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CSZ_IMAGEThe first Thiksay Rinpoche, Doe Chamsem Sherab Sangpo, was born in Sharmo Village, near Leh, and as a young boy travelled to Tibet with traders from Ladakh. When he arrived in Lhasa, he asked an old woman in the Barkhor the name of the best scholar or teacher inside Tibet. Without a word, she pointed to Ganden Monastery. He began his studies at Ganden, receiving teachings and initiations and becoming a disciple of the founder of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, Jhe Tsong Khapa.

Having completed his studies, Jhe Tsong Khapa instructed Doe Chamsem Sherab Zangpo to return to Ladakh, asking him to spread the ‘yellow hat tradition’, prophesying that, “On the right bank of the river Sita (Indus) my teachings will flourish”. Jhe Tsong Khapa gave him a statue made from dried blood from his nose, saying that when he arrived in Ladakh, he should give it to a famous person whom he would meet. On his arrival in Ladakh, Changsem Sherab Sangpo was told of a famous King in Nubra, King Nyima Namgyal, and made a request to meet him. The king was told that a poor monk was requesting an audience, but refused to see him, whereupon Chamsem Sherab Zangpo returned with the statue to Leh.

That night, the King in Leh, King Takpa Bumde, dreamt that a special person was coming to see him. The next morning he told the gatekeeper to admit anyone who came requesting an audience that day. When Chamsem Sherab Zangpo came, he met the King and presented the statue, and the King began to take teachings from him.

After several years, Chamsem Sherab Zangpo explained to the King that his teacher had told him to spread the teachings of Buddhism in Ladakh, and requested land to build a temple.  The King offered land in a village  called Stakmo, where Changsem Sherab Sangpo built the Lhakang Serpo (Yellow Temple).

Chamsem Sherab Zangpo continued to teach throughout    Ladakh, but it became clear that the Lhakang  Serpo  was not attracting the requisite number of monks, and with his disciple Poen Palden Sherab, they decided to find an alternative place. Walking through the neighbouring valley of Arzoo, they came across a unique yellow stone in the parched desert. Feeling that this was an important and holy site, they performed a special ritual, making offering cakes or torma. As they completed the ritual, a crow swooped down and snatched the torma from the rock, disappearing with it in its beak.

thik-doUpon searching for the torma, the monks found it placed still in one piece in the doorway of the King Palde Rigpa Gons palace on a hill in a nearby village near to the Indus River. The palace became the site of Thiksay Monastery, ‘thik’ meaning ‘exactly right’, while the stone itself was known as ‘Thik-do’.  Poen Palden Sherab was the son of one of the Kings Ministers and with this strong connection, the monastery flourished, with monks joining from all over Ladakh, Spiti, Nubra and Zangskar.

Meanwhile Chamsem Sherab Zangpo continued to travel throughout Ladakh giving teachings and instituting the Gelugpa schools practices. He taught at many monasteries including Spituk, Deskit Monastery in Nubra, Likir Monastery and Karsha Monastery in Zangskar.  He passed away in Phugtal Monastery, south of Padum in Zangskar. It is said that a juniper tree grew from hairs from his head, and this can still be found in Phugtal.

Chamsem Sherab Zangpo had given authority to Poen Palden Sherab to develop Thiksay Monastery, and because of his connection with the King, he was able to make much progress. Part of the original royal palace still remains to this day. The connection with the Kings family is maintained through the original Palden Lhamo temple on the highest level of the monastery. The only female allowed to enter the temple is the Queen of Stok, showing the original link between the monastery and the family.

Over the next six hundred years, the monastery grew in size and influence and increased its agricultural holdings enabling it to support itself.

When the present 9th Thiksay Rinpoche returned from Tibet in 1959 however, he found the monastery in disrepair, and few resources available to him. He began to build up the income of the monastery and embraced new technology in order to help. The first tractor in Ladakh belonged to Thiksay Monastery, and Rinpoche also introduced   the      firs  thresher    for  harvesting grain, mills for grinding corn and many other innovations, all with the purpose of supporting the monastery. Finding the original Dukhang in a very poor state of repair, he first renovated it, and then began work on the Zimchung, Notsar Phuntsog (lamas’ accommodation).

Later, Rinpoche extended the area of the Choera (debate courtyard) over the old grain store, replacing the beams which had collapsed. He built a new Dhuchok Khang, (main temple), with a school building below. He also built the new common kitchen and dining hall and opened the museum.

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