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Namgyal Tibet and India

Namgyal Monastery was founded in 16th-century Tibet by the second Dalai Lama, Gendun Gyatso. Since its founding, the Namgyal monks have assisted the Dalai Lamas in public religious affairs and have performed ritual prayer ceremonies for the welfare of Tibet. The monastery was also established as an esteemed center of learning, contemplation, and meditation on the vast and profound Buddhist treatises.

Potala Palace, Tibet

Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.

Situated in Lhasa next to the Potala Palace, the private residence of the Dalai Lamas, Namgyal Monastery has played an integral role in the Tibetan religious establishment over the centuries.

Namgyal in Exile: Dharamsala, India

As a result of the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and one hundred thousand Tibetans fled to India and Nepal. Among the original refugees were 55 monks from Namgyal Monastery. After His Holiness the Dalai Lama was granted asylum in the Northern Indian town of Dharamsala, Namgyal Monastery was re-established very nearby the new residence of His Holiness. To this day, nearly fifty years later, the Tibetan religious, artistic and intellectual traditions are being preserved and maintained through the cooperative effort of the Dalai Lama and the Namgyal monks.

The curriculum and the rigors of monastic life have been meticulously maintained throughout the journey from Tibet into exile. The novice monks of today must first pass a series of challenging entrance examinations and, if accepted, undertake the traditional years of philosophical study.

Namgyal Monastery, India

Namgyal Monastery, Dharamsala, India.

Because Namgyal monks assist His Holiness the Dalai Lama and are frequently traveling with him, they require a more streamlined course of study focusing on the essentials of sutra and tantra. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has innovatively addressed and modified the traditional curriculum, including a new syllabus and program of study, which is becoming a model for other Tibetan monasteries.

A Namgyal monk's average day consists of two hours of ritual, two hours of sacred arts, three hours of philosophy classes, two and a half hours of debate, and several hours of meditation and personal study. Students who successfully complete the thirteen-year program receive the degree of Master of Sutra and Tantra from Namgyal Monastery.

Namgyal monks blowing long horns

Namgyal monks at Dharamsala, India.

Each monk is also required to complete meditation retreats for each of the principal deities and protectors, as well as receive training in ritual activities. Some of these activities include the making of ritual cakes, the construction of mandalas, the performance of sacred music and dance, and other traditional Tibetan Buddhist rituals. These traditions are imparted both orally and according to texts.

The cycle of retreats required for the study and practice of rituals performed by the monastery might take five or six years to complete, after which, a monk is free to pursue whatever personal retreat practice he chooses.

Cultural Ambassadors to the West

The opportunity to accompany the Dalai Lama on his visits abroad has enabled the Namgyal monks to participate in numerous presentations of Tibetan sacred art and dance throughout much of the world.

In the summer of 1988, monks from Namgyal Monastery created a sand mandala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Over 50,000 people came to watch this process during the six week demonstration. Historically, the creation of sacred sand mandalas was always carried out in secret, but the Dalai Lama has now given permission for the public to witness these sacred arts.

Namgyal monks creating large sand mandala

Namgyal monks creating a sand mandala in Cleveland, Ohio.

In the summer of 1989, Namgyal monks assisted His Holiness with a Kalachakra initiation in Los Angeles. While one group of monks performed the preliminary rituals, including the creation of a sand mandala and the performance of two ritual dances, another group of four monks created a duplicate mandala at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History. Since then, Namgyal monks have created sand mandalas at numerous museums and galleries, including the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, and the IBM Gallery in New York City, setting records for attendance at many locations.

Through their cultural and spiritual teachings, the Namgyal monks have brought the awareness of the culture and religion of Tibet to the world.

The Curriculum of Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala, India

Drawn up by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Venerable Lobsang Nyima Rinpoche. Numbers indicate the year of study.

  1. Collected topics which concern the elementary principles of debate, by Purbojok Jamba Gyatso.
  2. Collected topics which concern the elementary principles of debate, by Purbojok Jamba Gyatso.
  3. The Science of Mind and Reasoning.
  4. The Great Exposition and Sutra School (Skt.Vaibhashika and Sautrantika) from sections of Jang-gya's Presentation of Tenets.
  5. The Mind Only School (Skt. Chittamatra) section of Jang-gya's Presentation of Tenets, and Kaydrup's Grounds and Paths of the Perfection Vehicle.
  6. The Middle Way School (Skt. Madhyamika) section of Jang-gya's Presentation of Tenets, and Gyaltsap's Precious Garland Summarizing the Ornament for Clear Realization.
  7. The Mind Only section of Tsongkapa's Essence of True Eloquence, and Yangjen Gaway Lodro's Paths and Grounds of Tantra.
  8. The Madhyamika section of Tsonghkapa's Essence of True Eloquence.
  9. The Special Insight (Skt. Vipassana) section of Tsongkhapa's Middling and Great Expositions of the Stages of the Path.
  10. The Three Lower Tantras section of Tsonghkapa's Great Exposition of Secret Mantra.
  11. The Earth Ritual preliminary to the rite of initiation of Highest Yoga Tantra (Skt. Annjjarayoga) section of Tsongkhapa's Great Exposition of Secret Mantra and the Commentary on the Compendium of Wisdom Vajra.
  12. The generation stages of the Highest Yoga Tantra section of Tsongkhapa's Great Exposition of Secret Mantra.
  13. The completion stages of Highest Yoga Tantra section of Tsongkhapa's Great Exposition of Secret Mantra, and Kaydrup's Grounds and Paths of Kalachakra.