Yesterday, I had the opportunity of visiting Rigsum Goenpa in Bomdiling, Trashiyangtse. The monastery is famous for its history, sacred artifacts and, most of all, its murals.
If you visit Trashiyangtse, make sure to do the 2-3 hour trek to Rigsum Goenpa. The trail is broad, and the views of and from the monastery are spectacular.
And once you get there, make sure to visit Lhakhang Wogma, the lower monastery. That’s where you’ll see the rare and exquisite murals of the Zaedja Pagsam Thishing, which is an account of the Buddha’s 108 previous incarnations. These include the popular “Thuenpa Puenzhi” in which the bird was the Buddha’s previous incarnation. And the story of a man, another of the Buddha’s earlier incarnations, who allowed a starving tigress to feed on him so that her cubs would survive.
I couldn’t find the depiction of these two stories. But I did find some others that I recognized. Like the story, pictured here, about the gigantic snake that encircles a group of merchants, and prepares to devour them. Just then a lion and an elephant (the previous incarnations of the Buddha and Shariputra, his foremost disciple, respectively) attack the snake and rescue the merchants. But both lion and elephant are fatally wounded by the snake, and die shortly thereafter. The grateful merchants erect a chorten in memory of their saviors.
Searching for stories in the extensive Zaedja Pagsam Thishing murals is difficult. But it is enjoyable too, especially if done with family and friends.
And here’s the best part: you don’t need to travel all the way to Trashiyangtse to enjoy these murals. The same ones adorn the walls of the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang in Dochula.