LAMAI GOENPA AND DRUBDEY
Lopen Moelam Rabzang, originally from Trongsa, Bhutan, was one of the closest and best disciples of Togden Shakya Shri. He studied with his Guru for many years but when the time matured for him to leave Tibet, Togdhen Shakya Shri prophesied that, instead of going back to his village, Lopen Moenlam Rabzang would build a Goenpa in a specific location between India and Tibet. Following his Guru’s instructions, he left Tibet and looked for the prophesied place in Bhutan.
His search led him to Sigar Monastery where he stayed for a couple of days before pursuing his quest. When he finally reached Judan Monastery in the mountain pass of Chenla, he met an old man wearing a yellow robe. When Lopen Moenlam Rabzang asked the old man the name of the cliff in front of him, the old man responded: “Tshephu”. He then asked the old man’s name: “Tshetu”. Before Lopen Moenlam Rabzang left Tibet, Togden Shakya Shri offered him a number of precious statues including a statue of “Tshepagme” (longevity Buddha). He saw the reunion of the three “tshe” as an auspicious sign and thought that this place could be the location prophesied by the Great Master Togdhen Shakya Shri. While Lopen Moenlam Rabzang remained at the bottom of the cliff at first, he sent a number of his disciples to the top of the cliff to look at the area around. He then later went there himself and often would sit under a tree to rest. One day, a cat came down the tree and sat comfortably on his lap. Lopen Moenlam Rabzang considered that it was likely not a cat but the local deity’s jewel. So, when the cat rose and started walking away, he followed until the cat stopped to play and nap at a place with two big rocks. Lopen MoenlamRabzang thought that this place was
perfect to build a temple and a monastery (Goenpa) and the construction started in 1928.
The Goenpa was named “Lhuendrup Samten Choeling” (naturally formed contemplation dharma location) by Thuthop Choeki Jamtsho. It is said that the Tshephu cliff is the last mountain which is part of the chain of mountains leading to Tibet, the first mountain of the chain reaching Tsari. Given the high sacred nature of this place, Lopen Moelam Rabzang requested that no residence or other building should be constructed on this site. At the time of Lopen Moenlam Rabzang, the Goenpa hadaround thirty disciples which consisted of both lay monks and nuns. One of his disciples was Abi Pangki (Granny Pangki). Abi Pangki was told by her Guru that she need not do anything else than prostrating. She spent her life time prostrating and her foot prints can still be seen on the floor of the temple.
Following the passing of Lopen Moenlam Rabzang in 1945, the Goenpa was neglected although lamas had been appointed. However, H.E. Gyeltshen Trulku Rinpoche, who had also been appointed as the third lama in succession in addition to being the meditation master of Phajoding Monastery and Tashigang Monastery, took personal initiative to restore the monastery and further develop the site. As originally requested by the Bhutanese government, Rinpoche opened his first retreat centre there in 1986. Lamai Goenpa was of a particular importance since his Root Guru, Lam Sonam Zangpo and Togdhen Shakya Shri considered this location to be very auspicious.
In addition, no retreat centre had been constructed before so both Togdhen Shakya Shri and Lam Sonam Zangpo prayed many times to create good auspicious circumstances which would enable the establishment of a retreat place. While Lam Sonam Zangpo never formally requested that Rinpoche opens a retreat centre there, with great compassion and devotion, Rinpoche fulfilled his Gurus’ wishes. Everything started from this location and since then many lamas and great meditators have resided in Lamai Goenpa. Currently, eight monks are undergoing three-year retreat courses.