His Eminence the 102nd Gaden Tripa Thubten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu attending the 600th year commemorations of the Kirti lineage in Dharamshala on May 5, 2012. Also seen in the picture is the 11th Kyabje Kirti Rinpoche. (Phayul photo/Norbu Wangyal)
DHARAMSHALA, May 6: Amidst growing repression and heightened tensions in Kirti Monastery in Ngaba, eastern Tibet, its exile branch monastery in Dharamshala on Saturday commemorated the Kirti Rinpoche lineage’s 600 years of teachings of the Buddha dharma.
The first Kirti Rinpoche Richen Gedun Gyaltsen, a disciple of the Great Je Tsongkhapa, at the instructions of his teacher had founded the Pal Gyurmey Kalari Tashi Lhundrup Ling monastery in Gyalmo Tswa Rong in Tibet.
Since then, the Kirti monastery has branched out into more than 80 monasteries in Tibet and exile.
“This year marks 600 years since the founding of the first Kirti monastery in Tibet and 600 years of the propagation and preservation of the Buddha Dharma by the lineage of Kirti Rinpoches,” Kunchok Jigme, one of the organisers of the function said.
Responding to a question, Jigme said that the principle Kirti Monastery in the besieged Ngaba region of Tibet will mark the 600-year anniversary later this month.
“According to information that we have received, the Chinese government has given the permission to the Monastery for the 600-year commemorations on May 22,” Jigme added.
The Ngaba region, especially the Kirti Monastery has been at the centre of the ongoing wave of self-immolation protests in Tibet. As many as 25 of the 35 known Tibetans who set their bodies on fire demanding freedom in Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama from exile were from the Ngaba region, many of them monks or former monks of the Kirti monastery.
“Even if the Chinese government allows Ngaba Kirti Monastery to observe the 600-year anniversary, I think the monastery will have to celebrate the anniversary amidst fear and tight security,” Palden Gyal, an exile Tibetan from the Ngaba region said.
Founded in 1870 by the 8th Kirti Rinpoche Je Losang Trinle Konchok Tenpa Gyatso, the Ngaba Kirti Monastery comprises of four colleges for the study of Sutra and Mantra aspects of the Buddhist teachings: the philosophy college, upper Tantric college, Kalacakra college and medical college.
With over 2500 monks, the Kirti Monastery is one of the largest monasteries inside Tibet at present.
With the worsening of the self-immolation crisis in the region, the Kirti Monastery has been put under military blockade with armed soldiers strictly controlling the movement of the monks.
Hundreds of monks from the monastery have been disappeared, while many have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms on charges of “subversion”.
The 11th Kyabje Kirti Rinpoche Lobsang Tenzin Jigme Yeshi Gyamtso Pal Sangpo, the spiritual head of the Kirti Monastery, in an appeal letter to save the Kirti Monastery, last year had said that the Chinese government was trying to “wipe out” the monastery.
“In Tibet as a whole, and especially at Kirti monastery in Amdo Ngaba, the Chinese government not only continues to enforce a strict crackdown, but is trying to wipe out the monastery by expelling monks and imprisoning them,” Kirti Rinpoche wrote in the letter dated April 2011.
The 600-year function at the Kirti Monastery in Dharamshala was attended by His Eminence the 102nd Gaden Tripa Thubten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu and Pema Chhinjor, Minister of the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration. Hundreds of Tibetans and foreigners also attended the commemorations.