Shechen Monastery, Nepal
Shechen Monastery, one the six main Nyingma monasteries of Tibet, was destroyed in the late 1950’s during the Chinese occupation of Tibet. In exile, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910 - 1991) transplanted the rich tradition of the original Shechen Monastery to a new home -- a magnificent monastery near the great stupa of Bodhnath, Nepal. It was his wish that this Monastery would maintain the philosophical, contemplative and artistic traditions of the mother monastery.
In 1980, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche began building Shechen Tennyi Dargye Ling Monastery in the Kathmandu Valley. For almost ten years, master craftsmen, stonemasons, sculptors, painters, goldsmiths and master tailors worked to make the Monastery one of the most beautiful examples of Tibetan art outside Tibet.
Under Khyentse Rinpoche’s supervision, all aspects of the work were carried out with the greatest care and attention to detail. The walls of the main temple are covered with frescoes depicting the history of Tibetan Buddhism and the important teachers from its four main schools. Over one hundred and fifty statues were made for the Monastery, which also hosts one of the largest Tibetan libraries in the East. The present abbot of Shechen Monastery is the seventh Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, (born in 1966), the grandson and spiritual heir of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
Over 300 monks from across the Himalayan region study and live at the Monastery. They receive a lively education that besides Buddhist philosophy also includes music, dance and painting. In the elementary school, 70 children from age five to fourteen are offered a complete education combining traditional subjects with a modern curriculum. They live in their own compound in the Monastery and are lovingly cared for by their headmaster. Some of the monks who trained at the monastery at an early age are now their teachers, passing on the fruit of their education to the younger students. Once they graduate from the school, they begin a two-year course focused on ritual arts that includes memorization of liturgical texts, learning ritual musical instruments and training in sacred chants and dances.
If they qualify, a student can then enter the Shechen Institute (Shedra or Philosophical College) (see below). Those who do not enter the College continue to study texts and meditation practices as well as perform in the Monastery’s daily ceremonies. Many learned teachers come to the Monastery and give empowerments and teachings. Throughout the year, Shechen monks organize events for the public and serve the spiritual needs of the local community. Every summer all the monks participate in the traditional summer retreat practiced since the time of the Buddha.
The Monastery provides for the monks’ complete education in addition to covering all expenses for their food, shelter, clothing and medical care. You can help the monastery in this work by sponsoring a monk - a rare opportunity to enable young people to receive an education and become a vital link for future generations.
Various ceremonies are conducted in the Monastery throughout the year including drupchens (ceremonies lasting nine consecutive days and nights). Rabjam Rinpoche places special importance to preserving the authenticity of these rituals that integrate experience in meditation with precise attention to detail. In connection with these rituals, a yearly dance festival is held in the Monastery’s courtyard.
Shechen Monastery in Tibet was renowned for its particular style of sacred dance (cham). Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche is revitalizing that tradition and has brought teachers from Tibet to train the monks. The Shechen Dancers have performed in a number of very successful European and South American tours.
Also located on the grounds of the Monastery is the Shechen Archives and the Tsering Art School working to preserve Himalayan culture and sacred arts, the Shechen Medical Clinic and the Shechen Guest House for visiting tourists and pilgrims.
Shechen Monastery in Tibet was renown for the many great scholars that lived and taught there. In 1989, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche established The Shechen Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies (a Shedra or philosophical college) at Shechen Monastery, Nepal. There are now over 100 students from across the Himalayas enrolled in its nine-year curriculum. Under the supervision of Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, two Khenpos are in charge of the college. The students study sacred texts on philosophy, astrology, and history as well as engage in debates.
After nine-years, the graduates receive a Lopon degree. In order to become a Khenpo or doctor in Buddhist philosophy, students are required to do an additional three years of research or contemplative retreat. Graduates of the Shedra are presently teaching at centers in Asia and the West and at the Monastery itself.
Shechen Retreat Center, Nepal
Ideally, a monastery should have a main temple and monk body, a philosophical college and a retreat center. These are indispensable compliments to each other. In a retreat center, students can apply their studies in philosophy and ritual to contemplative practice.
Shechen Retreat Center is located a few miles from Namo Buddha, Nepal, the site where the Buddha as a Bodhisattva gave his body to the starving tigress to feed her cubs. It is a perfect location - a secluded and peaceful hilltop a little higher than Namo Buddha with a 360-degree view. The houses are built in the Nepali country architectural style. architecture. On one side of the land there is a cloister and temple for monks in traditional three-year retreat. Eight monks are currently in their second year of retreat. Dotted around the land are small hermitages for elderly practitioners and yogis to do shorter independent retreat. The Center provides the invaluable opportunity for the lineage of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and his visionary teachings to be practiced in-depth.