A BRIEF HISTORY: DREPUNG LOSELING COLLEGE
Loseling College Before 1959
In the Lankavatara Sutra, translated from Chinese into Tibetan, the Buddha, after giving Maugalayana (one of his main disciples) a white conch offered to him by the Naga King Anavatapta, speaks:
Conceal this as a treasure in Gogpari Hill [in Tibet]. In the future, this bhikshu, Lotus Scented, will discover this conch and it will become the conch for assembling monks. The guardian of this conch shall assume the physical appearance of a monkey.
Drepung Monastery in Tibet
As prophesied here, Jamyang Choeje Tashi Palden (1379-1449), who was born near Samye Monastery as the son of a scribe of the chieftain Dakpa Gyaltsen, became one of the four principal disciples of Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419). His enlightened activities spread far and wide and he went to see Je Tsongkhapa at Gaden Monastery to relate his dream indicating the auspiciousness of building a monastery around Denbak, and Je Tsongkhapa said to him, “If you built a monastery it would be grander than this mother monastery [of mine].” Saying this, Tsongkhapa gave him the special conch he had discovered at Gokpari Hill and personally gave him instructions for laying the foundation and the blueprint of the monastery.
Loseling Monastery in Tibet
Accordingly Jamyang Choeje founded Drepung Monastic University in 1416 AD under the patronage of the ruler Namkha Pel. As the number of monks studying at his monastery grew hugely, he appointed seven of his principal disciples, such as the abbot Palden Senge, to teaching jobs. Hence, this resulted in the birth of seven different colleges within the monastic university. They were Loseling (founded by Lekdenpa), Gomang (by Drung Dakpa Rinchen), Deyang (by Chokchen Janchub Pel), Shagkor (by Lopon Rabchok), Thoesamling or Gyalpa (by Lopon Kunga Rinchen), Dulwa (by Drung Tsondu Dakpa) and Ngagpa (by Lopon Gyaltsen Tsultrim). Of these seven teachers Lekdenpa attracted the most number of disciples and, under the patronage of Neudzongpa, he established his monastic college separately. Since the college produced a vast number of incomparable scholars of literature it became rightly renowned as the Khemang Losel Jewai Ling Dratshang – The Monastic College of a Million Brilliant Scholars.
Loseling Debating Court-yard
Until today there have been seventy-nine successiveabbots of the Loseling College. They have contributed immensely to the preservation and promotion of Buddhism in general and particularly for the progress of the monastic scholarship and the growth of Loseling College. Especially the seventh abbot, Jamyang Gawae Lodoe, who was known all over for his scholarship, and who wrote commentaries on the Middle Way philosophy and the Perfection of Wisdom texts which were used as the textbooks of the college until they were replaced by new textbooks written by Panchen Sonam Dakpa. There are written records stating that during that time Drepung Monastic University in general received support from the Neuzongpa, and particularly, the Loseling College received funds for the enlargement of its prayer hall and storeroom. So it clearly shows that the Loseling College already had a prayer hall before the seventh abbot.
Panchen Sonam Dakpa (1478-1554) became one of the main disciples of the Second Dalai Lama Gedun Gyatso (1476- 1542). As directed by the Second Dalai Lama, Panchen Sonam Dakpa became the Loseling abbot and taught there for about six years. He took a great responsibility for its academic activities and administrations. For the benefit of all beings, he bestowed upasaka vows to the Third Dalai Lama and named him Sonam Gyatso Pel Sangpo.
Panchen Sonam Dakpa wrote fourteen volumes of treatises on the five major Buddhist texts for the benefit and promotion of the teachings of the Buddha in general and the Yellow Hat tradition in particular. Even today these commentaries are being used as the main textbooks in the Loseling College, the Shartse College of the Gaden Monastic University, in many monasteries of Kham and Amdo provinces of Tibet as well as in some monasteries in Mongolia.
Loseling College: After 1959
In 1959, among those who followed His Holiness into exile in India, 1,500 monks were selected from the three monastic universities of the Geluk tradition and the Nyingma, Kagyu and Sakya traditions as seeds of monasticism in exile. They were kept at a temporary study center established at Buxa Duar in the Indian state of West Bengal for the preservation and promotion of the great Buddhist traditions.
There were 217 monks from the Loseling College at the center. Under the guidance and tutorship of the then abbot Phara Pema Gyaltsen, they lived there for more than a decade with sincere effort for the preservation and promotion of the teachings, which were on the brink of extinction. At that time, since all of them were facing problems that beset refugees – they had much financial difficulty and they were not used to utilizing residential houses as prayer halls. Since all the rooms were roofed with tin sheets, they could not hear each other during monastic debate sessions, especially during the rainy season. The abbot, Phara Pema Gyaltsen, not only taught the students but also encouraged others to do so. Apart from all the teaching and administrative responsibilities he started a printing project to make the important texts available to the monks. His efforts and vision for the preservation and promotion of the tradition of the Loseling was incomparable and praiseworthy.
Sometime in 1966, in the process of turning the Buxa Center into a modern school system, there were many disagreements and opinions about the unimportance of setting up separate monastic colleges, names and so forth. Yet, despite all those difficulties, Phara Pema Gyaltsen remained calm and never declined in his own efforts for the benefit of the teachings of the Buddha, exhibiting his principled nature.
In 1969, when the Buxa Center was shifted to Mundgod in the state of Karnataka, in south India, there were three hundred monks in the Loseling College. For three years they had to use a clay-roofed shelter as the prayer hall.
In the 1970’s Abbot Yeshe Thupten established many new initiatives for the progress of education at the college, appointing Chagzoes (bursars) for the administrative work and choosing separate supervisors for farming and dairy cattle. He also constructed a prayer hall which was also used for other religions ceremonies, and its courtyard for debate. Moreover, this prayer hall was used for receiving important teachings from great masters. For example, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave teachings on the Eight Thousand Verses of Prajnaparamita Sutra and Nagarjuna’s six treatises on Middle Way philosophy except Precious Garland; His Holiness’ tutor, Ling Rinpoche, gave teachings on Je Tsongkhapa’s The Great Treatise on the Graded Path and Essence of the Good Explanation, Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun and Thirteen Staircases of Yamantaka; His Holiness’ tutor Trijang Rinpoche gave teachings from the Seven-point Mind Training; Shakor Khen Rinpoche Nyima Gyaltsen gave teachings on the Middle Way philosophy; Dema Lochoe Rinpoche gave all the cycle of teachings of Guhyasamaja Vajra Garland; Pangnang Rinpoche gave oral transmission of the Tengyur (225 Indian treatises translated into Tibetan) texts and gave initiation of Yamantaka and taught on its Generation and Completion Stages; and Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche gave initiations of the Mitri Gyatsa text. Due to these blessings the prayer hall still stands splendidly!
As the number of monks steadily grew, there was a dire need of a bigger prayer hall. Khensur Tsulkhang Rinpoche took the main initiative to construct a larger prayer hall with a chamber for His Holiness on top. It is the existing prayer hall which has been in use for the past many years.
Old Loseling Assembly Hall
During their abbotship Tehor Lobsang Nyima, Ladhak Rizong Sae Rinpoche Thupten Nyima, Tsulkhang Konchok Wangdue, Tsulkhang Konchok Paksam and the present abbot Gowo Lobsang Gyatso, in spite of difficulties, have contributed greatly to preserving monastic discipline, promoting monastic studies and raising the living standards of the monks at Loseling College.
Loseling Monks in late 80's
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the college again started to face problems as the prayer hall became too small for the increasing number of monks. The monks were divided into two groups during teachings and prayers and half of them sat in the debate courtyard. This was noticed by His Holiness during a long life prayer offered to him by the ex-Gaden Tripa Lobsang Nyima. His Holiness asked him whether the college had any plans for constructing a new prayer hall or not. Later, the college requested His Holiness to advise whether to build a new hall or to enlarge the existing one. His Holiness suggested to build a new one according to his Mo divination. Moreover, he advised the abbot and staff to consult the Dharma Protector of the college to see whether the project should start immediately or sometime later. They consulted the Protector through a dough-divination whereby it was indicated the project should start immediately.
Then a general meeting was held under the guidance of the present abbot and they set up a new construction committee headed by Trehor Zangra Rinpoche Thupten Jampa with five other members, who started the actual construction work in the year 2005.
View of Loseling New Assembly Hall
The college has been able to complete the new prayer hall, which can hold more than five thousand monks, in traditional Tibetan design. This has been accomplished primarily due to the blessings and inspiration of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama; the power of blessing of our spiritual masters, the Three Jewels and Sangha community; the support of the Dharma Protectors; financial support from the Financial Director of the construction project, Geshe Lobsang Tenzin, (who is the president of the Loseling Buddhist Center in the USA and its staff); support from the ex-Gaden Throne-holder Venerable Lobsang Nyima Tenzin Rinpoche; also Jangtse Choeje Rizong Rinpoche, Sharpa Choeje Lobsang Tenzin Rinpoche, Kyabje Denma Lochoe Rinpoche, Kyabje Yongzing Lingtrul Rinpoche, Nyangri Khentrul Rinpoche, who lives in the USA; and likewise, with support from the Potala Buddhist Centre in England, the Taipei and Taichung Buddhist Centers in Taiwan and many generous people; and the hard work of the construction committee and other responsible functionaries. His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama consented to inaugurate and consecrate the hall. We are looking forward to this wonderful day of celebration!
New Assembly Hall
LOSELING PROTECTOR SHRINEROOM
The Thirteen Deity Vajrabhairava, which is the principal deity in the protector shrine, is surrounded by the four Mahakalas, four Dharmarajas, Nechung, Gadong, Four-face Mahakala and so on; these statues of the Dharma Protectors are full of blessings. After doing the self-generation of the Thirteen Deity Vajrabhairava a few Geshes and Mahakala ritualists (gonpowa) perform the rituals of each of the Dharma Protectors, and confess wrongdoings and restore damaged pledges several times over all day long. They beseech the Dharma Protectors to help in the success of all the abbot and former abbots, the administration of the monastery and religious studies of the monks. The day long propitiation is concluded by praises, dissolution of the deities and, finally, an expression of good luck.
Concerning the Dharma Protector ritual, the Geshes who have been to Gyuto and Gyumed Tantric Colleges alternate every fifteen days to perform these rituals to ensure that the practice is done correctly either in the Gyuto or Gyumed tradition without mixing the two.