Tango Monastery

Last Saturday, June16th, we went to Tango Monastery after learning about it in our Dzongkha class on Friday. Gyelsey Tenzin Rabgay, the 4th Desi (or temporal ruler), built this monastery in 1688. It serves as a college where scholars study Buddhism for nine years. After studying here they move to Cheri Monastery, located on the side of nearby mountain that we did not visit for the sake of time, to mediate for three years, three months, and three days. After these twelve years of successful combined study and meditation, one is considered a Khenpo, making one a master of Buddhism.

Tango is located up the side of a mountain. Though the walk was steep, it was less rigorous than other walks we have done because the path was completely paved with stone and cement. The landscaping was beautiful. There were lots of trees, flowers, and interesting huts/resting areas along the paths, along with a replica of Swayambhu of Nepal.  We know that the monks work hard to maintain the beauty of this trail as well, because we passed many of them out working on it. We stopped just below the monastery by a large chorten, and watched as workers who were working on restoration of the monastery zipped by overhead, suspended in a basket like the one we rode in Bumthang.

Workers Passing Overhead

When we reached the top, after about 45 minutes of walking, we took off our shoes and were lead to tables on porch that ran along one of buildings that surrounded the main lakhang to have snacks and refreshments. The monks brought us mango juice and tea, which we had along with zow and tea biscuits.

Tea with Wangchuk in Wrathful Form

It was a welcome break after our long walk up. Then we entered the main lakhang. In it were three large statues of the past, present, and future Buddhas. We also saw a rock with the foot imprint of a dakini, the daughter of Ngawang Tenzin, a son of Drukpa Kunley, imprints of the feet of various animals, and a fossilized flower.

Meditation Cave with Passersby

Tango means “horse head” in Dzongkha and the monastery got its name because of a giant rock outcropping located to one side and slightly below that looks like a horse’s head: a distinguishing feature of Hayagriva, the wrathful form of Chenrezig. Shabdrung meditated in a cave located within this outcropping, and saw the wrathful deity Tandin (meaning “horseneck”). We saw this cave during our descent down the mountain from the monastery, but viewed it at a distance so as not to disturb whoever might be in retreat inside.

To walk down the mountain, we took a different and unpaved path. On the way we passed a chorten that marked the spot where the dakini, Sonam Peldon, left her earthly body. Sonam Peldon was the wife of Phajo Drukum Shigpo, who planted his staff nearby (which is now recognized in the form of a towering cedar tree), and prophesied that Tango would be the center from which Drukpa Kagyu Buddhism would spread. This is also when we were able to get our view of the cave where Shabdrung and other important Buddhist figures have meditated. While we were looking at the cave, we got one of our few glimpses of wild mammals in Bhutan.

There were a mother goral and her baby hopping on the rocky side of the famous rock outcropping. It was fun, and very impressive, to watch them hop around on a nearly sheer rock face, and we even got to see the baby try to drink milk from its mother.

After we made it down the mountain, we drove back into Thimphu where we went to a restaurant and ate a very tasty lunch together.
– Annie Bennett

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