Palyul is one of the six major monasteries of the Nyingma school. The monastery is the seat of the Namcho Terma or Sky Treasure Terma, a teaching hidden by Guru Rinpoche and his consort Yeshe Tsogyal, and discovered by Terton Mingyur Dorje.

the Palyul Lineage

The inauguration of the Palyul tradition in 1665 is a testament that the impact of the dharma increases when our motivations are pure and all the conditions are precisely where they should be, thanks to the support, prayers and blessings from the masters of the past. Lhachen Jampa Phuntsog, the first Dharma King of Dege decided to build a monastery in 1664 on the site where the future Palyul Monastery will be constructed.

Photo credit : Palyul Monastery by Tibetan Trekking

It was an auspicious location that was sanctified by many saints and enlightened beings and he first named the monastery Namgyal Jangchub Ling, which means the Monastery of Ultimate Liberation. The King then congregated five hundred monks after the sublime structure was completed and sent an invitation to Thrulzhig Tonpa Gyaltsen to be the head of Namgyal Jangchub Ling. However, Thrulzhig Tonpa Gyaltsen declined, saying “I am too old to maintain such an important position, please go and seek my disciple Kunzang Sherab and invite him to become the Abbot and he will be able to uphold and spread the Buddha-Dharma in all directions”.

As a result of the humble request by Thrulzig Tonpa Gyaltsen, the King sent a formal invitation to Kunzang Sherab who accepted the prestigious post after consulting his Guru, Terton Mingyur Dorje and he became the first throne holder of the Palyul Lineage and the Palyul Monastery was born.

Today, Palyul is one of the six major monasteries under the Nyingma School with the remaining five being: Kathok, Dorje Drak, Mindroling, Dzogchen and Shechen monasteries.

Situated in what is known now as Baiyu county in China’s Sichuan province, the monastery is the seat of the Namcho Terma or Sky Treasure of Terton (treasure revealer) Mingyur Dorje. Terma, which means “hidden treasure,” is a spiritual treasure hidden by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal in the rocks, mountains, lakes, sky and in the minds of disciples to be revealed at an appropriate time in the future by tertons.

It is said that these termas ensure that the wisdom of the dharma will always be renewed at the most accurate era to suit the needs of the people of a particular civilization, culture and level of consciousness. Hence, it is only when the esoteric teachings were needed would they be discovered by the revealers. In a modern context perhaps we can vaguely compare it to a great artist channeling a masterpiece that appeals to the spirit of the time; strong enough to create a change in society.

The Namcho contains an entire cycle of practices varying from preliminary practice (ngondro) to the “pointing out instructions” of dzogchen. Terton Mingyur Dorje was a remarkable treasure revealer having the gift to be a clean and perfect vessel to access the hidden teachings by Guru Rinpoche at the tender age of eleven. It was said that when he retrieved the Namcho from the visions of his own mind at a time when he was ready and the concealed dharma was needed, he was in a complete state of trance.

When Kunzang Sherab met his root Guru, Terton Mingyur Dorje, he was in awe of his resplendent aura and developed immediate faith and devotion for him. The Terton also foresaw the importance of Kunzang Sherab’s dharmic path and accepted him as his heart son. He also transmitted to him all the Namcho Terma and made him the Lineage Holder of the same.

Hence, when the King of Dege invited Kunzang Sherab to lead the monastery he just built, the Terton predicted that such an undertaking would mean the Namcho teachings will reach many monks and limitless sentient beings for a long time to come. Truly, each of the twelve magnificent throne and lineage holders of the Palyul tradition were renowned to be an erudite scholar of sutra, tantra and the inner and outer sciences holding steadfastly to the vinaya rules while developing further both the mother and branch Palyul monasteries.

The 11th Throne Holder of Palyul Lineage, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, with just 300 rupees and a few supportive monks built a monastery in India after leaving Tibet in 1959 to promote and to continue the glorious roots of Palyul outside its homeland. His Holiness the Dalai Lama then consecrated the site and bestowed the name “Namdroling Monastery.” Today the monastery is home to nearly 5000 monks and nuns and is a blessed space for tertiary and post-graduate Buddhist studies, an international discussion platform for visiting professors and researchers, and a modern institute for the learning and growth of the Buddha’s teachings to all corners of the world.

Background Photo Credit:
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