries throughout Tibet.

Location and Institutional Affiliation to Sera/Se ra

Most of the Sera hermitages are located in the mountains to the north, east and west of the monastery along a (roughly) fifteen kilometers east-west span from Jokpo and Gönpasar hermitages in the far west to Nenang in the far east. The rough map that follows gives the relative location and some basic information about the hermitages of Sera as of 2004. The map operates on a usual north-south axis, with the mountains to the north of the hermitages and the city of Lhasa to the south. The hermitages to the right (northeast) of Sera are located in what is today a suburb of Lhasa known as Dodé.8 The hermitages to the left (northwest) of Sera are located in the suburb known as Nyangdren.

In 1959, all of the hermitages on this map were thriving institutions. Two of them – Negodong to the east, and Garu to the west – were nunneries. The rest were monasteries for male monks. They ranged in size from about ten to well over one-hundred monks or nuns. In the case of monks’ hermitages, it was not uncommon for there to have been a core group of six to eighteen fully-ordained monks (gelong) that is what gave the institution its formal status and legitimacy as a monastery. But all of the monasteries also had many novices, non-monastic lay workers and support staff. If the hermitage was also the seat of a labrang or lama’s estate/household, the support staff (including novices) could be three to four times as large as the number of fully ordained monks. For example, the Keutsang West Hermitage (Keutsang Nup Ritrö), the official residence of the Keutsang Lamas, had a core group of twenty-five fully ordained monks, but if one includes novices and non-monastic staff the population was closer to ninety.9

Of the nineteen Sera hermitages nine were the seats of lamas – that is, they were the headquarters for lama’s estates. With two exceptions (noted below) the name of the lama lineage and that of the hermitage were identical. The lama’s estate hermitages were:

  • Jokpo
  • Gönpasar
  • Drakri
  • Trashi Chöling, since 1930 the seat of the Pabongkha Trülkus
  • Sera Utsé, the seat of the Drupkhang Trülkus
  • Keutsang West
  • Purchok
  • Panglung
  • Khardo
Sera as viewed from Chöding Hermitage (Chöding Ritrö).

Despite the fact that all of the hermitages are called “hermitage of Sera” (Seré ritrö), their relationship to Sera is actually quite varied and often shifts over time. Some are related to Sera only insofar as they were founded by Sera monks, or because as they were taken over by Sera monks at some point in their history. In several cases, hermitages were independent institutions with only nominal ties to Sera. In other instances, hermitages were actually the property of Sera. In between these two poles – minimal affiliation to Sera at one extreme, and ownership by Sera at the other – there were a variety of kinds and degrees of affiliation. If the hermitage belonged to a Sera lama, then it was this lama, and not Sera, who owned the hermitage. But even then there could be different degrees of affiliation between Sera and the hermitage.

For example, in 1959 Keutsang West belonged to the Keutsang Lama. All of the monks of the hermitage belonged to the Keutsang Lama’s estate (Keutsang Labrang). But all of the official monks of Keutsang were also official monks of the Hamdong Regional House (Hamdong Khangtsen) of Sera Jé College (Sera Jé Dratsang), and enjoyed all of the privileges of being Sera monks with regional house affiliations.10 Purchok Hermitage (Purchok Ritrö), by contrast, appears to have been much more independent, and had a weaker affiliation to Sera. Purchok monks belonged principally to the Purchok Lama’s estate (Purchok Labrang), and it appears that many (perhaps most) did not have official membership in either the Jé College or in one of its regional houses.

A painting of what Keutsang West Hermitage looked like before 1959.

To take another example, the nunneries11 of Garu and Negodong belonged not to Sera but to the lama’s estates of the Drakri and Khardo lamas, respectively, and these lamas served as their abbots. It is clear, then, even from these few examples, that the question of the institutional relationships of these hermitages to Sera is a complex one. Because few elder monks from these various monasteries are still alive, it is a challenge to piece together the kinds of affiliation that the various hermitages had to Sera before 1959. This is something that in many cases still remains to be determined.

Clearer is the present status of the hermitages today. In 2004, hermitages were either independent institutions or they belonged to – in the strong sense of being staffed and run by – Sera. Of the twelve hermitages that are still active (i.e., that are not in ruins) and that remain Geluk, five belong to Sera: Jokpo, Pabongkha, Sera Utsé, Sera Chöding, and Rakhadrak. The other three male-monk hermitages (Trashi Chöling, Keutsang and Purchok) and the four nunneries (Garu, Takten, Chupzang, and Negodong) are independent institutions. The affiliation of a hermitage today is largely the result of who claimed and rebuilt it after the Lhasa municipal government began to give permits for this purpose in the 1980s. Sera laid claim to the five hermitages it owns today. It has at least partially rebuilt four of these. One (Jokpo, located to the far west in the pasture lands of the Nyangdren Valley) is used as the base for its herds of yaks, and has been only minimally rebuilt. The other hermitages – the ones that do not belong to Sera today – were rebuilt by individuals, albeit with community support. Trashi Chöling was rebuilt by a devotee of Pabongkha Rinpoché, the previous lama-owner. Keutsang and Purchok were rebuilt by former monks of those hermitages, as were Garu and Negodong nunneries. Takten and Chupzang were slowly taken over by nuns with no formal prior affiliations to these institutions. They therefore became nunneries simply by virtue of the fact nuns gradually moved to these sites over the years.

A nun-meditator from Nenang Hermitage.

As one can see from the map, most of the hermitages survive to this day as Geluk institutions (either as monks’ hermitages or as nunneries). Of the nineteen12 original hermitages, all but two remain Geluk. Drakri (mixed nuns and Tantric priests, located in the far south), and Nenang (a nuns’ retreat center in the far northeast) are now Nyingma practice centers (drupdra).

Of the original nineteen hermitages, five are in ruins and have not been rebuilt. It is interesting that most of the hermitages that have not been rebuilt – Jokpo and Gönpasar in the far west, and Panglung and Khardo in the far northeast – lie farthest from Sera. New Keutsang is in fact the newly rebuilt version of Keutsang West, and so one can count Keutsang West as one of the hermitages that has been rebuilt (albeit not in exactly the same site as the original institution). Keutsang East (Keutsang Shar) belongs to Purchok Hermitage and lies in ruins. The monks of Purchok have decided to put their energies into the main Purchok hermitage rather than taking on the additional burden of rebuilding Keutsang East. With this one exception, then, the rule (just mentioned) applies: the closer a hermitage was to Sera, the greater its chances of being rebuilt.


A stylized painting of Purchok Hermitage as it existed before 1959. The deity shining rainbow light from the clouds onto the monastery is Byams Pa

Several of the hermitages have a history that predates the rise of the Geluk school. For example, Pabongkha, arguably the most important of all of the hermitages, is said to date to the imperial period. Nenang is said to have been a retreat site of Guru Rinpoché, and, if this is true, dates to the ninth century. Garu Nunnery (Garu Gönpa), founded by Pa Dampa Sanggyé (b. eleventh century), dates to the eleventh century, and Spangs lung, originally the meditation site of one of Pa Dampa Sanggyé’s students, to the early twelfth century. Of course, each of these sites was later taken over by Gelukpa monks, and so even when a site has a pre-Geluk history, it also has a Gelukpa “founder.”

Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), the founder of the Geluk school, is intimately connected to three hermitages – Sera Chöding, Sera Utsé, and Rakhadrak. Each of these are places where Tsongkhapa meditated, taught, and/or authored some of his most important works.13 So there is a sense in which Tsongkhapa “founded” these three hermitages in the fifteenth century, even if he himself probably had no notion of establishing formal institutions at these sites. And, indeed, there is no other founder of Chöding ever mentioned besides Tsongkhapa. But the tradition considers another later lama, Drupkhang Gelek Gyatso (1641-1713) to be the founder of the other two hermitages – Sera Utsé and Rakhadrak – at least qua monastic institutions. Two other hermitages were founded in the sixteenth century: Negodong Hermitage (Negodong Ritrö), founded by an eminent Sera scholar, Gomdé Namkha Gyeltsen; and Takten Hermitage (Takten Ritrö), founded by one of the most famous early meditators of the Geluk tradition, Ensapa Lozang Döndrup (1504/5-1565/6), who is often reckoned as the Third Penchen Lama (Penchen Kutreng Sumpa). One hermitage, Chupzang – founded by a monk who was a student (and regent) of the Fifth Dalai Lama (Dalai Lama Kutreng Ngapa, 1617-1682) as well as the uncle of his most famous regent, Desi Sanggyé Gyatso (1653-1705) – was established in the seventeenth century. But the remaining hermitages, eleven in all, were founded in the eighteenth century.

Why this spurt of hermitage-building in the eighteenth century? Why this passion for “taking to the hills” at this particular moment in time? Socio-economic and political factors may have played some role in monks’ decisions to leave Sera and seek the relative peace and quiet of the mountains. We know, for example, that by the late seventeenth century, Sera had a monastic population of close to 3,000 monks.14 While an intellectually stimulating atmosphere in which to pursue one’s studies, a monastery of this size is hardly the type of place that a monk with a contemplative bent would want to call home. Moreover, the eighteenth century saw a huge building boom at Sera. All three of Sera’s largest temples – the Sera Great Assembly Hall (Sera Tsokchen), the Jé College Assembly Hall (Jé Dukhang) as well as the Mé College Assembly Hall (Mé Dukhang) – were built between 1707 and 1761. This means that during these years monks would have had to put up with the chaos that comes from living in the midst of large-scale building projects. Nor is it inconceivable that junior monks, even if they were textualists, might have been conscripted to serve as laborers in these mammoth architectural undertakings.

A detail of a painting of Sera from the eighteenth century depicting the monastery before all of the major temples had been constructed. The large (light blue) building in the rear of the monastery is undoubtedly the original Sera Assembly Hall (today the assembly hall of the Tantric College [Ngakpa Dratsang]). The three-story white building in the lower left may be what today is called the Sera Tekchen Khangsar, a palace-like residence said to have been built by Desi Sanggyé Gyatso. This image is a detail of Item No. 65275 in the Collection of the Rubin Museum of Art, from the website.

Political factors also might have played a role in the exodus of monks. With the growth of the Densa Sum – the three great Geluk seats of learning – there also came increased political power for these institutions. After the Fifth Dalai Lama’s consolidation of power in the middle of the seventeenth century, the seats of learning began to play an increasingly important role in Tibetan politics. While perhaps not as influential as Drepung – the seat of the Ganden Palace (Ganden Podrang), the headquarters of the Dalai Lama’s government – Sera, as the closest of the three seats of learning to Lhasa – also played a major role in the politics of the day. Sera monks, we know, took stances either in support of or opposition to the Qushot Mongolian chief, Lhazang Khang (d. 1717), in his successful bid to overthrow the Fifth Dalai Lama’s regent, Desi Sanggyé Gyatso, in 1705. For example, the then-abbot of the Mé College (Dratsang Mé) of Sera opposed Lhazang Khang, a position that he paid for with his life once the Qushot ruler came to power.15 But Lhazang Khang also rewarded the seats of learning financially when they supported him. At Sera, for example, he built the Great Assembly Hall, and he moved his personal ritual college into the old Sera assembly hall – today the site of the Sera Tantric College. In the same year that he had the Mé College abbot killed, he also gave to Sera the Drongmé estates that used to belong to the regent Sanggyé Gyatso.16

But Lhazang made some fatal political mistakes early in his rule. In the first year after assuming power he (or his wife) had the regent Sanggyé Gyatso beheaded. The following year Lhazang Khang sent the Sixth Dalai Lama (Dalai Lama Kutreng Drukpa, 1683-1706) into exile in Beijing (the Dalai Lama died on the way). Lhazang Khang also set up a puppet Dalai Lama, declaring him to be the true sixth Dalai Lama. Economically, opposition to Lhazang among the Kokonor (Tso Ngönpo) faction of the Qushots caused the latter to withhold donations to the great monasteries. This was financially devastating to the seats of learning, and it caused the Penchen Lama to send a mission to Kokonor in 1716 to try and reinstate Kokonor Qushot patronage of the great monasteries.17 All of these various moves cost Lhazang Khang the support of both the people and the seats of learning, and so when Dzungar Mongolian forces moved against him in 1717, promising to enthrone Kelzang Gyatso (1708-1757), a child from Litang, as the Seventh Dalai Lama (Dalai Lama Kutreng Dünpa), the seats of learning gave the Dzungars their support. They provided these rivals of the Qushots with monk soldiers and scouts who knew the terrain,18 and gave them provisions after their arrival on the outskirts of the city. Sera monks also joined the Dzungar troops as soldiers for the final push against Lhazang Khang.19 The Dzungars defeated the Qushots, but Dzungar rule would prove to be disastrous for Tibet. Even if the seats of learning were spared, the Dzungars sacked and looted Lhasa.20 They began to intervene in internal affairs of the seats of learning, purging what they considered to be the riffraff from the great monasteries.21 Far more serious, they destroyed many Nyingma monasteries, especially in southern Tibet, where they murdered scores of monks and sowed the seeds of bitter sectarian rivalries that would plague Tibet for most of its subsequent history.

The Chinese Manchu emperor – who had managed to protect the young Seventh Dalai Lama from being captured by the Dzungars in 1717 – saw Tibetans’ disillusionment with the Dzungars as an opportunity to weaken this powerful Mongol group that they had for some time perceived as a threat. The Manchus, therefore, decided to march on Lhasa with the young Dalai Lama (a crucial symbol of political legitimacy) in tow. Forming an alliance with several Qushot Mongol factions, and with pro-Qushot Tibetans – most notably Polhané (1689-1747), one of Lhazang’s former and most able commanders – they entered Lhasa in 1720, overthrew the Dzungars, and enthroned the young Kelzang Gyatso as the Seventh Dalai Lama. They also took this opportunity to purge the seats of learning of Dzungar influence by expelling all Dzungar lamas from the great monasteries.22

Polhané (right), and his son (left): detail of a mural in one of the regional houses (khangtsen) of Sera (Tibet).
The remains of one of Tibet’s great kings, Polhané, are said to rest inside this funerary stūpa on the main altar in the Jé College Assembly Hall.

A series of events initiated by the death of the Manchu Kangxi (Kangshi, 1654-1722) emperor in 1722 destabilized the delicate political balance in Lhasa yet again. However, by 1729 Polhané had, with Manchu backing, managed to consolidate power. He ruled for eighteen years and, like his original Qushot mentor Lhazang Khang, he was a great patron of the Geluk seats of learning. At Sera, he is chiefly known as the individual who provided the funds for the building of the Jé College Assembly Hall.23 His funerary stūpa is housed on the main altar of that very building.

As we can see from this brief historical overview, the first half of the eighteenth century was an exceedingly turbulent period in Tibetan history. Sera, it is clear, was a major player in the power-politics of the day. Was Sera’s involvement in the political machinations and power struggles during the first half of the eighteenth century at all related to the establishment of the hermitages? We cannot say for sure, but it is hardly a major leap to conclude that monks with a more contemplative calling – monks who wished to remain aloof from political intrigues in order to pursue study and meditation – might have chosen to avoid an institution like Sera. Or else they might have chosen to enter for a limited time to pursue their studies, but then quickly to exit. And this is in fact what several of the founders of the Sera hermitages did at this precise time.

Socio-demographic factors (such as the size of Sera and its physical expansion), and political factors (such as Sera’s increasing involvement in the chaotic politics of the day) might have been contributing factors to the founding of the hermitages, but one cannot reduce the rise of the hermitage movement to these factors alone. Clearly, religious motivations were at work as well. If the number of hermitages founded during a given period is any indication of a generation’s desire for meditation and isolated retreat, then the eighteenth century must be considered one of the most “contemplative” centuries in the history of the Geluk school, or at least in the history of Sera. It seems likely that the exodus into the mountains at this time was in large part the result of the influence of one charismatic figure, the great meditator and scholar Drupkhang Gelek Gyatso. Drupkhangpa is so important to the history of the Sera hermitage tradition that it behooves us to say a bit more about him.24

A detail of an eighteenth-century painting in the collection of the Rubin Museum of Art (Image no. 105 on the website) identified as Drupkhangpa

Drupkhangpa was born in Zangskar (Zangkar) in 1641. His father died when he was six years old, and he spent most of his youth caring for his sick mother. His mother passed away when he was 17, and it was at this point that he began his religious career. He spent two years at the monastery of Jampa Ling, and then, at the age of nineteen, he set out for central Tibet to further his studies. On his way, he took novice monastic ordination from Drungpa Tsöndrü Gyeltsen (fl. seventeenth century), a student of one of the most important figures in the history of Sera, Khöntön Peljor Lhündrup (1561-1637). Drupkhang Gelek Gyatso then went to Sera. We do not know why his stay there was so short, but he quickly left Sera and enrolled instead at the Dakpo College (Dakpo Dratsang), where he remained for sixteen years. He returned to Drungpa Rinpoché to take full ordination. After Drungpa Tsöndrü Gyeltsen’s death, Drupkhangpa continued his studies at Trashi Lhünpo with some of Drungpa Rinpoché’s students. After a couple of years there, he returned to Sera, where he became a student of the abbot of the Jé College, Jotön Sönam Gyeltsen (seventeenth century). He left Sera sometime shortly after 169225 to begin a series of pilgrimages and meditation retreats in important sites throughout central and southern Tibet.26 He returned to the Sera foothills some thirteen years later, in 1705. It was at this time, it seems, that he founded three hermitages:

  1. Purchok, where he built the famous Temple of the Three Protectors (Riksum Gönpo Lhakhang). He entrusted this institution to his student, Ngawang Jampa (1682-1762). Tradition has it that Drupkhangpa established Purchok with one-hundred monks.
  2. Rakhadrak, established with twelve fully-ordained monks, and
  3. Sera Utsé, established with seventeen fully-ordained monks. He made this latter hermitage his home.

Drupkhangpa influenced several important young scholar-meditators of his day. Purchok Ngawang Jampa we have already mentioned. This influential figure gained a reputation as a brilliant scholar at a very young age. But he also had a passion for meditation, which is obviously what led him to seek out Drupkhangpa as his teacher. It appears that they first met in 1699, but it was not until Ngawang Jampa had finished his studies in 1707 that he began to study intensively with Drupkhangpa. Under Drupkhangpa’s supervision he remained at Purchok Hermitage in meditation for many years. Later in life he was called to public service, most notably as the tutor to the Eighth Dalai Lama Jampel Gyatso (Dalai Lama Kutreng Gyépa Jampel Gyatso, 1758-1804). Purchok Ngawang Jampa is credited in one source with being the founder of another hermitage, Keutsang East. He also influenced other figures in the hermitage tradition: for example, Longdöl Lama Ngawang Lozang (1719-1794), and Yongdzin Yeshé Gyeltsen (1713-1793),27 who founded Tsechokling at the opposite (southern) end of the Lhasa Valley.

A statue of Purchok Ngawang Jampa, located in the cave in which he first meditated at Purchok, a hermitage that he co-founded with his teacher Drupkhangpa.
A detail of a painting in the collection of the Rubin Museum of Art (Image no. 105 in the website) identified as Khardo Zöpa Gyatso (1672-1749).

Another student of Drupkhangpa, Khardo Zöpa Gyatso, also known as Lozang Gomchung, was responsible for founding the Khardo Hermitage on the mountainside across the road from Purchok.28 Khardo Zöpa Gyatso was born near Lhasa in 1672. He entered the Jé College of Sera when he was thirteen years old and studied all of the major scholastic subjects under the Jé Khenpo Gyeltsen Döndrup (seventeenth century). At age twenty, Khardowa took full ordination under this same teacher and then spent the next several years in retreat in different locations in central and southern Tibet. It was during this time that he perfected different alchemical techniques for extracting nutritive powers from water, pebbles, and flowers.29 In 1706 he came back to Lhasa with the few students that he had gathered in his travels. It was perhaps at this time that he apprenticed himself to Drupkhangpa.30 In any case, we know that it was shortly after his return to Lhasa that Khardowa settled on a bluff at the far northwestern end of the Lhasa Valley, across from Purchok, where he began to build a hermitage, and to teach extensively. He continued to travel intermittently even after he had founded his small hermitage, gathering many students from different parts of Tibet.

Khardo Hermitage came to be the dominant force in Dodé (the area northeast of Lhasa). At some point in time, the Khardo Hermitage assumed responsibility for the small hermitage of Negodong that was located just beneath it at the foot of the mountain near the village of Dodé. And in the mid-nineteenth century, the third Khardo Lama, Chökyi Dorjé (b. eighteenth century?), built Nenang Nunnery at the far end of the Dodé Valley. These three hermitages – Negodong, Nenang, and Khardo itself – came to be known together as “the three practice centers of Khardo” (Khardo Drupdé Sum).

To summarize, seven of the nine hermitages to the east of Sera were founded either by Drupkhang Gelek Gyatso or by one of his direct disciples in the eighteenth century. Panglung Hermitage, just behind Purchok, was founded by one of Drupkhangpa’s great-grand-students, Panglung Kutreng Dangpo Lozang Tukjé (1770-ca. 1835).31 The chart that follows traces the teacher-student relationships between some of the figures we have mentioned so far.

The building of hermitages in the environs of Sera comes to a halt around the end of the eighteenth century. After the beginning of the nineteenth century no new hermitages were built. Why? Although we cannot answer with absolute certainty, we can speculate as to the reasons. One possibility is that a kind of saturation point had been reached. Hermitage building always required the permission of the Ganden Palace (the Tibetan government), and it usually required the endowment of these institutions with estates. It is not inconceivable that the government felt that a limit had been reached as regards its ability to provide for these institutions through estate endowments. Or perhaps the government felt that it was putting undue burden on the local populace, which was obligated (morally, if not legally) to further subsidize the hermitages with donations. It is also not inconceivable that the Sera administration might itself have protested the building of new hermitages, since the seats of learning were institutions that competed with the hermitages both for donors and for monks. A second possibility is that, given the relative political stability of the seats of learning from the mid eighteenth century, fewer monks felt the need to leave Sera, making the building of new hermitages unnecessary. Third, perhaps monastic life in the seats of learning became so normalized and idealized that the isolated contemplative life of the solitary yogi was no longer as valued (or as encouraged) as it had been in earlier days. Finally, is not inconceivable that senior monks of Sera dissuaded their more promising students from going into isolated life-long retreat, encouraging them instead to either enter the Tantric Colleges, thereby launching them on the process of ascending through the stages of the Geluk hierarchy, or else to remain as teachers at Sera, where there was always a demand for good textualists. Or perhaps it was a combination of all of these factors that brought an end to the founding of new hermitages.

Not only did hermitage-building cease, but the hermitages that already existed underwent a fairly radical transformation at the end of the eighteenth century. Within one or two generations of their founding, all of the hermitages became prototypical ritual monasteries – that is, monasteries where ritual (choga chaklen, zhapten), rather than, say, individual meditation on the graded stages of the path (lamrim) and on the tantras, was the principal activity of the monks and nuns. True, some hermitages kept a few meditation huts for monks who wanted to do individual retreat, but even those institutions that made room for contemplatives in their ranks transformed into monasteries where the primary focus was ritual. Why did this happen?

The original hermitages began as meditation retreat centers. But to thrive as a meditation retreat center an institution requires the leadership of a charismatic contemplative. Almost all of the founders of the hermitages had this type of drive and charisma. Once these founding figures had passed away, however, the leadership of the hermitages passed on not to a senior student (who might also have had this same vision), but rather to the next incarnation of the founding lama. These later incarnations were rarely as committed to the contemplative life as were their predecessors. There were several reasons for this. The young incarnations (trülku) – or lamas, as they are called in the seats of learning – were given official status at Sera.32 As lamas they were expected to enter Sera for their studies, where they were then enculturated from a very early age into the life of the seat of learning and into its ethos. Wherever the yearning for a contemplative life comes from, it does not generally come as the intentional product of seat of learning life. Put another way, the goal of the seats of learning was not to produce hermits and meditators, but to create scholars who were the embodiments of the Geluk tradition: to fashion monks who exemplified the teachings of Tsongkhapa through their learning, comportment, and ritual skills. Young lamas learned this lesson well, and they almost never rejected this ideal in favor of the life of the solitary yogi. This is not to say that the life of the solitary meditator-yogi was not (and is not) an ideal among the Gelukpas (Tsongkhapa, after all, was precisely this for much of his life), nor is it to deny that many lamas also might have had such an inclination. But even those lamas who had a yearning for the hermit’s life would have found it difficult to live out this calling by renouncing their position and heading to the mountains, for once a young boy had been identified as the leader of a now-institutionalized hermitage, there were a variety of forces and interests to keep him in this position. For example, the lama’s household (or lama’s estate) depended on the physical presence of the lama for its fiscal survival, and the hermitage, in turn, depended on the lama’s estate for its financial stability. In brief, there were many reasons – sociological, economic, and even political – that caused the subsequent incarnations of the hermitages’ founders not to be as committed to the kind of contemplative lives that their predecessors had led. Lacking the contemplative charismatic leadership of the original founders, it is not surprising that the institutions headed by these individuals also changed. But change into what? There was no need for the hermitages to transform into educational institutions. The seats of learning already had a monopoly in this sphere, and the smaller monasteries near an institution like Sera could not have competed with the seats of learning when it came to providing monks with a textual education. This left only one other option: ritual. In the absence of leaders with contemplative charisma, the only option for the hermitages was to transform into institutions whose primary focus was communal ritual. And this is in fact what happened.

Perhaps the historical lesson here is a simple one: hermitages (or, to be more specific, Geluk hermitages near the seats of learning) do not stay isolated, meditation-oriented institutions for long. The centripetal pressure to grow, and the centrifugal pressure to institutionalize, to become part of the Geluk establishment and to become affiliated to larger and more powerful institutions like the seats of learning is simply too great for these establishments to remain small, independent, and contemplatively-driven for very long. With their transformation into ritual institutions, the hermitages were, of course, no longer the classical “solitary sites” (ené) sought out by yogis. And just as the founders of the hermitages had to leave Sera for the mountains around the monastery in order to pursue their contemplative vocation in the eighteenth century, latter-day yogis would have to leave not only Sera but also the hermitages. At least this is what they would have to do if their goal was to meditate in relative isolation and without the responsibilities that come from being a member of a ritual monastery.

After the events of 1959, the hermitages were all forcibly shut down and fell into disrepair. Monks and nuns started rebuilding them after the liberalization of the 1980s. Most of the hermitages were rebuilt in the 1990s. Initially, the local Lhasa government was fairly generous in granting permits to rebuild these institutions. In the last few years, however, it has been close to impossible to get permission to rebuild – and, indeed, even to add new structures to already rebuilt hermitages or to make modifications to existing buildings. The attitude in the Lhasa bureaucracy today is more stringent in part because of the prevailing attitude among government bureaucrats that there are already too many monks and nuns in and around Lhasa. (This is not surprising, given that monastics have been very vocal in protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet over the last two decades.) Hence, there are restrictions not only on rebuilding and renovation, but also on the number of monks and nuns that can live in the hermitages. As a result, those five hermitages that have not already been rebuilt will probably never be rebuilt. As the elder monks who knew the traditions of these institutions pass away, these institutions, like so much of Tibet’s rich religious culture, will disappear from cultural memory just as they are physically disappearing from the landscape of Lhasa.

But let us end on a less gloomy note. It is a great irony that, in the wake of the destruction of the hermitages, some of these sites are once again becoming retreat centers for meditators. This is not to say that the newly renovated hermitages have renounced their focus on ritual. They have not. Rather, it is the ruins and caves of the hermitages that have not been renovated that are serving as homes for contemporary yogis (mainly nuns). For example, nuns have settled at Nenang and Khardo, transforming these ruins into meditation retreat centers – which is to say, into the types of places that their founders originally intended them to be. The phoenix rising out of the ashes of its own burnt body comes to mind as an appropriate metaphor for this phenomenon.

Life in the Sera/Se ra Hermitages

By 1959, almost all of Sera’s hermitages had been ritual institutions for close to two-hundred years. If a monk who had entered a hermitage wanted to study, he would go to Sera. If he wanted to do life-long, isolated meditation retreat, he would seek a truly secluded place in the mountains. By the same token, if a Sera monk did not want to study, and if he was content to lead the life of a ritualist, he could enter a hermitage (if permitted by his regional house and accepted by the hermitage). Of course, a monk who wanted to lead the life of a ritualist could remain at Sera, but life in a hermitage was often much easier than life in a seat of learning, especially if the hermitage was the seat of a high lama who was wealthy. Be that as it may, those monks who entered the hermitages knew the type of life they would be living. They would either be engaged in ritual (especially if they had a good voice or knew how to play a musical instrument), or they would serve as support staff for the hermitage: cleaning, tending altars, cooking, doing business on the hermitage’s behalf, or supervising one of its estates.

To become an official monk or nun in one of the hermitages the postulant would have to submit to an examination (gyuk). By the time monks and nuns were senior members of the institution, they would have memorized close to five-hundred pages of ritual texts.33 Monks and nuns performed the rituals of the hermitage in monthly and yearly ritual cycles in accordance with the institution’s liturgical calendar. If no sponsor was available, the fixed rituals would be “paid for” by the hermitage itself. That is, the monastery would provide the monks and nuns with food (often better than the day-to-day fare) for the duration of the ritual cycle. But local lay people, monks from other monasteries, and the Tibetan government often commissioned rituals – sometimes acting as sponsors for one of the monastery’s own fixed ritual cycles, sometimes requesting the hermitage to perform special rituals on one of its free days. There were, of course, plenty of lay people in the Lhasa Valley and its suburbs who needed such rituals (zhapten) to be performed on their behalf. On occasion, a small group of monks or nuns from the hermitage might also be invited to a lay person’s home to do ritual there. Rituals have always been an important source of income for the hermitages and for their individual monks and nuns.

While there is some variation in the monthly and yearly liturgical cycles of the hermitages, there is also a great deal of overlap. Almost all of the hermitages, for example, celebrate the new and full moon days,34 as well as the tenth and twenty-fifth of the lunar month. Some of them also perform protector deity practices on an additional day every month.

There is also a great deal of similarity in the yearly ritual cycle. Monks and nuns perform quite extensive multiple-day ritual cycles during the New Year (Losar), and during the “Sixth-Month Fourth-Day” (Drukpa Tsezhi) celebrations. This latter holiday, also called “Festival of the Turning of the Wheel of the Doctrine” (Chönkhor Düchen), is a major pilgrimage day for Tibetans from Lhasa and surrounding areas, as thousands of people travel along a route in the foothills above Sera from Pabongkha Hermitage in the west to Purchok in the east. A good deal of the hermitages’ income for the year derives from the moneys and in-kind goods collected in the form of offerings on this day (at least if the hermitage is fortunate enough to lie on the pilgrimage circuit). At different times of the year (in the first fortnight of the fourth Tibetan month, for example) the hermitages also perform two-day Avalokiteśvara fasting ritual (nyungné) – often doing multiple sets of two-day rituals consecutively.35 The hermitages also, of course, celebrate other major pan-sectarian holidays, like the Buddha’s birth/death date, as well as Geluk-specific holy days like the commemoration of Tsongkhapa’s death – the Ganden Feast of the 25th (Ganden Ngamchö) – that takes place on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth Tibetan month. All of the hermitages, it seems, also maintained the “rainy-season retreat” (yarné) tradition, during which monks and nuns minimize their movement for a portion of the summer so as to avoid killing insects that are more prevalent on the ground during this time.

Nuns perform a Medicine Buddha (Menla) ritual for a benefactor at Negodong nunnery
Detail of a tangka of Nyang bran rgyal chen preserved in one of the regional houses of Sera, India.

Of course, each hermitage has its own set of tutelary deities (yidam) and protector deities (sungma, chökyong), and so the rites performed by the monks and nuns may vary from one monastery to the next. But given that all of them are Geluk institutions, there is also a great deal of overlap in the deities propitiated, and in the actual liturgies performed. Hence, for example, many of the monasteries perform the self-generation (dakkyé) and self-initiation (danjuk) rituals of Vajrabhairava, and they propitiate protector deities like Penden Lhamo, Mahākāla (Gönpo), Dharmarāja (Chögyel), and Vaiśravana (Namsé). In some monasteries, especially in the hermitages to the west of Sera, the protector Nyangdren Gyelchen, the local site-protector of the Nyangdren Valley, is also propitiated. The rites written by Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo (1878-1941) continue to be as popular today as they were before 1959.

As an example, here are the principal ritual practices done at one of the hermitages, Garu Nunnery, in a one-month period (the dates given are the dates in the Tibetan lunar month):

Date Ritual Practice (Tibetan) Ritual Practice (English)
8 Drölchok (Sgrol chog)
Tungshak (Ltung bshags)
Tārā Ritual36
The Ritual of the Thirty-Five Confession Buddhas
10 Demchok Lachö (bde mchog bla mchod)
Jikjé Danjuk (’Jigs byed bdag ’jug)37
Offering to the Master Based on the Deity Cakrasaṃvara
Self-Initiation of Vajrabhairava
15 Menla Deshek Gyé (sman bla bde gshegs brgyad)38 Ritual of the Eight Medicine Buddhas
1939 Gönpo Chögyel Lhamo Namsé dang Nyangdren Gyelchengyi Kangsol (mgon po/ chos rgyal/ lha mo/ rnam sras dang/ nyang bran rgyal chen gyi bskang gsol) Propitiation Rituals of Mahākāla, Dharmarāja, Vaiśravana, Penden Lhamo, and Nyangdren Gyelchen
25 Demchok Lachö (bde mchog bla mchod)40
Neljormé Danjuk (rnal ’byor ma’i bdag ’jug)
Offering to the Master Based on the Deity Cakrasaṃvara
Self-Initiation of Vajrayoginī
30 Neten Chudruk (gnas brtan bcu drug)41 The Sixteen Arhats Ritual

In addition to performing rituals, the monks of the male hermitages have traditionally seen it as part of their duties to keep a number of rooms open for visiting Sera monks. Textualists or pechawa from Sera’s two philosophical colleges – and – had a number of study breaks between the different study periods,42 and they would often seek the relative peace and quiet of the hermitages, usually not for meditation, but for intensive memorization retreats. This tradition still exists, although today the monks tend to request rooms in the hermitages owned by (and closest to) Sera rather than seeking rooms in privately-held hermitages like Purchok. Sera Utsé, Sera Chöding, and Rakhadrak have always been especially popular with Sera monks who want to do such retreats not only because of their proximity to Sera, but also because of the strong associations of these three hermitages with events in the life of Tsongkhapa.

A Sera monk who in 2004 was engaged in a textual retreat (petsam) at Rakhadrak Hermitage. He is occupying a room adjacent to the cave of Tsongkhapa.

As with many monasteries in Tibet today, the population of the Sera hermitages is quite young. The vast majority of the monks and nuns are under the age of thirty, and many are much younger. While the nunneries appear to be thriving, the fate of the male hermitages is not as clear. In pre-1959 Tibet, there were basically only two career options available to young men and women: they either became monks and nuns, or they chose a family life. If they chose the latter and they entered the workforce, they usually followed in the footsteps of their parents, who were either farmers (zhingpa), nomads (drokpa),43 or, less frequently, merchants (tsongpa). The life of the farmer and nomad was a difficult life. By comparison, the monastic life was more secure, and it provided opportunities for education – and therefore for social and economic advancement – that were not normally available to ordinary villagers and nomads.

Today the situation is quite different. Young men and women have (at least in theory) more choices open to them. Secular education (almost exclusively in the medium of Chinese language) is now a possibility, even if it is still mostly accessible only to the middle and upper classes in urban areas. And there are a variety of career options that were not available before 1959 (mostly for those who are educated and who live in, or who relocate to, larger urban areas). How much opportunity actually exists for Tibetan youths – as important as this question is – is not really the issue we are concerned with here. Rather, what is most important for us as we contemplate the future of institutions like the hermitages is the perception that exists in the minds of young Tibetans about their possible future. In their minds, driven in large part by the visions they absorb from television and films, the world is filled with opportunities, life-choices and lifes that compete with the monastic life. But Tibetans are an extremely devout people, and monks and nuns continue to enter the monasteries and nunneries, often with a great sense of religious calling, and with an idealistic vision of what it will be like to live in such an institution. This influx of young Tibetans into small monasteries like the hermitages is not something that one sees changing anytime in the near future. What is changing is what happens after young people (and especially young men) enter monasteries. And here the pattern seems to be that most of the young monks leave the monastery before they are twenty years of age. The problem for the hermitages, then, is not one of recruitment but of retention.44 At least this is the problem in smaller monasteries, and especially in smaller monasteries near a large cosmopolitan area like Lhasa, where, because of its physical proximity, the secular and modern life entices young monks with even greater force.45

An elder monk from one of the hermitages complained to me, for example, that he had “lost” many young boys in their late teens, and that he was considering not accepting boys any longer, his theory being that if one holds out for more mature young men in their twenties (preferably already ordained), one is more apt to get candidates who already know what is in store for them, and who will not be so easily enticed by the lures of the world. It remains to be seen, however, how many monks there are who fit this description and are not already committed to another monastic institution. Or, if such individuals do exist, it remains to be seen how many of them see themselves living out their lives in a relatively isolated, small, ritual monastery. If it is impossible to lure such monks to the hermitages, then the administrators of these institutions may have to resign themselves to the fact that their monasteries will be, for all intents and purposes, something akin to religious boarding schools for young men, the majority of whom will most likely leave once they reach their twenties. But even if they leave, perhaps these young men will return to the hermitages at the end of their life, to live out their final years in a religious setting, a pattern that we have seen in other Tibetan contexts.46 Be that as it may, one thing is clear: life in the hermitages is different from what it was before 1959, and the problems that hermitages face today are as much due to global and market forces as they are to Chinese Communist ideology and bureaucratic regulation.


Note: The glossary is organized into sections according to the main language of each entry. The first section contains Tibetan words organized in Tibetan alphabetical order. To jump to the entries that begin with a particular Tibetan root letter, click on that letter below. Columns of information for all entries are listed in this order: THL Extended Wylie transliteration of the term, THL Phonetic rendering of the term, the English translation, the Sanskrit equivalent, associated dates, and the type of term. To view the glossary sorted by any one of these rubrics, click on the corresponding label (such as “Phonetics”) at the top of its column.

Ka | Kha | Ga | Nga | Ca | Cha | Ja | Nya | Ta | Tha | Da | Na | Pa | Pha | Ba | Ma | Tsa | Tsha | Dza | Wa | Zha | Za | ’A | Ya | Ra | La | Sha | Sa | Ha | A
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
ka thung katungshort pillar Term
ka ring karinglong pillar Term
kang shi KangshiKangxi 1654-1722 Person
kun rig rnam par snang mdzad Künrik Nampar NangdzéSarvavid Vairocana Buddha
ke’u tshang Keutsang Monastery
ke’u tshang keutsangcave, cavern, or overhang Term
ke’u tshang sku phreng lnga pa Keutsang Kutreng Ngapathe fifth Keutsang incarnation Person
ke’u tshang sku phreng gnyis pa Keutsang Kutreng Nyipathe second Keutsang incarnation b. 1791 Person
ke’u tshang sku phreng gnyis pa blo bzang ’jam dbyangs smon lam Keutsang Kutreng Nyipa Lozang Jamyang Mönlamthe second Keutsang incarnation Lozang Jamyang Mönlam b. 1791 Person
ke’u tshang sku phreng dang po byams pa smon lam Keutsang Kutreng Dangpo Jampa Mönlamthe first Keutsang incarnation Jampa Mönlam d. 1790 Person
ke’u tshang ’jam dbyangs blo gsal Keutsang Jamyang Losel Person
ke’u tshang nub Keutsang NupKeutsang West Monastery
ke’u tshang nub ri khrod Keutsang Nup RitröKeutsang West Hermitage Monastery
ke’u tshang sprul sku Keutsang TrülkuKeutsang incarnation Person
ke’u tshang bla brang Keutsang LabrangKeutsang Lama’s estate Monastery
ke’u tshang bla ma Keutsang Lama Person
ke’u tshang ri khrod Keutsang RitröKeutsang Hermitage Monastery
ke’u tshang shar Keutsang SharKeutsang East Monastery
ke’u tshang shar ri khrod Keutsang Shar RitröKeutsang East Hermitage Monastery
kong po jo rdzong Kongpo Jodzong Place
krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang Trunggö Börikpa Petrünkhang Publisher
klong rdol bla ma ngag dbang blo bzang Longdöl Lama Ngawang Lozang 1719-1794 Person
dkar chag karchakinventory Term
dkar chag karchakcatalogue Term
bka’ ’gyur KangyurScriptures Tibetan text collection
bka’ ’gyur lha khang Kangyur lhakhangScripture Temple Building
bka’ brgyud Kargyü Organization
bka’ gdams pa Kadampa Organization
bka’ gdams lha khang Kadam LhakhangKadam Chapel Room
bka’ babs bu chen brgyad kabap buchen gyéeight great close disciples Term
bka’ babs ming can brgyad Kabap Mingchen Gyéthe “eight great ones who were named to receive the oral instructions”
bkra shis chos gling Trashi Chöling Monastery
bkra shis chos gling ri khrod Trashi Chöling RitröTrashi Chöling Hermitage Monastery
bkra shis gser nya trashi sernyatwo auspicious golden fish Term
bkra shis lhun po Trashi Lhünpo Monastery
sku mkhar kukharcastle Term
sku mkhar ma ru Kukhar MaruMaru Castle Building
sku bzhi khang Kuzhi KhangChapel of the Four Statues Room
sku rim grwa tshang kurim dratsangritual college Term
bskang gso kangsopropitiation ritual Ritual
bskal bzang rgya mtsho Kelzang Gyatso 1708-1757 Person
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
khang tshan khangtsenregional house Term
khams Kham Place
khal khela unit of weight/volume equal to about 25-30 lbs. Term
khri byang sku phreng gsum pa blo bzang ye shes Trijang Kutreng Sumpa Lozang Yeshéthe third Trijang incarnation Lozang Yeshé 1901-1981 Person
khri byang rin po che Trijang Rinpoché 1901-1981 Person
khrod tröin the midst of Term
khrod tröon the side of Term
mkhan ngag dbang bstan ’dzin Khen Ngawang Tendzin Person
mkha’ spyod dbyings Khachö Ying Room
mkhar rdo Khardo Monastery
mkhar rdo sku phreng lnga pa jam dbyangs chos kyi dbang phyug Khardo Kutreng Ngapa Jamyang Chökyi Wangchukthe fifth Khardo incarnation Jamyang Chökyi Wangchuk 19th-20th centuries Person
mkhar rdo sku phreng drug pa ’jam dpal thub bstan nyan grags rgya mtsho Khardo Kutreng Drukpa Jampel Tupten Nyendrak Gyatsothe sixth Khardo incarnation Jampel Tupten Nyendrak Gyatso 1909/12?-1956? Person
mkhar rdo sku phreng bdun pa ’jam dpal bstan ’dzin nyan grags rgya mtsho Khardo Kutreng Dünpa Jampel Tendzin Nyendrak Gyatsothe seventh Khardo incarnation Jampel Tendzin Nyendrak Gyatso Person
mkhar rdo sku phreng bzhi pa padma dga’ ba’i rdo rje Khardo Kutreng Zhipa Pema Gawé Dorjéthe fourth Khardo incarnation Pema Gawé Dorjé 19th century Person
mkhar rdo sku phreng gsum pa chos kyi rdo rje Khardo Kutreng Sumpa Chökyi Dorjéthe third Khardo incarnation Chökyi Dorjé b. 18th century Person
mkhar rdo sku phreng gsum pa rigs ’dzin chos kyi rdo rje Khardo Kutreng Sumpa Rikdzin Chökyi Dorjéthe third Khardo incarnation Rikdzin Chökyi Dorjé Person
mkhar rdo mthun mchod Khardo Tünchö Festival
mkhar rdo ba Khardowa Person
mkhar rdo bla brang Khardo LabrangKhardo Lama’s estate Organization
mkhar rdo tshoms chen Khardo TsomchenKhardo Assembly Hall Room
mkhar rdo ri khrod Khardo RitröKhardo Hermitage Monastery
mkhar rdo rin po che Khardo Rinpoché Person
mkhar rdo srong btsan Khardo Songtsen Buddha
mkhar rdo sgrub sde gsum Khardo Drupdé Sumthe three practice centers of kardo Monastery
mkhar rdo ba Khardowa Person
mkhar rdo bla ma Khardo Lama Person
mkhar rdo bzod pa rgya mtsho Khardo Zöpa Gyatso 1672-1749 Person
mkhar rdo gshin rje ’khrul ’khor Khardo Shinjé TrülkhorKhardo (Hermitage’s) Lord of Death Machine Term
mkhas grub rje Kedrupjé 1385-1438 Person
’khon ston Khöntön 1561-1637 Person
’khon ston dpal ’byor lhun grub Khöntön Peljor Lhündrup 1561-1637 Person
’khrungs dbu rtse Trung UtséBirth Peak Place
’khrungs ba’i bla ri Trungwé LariBirth Soul Mountain Place
’khrungs ba’i lha ri Trungwé LhariBirth Deity Peak Place
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
ga ru Garu Monastery
ga ru Garudance Term
ga ru dgon pa Garu GönpaGaru Nunnery Monastery
gar gardance Term
gar dgon bsam gtan gling Gargön Samten LingDance Gompa: Place of Meditative Equipoise Monastery
gar dgon bsam gtan gling gi lo rgyus mun sel mthong ba don ldan Gargön Samten Linggi Logyü Münsel Tongwa DöndenA History of Gargön Samten Ling: Clearing Away Darkness, Meaningful to Behold Tibetan text title
gar lo GarloA History of Garu [Nunnery] Tibetan text title
gu ru rin po che Guru Rinpoché 8th century Person
grub thob lha khang Druptop LhakhangSiddha Chapel Room
grog mo chu mig Drokmo ChumikRavine Spring Place
grong smad Drongmé Place
grwa tshang byes Dratsang JéJé College Monastery
grwa tshang smad Dratsang MéMé College Monastery
grwa bzhi Drapchi Building
grwa bzhi lha khang Drapchi LhakhangDrapchi Temple Building
glang dar ma Langdarma d. 842 Person
dga’ chos dbyings Gachö Ying Room
dga’ ldan Ganden Monastery
dga’ ldan khri pa Ganden tripathrone-holder of Ganden Term
dga’ ldan lnga mchod Ganden Ngamchöthe Ganden Feast of the 25th Festival
dga ldan chos ’nyung bai ḍūrya ser po Ganden Chönyung Baidurya SerpoYellow Lapis: A History of the Ganden [School] Tibetan text title
dga’ ldan pho brang Ganden PodrangGanden Palace Organization
dga’ spyod dbyings Gachö Ying Room
dgun nyi ldog gi cho ga Gün Nyidokgi ChogaWinter Solstice Ritual Ritual
dge lugs Geluk Organization
dge lugs pa Gelukpa Organization
dge bshes geshé Term
dge bshes pha bong khar grags pa Geshé Pabongkhar drakpa“Geshé Pabongkha” Person
dge bshes brag dkar ba Geshé Drakkarwa 1032-1111 Person
dge bshes ye shes dbang phyug Geshé Yeshé Wangchuk b. 20th century Person
dge bshes seng ge Geshé Senggé d. 1990s Person
dge slong gelongfully-ordained monk Term
dgon pa gönpamonastery Term
dgon pa gsar Gönpasar Monastery
dgon pa gsar gönpa sarnew monastery Term
dgon pa gsar sku phreng dang po ngag dbang don grub Gönpasar Kutreng Dangpo Ngawang Döndrupfirst Gönpasar incarnation Ngawang Döndrup 18th century Person
dgon pa gsar ri khrod Gönpasar RitröGönpasar Hermitage Monastery
mgon dkar GönkarWhite Mahākāla Buddha
mgon khang gönkhangprotector deity chapel Term
mgon po GönpoMahākāla Buddha
mgon po gtor rgyag Gönpo TorgyakThrowing of the Torma to Mahākāla Ritual
mgon po phyag drug Gönpo ChakdrukSix-Armed Mahākāla Buddha
mgon po a gho Gönpo Agho Buddha
’gyed gepmoney offering to monks Term
rgya mtsho mtha’ yas Gyatso Tayé Person
rgya res Gyaré Buddha
rgya res tshoms chen Gyaré Tsomchen Building
rgyal chen karma ’phrin las Gyelchen Karma Trinlé Buddha
rgyal ba lnga pa chen po Gyelwa Ngapa Chenpothe Great Fifth Dalai Lama 1617-1682 Person
rgyal ba’i rigs lnga bla ri Gyelwé Riknga LariSoul Mountain of the Buddhas of the Five Families Place
rgyal mo tshe ring bkra shis Gyelmo Tsering TrashiQueen Tsering Trashi 18th century Person
rgyal tshab rje Gyeltsapjé 1364-1432 Person
rgyal rabs gsal ba’i me long Gyelrap Selwé MelongThe Clear Mirror: A Royal History Tibetan text title
rgyal rong khang tshan Gyelrong KhangtsenGyelrong Regional House Monastery subunit
rgyugs gyukexamination Term
rgyud stod GyütöUpper Tantric [College] Monastery
rgyud smad GyüméLower Tantric [College] Monastery
rgyud smad grwa tshang Gyümé DratsangThe Lower Tantric College Monastery
rgyun ja gyünjadaily tea or prayer Term
sgo gnyer gonyertemple attendant Term
sgo srung gosungdoor-keeper Term
sgom chen gomchenmeditator Term
sgom sde nam kha’ rgyal mtshan Gomdé Namkha Gyeltsen 1532-1592 Person
sgom sde pa Gomdepa 1532-1592 Person
sgra ’dzin chu mig Dradzin ChumikSound-Catcher (or Ear) Spring Place
sgrub khang drupkhangmeditation hut Term
sgrub khang dge legs rgya mtsho Drupkhang Gelek Gyatso 1641-1713 Person
sgrub khang pa Drupkhangpa 1641-1713 Person
sgrub khang sprul sku Drupkhang TrülkuDrupkhang incarnation Person
sgrub khang bla brang Drupkhang LabrangDrupkhang Lama’s estate Organization
sgrub khang bla ma Drupkhang lama Person
sgrub khang ri khrod Drupkhang RitröDrupkhang Hermitage Monastery
sgrub grwa drupdrapractice center Term
sgrub thabs druptapritual method of realization Term
sgrub sde drupdépractice-center Term
sgrub phug druppukmeditation cave Term
sgrol chog DrölchokTārā Ritual Ritual
sgrol ma DrölmaTārā Buddha
sgrol ma lha khang Drölma LhakhangTārā Chapel Building
brgya gyahundred Term
brgyad gyéeight Term
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
ngag dbang byams pa Ngawang Jampa 1682-1762 Person
ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho Ngawang Lozang Gyatso 1617-1682 Person
ngag dbang sman rgyal Ngawang Mengyal 20th century Person
ngul gyi par khang ngülgyi parkhangmoney printing press Term
sngags ngakmantra Term
sngags pa ngakpatantric priest Term
sngags pa grwa tshang Ngakpa DratsangTantric College Monastery
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
gcig bu pa chikbuparecluse Term
bca’ yig chayikconstitution Term
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
chab rdzing gling kha Chapdzing LingkhaPond Park Place
chu mo yos chumo yöfemale-water-hare (year) Date
chu bzang chupzanggood waters Term
chu bzang Chupzang Monastery
chu bzang dgon Chupzang GönChupzang Nunnery Monastery
chu bzang ye shes rgya mtsho Chupzang Yeshé Gyatso 1789-1856 Person
cho ga phyag len choga chaklenritual Term
chos kyi rdo rje Chökyi Dorjé b. 18th century? Person
chos kyi seng ge Chökyi Senggé Person
chos skyong chökyongprotector deity Term
chos khang rtse ba dgon pa Chökhang Tsewa GönpaChökhang Tsewa Monastery Monastery
chos ’khor dus chen Chönkhor DüchenFestival of the Turning of the Wheel of the Doctrine Festival
chos gos chögöyellow ceremonial robe Term
chos rgyal ChögyelDharmarāja Buddha
chos rgyal khri srong lde’u btsan Chögyel Trisong Detsenthe Buddhist king (of Tibet) Trisong Detsen 742-796 Person
chos rgyal srong btsan sgam po Chögyel Songtsen Gampothe Buddhist king (of Tibet) Songtsen Gampo 617-650 Person
chos thog chötokritual cycle Term
chos sdings Chöding Monastery
chos sdings ri khrod Chöding RitröChöding Hermitage Monastery
chos me khang chömé khangbutter-lamp offering house Term
chos mtshams chötsamdoctrine retreat Term
chos gzhis chözhiestate lands Term
chos rwa chöraDharma enclosure or Dharma courtyard Term
mchod mjal chönjelworship Term
mchod rten dkar chung Chöten KarchungLittle White Stūpa Monument
’chi med lha khang Chimé LhakhangChapel of Deathlessness Building
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
ja bdun dang thug pa gnyis ja dün dang tukpa nyiseven teas and two soups Term
jo khang Jokhang Monastery
jo ston bsod nams rgyal mtshan Jotön Sönam Gyeltsen 17th century Person
jo bo jowothe Lord Term
jo bo mi bskyod rdo rje Jowo Mikyö Dorjé Buddha
jo mo si si Jomo Sisi Place
’jam dpal bla ri Jampel LariMañjuśrī Peak Place
’jam dpal dbyangs kyi bla ri Jampelyangkyi Larithe Soul-Mountain of Mañjuśrī Place
’jam dbyangs grags pa Jamyang Drakpa Person
’jigs byed kyi me long Jikjekyi MelongMirror of Vajrabhairava Place
’jigs byed lha bcu gsum Jikjé Lha ChuksumThirteen-Deity Vajrabhairava Buddha
’jog po Jokpo Monastery
’jog po ngag dbang bstan ’dzin Jokpo Ngawang Tendzin b. 1748 Person
’jog po bla brang Jokpo LabrangJokpo Lama’s estate Organization
’jog po bla brang Jokpo LabrangJokpo Lama’s residence Organization
’jog po ri khrod Jokpo RitröJokpo Hermitage Monastery
’jog po rin po che Jokpo Rinpoché b. 1748 Person
’jog ri ngag dbang bstan ’dzin Jokri Ngawang Tendzin b. 1748 Person
rje btsun nam mkha’ spyod sgrol rdor dbang mo Jetsün Namkhachö Dröldor WangmoJetsün (or Khachö) Dröldor Wangmo Person
rje btsun bla ma ngag dbang rnam grol Jetsün Lama Ngawang Namdröl Person
rje gzigs pa lnga ldan Jé Zikpa NgadenFive Visions of the Lord (Tsongkhapa) Painting series
rje shes rab seng ge Jé Sherap Senggé 1383-1445 Person
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
nyang bran Nyangdren Place
nyang bran rgyal chen Nyangdren Gyelchen Buddha
nyi ’od pho brang Nyiwö PodrangPalace of the Rays of the Sun Room
nye ba’i gnas bzhi nyewé né zhiFour Principal Sites Place
gnyer pa nyerpamanager Term
gnyer tshang nyertsangmanager’s room Term
rnying nyingold Term
rnying ma Nyingma Organization
rnying ma sgrub grwa Nyingma drupdraNyingma practice center Term
rnying ma pa Nyingmapa Organization
rnying ma bla ma Nyingma lama Term
snying khrag nyingdrakheart’s-blood Term
bsnyen pa nyenpaapproximation retreat Term
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
tā rā’i bla ri Taré Larithe Soul-Mountain of Tārā Place
trak shad Trakshé Buddha
gter tertreasure Term
gter bdag srong btsan Terdak SongtsenTreasure Lord Songtsen Buddha
gter nas ston pa terné tönpadiscovered as treasure Term
rta mgrin TamdrinHayagrīva Buddha
rta mgrin gsang sgrub Tamdrin SangdrupHayagrīva in his “Secret Accomplishment” form Buddha
rta ma do nyag Tama Donyak Place
rta tshag ye shes bstan pa’i mgon po Tatsak Yeshé Tenpé Gönpo 1760-1810 Person
rtag brtan taktenpermanent and stable Term
rtags brtan taktenstable sign Term
rtags brten Takten Monastery
rtags brten ri khrod Takten RitröTakten Hermitage Monastery
rtags bstan taktenrevealed sign Term
rtags bstan Takten Monastery
rtags bstan sgrub phug Takten Druppuk Monastery
rtags bstan ri khrod Takten RitröTakten Hermitage Monastery
rten khang tenkhang Term
mchod rten chöten stūpa Monument
bstan ’gyur tengyurCollection of Translated Śāstras Tibetan text title
bstan ’gyur lha khang Tengyur lhakhangTengyur chapel Building
bstan nor mkhar rdo Tennor Khardo b. 1957 Person
bstan ma Tenma Class of deities
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
thang ka tangka Term
thang stong rgyal po Tangtong Gyelpo 1361-1485 Person
thu’u bkwan Tuken 1737-1802 Person
theg chen gso sbyong Tekchen SojongMahāyāna Precepts Term
phyag stong spyan stong chaktong chentong Thousand-​Armed Thousand-​Eyed Avalokiteśvara Buddhist deity
thogs med rin po che Tokmé Rinpoché 20th century Person
thod smyon bsam grub Tönyön Samdrup 12th century Person
thon mi Tönmi 7th century Person
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
dā ma dama Term
dā ma la nyag Damala Nyak Place
da lai bla ma Dalai Lama Person
da lai bla ma sku phreng dgu pa Dalai Lama Kutreng Gupathe Ninth Dalai Lama 1806-1815 Person
da lai bla ma sku phreng brgyad pa ’jam dpal rgya mtsho Dalai Lama Kutreng Gyepa Jampel Gyatsothe Eighth Dalai Lama Jampel Gyatso 1758-1804 Person
da lai bla ma sku phreng lnga pa Dalai Lama Kutreng Ngapathe Fifth Dalai Lama 1617-1682 Person
da lai bla ma sku phreng lnga pa ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho Dalai Lama Kutreng Ngapa Ngawang Lozang Gyatsothe Fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Lozang Gyatso 1617-1682 Person
da lai bla ma sku phreng bcu bzhi pa Dalai Lama Kutreng Chuzhipathe Fourteenth Dalai Lama b. 1935 Person
da lai bla ma sku phreng bcu gsum pa Dalai Lama Kutreng Chuksumpathe Thirteenth Dalai Lama 1876-1933 Person
da lai bla ma sku phreng bcu gsum pa thub bstan rgya mtsho Dalai Lama Kutreng Chuksumpa Tupten Gyatsothe Thirteenth Dalai Lama Tupten Gyatso 1876-1933 Person
da lai bla ma sku phreng drug pa Dalai Lama Kutreng Drukpathe Sixth Dalai Lama 1683-1706 Person
da lai bla ma sku phreng bdun pa Dalai Lama Kutreng Dünpathe Seventh Dalai Lama 1708-1757 Person
da lai bla ma sku phreng bdun pa bskal bzang rgya mtsho Dalai Lama Kutreng Dünpa Kelzang Gyatsothe Seventh Dalai Lama Kelzang Gyatso 1708-1757 Person
da lai bla ma sku phreng gsum pa Dalai Lama Kutreng Sumpathe Third Dalai Lama 1543-1588 Person
ḍākinī dakiniḍākinī Term
dam chen chos rgyal Damchen ChögyelDharmarāja Buddha
dung dkar blo bzang ’phrin las Dungkar Lozang Trinlé 1927-1997 Person
dung dkar tshig mdzod Dungkar TsikdzöDungkar Dictionary Tibetan text title
dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo Dungkar Tsikdzö ChenmoThe Great Dungkar Dictionary Tibetan text title
dung dkar rin po che Dungkar Rinpoché 1927-1997 Person
dur khrod durtröcemetery Term
dus ’khor DükhorKālacakra Buddha
de bi ko ṭi Debi KotiDebikoṭi Place
de mo sku phreng brgyad pa ngag dbang blo bzang thub bstan ’jigs med rgya mtsho Demo Kutreng Gyepa Ngawang Lozang Tupten Jikmé Gyatsothe eighth Demo incarnation Ngawang Lozang Tupten Jikmé Gyatso 1778-1819 Person
dog bde Dodé Place
dog sde DokdéDodé Place
dog sde lho smon Dodé Lhomön Place
dwags po grwa tshang Dakpo DratsangDakpo College Monastery
drag phyogs kyi las drakchokkyi léwrathful magical powers Term
drang nges legs bshad snying po Drangngé Lekshé NyingpoThe Essence of Eloquence that Distinguishes between the Provisional and Definitive Meaning Tibetan text title
drug pa tshe bzhi Drukpa TsezhiSixth-Month Fourth-Day Festival
drung pa brtson ’grus rgyal mtshan Drungpa Tsöndrü Gyeltsen fl. 17th century Person
drung pa rin po che Drungpa Rinpoché fl. 17th century Person
gdan sa densaseats of learning Term
gdan sa gsum Densa Sumthe three great Geluk seats of learning
gdugs dkar Dukar Buddha
gdugs pa’i bla ri Dukpé Larithe Parasol Soul Mountain Place
gdugs yur dgon Dukyur Gön Monastery
gdung rten dungtenfunerary stūpa Term
bdag bskyed dakkyéself-generation Term
bdag ’jug danjukself-initiation Term
bde chen pho brang Dechen PodrangPalace of Great Bliss Room
bde mchog DemchokCakrasaṃvara Buddha
bde mchog gi pho brang Demchokgi PodrangPalace of Cakrasaṃvara Place
bde mchog bla mchod Demchok LachöOffering to the Master Based on the Deity Cakrasaṃvara Ritual
bde mchog bla ri Demchok LariSoul Mountain of Demchok Place
mdo skal bzang Do KelzangSūtra of Good Fortune Tibetan text title
’du khang dukhangassembly hall Term
’dra sku drakusimulacrum (type of statue) Term
rdo sku dokustone image Term
rdo cung cong zhi’i phug pa Dochung Chongzhi PukpaCavern of Dochung Chongzhi Place
rdo rje ’jigs byed Dorjé Jikjé Vajrabhairava Buddha
rdo rje rnal ’byor ma Dorjé NeljormaVajrayoginī Buddha
rdo rje btsun mo Dorjé Tsünmo Buddha
rdo rje g.yu sgron ma Dorjé Yudrönma Buddha
rdo rje shugs ldan Dorjé Shukden Buddha
rdo rje sems dpa’ Dorjé SempaVajrasattva Buddha
rdo gter Dodé Place
rdo ring Doring Clan
sdig pa chen po dikpa chenpogreat sin Term
sde srid desiregent Term
sde srid sangs rgyas rgya mtsho Desi Sanggyé Gyatso 1653-1705 Person
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
na chung rtse mo ri Nachung Tsemo Ri Place
na ro mkha’ spyod ma Naro Kachöma Buddha
na ro mkha’ spyod ma’i bdag ’jug Naro Khachömé DanjukSelf-initiation Ritual of Naro Khachöma Ritual
nag chu Nakchu Place
nag chu zhabs brtan dgon pa Nakchu Zhapten Gönpa Monastery
nag ril chen po zhig nakril chenpo zhika large dark shape Term
nang rten gtso bo nangten tsowomain inner image(s) Term
nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan Namkha Gyeltsen 1532-1592 Person
nor bu gling kha Norbu Lingkha Place
gnas kyi bla ma nekyi lamahead lama Term
gnas sgo gdong Negodong Monastery
gnas sgo gdong ri khrod Negodong Hermitage Monastery
gnas bcu lha khang Nechu LhakhangTemple of the Sixteen Arhats Building
gnas chung Nechung Buddha
gnas brtan bcu drug Neten ChudrukSixteen Arhats Ritual
gnas brtan bcu drug Neten ChudrukSixteen Arhats Buddha
gnas brtan phyag mchod Neten ChakchöOffering of Homage to the (Sixteen) Arhats Ritual
gnas brtan bla ri Neten Larithe Soul-Mountain of the Arhats Place
gnas bdag nedaksite deity Term
gnas nang Nenang Monastery
gnas nang dgon pa Nenang GönpaNenang Nunnery Monastery
gnas nang ri khrod Nenang RitröNenang Hermitage Monastery
gnas mo Nemo Place
gnas rtsa chen po né tsa chenpoa holy site Term
gnas ri nerimountain-abode Term
rnam grol lag bcangs Namdröl LakchangLiberation in Our Hands Tibetan text title
rnam rgyal Namgyel Monastery
rnam sras NamséVaiśravana Buddha
rnam sras bang mdzod Namsé BangdzöTreasure-House of Vaiśravaṇa Room
rnal ’byor ma’i bdag ’jug Neljormé DanjukSelf-Initiation Ritual of Vajrayoginī Ritual
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
padma ’byung gnas Pema JungnéPadmasambhava 8th century Person
paṇ chen sku phreng gsum pa Penchen Kutreng Sumpathe Third Penchen Lama Person
paṇ chen bde legs nyi ma Penchen Delek Nyima 16th century Person
paṇ chen bla ma Penchen Lama Person
paṇ chen blo bzang ye shes Penchen Lozang Yeshé 1663-1737 Person
po ta la Potala Building
po to ba rin chen gsal Potowa Rinchen Sel 1027/31-1105 Person
dpa’ grong shag pa Padrong Shakpa Clan
dpal ldan lha mo Pelden Lhamo Buddha
dpal ’byor rab rgyas Peljor Rapgyé 1604-1669 Person
dpal lha mo Pel Lhamo Buddha
dpe cha ba pechawatextualist Term
dpe mtshams petsamtextual retreat Term
dpyid kyi rgyal mo’i klu dbyangs Chikyi Gyelmo LuyangThe Nāga Song of the Queen of Springtime Tibetan text title
spang lung Panglung Monastery
spang lung ri khrod Panglung RitröPanglung Hermitage Monastery
spangs lung sku phreng dang po blo bzang thugs rje Panglung Kutreng Dangpo Lozang Tukjéthe first Panglung incarnation Lozang Tukjé 1770-ca. 1835 Person
spo ’bo ra spyi khang Bombora Chikhang Building
spyi mi chimirepresentative Term
sprul sku trülkuincarnation Term
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
pha dam pa Pa Dampa b. 11th century Person
pha dam pa sangs rgyas Pa Dampa Sanggyé b. 11th century Person
pha bong PabongThe Boulder Building
pha bong kha Pabongkha Monastery
pha bong kha PabongkhaThe Boulder House Building
pha bong kha rgya mtsho mtha’ yas Pabongkha Gyatso Tayé b. 18th century Person
pha bong kha bde chen snying po Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo 1878-1941 Person
pha bong kha pa Pabongkhapa 1878-1941 Person
pha bong kha sprul sku Pabongkha TrülkuPabongkha incarnation Person
pha bong kha bla brang Pabongkha LabrangPabongkha Lama’s estate Organization
pha bong kha ri khrod Pabongkha RitröPabongkha Hermitage Monastery
pha bong kha rin po che Pabongkha Rinpoché 1878-1941 Person
pha bong kha’i dkar chag Pabongkhé KarchakA Catalogue of Pabongkha Tibetan text title
phag mo gru pa Pakmo Drupa Organization
phun tshogs ’phrin las Püntsok Trinlé 20th century Person
phun tshogs rab rgyas Püntsok Rapgyé 20th century Person
phur lcog Purchok Monastery
phur lcog sku phreng gnyis pa blo bzang byams pa Purchok Kutreng Nyipa Lozang Jampathe second Purchok incarnation Lozang Jampa 1763-1823 Person
phur lcog sku phreng dang po ngag dbang byams pa Purchok Kutreng Dangpo Ngawang Jampathe first Purchok incarnation Ngawang Jampa 1682-1762 Person
phur lcog sku phreng gsum pa blo bzang tshul khrims byams pa rgya mtsho Purchok Kutreng Sumpa Lozang Tsültrim Jampa Gyatsothe third Purchok incarnation Lozang Tsültrim Jampa Gyatso 1825-1901 Person
phur lcog sku phreng gsum pa yongs ’dzin byams pa rgya mtsho Purchok Kutreng Sumpa Yongdzin Jampa Gyatsothe third Purchok incarnation Yongdzin Jampa Gyatso Person
phur lcog ngag dbang byams pa Purchok Ngawang Jampa 1682-1762 Person
phur lcog bla brang Purchok LabrangPurchok Lama’s estate Organization
phur lcog bla ma Purchok lama Person
phur lcog blo bzang tshul khrims byams pa rgya mtsho Purchok Lozang Tsültrim Jampa Gyatso 1825-1901 Person
phur lcog ri Purchok RiPurchok Mountain Place
phur lcog ri khrod Purchok RitröPurchok Hermitage Monastery
phur lcog rigs gsum byang chub gling gi byung ba mdo tsam brjod pa Purchok Riksum Jangchup Linggi Jungwa Dotsam JöpaA Brief Explanation of the History of Purchok Riksum Jangchup Ling Tibetan text title
phur lcog rigs gsum byang chub gling gi byung ba mdo tsam brjod pa dad gsum ’dren pa’i lcags kyu Purchok Riksum Jangchup Linggi Jungwa Dotsam Jöpa Desum Drenpé ChakkyuA Brief History of Purchok Riksum Jangchup Ling: A Hook to Draw in the Three Types of Faith Tibetan text title
phur lcog rin po che Purchok Rinpoché Person
phur bu lcog Purbuchok Monastery
phur bu lcog ri khrod PurbuchokRitrö Monastery
phur byung PurjungA Brief History of Purchok Tibetan text title
pho brang ngos podrang ngöthe actual palace Term
pho lha nas Polhané 1689-1747 Person
phyag mdzod chandzöadministrative head Term
phyi dar chidarlater propagation period Term
phrin las rgya mtsho Trinlé Gyatso d. 1667 Person
’phags pa Pakpa 1235-1280 Person
’phags pa shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa brgyad stong pa’i mdo Pakpa Sherapkyi Paröltu Chinpa Gyetongpé DoEight Thousand-Line Perfection of Wisdom Sūtra Āryāṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā Sūtra Tibetan text title
’phan po Penpo Place
’pho ba powatransition of consciousness Term
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
bar skor Barkor Place
sangs rgyas sanggyé Buddha Buddhist deity
bai ḍūrya ser po Baidurya SerpoYellow Lapis Tibetan text title
bod ljongs nang bstan Böjong NangtenTibetan Buddhism Tibetan journal title
bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang Böjong Mimang Petrünkhang Publisher
byang JangNorthern Tibet Place
byang chub chos ’phel Jangchup Chöpel 1756-1838 Person
byang chos ’khor gling Jang Chökhor Ling Monastery
byams khang JamkhangMaitreya Chapel Room
byams chen chos rje Jamchen Chöjé 1354-1435 Person
byams pa JampaMaitreya Buddha
byams pa gling Jampa Ling Monastery
byams pa bstan ’dzin ’phrin las rgya mtsho Jampa Tendzin Trinlé Gyatso 1878-1941 Person
byams pa thub bstan rin po che Jampa Tupten Rinpoché 20th century Person
byin can jinchenblessed Term
byin rlabs jinlapblessing Term
byes Monastery
byes mkhan po rgyal mtshan don grub Jé Khenpo Gyeltsen Döndrup 17th century Person
byes sgom sde khang tshan Jé Gomdé KhangtsenJé Gomdé Regional House Monastery subunit
byes ’du khang Jé DukhangJé College Assembly Hall Building
byes har gdong khang tshan Jé Hamdong KhangtsenHamdong Regional House of the Jé College Monastery subunit
brag mchod sa Drak ChösaOffering Place Cave Place
brag ri Drakri Monastery
brag ri drakricrag Term
brag ri sku phreng gnyis pa rgya mtsho chos ’byor Drakri Kutreng Nyipa Gyatso Chönjorthe second Drakri incarnation Gyatso Chönjor b. 19th century Person
brag ri rgya mtsho mtha’ yas Drakri Gyatso Tayé Person
brag ri sprul sku Drakri TrülkuDrakri incarnation Person
brag ri sprul sku blo bzang theg mchog dbang po Drakri Trülku Lozang Tekchok Wangpothe Drakri incarnation Lozang Tekchok Wangpo Person
brag ri bla brang Drakri LabrangDrakri Lama’s estate Organization
brag ri bla ma Drakri lama Person
brag ri ri khrod Drakri RitröDrakri Hermitage Monastery
brag ri rin po che Drakri Rinpoché Person
bla brang labranglama’s estate Term
bla ma lama Term
bla ma mchod pa tshog Lama Chöpa TsokOffering-Ritual to the Lama Ritual
bla ma zhang Lama Zhang 1123-1193 Person
bla ri larisoul mountain Term
blo bzang sgom chung Lozang GomchungLozang the Little Meditator Person
blo bzang ye shes bstan ’dzin rgya mtsho Lozang Yeshé Tendzin Gyatso 1901-1981 Person
dbang ’dus ’khor lo Wangdü KhorloCycle for Gathering Power Tibetan text title
dbang phyug chen po Wangchuk ChenpoMaheśvara Buddha
dbu gdugs ri UdukriMount Parasol Place
dbu mdzad umdzéchant leader Term
dben gnas enésolitary site Term
dben sa ensasolitary place Term
dben sa pa ensaparecluse Term
dben sa pa EnsapaEnsapa 1504/5-1565/6 Person
dben sa pa blo bzang don grub Ensapa Lozang Döndrup 1504/5-1565/6 Person
dbyar gnas yarnérainy-season retreat Term
’bras spungs Drepung Monastery
’brog pa drokpanomad Term
sba ri Bari
sba ri bla brang Bari LabrangBari Lama’s estate Organization
sba ri bla ma Bari lama Person
sba ri ri khrod Bari RitröBari Hermitage Monastery
sba ri rin po che Bari Rinpoché Person
sbyin bdag jindakpatron Term
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
ma cig lab sgron Machik Lapdrön 12th century Person
ma ṇi bka’ ’bum Mani KabumThe Compendium on the Maṇi [Mantra] Tibetan text title
ma ṇi ’khor lo mani khorlomani wheel Term
ma ṇi lha khang mani lhakhangmani [wheel] temple Term
maṇḍala mendelmaṇḍala Term
mi chos gtsang ma bcu drug michö tsangma chudruksixteen rules of purity for the populace Term
mi dbang byams pa Miwang JampaMaitreya as Lord of Men Buddha
mi g.yo ba MiyowaAcala Buddha
mi la’i brag Milé DrakCave of Mila Cave
mi ser miserserf Term
me tog char babs metog charbaprained flowers Term
me mo phag memopakfemale-fire-pig (year) Date
mes dbon Mewön Person
mo barha nyag Mo Barha Nyak Place
dmar gdung mardungmummified corpse Term
rmog tho ’go Moktogo Place
smad Monastery
smad ’du khang Mé DukhangMé College Assembly Hall Building
smad bla zur blo bzang don grub Mé Lazur Lozang Döndrup Person
sman bla MenlaMedicine Buddha Buddha
sman bla MenlaMedicine Buddha Ritual
sman bla bde gshegs brgyad Menla Deshek GyéRitual of the Eight Medicine Buddhas Ritual
sman bla bde gshegs brgyad Menla Deshek GyéEight Medicine Buddhas Buddha
sman bla yid bzhin dbang rgyal Menla Yizhin WanggyelMedicine Buddha [Ritual]: Yizhin Wanggyel Ritual
smyung gnas nyungnéfasting ritual Ritual
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
tsa khang tsakhangclay tablet repository Term
tsa tsa tsatsapressed-clay tablets Term
tsong kha brgyad bcu Tsongkha GyepchuEighty Deeds of Tsongkhapa Series of paintings
tsong kha pa Tsongkhapa 1357-1419 Person
gtsang Tsang Place
btsan khang tsenkhangtsen chapel Term
rtsa shes ṭīk chen Tsashé TikchenGreat Commentary on the Prajñāmūla Tibetan text title
rtsa gsum lha khang Tsasum Lhakhang“Three Roots” Chapel Room
rtsam pa tsampa Term
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
tsha khang tshan Tsa KhangtsenTsa Regional House Monastery subunit
tshal pa bka’ brgyud Tselpa Kagyü Organization
tshe mchog gling Tsechokling Monastery
tshe dpag med lha dgu Tsepakmé LhaguNine Deities [related to] Amitāyus Buddha
tshes bcu phug TsechupukCave of the Tenth Day Room
tshes bcu lha khang Tsechu LhakhangTemple of the Tenth Day Room
tshogs chen TsokchenGreat Assembly Hall Building
tshogs chen sprul sku Tsokchen Trülkuincarnation of the Great Assembly Hall Term
tshogs gtam tsoktampublic admonition Term
tshogs bdag lag na ’khor lo Tsokdak Lakna KhorloCycle on Gaṇeśa Tibetan text title
tshong pa tsongpamerchant Term
tshoms chen shar Tsomchen SharEastern Assembly Hall Building
mtshan zhabs tsenzhapassistant tutor Term
mtshams pa tsamparetreatant Term
mtsho tsolake Term
mtsho sngon po Tso NgönpoKokonor Place
mtshon cha’i ’khor lo tsönché khorlowheel of weapons Term
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
mdzo dzo Term
’dzam gling rgyas bshad Dzamling GyeshéExtensive Explanation of the World Tibetan text title
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
wāginḍamatibhadrapaṭu bandashāsadharasagara Vagindamatibhadrapatu Bandashasadharasagara Person
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
zhang ’gro ba’i mgon po g.yu brag pa Zhang Drowé Gönpo Yudrakpa 1123-1193 Person
zhabs rjes zhapjéfootprint Term
zhabs brtan zhaptenritual Term
zhi byed ZhijéPacification Organization
zhing pa zhingpafarmer Term
gzhi bdag zhidaksite-spirit Term
gzhung dgon zhunggönstate monastery Term
gzhung sgo zhunggomain door Term
gzhung pa khang tshan Zhungpa KhangtsenZhungpa Regional House Monastery subunit
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
zangs dkar ZangkarZangskar Place
zangs mdog dpal ri Zangdok PelriGlorious Copper-Colored Mountain Place
zangs ri Zangri Place
zangs ri mkhar dmar Zangri Karmar Monastery
gzim khang zimkhangresidence Term
gzims khang gong ma Zimkhang GongmaUpper Residence Building
gzungs ’bul zungbülto offer zung [inside of statues] Term
bzod pa rgya mtsho Zöpa Gyatso 1672-1749 Person
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
’od zer phung po che Özer PungpochéGreat Heap of Light Place
’ol khar ÖlkharÖlkhar Place
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
yang gam yanggamwealth-box Term
yi dam yidamtutelary deities Term
yig cha yikcha(a monastery’s) ritual texts Term
yul nyer bzhi’i ya rgyal/ de bi ko ṭi dang ming gzhan pha bong kha byang chub shing gi nags khrod du bkod pa’i dkar chag dad ldan padmo rgyas byed gzi sbyin ’od stong ’bar ba’i nor bu Yül Nyerzhi Yagyel/ Debi Koti dang Mingzhen Pabongkha Jangchup Shinggi Naktrödu Kopé Karchak Deden Pemo Gyejé Zijin Ötong Barwé NorbuAn Inventory of [the Institution that,] from among the Four Sites, is Debikoṭi, a.k.a. Pabongkha, Forest of Bodhi Trees: A Jewel Radiating a Thousand Rays, the Resplendent Ripener of the Lotus of the Faithful Tibetan text title
ye shes rgyal mtshan Yeshé Gyeltsen 1713-1793 Person
yongs ’dzin ye shes rgyal mtshan Yongdzin Yeshé Gyeltsen 1713-1793 Person
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
ra kha brag Rakhadrak Monastery
ra kha brag ri khrod Rakhadrak RitröRakhadrak Hermitage Monastery
ra kha brag a zhu bsod nams Rakhadrak Azhu Sönam b. 17th century Person
ra mo che RamochéGreat Female Goat [Temple] Building
ra sa Rasa Place
rang byon rangjönself-arisen image Term
rab byung rapjungcalendrical cycle Term
rab gsal rapselsun room Term
ri rithe mountain Term
ri khrod ritröhermitage Term
ri khrod pa ritröpahermit Term
ri ’khor rikhormountain circumambulation
ri ’go sgo ma Rigo Goma Place
ri chen gsum Richen SumThree Great Mountains Place
rigs pa’i rgya mstho Rikpé GyatsoOcean of Reasoning Tibetan text title
rigs ’dzin chos kyi rdo rje Rikdzin Chökyi Dorjé b. 1790? Person
rigs gsum mgon po Riksum GönpoThree Protectors Buddha
rigs gsum mgon po lha khang Riksum Gönpo LhakhangTemple of the Three Protectors Building
rin po che rinpoché Term
rus sbal pho rübelpomale turtle Place
rus sbal mo rübelmofemale turtle Place
rwa sgreng Radreng d. 1947 Person
rwa sgreng sku sgreng lnga pa Radreng Kutreng Ngapathe fifth Radreng incarnation d. 1947 Person
rwa sgreng rin po che Radreng Rinpoché d. 1947 Person
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
lam rim lamrimgraded stages of the path Term
lam rim ’jam dpal zhal lung Lamrim Jampel ZhellungThe Revelations of Mañjuśrī: A Lamrim Tibetan text title
lam rim bde lam Lamrim DelamThe Easy Path: A Lamrim Tibetan text title
las rung lerungenabling retreat Term
li thang Litang Place
lo gsar LosarNew Year Festival
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
shug pa’i nags bla ri Shukpé Nak LariThe Soul-Mountain of Juniper Forests Place
shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa’i mdo Sherapkyi Paröltu Chinpé DoPerfection of Wisdom Sūtras Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra Tibetan text title
gshin rje’i rang thag Shinjé Rangtakthe Mill of the Shinjé Term
bshes gnyen tshul khrims Shenyen Tsültrim 20th century Person
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
sa skya Sakya Organization
sa skya pa Sakyapa Organization
sa skya pa bsod nams rgyal mtshan Sakyapa Sönam Gyeltsen Person
sa brtag sataksite investigation Term
sa bdag sadakgeo-spirits Term
sa dpyad sachésite investigations Term
sa pho bya sapojamale-earth-bird (year) Date
sa sbyang sajangpurity of the site Term
sangs rgyas rgya mtsho Sanggyé Gyatso 1653-1705 Person
sad mi mi bdun semi midünthe first seven Tibetan monks Term
sin dhu ra sindura sindhura Term
se ra Sera Monastery
se ra byes grwa tshang Sera Dratsang JéSera Jé College Monastery
se ra sngags pa grwa tshang Sera Ngakpa DratsangSera Tantric College Monastery
se ra chos sdings Sera Chöding Monastery
se ra chos sdings ri khrod Sera Chöding RitröSera Chöding Hermitage Monastery
se ra theg chen khang gsar Sera Tekchen Khangsar Building
se ra theg chen gling Sera Tekchen LingSera Mahāýāna Monastery Monastery
se ra pa ’jam dbyangs grags pa Serapa Jamyang Drakpa b. 17th century Person
se ra spyi so Sera chisoSera as a whole Monastery
se ra phur pa Sera purpaSera dagger Term
se ra byes Sera JéSera Jé (College) Monastery
se ra dbu rtse Sera Utsé Monastery
se ra dbu rtse Sera utséSera peak Term
se ra dbu rtse ri khrod Sera Utsé RitröSera Utsé Hermitage Monastery
se ra smad Sera MéSera Mé (College) Monastery
se ra rtse Sera tséSera peak Term
se ra tshogs chen Sera TsokchenSera Great Assembly Hall Building
se ra’i ri khrod Seré ritröhermitage of Sera Term
se ra’i ri ’khor Seré RikhorSera Mountain Circumambulation Circuit Pilgrimage cycle
seng gdong ma SengdongmaLion-Headed Ḍākinī Buddha
ser smad thos bsam nor gling grwa tshang gi chos ’byung lo rgyus nor bu’i phreng ba Sermé Tösam Norling Dratsanggi Chöjung Logyü Norbü TrengwaA History of the Sermé Tösam Norling College: A Garland of Jewels Tibetan text title
ser smad lo rgyus Sermé LogyüA History of Sermé Tibetan text title
srung ma sungmaprotector deity Term
srog snying soknyinglife-essence Term
srong btsan sgam po Songtsen Gampo 604-650 Person
slob dpon loppönsenior teacher Term
gsag sbyang sakjangaccumulation and purification Term
gsang ba ’dus pa Sangwa DüpaGuhyasamāja Buddha
gsar sarnew Term
gsung byon ma sungjönmaspeaking-statue Term
gser ma hā Ser Maha Buddha
gser yig pa seryikpabearer of the golden letter Term
gso sbyong Sojongmonastic confession ritual Ritual
bsangs gsol dar ’dzugs sangsöl dardzuk(to) make burnt juniper offerings and raise flags Term
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
ha ha rgod pa’i dur khrod Haha Göpé Durtrö Place
har gdong khang tshan Hamdong KhangtsenHamdong Regional House Monastery subunit
hwa shang Hashang Person
lha mo Lhamo Buddha
lha mo khar Lhamokhar Place
lha mo nyi ma gzhon nu Lhamo Nyima Zhönnu Buddha
lha mo nyi gzhon Lhamo Nyizhön Buddha
lha btsun rin po che Lhaptsün Rinpoché Person
lha btsun rin po che’i bla brang Lhaptsün Rinpoché LabrangLhaptsün Rinpoché’s estate Organization
lha btsun rin po che’i bla brang Lhaptsün Rinpoché Labrangestate of Lhaptsün Rinpoché Organization
lha bzang Lhazang d. 1717 Person
lha bzang khāng Lhazang KhangLhazang Khan d. 1717 Person
lha lung dpal gyi rdo rje Lhalung Pelgyi Dorjé 9th century Person
lha sa Lhasa Place
lha sa’i dgon tho Lhasé GöntoA Catalogue of the Monasteries of Lhasa Tibetan text title
lha sa’i dgon tho rin chen spungs rgyan Lhasé Gönto Rinchen PunggyenA Catalogue of the Monasteries of Lhasa: A Heap of Jewels Tibetan text title
lho pa khang tshan Lhopa KhangtsenLhopa Regional House Monastery subunit
a kha bsod nams bzang po Akha Sönam Zangpo b. 17th century Person
Extended WyliePhoneticsEnglishSanskritDateType
a khu rin po che Akhu Rinpoché 1803-1875 Person
a mdo rdo rje sku ’bum Amdo Dorjé Kumbum Place
a ma amamother Term
oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ om mani peme humoṃ maṇi padme hūṃ Mantra


[1] Ser smad spom ra dge bshes ye shes dbang phyug, Ser smad thos bsam nor gling grwa tshang gi chos ’byung lo rgyus nor bu’i phreng ba [A History of the Sermé Tösam Norling College: A Garland of Jewels] (Bylakuppe: Sermey Printing Press, 1984), 35-36.
[2] Lists of the Sera hermitages vary. For a list from 1820 (found in the Extensive Explanation of the World [Dzamling Gyeshé]), see Turrell Wylie, The Geography of Tibet According to the ’Dzam-gling-rgyas-bshad (Rome: IsMEO, 1962), 82-83.
[3] Other words are also used – for example, ensa or ené, literally “solitary place” or “solitary site”; see the discussion that follows.
[4] Among the Sera hermitages, it appears that only one (Garu) was not originally the meditational retreat of an individual monk but was instead founded as an institution – in this case as a nunnery – from the beginning. See, for example, Bshes gnyen tshul khrims, Lha sa’i dgon tho rin chen spungs rgyan [A Catalogue of the Monasteries of Lhasa: A Heap of Jewels] (Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang, 2001), 30-31.
[5] Nuns tended to be more wary about living alone in isolated locations for fear that they might be attacked or robbed; at least that is the rhetoric that we find in both the oral and written sources. Hence, when nuns retreated to the mountains, they tended to do so in groups. None of the hermitages we study here, even those that are nunneries, were founded by women.
[6] This includes such things as prostrations, ritual offerings of the universe (maṇḍala offerings), recitations of the hundred-syllable mantra (ngak) of Vajrasattva (Dorjé Sempa), water-bowl offerings, guru devotion practices, and so forth.
[7] These are retreats that involve mantra (ngak) accumulation of a specific deity and that allow one to subsequently engage in a variety of ritual actions with respect to that deity.
[8] At least two variant spellings of the word commonly pronounced dodé exist: dog bde and rdo gter. The spelling rdo gter is also preferred by Lha sa dgon tho, passim. Phun tshogs rab rgyas, Phur lcog rigs gsum byang chub gling gi byung ba mdo tsam brjod pa dad gsum ’dren pa’i lcags kyu [A Brief History of Purchok Riksum Jangchup Ling: A Hook to Draw in the Three Types of Faith; hereafter Phur byung], Bod ljongs nang bstan [Tibetan Buddhism] 1 (2004), 55, gives the etymology: dang po ltar na phu dog cing mda’ bde bas na dog bde dang / phyi ma ni yul ’dir rdo rigs sna tshogs kyi gter kha yod pa’i cha nas rdo gter zhes ’bod srol yod/. The author prefers the first spelling and etymology. He also states that excavations have shown that this was an area of “several tens of thousands of households during the imperial period,” but cites no source for this other than oral tradition.
[9] Dung dkar blo bzang ’phrin las, Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo [The Great Dungkar Dictionary] (Krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, 2002), 92.
[10] This entitled them, for example, to the money offering to monks (gep) made to the college and regional-house monks.
[11] In 1959 there were only two nunneries: Garu and Negodong. Today there are four nunneries (Chupzang and Takten were taken over by nuns after liberalization permitted the rebuilding of religious institutions in the 1980s).
[12] There are actually twenty hermitages on this map, but what is labeled “New Keutsang” is the newly built version of “Keutsang West.” This accounts for the discrepancy.
[13] There is a tradition that Tsongkhapa also meditated at Pabongkha, and in a small cave between Keutsang West and Keutsang East (this cave no longer exists), but these sites are not as important in the Tsongkhapa biographies and oral lore as the three just mentioned.
[14] Sde srid sang rgyas rgya mtsho, Dga ldan chos ’byung bai ḍūrya ser po [Yellow Lapis: A History of the Ganden (School)], 142, states that Sera had a population of 2850 monks at the time of writing this work.
[15] See Luciano Petech, China and Tibet in the Early 18th Century: History of the Establishment of Chinese Protectorate in Tibet, T’oung Pao Monographie1 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1972, second ed.), 13.
[16] Petech, China and Tibet, 13. See also Lha sa’i dgon tho, 75, where it states that Drongmé, the birthplace of the regent, is about two miles from Sera.
[17] Petech, China and Tibet, 24.
[18] Petech, China and Tibet, 34. This is not the first time that Sera monks had acted as soldiers. In 1639-1640 the Fifth Dalai Lama himself used Sera monks in this capacity. See Zahiruddin Ahmad, Sino-Tibetan Relations in the Seventeenth Century, Serie Orientale Roma, XL (Rome: IsMEO, 1970), 125.
[19] Petech, China and Tibet, 44.
[20] Apparently, even the monks who acted as soldiers participated in the sack of Lhasa; see Petech, China and Tibet, 46.
[21] Petech, China and Tibet, 54.
[22] Petech, China and Tibet, 77.
[23] His son is credited with having built Sera’s largest regional house, the Hamdong Regional House of the Jé College (Jé Hamdong Khangtsen).
[24] The account that follows is based on that found in Dung dkar tshig mdzod, 431-32, entry for Khardo Zöpa Gyatso (Dungkar Rinpoché says that he bases his account on Yongs ’dzin ye shes rgyal mtshan’s Lamrim Lama Gyüpé Namtar); see the same text, 735-36, for Drupkhangpa.
[25] Phur byung, 59, puts the date of his departure for Ölkhar at the time that Drupkhangpa was 59 – that is, in 1699.
[26] The biography of Purchok Ngawang Jampa states that he met Drupkhangpa in 1699, so perhaps Drupkhangpa continued to come back to Sera even during this time of pilgrimage and retreat.
[27] Yeshé Gyeltsen (1713-1793) began coming to Purchok Hermitage for retreat and instruction beginning in the year me sbrul (1737). He spent that entire year in meditation there, living very humbly and receiving instructions from Purchok Rinpoché. He returned to Purchok Hermitage many more times over the years, and after Purchok Rinpoché’s death he continued to look after Purchok Hermitage “as if it were his own”; Phur byung, 64.
[28] The account of Khardowa’s life that follows is based on Dung dkar tshig mdzod, 431-32. Another account of his life based on an interview with a former monk of Khardo Hermitage can be found under the description of that hermitage. (Click here to go to the Khardo Hermitage site now.) Since I have no access to a biography of this figure, I have not tried to reconcile the two sources, which vary considerably.
[29] chu dang / rde’u dang / me tog bcud len. A text on extracting the nutritive essence from flowers is listed among his known writings.
[30] It is not inconceivable that he met Drupkhangpa while both of them were at Sera, or even while on his travels, since both Drupkhangpa and Khardowa studied at Sera at about the same time, and both were doing pilgrimage and retreat in similar places at precisely the same time: from 1692-1705/6.
[31] He was a student of the great scholar and meditator Longdöl Lama Ngawang Lozang, who was in turn a student of Purchok Ngawang Jampa, Drupkhangpa’s chief disciple.
[32] In several instances they occupied the highest rank in the lama hierarchy, that of “Incarnation of the Great Assembly Hall (Tsokchen Trülku).” This was the case with the Purchok, Khardo and Drakri lamas, for example.
[33] Ngag dbang sman rgyal, Gar dgon bsam gtan gling gi lo rgyus mun sel mthong ba don ldan [A History of Gargön Samten Ling: Clearing Away Darkness, Meaningful to Behold; hereafter Garlo] (Lha sa?, 1997), 25-26: rgyugs chen la ha lam dpe cha shog grangs lnga brgya skor yod.
[34] The monastic confession ritual (Sojong) takes place on the new and full moon, but monks and nuns also do additional rituals on these days.
[35] At Garu Nunnery, for example, they do a minimum of eight sets of two-day fasting rituals, and if there is a sponsor, they will spend the entire month engaged in the practice.
[36] See Stephen Beyer, The Cult of Tārā: Magic and Ritual in Tibet (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973).
[37] The oral and written accounts differ here. Both of these practices were mentioned by one of the nuns in an interview, but the Gar lo, 25, mentions only the first of these on this particular date.
[38] Gar lo, 25, calls this Medicine Buddha [Ritual]: Yizhin Wanggyel (Menla Yizhin Wanggyel), perhaps a reference to the title of the actual ritual text that is used.
[39] This is according to the oral account. Gar lo, 25, states that the protector deity practices take place on the twenty-ninth.
[40] Gar lo, 25, mentions only the second of these practices – which is there called Naro Kachömé Danjuk – and it omits Demchok Lachö.
[41] Gar lo, 25, calls this by the alternative name of Neten Chakchö.
[42] Whether or not all of these were considered official “textual retreats” (petsam) or “doctrine retreats” (chötsam), by my reckoning, monks had the opportunity for such kinds of memorization retreats on six separate occasions that correspond to the following dates (all according to the Tibetan calendar): 2/17-2/26. 4/8-4/15, 5/2-5/25, 8/1-8/8, 9/7-9/16, 10/17-11/15.
[43] Nomads raised animals – yaks (or yak hybrids), sheep, goats, and cattle – for meat, dairy products, and wool.
[44] The situation at Sera is somewhat different. While there is undoubtedly attrition, it does not appear to be as high as it is in the hermitages. For one thing, Sera monks tend to enter the monastery at a slightly older age. There is also a long waiting list to become an official Sera monk, and someone who has attained this status is not likely to give it up casually. Monks who are studying at Sera also have a clear-cut goal (that of receiving a classical religious education), a goal that has an end-point, and that culminates in a socially prestigious degree – that of geshé.
[45] It should be noted that this is not only a problem for monasteries in Tibet. By some estimates about twenty percent of the monks of Sera-India are presently residing (mostly as illegal aliens) in the U.S. (principally in New York City), working menial jobs, and living “the American dream.” Anecdotally, I have heard that some of these monks are now beginning to return to Sera-India, and to their former lives as monks. This phenomenon deserves to be studied from a socio-ethnographic viewpoint. For an account of similar decisions faced by Tibetan Buddhist nuns in Nepal, see Alyson Prude’s forthcoming Masters thesis (UCSB).
[46] In Sera-India, there are several cases of former Sera monks returning to retire to the monastery. See also the essay on Chupzang, an institution that before 1959 appears to have been a community of elderly Lhasa Tibetans engaged in intensive religious practice.