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Dentik Shelgyi Yang Monastery is located about thirty miles east of Bayan [County Seat] and is under the jurisdiction of Sershung Township, Bayan County in Domé. Dentik Monastery is situated on the northern side of the Ma River, amid the majestic and precipitous Ama Drakmoché Mountain. This monastery is one of the oldest in Tibet, having been constructed in the latter part of the ninth century. Dentik’s monasterial estate encompassed the three villages of Ché, Pa, and Kha as well as the twelve villages of Upper and Lower Kho Yan.
When King Langdarma suppressed Buddhism in the ninth century, Tibet’s famous Three Great Scholars came and stayed at the Palchen Chuwori Meditation Center, where they engaged in study and meditation. Being aware of the suppression of Buddhism [in Central Tibet], the Three Great Scholars: Mar Śākyamuni, Yo Gejung, and Tsang Rabsal, brought the Vinaya Scriptures to Dentik Monastery on the back of a mule and resided there for a long time. Today, the meditation building where these three excellent ones practiced is known as Gomchen (Main Meditation Hall).
One day, due to merit acquired through Buddhist practice in former lives and karmic imprints, a child called Müsu Salwar from Gyazhu Village turned up at Dentik Monastery. He developed a strong faith in Buddhism and asked to take monastic vows. So, Tsang Rabsal acted as abbot and Yo Gejung presided as master to administer vows to the young boy. He was given the ordination name Gewa Rabsal, taken from the names of the abbot and master. Since the boy’s heart was so generous, he became known as Gongpa Rabsal. [Years later] he was given full ordination with the name Lachen Gongpa Rabsal.
Ten men from Central Tibet, including Pakhor Yeshé Yungdrung, came to Dentik to pay homage to the Great Lama Gongpa Rabsal. They wore monks’ attire, took full ordination vows, and listened to teachings, such as those on the Vinaya. When the ten men returned to Central Tibet, [they shared all they acquired], beginning the Later Transmission of the Dharma. Consequently, it is said that the rekindling of the Dharma started in Domé. Today in Dentik Monastery’s Gomchen, there are many statues and images of the Three Great Scholars, Lachen Gongpa Rabsel, and the ten men from Central Tibet.
In the sixteenth century when the Third Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Sönam Gyatso, was forty-one years old in the Water Sheep Year (1583), he went to Kumbum and Jakyung Monasteries on the invitation of the leader of a local tribe called Shingkyong Nang So.
From there, he went to the power place of Dentik to practice meditation in a cave for some time. While dwelling in this cave, which is now called Drubchen or “The Cave of Spiritual Accomplishments,” he composed a few sections of teachings on The Five Deities of Cakrasaṃvara, after a vision of Śrī Cakrasaṃvara. Physical imprints left after his meditation sessions can still be seen today. These imprints, which look like prints left in clay, are in the shape of his hat, the back of his body, and his head. On the cave ceiling, there are many impressions left from poking his finger into the clay above. There is also a hoofprint from Palden Lhamo’s donkey in the rock.
In the eighteenth century, the great master Arik Geshé Gyaltsen Öser lived at Dentik Monastery and performed many spiritual accomplishments in the retreat hut. In the thirty-first year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign, the Fire Pig Year, (1767), Tseten Khenpo Palden Gyatso and Shabdrung Jamyang Drakpa commanded the construction of the main assembly hall, Sang-ngak Darjeling. [In the nineteenth century,] the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Tubten Gyatso, bestowed great blessings when he consecrated many religious objects over a seven-day period and left handprints on many religious paintings in the assembly hall. Over ten of these blessed religious paintings can still be seen today.
Famous sites which can be visited today include Rāza Cave, where Prince Siddhārtha stayed for twelve years engaging in the arduous intention of a bodhisattva, Amnyé Lügyal Temple, naturally manifesting religious images of Maitreya, and naturally manifesting images of the Twenty-One Tārās and the Sixteen Arhats. In addition, Buddha images painted in the Dunhuang style, said to date back to the Tibetan Imperial period, are visible on the rocks above [Amnyé Lügyal Temple] and the path from the main temple to [Yangtik] at Tepa.
Approximately seventy monks currently reside at Dentik Monastery. The Fourteenth Incarnation of Tseten Khenpo, the Honorable Ngawang Lobsang Tenpé Gyaltsen, and the Seventh Tseten Shabdrung, the Honorable Lobsang Jampal Norbu, both oversee the three main tasks ensuring the proper running of Dentik Monastery: adhering to laws and customs, carrying out seasonal prayer obligations, and following monthly religious practices. Hence, Dentik Monastery is a practice center praised by all in all aspects of its function.
 dan tig shel gyi yang dgon, BDRC G314
 ba yan; Ch. Hualong zhen; gser gzhung; Ch. Jinyuan xiang
 Ma chu; Ch. Huanghe ; a ma brag mo che; This is part of the southern branch of the Tsongla Ringmo Range (Ch. Laji shan).
 dpyid, pa, kha; kho yan stod smad; The original Tibetan document reads kho yar, which has been revised to kho yan/ya.
 rgyal po glang dar ma, BDRC P2MS13219; mkhas pa mi gsum; dpal chen chu bo ri sgom grwa
 mu gzu gsal bar; rgya zhu sde grong (now Xunhua County)
 dge ba rab gsal
 bla chen dgongs pa rab gsal, 832?–915?, BDRC P1523
 dbus gtsang; spa khor/pa gor gong ye shes g.yung drung, BDRC P3899
 bde mchog lha lnga
 The original Tibetan states that he arrived in the seventeenth century, however, this individual was born in 1728. a rig dge bshes rgyal mtshan 'od zer, 1728–1803, BDRC P4235
 mkhen po dpal ldan rgya mtsho; zhabs drung 'jam dbyangs grags pa, BDRC P1893; gsang sngags dar rgyas gling
 ta la'i bla ma 13 thub bstan rgya mtsho, 1876–1933, BDRC P197
 rwa dza/rA dza
 yang tig; this pa
 ngag dbang blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan; tshe tan zhabs drung 07 blo bzang 'jam dpal nor bu
Ronald Davidson. Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
Imre Galambos and Sam van Schaik. “The Valley of Dantig and the Myth of Exile and Return.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 78, no. 3 (2015): 475–491.
Luciano Petech. “Tibetan Relations with Sung China and with the Mongols.” In China Among Equals: The Middle Kingdom and Its Neighbors, 10th-14th Centuries, edited by Morris Rossabi, 173–203. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
Heather Stoddard. “Rekindling the Flame: A Note on Royal Patronage in Tenth Century Tibet.” In The Relationship between Religion and State (chos srid zung 'brel) in Traditional Tibet, edited by Christoph Cüppers, 49–104. Lumbini: Lumbini International Research Institute, 2004.
Nicole Willock. Lineages of the Literary: Tibetan Buddhist Polymaths of Socialist China. New York: Columbia University Press, 2021.
Photo Credit: Snow Lion Tours
Published: December 2021
Dan dou si jian shi (Dan tig dkar chag) [A brief history of Dentik monastery]. Bilingual Chinese and Tibetan with sections translated into English by Nicole Willock (rigs pa'i chos 'dzin; Ni ke). [n.p.]. Retrieved at Dentik Monastery, 2008.
A portion of information for this publication was derived from:
Tshe tan zhabs drung 'Jigs med rigs pa'i blo gros. “Mdo smad grub pa'i gnas chen dan tig shel gyi ri bo le lags dang bcas paʼi dkar chag don ldan ngag gi rgyud mngas.” Gsung 'bum 'jigs med rigs pa'i blo gros, Par gzhi dang po, vol. 3, Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2007, pp. 279–402. BDRC W2DB4565
— Gsung 'bum 'jigs med rigs pa'i blo gros, vol. 5, Mthu Ba Dgon, 2007, pp. 141–319. BDRC W1PD94
Dentik Monastery: The Sacred Place Where the Ashes of Dharma Rekindled in Domé
Dentik Monastery figures prominently in Tibetan Buddhist history because it is where the Vinaya monastic codes were maintained and restored when Buddhism was persecuted in Central Tibet in the tenth century. This piece, written and published by a collective at Dentik Monastery in the mid-2000s, tells this history based on local accounts and a text written by the Sixth Tséten Zhabdrung. The historical record is so fragmented that the actual events may never be known. However, according to local history, Dentik was not only the place where Lachen Gongpa Rabsal received ordination from the Three Polymaths in the tenth century, but it is also where he ordained the "ten men" responsible for bringing the Vinaya lineage and Buddhist teachings back to Central Tibet to start the historical epoch called “Later Transmission of Buddhism.”
Tseten Khenpo Palden Gyatso
Ngawang Lobsang Tenpé Gyaltsen
The Seventh Tseten Shabdrung, Lobsang Jampal Norbu