Zaedja Pagsam Thishing

Captivating stories

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.

Prophesy fulfilled

Eyes of compassion

Many years ago, while resting in Mesina, Je Geshe Gedun Rinchen, surveyed the horizons, and predicted that, one day, a monastery would be built on the high hill that stood before him.

Yesterday, that prophesy was fulfilled. In a sacred ceremony, His Holiness the Je Khenpo consecrated Bhutan’s newest monastery, the Sangchhen Dorji Lhendup Lhakhang. The monastery, built in traditional Bhutanese style, stands on the prophesized site, a prominent ridge overlooking almost all of Punakha, Wangduephodrang and Toebasa.

The monument was painstakingly built by Yab Ugyen Dorji over the last two years, and is a showpiece of traditional art and craft. The stone masonry is precise, the wood carvings are intricate, the murals are exquisite, and the gigantic bronze statue of Chenrigzig Chagtong Chentong – crafted completely in Bhutan – is simply awesome.

The monastery also demonstrates that our spiritual heritage continues to flourish – it was presented to His Majesty the King and the people of Bhutan, and has already become a seat for higher education and meditation for nuns.

Sangchhen Dorji Lhendup Lhakhang and its accompanying stupa now occupy the high ridge that once returned Je Geshe Gedun’s benign gaze. There’s no doubt that the perspicacious Geshe could already see that the countless travelers passing through Mesina would admire the monastery – featured in our banner – and offer quiet prayers for all sentient beings.