Drepung Lubum Khamtsen

His Holiness Buddha Maitreya first visited the Khamtsen in 2002 and began a program of improving the living conditions of the Monks, their building and facilities. In 2004, His Holiness was recognized as a Reincarnated Lama, Lama Dorje and Senior Rinpoche of the Monastery. Lama Dorje's life is the subject of the movie Little Buddha. Recognition »

In the same year, the Church sponsored a troupe of monks from Lubum on a Tour for World Peace to help preserve and further Tibetan Monastic Culture and raise funds for their monastery and general awareness of monastic life and conditions for Tibetan Buddhists in exile. Their tour took them to the United Kingdom where they were resident at the Buddha Maitreya Monastery in Glastonbury, Somerset and travelled around the country, giving live spiritual performances of Tibetan Music and Sacred Dance, Ceremonial Pujas "prayers", Sand Mandalas and teaching an introductory course on Buddhist Teachings & Philosophy.

Drepung Lubum History
Drepung Lubum is one of the sixteen Khangstens, or "houses", of Drepung Gomang College, which is one of the two main colleges (the other being Loseling) of the great Drepung Monastic University. Lubum was founded by one of the students of Je Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelukpa, or Virtuous, order of Tibetan Buddhism. His incarnation was prophesied by Buddha Sakyamuni who stated that Tsong Khapa would be the emanation of a bodhisattva of the greatest renown (Manjushri) and would attain the complete enjoyment body of a buddha.

Lubum has an illustrious history. Lama Tsong Khapa belongs to Lubum Khangsten. The name Lubum means "millions of naga", and is the place where Tsong Khapa's father, who came to be known as Lubum Ge, or "good Lubum", was born. The Lubum valley is one of the six valleys of the area in Tibet known as "Lubum Six Valley", where Tsong Khapa's home monastery may still be found today and which His Holiness Buddha Maitreya was invited to make pilgrimage to in September 2003.

Famous Tibetan saints and scholars, such as KunChen Jigme Wongpo and the great Dobe Geshe Sharab Gyatso, have also been members of Drepung Gomang College. The Lubum roster, known throughout the ages, includes many of the Gelukpa sect's great abbots and reincarnated tulkus. In more recent times, Lubum produced the great scholars Bode Geshe Sharab Gyatso and Dedun Choepel, the renowned cultural scholar Sezang Lobsang Palden Chokyi Dorje, and Dobe Kalsang Gyatso.

Amazingly, this tradition of excellence has survived to the present day. Lubum Khangsten's Larampa Alek Yongzing Rinpoche and Larampa Lobsang Gedun are two of the highest ranked living Geshes (Buddhist professors) of the three great Gelukpa Universities (Drepung, Sera and Ganden), having both in turn taken first place in the Gelukpa Geshe examinations. They teach daily to over five hundred students from all the different colleges and their Khangstens, as well as their own Lubum monks. There are also Tibetan doctors, thangka painters, Tibetan Writers, and Tibetan astrologers in residence, as well as Lubum monks working in Tibetan schools and hospitals around India.

Tsong Khapa Statue
Lubum Monastery, Tibet
Study at the Drepung Lubum Khangsten is rigorous. Each morning, for six days a week, and forty-six weeks a year, the monks memorize texts for one hour and debate for two hours. After lunch, they have three hours of class, followed by another two hours of debate. In the evening, the debate practice continues, often until the early hours of the morning.

The traditional education of the Lubum novice monk starts with the memorizing of scriptures and learning of the elementary texts. The mode of instruction at this stage is through discussion or dialogue between the teacher (Geshe) and students, using a dialectical method of inquiry. After more than twenty years of extensive study in the Pramana, Madhyamika, Abidharma, and related subjects, the monk sits before the Gelukpa Board of Examiners, and if successful, will then be honored with the Geshe degree, which is the equivalent of the Western Ph.D. in philosophy.

Before 1959, Lubum Khangsten was one of the main Khangstens of Drepung. It had little need of outside sponsorship for improving facilities and day-to-day living conditions - the kind of help required today. In the old days there was a large prayer hall and sufficient accommodations for all student-monks. On the many festival days throughout the year, large numbers of pilgrims would visit Lubum Khangsten in Lhasa to give offerings and in turn receive the blessings of its relics, such as the ancient scriptures believed to have been brought by the nagas from under the ocean, numerous rare statues, and in particular the famous "White Umbrella" Dug-kar Thangka painted by Lama Tsong Khapa himself, and which included his own blood.

The First Lubum Monastery, Birthplace of Je Tsong Khapa, Tibet
The Cultural Revolution destroyed these relics as well as much of Drepung itself. Forty of the Lubum monks followed the Dalai Lama into exile. Ten years later, in 1969, twenty monks re-established Lubum Khangsten in the dense tropical forest of Mundgod, the Tibetan refugee settlement in south India donated by the Indian government. Today, more than forty years later, over two hundred monks now study at Lubum Khangsten. Their numbers have been steadily increasing since the early 1980s when monks as young as 14 years old started to escape from Tibet, traveling to Dharamsala, and on to the Drepung refugee camp. Most of the Lubum monks come, as they have always done, from the area of Tsonon in eastern Tibet - the region around the Chinese city of Xining. Since the 1980s over four hundred monks have come from Tibet, most of them attaining their Geshe degree and then returning to Tibet, or going on to teach at other Tibetan camps or schools.

Lubum Khangsten must provide facilities for all newly arriving monks from their traditional geographical region. No monk who wishes to study the great texts is turned away. Very few come with any resources of their own. They are usually penniless and in a poor state of health.

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