“You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself”
– Alan Watts
Buddhism is a religion founded by Gautama Buddha. The term has been coined from the Sanskrit word ‘Budhi’ which means the mind with a close inclination perhaps to the ‘awakening of the mind’. For many Buddhism is not just confined to the boundaries of religion but it expands to a more extending forms of Philosophy or ‘the way of life’.
BUDDHISM AND SIKKIM
Buddhism was introduced in Sikkim in the 8th Century AD when Guru Padmashambva( Guru Rimpoche) travelled to Sikkim. He personally consecrated many of Sikkim’s sacred landmarks and subdued all the hostile spirits of the land, sanctified it and converted them into Sikkim’s guardian deities, dzonga, who resides on Kanchendzonga mountain was appointed the Supreme guardian deity.
During the 13th and the 14th century AD, the migration of Tibetans increased, spiritual leaders and Guru’s came to the land and erected monasteries and stupas across various prominent locations of religious importance in Sikkim.
The seventeenth century was a turning point in the course of Buddhism in Sikkim. The Kingdom of Sikkim was founded when the first Chogyal (King) Phuntso Namgyal was enthroned at Yuksam in 1642 AD. Under the patronage of the Chogyal, numerous monasteries, hermitages and stupas were built and Buddhism was proclaimed as the State religion. The Namgyal dynasty ruled Sikkim for over 300 years thus confirming the supremacy of Buddhism in Sikkim.
SECTS AND SCHISMS
The followers of Buddhism in Sikkim believe in Nyingmapa Sect, Kargyupa Sect and Sakyapa Sect ( Red Hat Sect) of Mahayana Buddhism. However, the later entrants into Sikkim from Tibet are the followers of Gelukpa Sect (Yellow Hat Sect) of Mahayana Buddhism.
Long since the spread of Buddhism in Sikkim scores of monasteries have been erected, most of them are deeply rooted into the history of the growth and popularity of Buddhism in Sikkim as they have been personally sanctified by Guru Rimpoche. Some of them leave detailed traces of monarchic era and the rest are architectural spectacles that are preserved to showcase the meticulous work of intricate carving and painting.
Dubdi Monastery :
Dubdi Monastery is located in Yuksam, West Sikkim. It was built in the year 1701 AD. Dubdi Monastery is very prominent to the history of Sikkim as it is closely associated to the founding of Sikkim when the first Chogyal (King) was crowned by three venerated Lamas, one of them Latsun Chenpo set up the temple as a tribute to Sikkim.
literally termed as ‘the island of esoteric teaching’ is located at 7 km away from Pelling, West Sikkim. This monastery was also established by Lhatsun Chempo. Buddhist pilgrims undertake as a part of religious pilgrimage to various points like Pemayangtse Monastery, the Rabdentse ruins, the Khecheopalri lake, the Norbugang Chorten, the Dubdi Monastery, Yuksom and the Tashiding Monastery also covering Sangachoelinf Monastery.
Pemayangtse Monastery: This Monastery was founded by Lama Lhatsun Chempo in the year 1705. The monastery follows the Tibetan order of Nyingmapa Buddhism and is the key controller of that order in all of Sikkim. It is located in Pelling, West Sikkim. Pemayangtse can be literally translated literally as ‘the sublime perfect lotus’.
Enchey Monastery :
Enchey Monastery is located in the capital town of Gangtok. Itwas established in 1909 and it is affiliated to the Nyingmapa order of Vajrayana Buddhism. It is believed that Guru Padmashambva subdued the spirits of Kanchendzonga, Yabdean and Mahakala and placed them here. Every year in the month of Jan/Feb Cham dance (masked dance) is held in the monastery.
The meaning of the word Tashiding can be translated as “ the devouted central glory”. It was founded by Guru Padmashambva and built by Ngadak Sempa Chempo, one of the three venerated Lamas who consecrated the first Chogyal Phuntso Namgyal.
Bumchu or ‘the holy water festival’ is held annually in the monastery premises, the festival is celebrated to predict the future of Sikkim.
Rumtek Monastery :
Rumtek Monastery was founded in the 16th century by the 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorjee. It is located in Rumtek near the capital town of Gangtok, East Sikkim. It is the focal point for the sectarian tensions that characterize the Karmapa Controversy.
When the 9th Karmapa visited Sikkim in the 16th century he established three monasteries in Sikkim. Rumtek, Phodong and Ralang Monastery. This monastery is located approximately 35 km from Gangtok.
Phodong Monastery is also considered to be an important monastery of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Tholung Monastery :
Tholung Monastery is located in the upper parts of Dzongu, North Sikkim. During the Gurkha War all the precious scriptures, relics, collections and belongings were transferred to this monastery from West Sikkim to avoid Nepalese and plundering.
Yangang Monastery :
This Monastery was founded by 5th Lhatsun Pema Dichen Gyatso in 1787 AD. When the Gurkha War threatened to plunder the important relics from West Sikkim it was decided that all the precious belongings should be transferred to Tolung Monastery. It was on this trip from West Sikkim to North Sikkim that Lhatsun Pema Dechen Gyatso briefly stopped at Yangang and blessed the site where the monastery stands today.