SAKYA MONASTERY, TIBET



Northern Sakya Seat, Tibet


Southern Sakya Seat, Tibet



Main temple of Sakya, Lhakang Chenmo, built at the time of Chogyal Pagpa. source: Sakya Resoure Guide


Early Sakya Lama statues in the main temple of Lhakang Chenmo, Sakya, Tibet. source: Sakya Resoure Guide
Sakya Monastery was built in 1073 by Khon Khonchog Gyalpo. It is located in the city of Sakya, in the Tibetan region of Tsang, about one hundred miles north of the border between Tibet and Nepal. The region is unique for its gray (kya) earth (sa), hence the name Sakya. From 1073 until 1959, this monastery served as the seat of the Sakya Order and of the Sakya Trizins who are the spiritual leaders of the order.

Sakya Monastery was built at an auspicious location prophesied by the great Indian master Atisha, who foresaw that emanations of Mahakala, Manjushri, Vajrapani, and Avalokiteshvara would take birth at this place and perform great activities for the benefit of the Dharma and all beings.

In 1268 Chogyal Phagpa, the fifth of the five founders of the Sakya Order, greatly expanded the monastery, and over the centuries it has grown into a complex of hundreds of temples, shrines, and monastic residences.

The buildings contain thousands of statues, paintings, murals, stupas, mandalas, and other holy objects, as well as libraries of scriptures in Tibetan, Chinese, Mongolian, and Sanskrit piled from floor to ceiling. Among the holy objects in the monastery are the lifesize statue of Manjushri that spoke to Sakya Pandita to assist him during a famous debate; a small statue of Tara that was Atisha’s personal meditation object; and the conch shell blown by the Buddha’s disciples to summon monks to his teachings. Sakya Monastery became a citadel of learning and the fount from which the ten major and minor sciences were introduced to Tibet from India.

The fame of Sakya Monastery and its teachers reached the ears of Kublai Khan and Godan Khan, the Mongol rulers of China. They invited Sakya Pandita, who was the fourth of the five founders, and Chogyal Phagpa to their court. Through the teachings of these two great masters, Vajrayana Buddhism reached China. Under the leadership of His Holiness Sakya Trizin, major portions of Sakya Monastery that were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution have been renovated, and religious activities still continue there as they have for nearly a thousand years. For additional information, see The Sakya Tradition.


A Brief History of Sakya Monastery

Sakya Monastery is one of the sites most sacred to the Sakya Order of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery is located in the city of Sakya , in the Tibetan region of Tsang, about 100 miles from the border of Nepal . The region in which the monastery is located is unique for its gray (kya) earth (sa), hence the name Sakya.

Sakya Monastery was established in 1073 by Khon Khonchog Gyalpo. His son, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, and grandsons greatly developed the structure of the monastery, as well as its religious activities until it became a citadel of learning and meditation renowned throughout Asia . Sakya Monastery served as the seat of the Sakya Order and of the Sakya Trizins for nearly 900 years. Several decades before the founding of the monastery, the great Indian master Atisha traveled through the area of Sakya. 

Near the future site of the monastery, he had a prophetic vision in which he foresaw that emanations of Mahakala, Manjushri, Vajrapani, and Avalokiteshvara would take birth at this place and perform great activities for the benefit of the Dharma and beings. He had his attendants set up a temporary shrine and made offerings to the great masters and holy activities that were to come.
Later, Khon Konchog Gyalpo came to the area and requested permission from the local people to build a monastery on the site. The local people were delighted and offered to donate the land as a gesture of good will. However, in order to promote future stability and auspicious interconnections, Khon Konchog Gyalpo offered the local people a fine horse and a beautiful set of traditional womens’ garments, as well as other gifts in exchange for title to the land.

The original portion of the monastery that was built by Khon Khonchog Gyalpo became known as the northern shrine. It includes many sacred statues and scriptures, including a stupa containing Khon Khonchog Gyalpo’s holy relics.

Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, who was the son of Khon Konchog Gyalpo and the first of the five founders of the Sakya Order, was born at Sakya Monastery. He was the first of the Sakyapa to receive the precious Lam Dre teaching, and under his teaching and leadership, the Lam Dre was established as the core practice of the Sakyapa. He established the tradition of scholarship and practice that was followed by succeeding founders and masters of the Sakya Order.
Sakya Monastery became a beacon of learning and the fount from which the ten major and minor sciences were introduced from India to Tibet . The fame of Sakya Monastery and its teachers reached the ears of Kublai Khan and Godan Khan, the Mongol rulers of China . They invited Sakya Pandita and Chogyal Phagpa, who were the fourth and fifth founders of the Sakya Order, to their court. Through the teachings of these two great masters, Vajrayana Buddhism was transmitted to China .

Chogyal Phagpa bestowed the Hevajra empowerment upon Godan Khan, and as an offering of appreciation Godan Khan offered Chogyal Phagpa the three provinces of Tibet , together with the title “Dharma King.”  Thus Chogyal Phagpa was first leader of Tibet who was a monk and head of both church and state. During this period Sakya Monastery was the political capitol of Tibet , and for many years the Sakya Trizins were Tibet 's religious and temporal rulers. Chogyal Phagpa expanded the monastery, building the section now known as the southern shrine. The monastery grew over the years, becoming a large complex of hundreds of temples, shrines, and monastic residences.

Sakya Monastery contained thousands of statues, paintings, stupas, mandalas, and other holy objects, as well as rooms full of scriptures piled from floor to ceiling. Among the holy objects in the monastery are a life-size statue of Manjushri that spoke to Sakya Pandita to assist him during a famous debate; a small statue of Tara that was Atisha’s personal object of meditation; the conch shell that was blown by the Buddha’s disciples to summon the monks to his teachings; and many other priceless holy objects.

Following the political changes in Tibet during 1959, His Holiness Sakya Trizin and the other senior lamas of the Sakya Order relocated to northern India . A new monastery known as Sakya Centre was established in the town of Dehra Dun as the new headquarters of the order and the seat of the Sakya Trizin.  A monastic college, nunnery, and hospital have also been established nearby.

Under the leadership of His Holiness Sakya Trizin, major portions of Sakya Monastery in Tibet that were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution have now been renovated, and religious activities there continue as they have for nearly a thousand years.

Source: by Ani Kunga Chodron, Cho Trin, Volume 1, Number 1

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