The Nangzhig monastery is located in the Amdo Ngawa region of Eastern Tibet. The monastery is about five hundred ten Kilometers (about 279 miles) from the Chinese city of Chengdu. By car, it takes about six hours from this city to reach the monastery.
The Nangzhig Monastery was founded in 1108 AD by Yönten Gyaltsen, who is also known respectfully as Nangzhig Do pag Chenpo. Later on, the monastery began to be taken care of by the Nangzhig Kyapgöns and the other senior lamas. Since its early history, this monastery has been one of the important monasteries in the Amdo region of Tibet. Thus, it is also known as the principal seat of the eighteen Zhigchen. This is not only because of its size and the large number of monks, but also because of its establishment as a sacred place where the great teachings and practices of Bön Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen have been preserved. Until 1958, when Nangzhig Kyapgön Tenpa Rabgye was alive, there were about one thousand monks at the monastery. At that time, during the Mönlam gathering at Losar, the total number of participant monks would increase to around two thousand. This included the lamas as well as ordinary monks coming from its branch monasteries.
Like all of the monasteries on the Tibetan plateau, Nangzhig Monastery suffered tremendous loss and destruction of its buildings and sacred objects due to the Cultural Revolution which began in 1959. In 1980, when the People’s Republic of China allowed more religious freedom in Tibet, the representative of the Nangzhig Kyapgön, Jawop Rinpoche, took the main responsibility for restoring most of the sacred objects of the monastery. Many sacred objects had been hidden by faithful followers during the Cultural Revolution. All of those objects that could be found were returned to the monastery. These sacred objects can be seen in the monastery today.
The exterior of the monastery has also been much developed in recent years. There are two new temples (one bigger and the other smaller) having a hundred pillars and six large residences for the senior lamas of Nangzhig. Among the other new buildings, there is a temple for the gyalpo (rgyal khang), a protector temple, a fifteen storied Tashi Gomang stupa, a thirteen storied Namgyal stupa, and a three storied Takma stupa. There are also twenty large tob khor (stobs ‘khor) and more than three thousand khor treng (‘khor phreng) in the monastery compound, and nearly five hundred chambers to accommodate approximately two thousand monks.
Beginning in 1992, the organization of the monastery has been restored, but with a few changes. In order to adjust to the present day school schedule, the monks have no classes on Sunday. During the weekdays, they must attend meditation and practice classes of Bön Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen.
In 2001, a new congregation hall and classrooms were built. A new curriculum of monastic courses as well as new regulations of annual examinations were implemented according to the suggestions of Nangzhig Kyapgön and Jawop Rinpoche. In this way, the monastery has been transformed into an institution of higher education for the study and practice of Yungdrung Bön. It has become a model for other educational institutions developing today. Each year, over two hundred students arrive from all over Tibet in order to study Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen of the Yungdrung Bön. The number of students continues to increase each year.
All those who complete ten years of education at the monastery are awarded a Geshe degree. This is the highest degree given at a Tibetan Monastic college. It is the equivalent of a doctorate of philosophy. Once graduated, the Geshes are encouraged to go and teach within the many other Bön monasteries throughout Tibet. According to the wishes of Nangzhig Kyapgön and Jawop Rinpoche, the Geshes are sent to teach not only within the communities of Tibet and China, but also to foreign countries. They are encouraged to go wherever they can be of service by exchanging culture as well as the teaching of Yungdrung Bön Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen. The principal goal of the monastery and the interest behind its education policy is to embrace, preserve and to propagate the doctrine of the Yungdrung Bön, which is a primary method of help for the sentient beings in this world.
Yundrung Bon College
Nangzhig Monastery is the largest Bon monastery in the world. For over thousand years, monks have come there from all across the three regions of Tybet: Amdo, U-tsang and Kham, to study at Yungdrung Bon College so that all beings may benefit from precious and everlasting Bon teachings and practices.
Yungdrung Bon College offers education in terms of both, academic teaching and religious practice which results in obtaining degrees along with the highest Geshe degree in the Bon tradition: equivalent to the western Ph.D. doctorate degree. Currently, there are over one thousand monks residing and studying at Yungdrung Bon College. Having come from all over Tibet, they endure a lot of hardship. In the course of their long studies they have to limit to minimum their necessities which most of the Westerners takie for granted, such as medicines, food or clothing. It is also very difficult for them to get studying materials: textbooks and basic classroom supplies. These monks are seeds of the future; brought up by their masters in Bon tradition, they will be acting to preserve, uphold, protect and spread precious Bon teachings throughout the world.