Upper Tago (Choeying Phordang)

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History of Tago Shedra (Choeying Phordang)

Generally southern valley of sandal wood externally known as Bhutan is sanctified by the visit of second Buddha Guru Rinpoche and is believed to be the second Zangtopelri, the abode of Gur Rinpoche. The name Tago literally means horse head. It is however not the land of an ordinary horse. Avolokeshtvara (Chenrezey) once manifested in form of the Tandin (meditational deity which features a horse head just above his head-Hayagriva) and today a cliff which resembles an outline of Tandin along with horse head is visible opposite Tago monastery. From time immemorial the area that is now known as Tago has been a scared place of the Tandin and it has been blessed by Guru Rinpoche and has served as a meditational place for many renown yogis. Lama Phajo Drukgom Shipo, a great scholar of the Kagyupa sect of Buddhism was next to visit the place in 1222 AD, also from Tibet, and as per the prophecy of Chos-rje Tsangpa Gyare ( Kaygupa founder).

Arial view of Tago Shedra

Arial view of Tago Shedra

While in Bhutan, Lama Phajo defeated all those who caused or tried to cause destructions to the doctrine of Lord Buddha. The history of Tago starts in Dodheyna, the place next to the bridge where a footpath leads to Chari Monastery, a couple of kilometers south of what today is the main daily practice of the teachings of Lord Buddha when a miracle happened. He repeatedly heard the neighing of a horse coming from the direction of Tago. Immediately, Lama Phajo left Dodeyna for Tago. To his great astonishment he saw the cliff, which was said to be the body of God Tandin, fully covered by rearing life.Then the Yidham Tandin appeared in the person before Lama Phajo and prophesied that he would established a place for meditation of Tandin at Tago, that he would marry Khando Sonam Pleden, and that he would be the first person to lay the foundation of t the doctrines of Drukpa Kagyu in Bhutan. In great devotion, the lama faced the cliff and recited some prayers while planting his walking stick into the soil, “If the dharma of Buddha will flourish in the years to come, this walking stick of mine would grow into big trees”. And later, true to his prayers, from his walking stick grew unbelievably big sandalwood tress, a symbol of the Gyoem Chamdrel sum or the three main protecting deities of Bhutan, namely Gyoem, Lyegoen and lhamo. To this day one can see the trees. Just beside the big sandalwood trees in a Chorten (stupa ). This is the place where the consort of Lama Phajo, Khando Sonam Pelden, was enlightened. At the time of enlightenment, she attained a body of the rainbow and left all her belongings including ornaments behind. At the particular place the Chorten (stupa) was built to keep these belongings. After his prayers, Lama Phajo went for retreat to the cliff, where the outputs he experienced were amazing and wonderful. For these reasons, the cliff is considered as one of the most sacred places of God Tandin. Lama Phajo was the first person to build a samll temple on the cliff, known as Tandin Nye. More than two centuries later, it was the Devine madman, Lama Drukpa Kuenley (1455-1529), a Buddhist saint, who visited the area. He blessed the place by saying that this will remain the residential soil for the his descendents. After him, his son, Lama Ngawang Tenzin, visited the small Tandin Nye temple, opened the door of the sacred place and discovered many treasures. Upon opening the door he said, “The very hearing of its name is enough atonement for one’s sins.” The possession of the faith will make one blessed. Seeing it, one will be enlightened and residing in it, one will attain nirvana. There will be contentment and tranquility. Likewise, Lama Ngawang Tenzin’s son Lama Tshewang Tenzin visited the place and was the first to reside in Tago. He was the reincarnation of Lama Phajo, who in turn was believed to be the manifestation of God Tandin. After residing here, he went to Tibet for studies where he learned to master different fields of Buddhism before returning to Bhutan. Like other Buddhist masters he too opened many retreat centers. Finally, it was the 4th Desi of Bhutan, Gyelse Tenzin Rabgye, son of Lama Tshewang Tenzin and Damchoe Tenzinma, born here in Tago, who thought about the need of a monastery, as the place was the residential soil for his forefathers. The 4th Desi was born in the Earth Tiger year of the 11 Rabjung, corresponding to 1638 AD. At the age of 8, he was offered to the Zhabdrung , and received his religious instruction in part from him. He ascended the throne of the Desi at the age of 31, in the Earth Monkey year (1669 AD). The existing monastery was built in 1689AD, the Earth Dragon year, by Gyelse Tenzin Rabgye, 4th Desi of Bhutan, then aged 51. He first ordered the construction of Tago to an attendant by the name Drung Norbu, who was appointed as the person in charge of the works. In those times, the government called upon people from various parts of the country to engage in physical labor. Gyelse, however didn’t call a single person, but only engaged those who were in and around the area, and who came willingly in joining the works of constructing the monastery. They worked really hard with sincerity and faith. It was mentioned in the biography of Gyelse Tenzin Rabgye that the construction works of the monastery with three stories and 12 corners, was fully completed within two months time. Because of this amazing accomplishment it is believed that the supernatural powers of Ggelse, God, Demon and Human jointly achieved the construction works. The monastery is now more than three hundred years old. Thanks to its rich history and unusual architecture, Tago is one of the most impressive and significant monasteries in the Kingdom.