The Monkey Year Teachings

Short history of the “Monkey Year Teachings”, also famous as “Drikung Phowa Chenmo” (Great Drikung Phowa)

Since the time of Drikung Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon (1143–1217), the tradition of giving yearly summer and winter teachings was established, held in different places in the Drikung valley by the Drikung Kagyu lineage-throne-holders.

During the following centuries sometimes those teaching-cycles increased to even four times a year, and sometimes due to political problems they also very much decreased.

After such a decrease happened again at the beginning of the 17th century, the next throne-holder Thrinle Sangpo established a new tradition of four major teaching cycles given every three years only. That was in the monkey year, the pig year, the tiger year, and the snake year. But as the tiger year teachings soon after got lost again, the tradition of the three major teaching cycles has been kept alive until today. Traditionally those teachings lasted for seven days, from the 8th to the 15th, the full moon day, on which always the transmission of Drikung phowa was given.

Out of those three teaching-cycles especially the “Monkey Year Teachings” became famous as the “Great Drikung Phowa” throughout all Tibet and its neighboring countries, for its strong blessing of being a special teaching held in a special place, at a special time, and by a special teacher.

The importance of the monkey year derived from being the birth year of Guru Rinpoche and the year of opening the gates to the holy mountain Tsari by Jigten Sumgon and one of his disciples.

Since that event during every monkey year and monkey month (the 6th month in the Tibetan calendar) a great Tsog offering was held at Terdrom Drong Ngur, as there it was said to be the same gathering of Dakinis like in Tsari itself. Furthermore Terdrom was famous for Guru Rinpoche having lived there for seven years. The importance of the 6th month derived from being the month of Buddha’s first turning the wheel of dharma and also the month of Gampopa’s parinirvana. Therefore Thrinle Sangpo fixed the “Monkey Year Teachings” to be held in that place and that month.

Phowa is the transference of our consciousness at the time of death to a pure Buddhaland. There are many different phowa practices, but especially this “Great Drikung Phowa” was very famous and called like that because of its great blessing and power, that it can be applied to a dead person up to a distance of an 18-days flight of a vulture.

In the Vajrayana, the Phowa practice is the most direct and quickest path to achieve enlightenment. It is said that even the heaviest of sinners has a chance for enlightenment through the practice of the Phowa. “There are teachings for one to become enlightened, but I have a teaching (Phowa) that offers enlightenment without meditation”, said Marpa, the great translator and father of the Kagyu lineage.

A devoted practitioner who has no doubt in the qualified Lama and teachings can experience the sign of Phowa merely through receiving the Lung (oral transmission).

Actually this certain phowa practice called “Phowa Chagtsugma” originated from a Nyingma terma and was later brought into the Drikung lineage through a guru of the first Drikung Chungtsang Rigdzin Chodrag and first Drikung Chetsang Konchog Ratna in the late 16th century. They then added it to the treasure of the very profound Drikung teachings and it became famous as a special transmission and practice of the Drikung lineage.

From that time on people from all over Tibet and neighboring areas pilgrimed to Drikung for the “Monkey Year Teachings” to receive the transmission of that “Drikung Phowa Chenmo.” Nowadays since the Cultural Revolution in Tibet only the “Monkey Year Teachings” have been held there again by His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chungtsang. But even that only once or twice so far, as big gatherings are still sensitive matters in Tibet. In the last monkey year 2004 it was said that more than 400.000 people had come to attend the transmission of “Drikung Phowa Chenmo.”

Outside of Tibet His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang still keeps up the tradition of giving all three teaching-cycles, including the transmission of “Drikung Phowa Chenmo.”

Source: Letter of Drubpon Sonam Jorphel Rinpoche, 25th of November 2015,
            Drikung Kagyu Rinchen Palri Monastery Kathmandu


Monkey Year Teachings 2016

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