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Top 3 Tibetan Monasteries of Nyingma Sect in Lhoka

As the oldest Tibetan Buddhism sect, Nyingma Sect monasteries in Tibet are quite popular around the world, which has attracted numerous travelers to visit them. The culture of them is mysterious and the history of them is long, which has great values for the exploration of the Tibetan civilization. Known as the cradle of Tibetan civilization, Lhoka, is the best place to explore Nyingma Sect monasteries in Tibet. Follow our steps to the top 3 Nyingma monasteries in Lhoka.

Origin of Nyingma Sect Monastery in Tibet

The Nyingma sect is seen as the oldest Tibetan Buddhism sect. The meaning of “Nyingma” in Tibetan is “ancient”, which date to the 8th century at the time when the indigenous Bon religion was strongly adhered to by Tibetans. The Red Hat sect is another name of the Nyingma sect, for its Lamas wear red robes and hats. The Nyingma sect was founded by the guru Padmasambhava, who took part in the building of the very first monastery. It highly values tantric practices, whose characteristics also include proclivity to elevating certain individuals to the status of godly figures and the permission it grants to its monks to engage in sexual acts. Lots of Nyingma monasteries were built across Tibet from the 9th to 11th century. Until the 11th century, Nyingma became the sole sect of Buddhism in Tibet, which did not assume political power.

Teaching and Practice of Nyingma Sect

At first, the Nyingma school based upon the teachings of Padmasambhava, who is revered by the Nyingma school as the "second Buddha." In this region, Buddhism was extended widely until the middle of the 9th century. The system of Padmascambhava of Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism was synthesized by Longchenpa in the 14th century. Nyingma adheres to the tantric practices, which also puts emphasis on revealed teachings. The shamanistic practices and local divinities are also applied widely. The monks of this sect are not generally required to be celibate. Mindrolling Trichen was the most recent head of the Nyingma tradition. Buddhist teachings can be categorized into 9 yanas. The most important one is ‘Dzogchen’, whose philosophy centers on pure awareness. Through meditation and the teaching of a Dzogchen master, the pure awareness ca be obtained. As you can see, the teachings of Padmasambhava, the doctrines of Dzogchen and the practices of Tantric are emphasized by the Nyingma.

The Nyingma School also has some relations with Termas. At the time when the Buddhism enters the period of decline, many scriptures, objects for ritual functions and numerous relics were hidden in rocks and caves on ranges by Padmasambhava and the disciples of him. Tertons discovered them after many years passed by, and they compiled the teachings of Nyingma into Rinchen Terdzo, which is a book with multiple volumes.

Top 3 Nyingma Monasteries in Lhoka

After you have learned some knowledge of the origin, teachings and practice of the Nyingma sect, you should know that the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism is the oldest amongst the four schools and the second largest after Gelugpa sect. Shannan area is the origin of Tibetan culture, so many Nyingma monasteries are located there. Now let’s begin to have a look at the top 3 Nyingma sect monasteries in Lhoka to know its culture more deeply.

1. Samye Monastery

Samye Monastery is located in Zharang County, Shannan Area, which is seen as the first monastery in Tibet. The sacred mandala design of it is very famous and lots of pilgrimages come here for the Tibetan Buddhists. The Tibetan religious art in mural and statue form, and several important relics in this monastery are quite precious, which has great values for people to know about Tibetan culture more deeply.

 Samye Monastery Samye Monastery

1) Highlight and Time to Visit
When you plan to visit this monastery, you can search the internet to know its highlights and the time to go there. The historical architectures make it stand out, and it also has a name of“Three-Style Monastery” due to its three floors, including the local Tibetan style of the first floor, the Chinese architecture style of the middle floor and the Indian style of the top floor. In the Samye Monastery, numerous grandiose murals have been reserved well, which is always themed by ancient famous story of Tibetan Buddhism and historical events of monasteries.

If you have enough time for travel, don’t forget to enjoy the classic trek from Ganden Monastery to Samye Monastery. The over 80 km trek is one of the famous pilgrimage roads, which will take you 4 to 5 days. On the way to the monastery, you can enjoy picturesque plateau landscape and authentic Tibetan traditional culture. As for the best time to visit this monastery, in fact, you can go there all year round during the opening hours from 9:00 to 16:00. You can book our 9-day trekking from Ganden to Samye happily. The detailed itineraries are shown below.

Day 1: Arrival-Lhasa(3650m)
Day 2: Lhasa Sightseeing - Potala Palace and Johkang Temple
Day 3: Lhasa sightseeing-Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery
Day 4: Lhasa-Ganden-Tsubshi-Yama-do (trekking 2 to 3 hours,7km)
Day 5: Trek to Tsotup Chu Valley (5 to 6hours,10km)
Day 6: Trek to Herder's Camp (5 to 6 hours,14km)
Day 7: Trek to Yamalung (6 hours,39km):Changtangvillage,Yamalung Hermitage
Day 8: Explore the Samye Monastery and Yarlung River Valley, live in Samye Town
Day 9: Drive to Airport (train station), leave Tibet to your next destination.

2) Tips
1. You can choose to live in a guesthouse or hotel near the monastery by spending CNY 20 to CNY 40 per day.
2. You’d better take the sunscreen and sunglasses with you.
3. Extra fees will be charged if you desire to take photos and videos there.

2. Mindrolling Monastery

Mindroling Monastery is between the Dratang turn-off and the Samye ferry crossing, which is the largest and the most essential Nyingmapa monastery. This monastery is located in the Dranang County, Shannan Prefecture, which is on the south side of the Tsangpo river. The cham dancing here is held on the 10th day of the 5th Tibetan lunar month. It was founded by Rigzin Terdak Lingpa in 1676. Tendrak Lingpa’s lineage is known as the Nyo lineage.

 Mindroling Monastery Mindroling Monastery

At Mindrolling Monastery, the learning of Buddhist scriptures, astronomy, Tibetan lunar calendar, calligraphy rhetoric, and Traditional Tibetan medicine is emphasized. After the reconstruction, the monastery is visited by numerous people every year. Mindrolling Monastery once had over 100 satellites and the throne holder of it was one of the most revered in Tibet.

1) Highlight and Time to Visit
The historical temples there have been rebuilt several times, whose walls are spotless with stones of the same size in extremely precise joints. People can enjoy the full view of the facade of the main temple with the paving of the courtyard.The Thangkas and paintings in this monastery are just supposed to prevent evil spirits and enemy attacks by representing demons and horrible creatures, which makes it well worth a visit.

The science areas of astronomy and astrology researched by monks here are previous. The compilation of the Tibetan calendar is presided by the monks through the study of stars. Traditional medicine and calligraphy are also part of their chosen field.After you plan your tour well, you can actually visit Mindrolling Monastery all year round during the opening hours from 9:00 to 18:00. A day tour from Lhasa or Tsetang to Mindrolling Monastery is recommended by Tibet Vista, a reliable local tour operator in Tibet.

2) Tips
1. If you plan to spend a night around it, you can live in the guesthouse.
2. You'd better not leave your room in the evening, for the dogs may attack you.
3. You can buy water, instant noodles and the like from a small shop near this monastery.

3. Dorje Drak

Dorje Drak was built by the 1st Rigdzin Godemchen Ngodrub Gyaltsen (1337-1409) and Dorje Drak is also seen as one of the most important monasteries in Nyingmapa.

 Dorje Drak Dorje Drak

1) Highlight and Time to Visit
You can view the statues and butter sculptures in the monastery. There is also a cabinet holding the monastery’s treasures. You can purchase lovely ground juniper incense in the upstairs chapel as well.Visitors can also spend 30 minutes to kora around the back of the dorje shaped rock behind the monastery, up to a ruined retreat atop the rock. You can enjoy the dramatic sand dunes and the stunning views from the retreat.

We recommend travelers go there in summer or autumn, for the weather during June to August is the most comfortable. You should know this monastery opens all day long, and you can arrange your visiting time according to your needs properly.

2) Tips
1. You can live in the guesthouse near the monastery to enjoy the Tibetan-style beds.
2. You can purchase soft drinks and instant noodles from small shops near it.

Other Must-Visit Attractions in Lhoka

Except the top 3 Nyingma monasteries in Lhoka, there are some other must-visit attractions in Lhoka, such as the Yungbulakang Palace, the Tradruk Temple, the Yamdrok Lake and etc. Let’s have a brief look at these places for you to prepare your tour.

1. Yungbulakang Palace

The Yungbulakang Palace is the first royal palace in Tibet, which became a monastery later. Its construction is unique with almost 2 000 years of history, which is now seen as one of the primogenital buildings in Tibet. It is located on the mountain top Jormo Zhaxi Ceri, and the view is stunning. You can see lovely murals inside the monastery, a large statue of Buddha and the the figure of the ruler Nyatri Tsenpo in the ground floor as well. The statue of Songtsan Gampo can also be viewed in it. The walls of this monastery all have the statues of Tibetan rulers, thinkers, ministers, governors, etc.

2. Tradruk Temple

Tradruk Temple is also named Changzhu Monastery, which is located in Nedong County of Shannan Prefecture. It has been listed as one of the key cultural relics protection units in China at present. It is the former residence of Songtsen Gampo and princess Wen Cheng.The architecture and great masterpieces in it have attracted numerous visitors to travel there, such as a Tangka decorated with nearly 30,000 pearls and some other gems.

3. Yamdrok Lake

Yamdrok Lake lies in the Nangartse County of Shannan Prefecture, which is 110 km away from Lhasa. It is one of the 3 holy lakes in Tibet, which stands at an elevation of 4,441 meters above sea level. As the largest inland lake on the northern range of the Himalayas, its mainly

For our experience, the best time to visit this lake is from May to July and September to mid-November, for the temperatures here are relatively mild with quite little rain. When diverse migrant birds come here to spend winter, the lake will become more charming. Please note to bring rain gear and a warm jacket with you, as it can still get cold in the early evenings and into the night. If you plan to visit this lake this year, you can choose the 5 Days Lhasa and Yamdrok Lake Small Group Tour arranged by Tibet Vista to realize your goal. You can have a glance at the detailed itineraries shown below.

Day 1: Arrival in Lhasa
Day 2: Lhasa tour - Potala Palace, Jokhang and Barkhor street (B, D)
Day 3: Lhasa tour - Drepung Monastery/Sera Monastery (B)
Day 4: Lhasa/Yamdrok Lake/Lhasa (B)
Day 5: Depart from Lhasa

Now that you have known the top three Tibetan monasteries of Nyingma sect in Lhoka and other must-visit places in Lhoka, you can now begin to plan your tour to these places. If you do not want to bother, you can just email us your inquiry and our helpful travel consultants will assist you in arranging your itinerary perfectly.

Master Kungga Dundruk

About the Author - Master Kungga Dundruk

The Lhasa-born prodigy used to study business overseas, and got his Bachelor of Business in Nepal and India before moving back to his homeland. With pure passion for life and unlimited love for Tibet, Kunga started his guide career as early as 1997.

Responsible, considerate, and humorous, he devoted his entire life to guiding and serving international tourists traveling in Tibet. As a legendary Tibetan travel guru with 20-year pro guide experience. Currently, he is working in Tibet Vista as the Tour Operating Director. Whenever our clients run into trouble, he is your first call and will offer prompt support.

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