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A brief history of the Khampagar retreat center

 

Tashi Jong is a Tibetan craft community in the Himachal Pradesh province of North-West India. This settlement was started by the late 8th Khamtrul Dongyu Nyima Rinpoche during the late sixties. Khamtrul Rinpoche escaped his native land of Eastern Tibet during the late fifties because of the Chinese occupation. After spending a few years at Zangdogpali in Kalimpong, some time in Banuri, and a few years in Dalhousie, during the late sixties  Khamtrul Rinpoche was able to purchase the Tashi Jong land with foreign aid. There he started to rebuild the Khampagar Monastery and retreat center.


The 8th Khamtrul Dongyu Nyima soon after his arrival in India, with his main attendant Bontrul, the togdens Choelek, Zopa and Ajam that accompanied him from Tibet, and nine of his monks.

The 8th Khamtrul Dongyu Nyima soon after his arrival in India, with his main attendant Bontrul, the togdens Choelek, Zopa and Ajam that accompanied him from Tibet, and nine of his monks.

 

At present Khampagar Monastery includes two retreat centers. The Khampagar yogi center, called “drubde”, literally meaning “community of practitioners”, was originally started by the 4th  Khamtrul Rinpoche (1730-1779), whose name was Chokyi Nyima. After the founding the Khampagar Monastery in the Eastern Tibetan area call Lhathok, he started the retreat center. From the very beginning only 13 yogis entered that retreat center, a number that manifested as an auspicious connection. The 4th Khamtrul Chokyi Nyima’s residence was near the place where the retreat center was built, and before starting it he offered a white torma at the place where he intended to build. Afterwards a self-arisen water source manifested there, and when he offered a torma to get rid of the obstructing forces, he asked his monks to erect some rocks at that place. The monks put up 13 rocks, which he perceived as an auspicious link to always have 13 yogis in the retreat center. The amount of water from the source there always remained the same, just enough for 13 people to sustain themselves. The masters Jampal Pawo and Khamtrul Chokyi Nyima were the teachers of these 13 yogis, who were called “togden”, meaning “realized one”.

The main practices performed at the Khampagar retreat center are the so-called Nyengyu or Hearing Lineage; the Six Yogas of Naropa; and Mahamudra. Unless someone at the retreat center would die, a new yogi could not join.


Togdens Achos, Atin, Ajam, Semdor and Tsewang Rigzin in Dalhousie.

Togdens Achos, Atin, Ajam, Semdor and Tsewang Rigzin in Dalhousie.

 

When the 8th Khamtrul Dongyu Nyima left Tibet to come to India, he took togdens Cholek, Zopa, Tamchok, Ajam, and Atin with him. Later on, togden Semdor and Achos were able to escape after the Chinese had already come to Khampagar, and after a perilous journey joined Khamtrul Rinpoche in Kalimpong, India.


Togdens Achos, Atin, Ajam and Choelek while doing yogic exercises in Dalhousie.

Togdens Achos, Atin, Ajam and Choelek while doing yogic exercises in Dalhousie.


Togden Choelek Rinpoche

Togden Choelek Rinpoche, the main meditation teacher in Tashi Jong until he passed away during the late seventies. He escaped Tibet with the 8th Khamtrul Dongyu Nyima and passed away in Bhutan during at the age of 87.  A memorial stupa was built for him at Satsam Chorten in Bhutan, near the place where he passed away.

 

Togden Ajam, whose main practice was Vajrasattva,
passed away in 1999 at age 87.


Togden Ajam

 

Togden Semdor
Togden Semdor, age 82,
April 2009

 

Togden Atin

Togden Atin, Tashi Jong, 2004. Atin was the main meditation teacher in Tashi Jong during the past 25 years. His main practice was Yamantaka. He founded the Yamantaka retreat center in Tashi Jong. Togden Atin passed away a few years ago at age 84. His body relic is kept at his house in Tashi Jong and will soon be enshrined within a Yamantaka mandala there.

 


Togdens Lama Osel, Ajam, Atin and Semdor with H.E. Dorzong Rinpoche

Togdens Lama Osel, Ajam, Atin and Semdor with H.E. Dorzong Rinpoche

 

Two of the togdens, Zopa and Tamchok, passed away in India before Tashi Jong was built, and over the last 10 years togdens Ajam, Atin and Osel passed away in Tashi Jong. The signs that manifested when they passed away were extraordinary, and after the cremation of togdens Ajam and Osel, very rare five-colored relics in the form of conch-shells manifested from their bones.

Conch-shell shaped five-colored relics from togden Ajam’s bones after the cremation in 1999.

Conch-shell shaped five-colored relics from togden Ajam’s bones after the cremation in 1999.

The young monks Gyamtso, Thutop Nyima, Drubgyu and Thinley Kunkyab joined the retreat center about 15 years ago, and recently, after 13 years of constant retreat, were officially named togdens by the 9th Khamtrul Rinpoche and given the white togden robes. Later on some young monks from Khampagar in Eastern Tibet also joined them and are now in training.

Lama Osel and Tsewang Rigzin first joined the retreat center in Dalhousie, where they had a lot of time to do retreat. While in Banuri and in Kalimpong the yogis also had time for retreat. Later on in Tashi Jong they had to spend some time working to build up the community.


The 9th Khamtrul Rinpoche with the yogis from the Yamantaka retreat center sitting down on his right, and the togdens from the Six Yoga retreat center standing behind him, with one at his left.

The 9th Khamtrul Rinpoche with the yogis from the Yamantaka retreat center sitting down on his right, and the togdens from the Six Yoga retreat center standing behind him,
with one at his left.


In the upper retreat center there now are 6 yogis performing mainly Yamantaka practice. Yamantaka is a wrathful form of Manjushri and was the main personal deity of the previous Khamtrul Rinpoche. In the lower retreat center there now are 8 yogis.

For the preliminary practices they mostly practice the Nyengyu ngondro from the Hearing Lineage. After that, they practice the outer and inner Ladrub, an extensive Guru-yoga practice; and the simple and elaborate sadhanas of Vajravarahi and Chakrasamvara. Then they practice Vajrapani, Akshobya, and Mahakala, followed by the Six Yogas of Naropa, the Five Sadhanas, Guru Drakpo, Yamantaka, and the Konchok Chidu. Their main practices are Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi, the extensive guru-yoga called Ladrub, the Six Yogas, and Mahamudra. The Khampagar monastery provides food for the retreat center, but they can also make their own food in the retreat center kitchen or in their rooms.

The yogis of the lower retreat center with Togden Semdor seated in the middle, and standing from left to right Tsawa Lama, Gyamtso, Thinley Kunchap, Lekden, Thutop Nyima, and Drubgyu.

The yogis of the lower retreat center with Togden Semdor seated in the middle,
and standing from left to right Tsawa Lama, Gyamtso, Thinley Kunchap, Lekden,
Thutop Nyima, and Drubgyu.


During the early seventies, when the Tashi Jong community had been built and the yogis were living at the monk’s quarters, Khamtrul Rinpoche had rooms for the yogis built on top of the Tashi Jong hill, which were largely sponsored by Ani Lodro Palmo. During the mid-seventies Khamtrul Rinpoche tried to fundraise for the building of a trulkhorkhang, a place where the yogis can do exercises related to practices on the channels and energies. This building was largely sponsored by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s community in Boulder. It was used for yogic exercises as well as for the monthly ceremonies of Vajrayogini. At that time the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche had many statues made by expert Bhutanese artists, and in the central shrine in the trulkhorkang he placed a large statue of Vajrayogini. From the consecration of this statue onwards, this Vajrayogini has been levitating within space and one can actually pass a scarf underneath it, just like a Vajrayogini statue at a sacred place near Paro in Bhutan.


Togden Achos entered the Khampagar retreat center in Eastern Tibet at age 16 and stayed there with his uncle, who was one of the togdens that accompanied the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche to India. Achos escaped Tibet later and joined Khamtrul Rinpoche in Kalimpong. He is now 77 and has been looking after the 9th Khamtrul for the past 20 years. He does not live at the retreat center but in Khamtrul Rinpoche’s house. Tashi Jong, April 2009

Togden Achos entered the Khampagar retreat center in Eastern Tibet at age 16 and stayed there with his uncle, who was one of the togdens that accompanied the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche to India. Achos escaped Tibet later and joined Khamtrul Rinpoche in Kalimpong. He is now 77 and has been looking after the 9th Khamtrul for the past 20 years. He does not live at the retreat center but in Khamtrul Rinpoche’s house. Tashi Jong, April 2009


Togden Semdor with Lekden, Drubgyu and Tsawa Lama at the lower retreat center in April 2009.

Togden Semdor with Lekden, Drubgyu and Tsawa Lama at the lower retreat center in
April 2009.

 


Khamtrul Shedrup Nyima with togdens Atin and Achos and the young togdens in training during the late nineties.

Khamtrul Shedrup Nyima with togdens Atin and Achos and the young togdens in
training during the late nineties.


The new togdens at the Yamantaka retreat center, April 2009

The new togdens at the Yamantaka retreat center, April 2009


During that time he also asked Ani Jinba to help with the fundraising and find sponsors so that the yogis would have some money for their food and personal expenses, and sponsors were found to give each of the yogis a monthly allowance for their personal needs. This situation has continued until the present day, and the yogis are very grateful for the continuous help from the sponsors. Because the cost of livelihood is ever-increasing, new sponsors and donations to support the yogis are always very welcome. It is important to know that by supporting practitioners in retreat, one shares in the merit that they accumulate through their intensive Dharma practice.

During the early years of 2000, when Khyentse Yeshe Rinpoche was the president of Tashi Jong, he took care of having the yogi rooms in thee lower retreat center rebuilt, with private bathrooms joining each room, so that they can all stay in solitary retreat without being seen by others. In the Yamantaka retreat center the yogis are now having  a few extra rooms  constructed for solitary retreats and are trying to find funding for that purpose.
 
 
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