Brief History of Segyu Gaden Phodrang Monastery
The Glorious Segyu Gaden Phodrang is not only the fountainhead monastery of the Gaden lineage’s Great Secret Tantric Monasteries, which were founded prior to the Upper and Lower Tantric Colleges of Central Tibet, but as stated in the religious history texts, its practice-tradition has for a long time been spread throughout Tibet.
It is evident that in the middle of the fifteenth century (1430-32 A.D.) this Tantric monastery of the Segyupas was founded by Jetsun Sherab Sengge, a direct and principle disciple of the incomparable Je Tsongkhapa the Great, the pioneer of the Riwo Gaden tradition, who had also empowered him to be the holder of the Great Secret Tantric teachings, and Dulnagpa Palden Zangpo, a direct disciple of Jetsun Sherab Sengge.
Historically speaking, when Je Tsongkhapa the Great was turning the wheel of the Dharma at Sera Tse in the Earth-Boar Year, 1419 A.D., and Jamchen Choje offered him a seed-contribution for establishing a Tantric monastery, Je Rinpoche asked the gathering of his spiritual sons who among them would be able to preserve and promote his Tantric teachings, such as Guhyasamaja. When asked twice and no other master was confident to respond, Jetsun Sherab Sengge stood up from the gathering, and after prostrating to Je Tsongkhapa, roared like a lion that he would do it in accordance with Je Rinpoche’s wishes. Although others were perplexed, Je Rinpoche was very happy, and as he blessed and empowered him to be the holder of the unsurpassed Secret Tantra with the gifts of a skull cup filled with inner offerings, a holy golden statue of Guhyasamaja, the Four-in-One Commentary of Guhyasamaja, two Tantric commentaries, texts of the Generation and the Completion Stages, a treasure-discovered mask of Dharmaraja, ritual dance costumes, and a club. Je Tsongkhapa advised him to go to the Tsang province and institute the study and teaching of Tantra there. He also predicted that a Yaksha would become his main patron and that he would have many fortunate disciples, including a yogi who has been taken care of by Yamantaka in many lifetimes.
In keeping with this prediction, Jetsun Sherab Sengge and his spiritual son visited Tsang and extensively taught Tantra at Lhunpo Tse at the invitation and under the patronage of Situ Sonam Pel and Dagmo Shakya Pel. Many scholars attended the teachings, including Phag Od Yunten Gyatso, the master of Lhunpo Tse monastery. Jetsun Sherab Sengge instituted there the ritual accomplishment schedule according to Je Tsongkhapa’s practice-tradition, and also the study and teaching of Tantra. He gave the mask of Dharmaraja to the monastery as its object of worship. Subsequently, at Sengge Tse, he gave Tantric commentaries and also a bare perceptual commentary of the five stages to Je Gendun Drup (the first Dalai Lama) and others.
Later, under the patronage of Se Rinchen Tse, he gave commentaries and pith instructions to many great scholars at Se Gaden Phodrang and thereby founded the magnificent Tantric monastery called Upper Tantric College, or Segyu. Gradually, the fame of Segyu Monastery spread in all directions. He handed over the monastery to his spiritual son Dulnagpa Palden Zangpo and gave the Four-in-One Commentary of Guhyasamaja that Je Rinpoche has personally given him to the monastery as a study guide. After Dulnagpa, a line of Gyu-Chen or Great Vajra Masters appeared- from Jamyang Gedun Phel until the present. In light of this, Segyu Gaden Phodrang Monastery has been the lifeblood of the Riwo Gaden (Gelug) tradition, where the study and teaching of Tantra with its pith commentaries have been preserved without degeneration.
After the 1959 exodus from Tibet, only forty monks from the original Segyu Monastery seeking asylum succeeded in fleeing to India (Kalimpong) through Gantok. There they received assistance as general refugees, but they still faced many obstacles. Some of them were sent to road construction crews as ordered by the newly formed Tibetan Government in Exile. The remainder stayed to perform religious rites for the locals as needed.
In 1979, our great master and supreme Guru, His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang, visited Kalimpong two times. His great advice was that the monks should not live in this current condition because Segyu Monastery is the source and mother of the Tantra lineages for the precious Gelug tradition. He advised that it was very important that we should ordain new monks and preserve this special tradition. Kyabje Zong Dorje Chang and other supreme lamas also advised us to ordain new monks and take them to Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang for the hair cutting ceremony as new monks. KyabJe Trijang Dorje Chang was extremely happy and performed the hair cutting ceremony for these new monks and again gave us sound advice concerning plans for the future of Segyu Monastery. He also gave a short discourse on the Hundred Deities of Tushita (GadenLhagyama). Lama Kungu Palden lak also gave advice and a donation of five thousand Indian rupees. It was then that we first started construction and built a few new rooms at Kabug.
In 1986, in Nepal, some faithful sponsors offered the monks a little land and it was here that we constructed some rooms and a simple prayer hall. This was to become a branch of the monastery originally established in Kalimpong.
In 1997, there arose some obstacles due to local politics. Thus it was decided to become independent from the monastery in Kalimpong, and we have remained so ever since. During this time, there were very few rooms for the monks and the prayer hall was in very poor condition. However, this did not deter us from continuing with our sacred religious traditions. Since 1997, we have upheld the three principal pratimoksha precepts and have honored the special traditional rituals of Segyu Monastery during the summer retreat in the same manner as the original Segyu Monastery in Tibet during earlier times (the schedule for this retreat is updated and posted on the website every year).
During this one and a half month retreat, preparations are made according to the text named
Tsering Jong, an ancient ritual of Guhyasamaja, Heruka, Yamantaka etc., thus fulfilling the wishes of the great Lamas and deities of this rare lineage.
(Pictures below show the construction of Segyu Gaden Phodrang Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1986)