Great Stupa Mountain Hermitage

jo nang sku 'bum ri khrod chen mo
Alternative Name(s):
Jomonang, jo mo nang, Great Stupa of Jonang, jo nang sku 'bum mthong grol chen mo, Thongdrol Chenmo, mthong grol chen mo, Kyid Phuk, sgrub gnas skyid phug, Dewachen, gzim khang bde ba chen, Jonang Chorten Chenmo, jo nang mchod rten chen mo, Sangde Zholma, gsang sde zhol ma, Sangde Warma, gsang sde bar ma, Sangde Gongma, gsang sde gong ma, Chang Samten Ling, byang bsam gtan gling, Ling Shar, gling shar, Lo Odsal Ling, lho 'od gsal gling, Nub Traway Ling, nub khra ba'i gling
Site Type: Mountain Retreat
Site Location: Lhatse (lha rtse)
Operating Status: Inactive
Current Tradition: Jonang
Former Tradition: Jonang
Date Established: 8th cent.
Former Residents: 10,000 in 14th cent.
Founding Master: Kunpang Thukje Tsondru

Situated about an hour north of Takten Damcho Ling (rtag brtan dam chos gling) in the valley of Jomonang, this site is most often referred to as, “Jonang Richo Chenmo” or the “Great Mountain Hermitage of the Jonang,” and was the 1st site of the Jonangpa. Originally a dwelling place for Padmasambhava, the 8th century Nyingma master from the land of Uddiyana who was a central figure in the transmission of tantric Buddhism from India into Tibet, the meditation caves (sgrub phug) nestled in the high crevices of the surrounding mountains at Jomonang (jo mo nang) have served as homes for yogis for over a thousand years. This mountain retreat (ri khrod) is said to have first became a site for the Jonangpa when Nag Gyalma (nag rgyal mo), the local protector deity of the Jomonang valley invited the Tibetan Kalachakra master Kungpang Thukje Tsondru to meditate in the cave known as, “Nub Traway Ling” (nub khra bo’i gling). Since Kungpang-pa made Jomonang his home in 1294, the tradition of meditation practice and philosophical thinking that has been associated with this site has become known as “Jonang,” and those who have lived here have been referred to as “Jonangpas.” As this lineage was transmitted on at Jomonang through the masters Changsem Gyalwa Yeshe and Yontan Gyamtso, it was then inherited by Kunkhyen Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen. Spending most of his life in meditation and teaching at the Richo Chenmo, Dolpopa composed many of his famous literary works here including his “Mountain Dharma: An Ocean of Definitive Meaning,” an explication on zhentong (“shentong,” gzhan stong) named for the yogis who dwelled in this mountain retreat. At the time of Dolpopa, there are estimated to have been approximately 10,000 Jonangpa yogis living in and around the caves at the Richo Chenmo. After Dolpopa completed construction of the Great Stupa of Jonang in the year 1333, the local tradition recalls that thousands of yogis would gather around the stupa at the blow of conch-schell to listen to Dolpopa teach on zhentong. Great masters after the time of Dolpopa who lived at the Richo Chenmo include all 14 main disciples of Dolpopa (yab sras bcu bzhi) such as Nyawon Kunga Pal and Chogle Namgyal whose caves are nestled high above the valley, Jetsun Taranatha who spent many years in meditation here, Je Tsongkhapa (Rje Tshong kha pa) who spent 3 years in retreat on the Kalachakra here with his teachers Nyawon Kunga Pal and Chogle Namgyal, the great yogi and bridge-builder Thongton Gyalpo (Thang ston rgyal po), Drubthob Dalchalwa Rinchen Zangpo (Grub thob ‘Dar ‘phar rin chen bzang po) among many other Tibetan masters.

Jonang Richo Chenmo is divided into 4 sub-sites in the 4 cardinal directions (phyogs bzhi):

  1. North: Chang Samten Ling (byang bsam gtan gling) includes:
    • Meditation retreat of Dolpopa, “Kyid Phuk Cave” (sgrub gnas skyid phug)
    • Dolpopa’s private residence, Dewachen (gzim khang bde ba chen)
    • The Great Stupa (mchod rten chen mo) also known as, The Stupa that Liberates Upon Sight (mthong grol mchod rten) and “Sang De Zholma” (gsang sde zhil ma)
    • Debate grounds (cho ra), Sang De Warma (gsang sde bar ma)
    • Taranatha’s mother’s stupa and residence named, “Sang De Gongma” (gsang sde gong ma)
  2. East: Ling Shar (gling shar): a nunnery (btsun ma’i dgon) situated on the mountain-side that was previously a monastery (dgon pa) during the time of Dolpopa and was established as a Jonang nunnery in 1992.
  3. South: Lo Odsal Ling (lho ‘od gsal gling): the original monastic complex (gdan sa) of the Jonang including residence halls for monks and the meditation caves of Dolpopa’s 14 primary disciples.
  4. West: Nub Traway Ling (nub khra bo’i gling): the first site of the Jonang, a meditation cave inhabited by Kungpang Thukje Tsondru.

Other sites at the Richo Chenmo include Chogle Namgyal’s cave, and the cave where Tsongkhapa and Thongton Gyalpo among others lived.