The Mani Wall at Terton Chogar Monastery in Amdo

Text derived from Tibet Handbook (Footprint, 4th edition, 2009)

The Terton Chogar monastic complex (altitude: 3,450 metres) occupies a sheltered ravine, in the grasslands of Tsekhok county in Central Amdo. The site is accessible from Repkong via Jadir, the county capital of Tsekhok, and also from Trika, south of the Yellow River.

Background

This monastery, formally known as Hor Gon Tekchok Tashiling (Ch Herisi), was originally a tented camp. The first solid buildings were constructed by Alak Terton in 1831, and the monastery, considered a branch of Dodrubchen, was moved to its present location in the early decades of the 20th century. The local community, now under the guidance of Alak Tulku IV and the young Terton Rinpoche V, comprises some 90 mantrins and monks of the Nyingma school. The most senior mantrin Rakha Gomchen, now spends much of his time in retreat, and the master stone mason Gonpo Tsetan lives nearby.

The Site

In front of the monastery, there is a series of the eight stupas symbolising the deeds of Shakyamuni Buddha, and rock painted mantras. The first compound contains the residences of Alak Tulku and Tulku Loyang of Dodrubchen, and the recently restored assembly hall, where the mantrins hold their ceremonies. The latter has Repkong-style murals depicting Longchenpa, the Kabgye meditational deities, and the Longchen Nyingtig lineage. There is a central image of Padmasambhava, flanked by Palchen Dupa and Yumka Dechen Gyelmo; and an appliqué and mural panel depicting Padmasambhava and his twenty-four disciples. An adjacent compound contains the main assembly hall for monks (Dukhang) and a recently consecrated Guru Lhakhang, which has a large central image of Padmasambhava flanked by Shantaraksita and King Trisong Detsen, surrounded by 1000 miniature representations of Padmasambhava. Other images here include Longchenpa and Jigme Lingpa. The murals depict the Nyingtig Tsokchen, and the Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava (Guru Tsengye). Within the assembly hall are stored a number of woodblocks for the Collected Works of Terton Rinpoche, the Words of My Perfect Teacher, and the Life of Padmasambhava.

Festivals

Four major religious dances are performed at Horgon: Vajrakilaya during the 1st month of the lunar calendar, Peaceful and Wrathful Deities (Zhitro) during the 4th month, Tsechu, dedicated to Padmasambhava, during the 7th month, and the Kabgye Deities (performed by the mantrins alone) on the 29th day of the 12th month.

The Wall of Stone Carvings

On the hilltop above the monastery, there is an extraordinarily long wall of mani stones, totalling some 600 metres in length, which was engraved with two full recensions of the Kangyur, and at its extremity a small mound, holding the engraved texts of the Tangyur, amounting to almost 200 million syllables! Alongside these were some 2,000 flagstones, intricately engraved with Buddhist icons and meditational deities. This outstanding creation, which has few rivals in Tibet, was undertaken by local monks and itinerant artisans between 1923 and 1951. The wall was badly damaged during the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and despite more recent repairs, it is now in a dilapidated condition. In some sections the supporting dykes urgently require strengthening or buttressing, while a large number of elegantly engraved icons and texts have been fractured.

The Project

In October, 2002, a committee was formed under the guidance of Alak Tulku and a restoration plan was initiated under the supervision of the master stone mason Gonpo Tsetan. It is envisaged that a completely new stone Kangyur will be carved in the coming years.

The Budget

The budget for this restoration project is estimated at $90,000. This will cover the costs of providing equipment and supplies, the hiring of skilled labour, the quarrying & preparation of the slates, the carving of the entire Kangyur, and logistical arrangements. Donations may be made to The Makhad Trust or the Centre for Himalayan Studies through Ruskin Mill Further Educational Centre, which is a registered charity (No. 1053705). Details are available on request.

 

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