Dzongsar Gonpa - its History before 1958:
According to Phuma Phuntsok, (who wrote a book on Dzongsar Gonpa in 1846) Dzongsar Gonpa was founded in 746 AD by a Bonpo Lama. Originally there was just a very small temple at this site, called Jowo-Lha-Chig-Kar-Chig ( One statue, One pillar) by the local people. The Bonpo Tenpa statue, from these earliest times, still stood in the temple until 1958. The original Bonpo Gonpa was later transformed into a Nyingmapa temple at an unknown date. Likewise the Nyingmapa Gonpa later became a Kadampa Gonpa. There are no records of Lamas and their Institution before 1275. In 1275, when Choegyal Phagpa returned from China, he visited this temple and transformed it into a Sakyapa Gonpa.
Before 1958 Dzongsar Gonpa had between three to five hundred monks, the development of the Shekdra and retreat centres was flourishing and the monastery was able to perform an unbroken calendar of pujas throughout the year.
The Khyentse Labrang of Dzongsar Gonpa was noteable for its unique and special collection of Rime scriptures and teachings, gathered by Jamgon Kongtrul, Chokyi Lingpa and Khyentse Wangpo (- the chief architects of the Rime movement.) The Rime (or ecumenical or non-sectarian) movement had become a vital part of the resurgence of Tibetan Buddhism not only in Kham, but in the whole of Tibet. Due to the non sectarian approach of the Rime movement Dzongsar had become a place where it was possible to study the essence of all eight Buddhist schools.
Dzongsar Gonpa had twenty three temples, large and small. Among them were many important sacred rooms. The holy sites, like Khamshe Shekdra, Karmo Taktsang retreat centre, Gargu Shangchub Rihtrek (a retreat centre as well as a place of teaching), Zamnang Pema Shelpuk, Zingkhok Trawo retreat centre, Tsedrak Drulphuk, Gyalgen Chungtak, Munong Dorjee Drakal, Tsa-chu-juk Chenresig Lhakang, Honda Thongthong Gyalpo, and many other important places are described in the introduction "Holy Sites and Mountain Gods."
Dzongsar Monastery was not only dedicated to the Sakya tradition but to all the other great Tibetan Buddhist schools. Since both the first and second Khyentses became the Gurus of most of the local rulers in Tibet their influence was wide reaching, particularly in Dege. For example during the time of the Dege kings, three of the King's ministers had to take care of the Shekdra and Drulda for five years in turn. During this time Mehnshek, Taerlung and Zingkhok belonged to one Dzong (or fiefdom). The Dzongsar Choetrim (Master of Monastery rules) had the same power as the Dzongpon. Though the Khyentses had political power as the Gurus of many local rulers they never missused it. Dzongsar Gonpa also sent monks to other Gonpas, such as Zingkhok, Ponzong Gon, Dratho Gon and Bachung Gon.
The New Dzongsar Monastery:
In 1983 Dzongsar Gonpa began to rebuild the temples and institutions. Till now six large and small temples, the residence of the Khyentses and onehundred and eighty monk's residences have been rebuilt. The main temples cover forty eight thousand and two hundred square meters. At the moment there are more than two hundred monks in the monastery, conducting eighteen different pujas over onehundred and fifty days. Although it is difficult to maintain funding for all these ceremonies the aim is to eventually restore the entire unbroken calendar of pujas. Dzongsar Gonpa also runs a school for sixty local children where they learn the Tibetan traditions and some Chinese. The other institutions, such as Shekdras, Retreat Centres, Holy sites and Dege Dzongsar Tibetan medical Institute are written about in other articles.
The area in which Dzongsar Gonpa is situated now belongs to Mehnshek area, Dege County, Ganze Tibetan autonomous region in Sichuan Province of the People's Republic of China.
Written by Lodre Phuntsok in 1999 in Chengdu, China, and revised in Dzongsar with added material available there.