The Wealth and Wellbeing Temples of Dodeydra

I spent the first day of this holy Saga Dawa month by making my bi-annual visit to the sacred temples of Dodeydra in Thimphu – a Drukpa Kagyu establishment on the  northwestern ridges. 

I have been visiting this beautiful place for over 20 years now. It is a nice two-hour hike but with a killer uphill climb right at the start, which, if you can survive, provides you the most stunning view of Thimphu valley. 

In recent years Dodeydra has become a wellbeing temple for me and for my friends from abroad. Two of my American friends recovered from a life-threatening disease after we sought the prayers here. Another launched his business and visits Bhutan every year and conducts his annual kurim. It has become the official temple for my wellbeing journey.   

The Cave of Scriptures 

Dodeydra, which literally means “Cave of Scriptures”, gets its name from Dodey Kesang – a sacred Buddhist sutra set, which is believed to have been revealed from the rocks over which a temple now stands. The main temple, called the Tsuglakhang, was established by the 13th Je Khenpo (chief abbot) of Bhutan, Yonten Thaye (1724-84) in 1779. It also became the seat of two subsequent Je Khenpos – of the 18th Je Jamyang Gyaltshen, and of the 27th and 29th Je Pema Zangpo.

The health temple

Palden Lhamo is one of the eight major dharmapalas, and the only female, in Vajrayana Buddhism. She is also one of the three supreme protectors of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Known as Sri Devi in Sanskrit, she is believed to be the emanation of Mahakali – and the wrathful manifestation of Lhamo Yangchenma (Saraswati).

What many do not know is that Palden Lhamo is believed to help people recover from illnesses and diseases. Legend has it that when she was escaping from her evil husband-king, her mount, the donkey, was hit by an arrow. She pulled out the arrow and turned the wound into an eye. In the black pouch she holds in her left hand she is believed to collect the pain and diseases of the devotees.

Story goes that when Je Pema Zangpo was meditating in a cave below, he heard the bray of the donkey of Palden Lhamo. He also saw the deity in his dreams. He later came across the donkey dung, which is now preserved in this temple as a sacred relic.

The temple, nicknamed Pem Zam Lhakhang, has the Tshela Namsum (Longevity Trinity) of Sangye Tshepamay (Buddha Amityus), Jetsun Drolma (Tara) and Namgyelma (Unisha Vijjaya) as the main statues. Hence, a kurim ritual here for the sick, or long life wishes, prayers or blessing ceremonies are recommended.

The wealth temple

The Tsuglakhang is a three-storied structure that looks as though it is pasted on a vertical rockface. Legend has it that the large boulder split into two, revealing the sacred scripture set, and the giant slab that broke away is visible from the stupa nearby.

The ground floor of the Tsuglakhang is a museum consisting of the personal effects of the three Je Khenpos. The top floor is dedicated to Zhabdrung Phuntshum Tshogpa and to his tutelary deity, Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala). The main temple is in the middle floor, and has Buddha Shakyamuni, Aum Zinchen Wangmo, and the inner sanctum of the three Je Khenpos plus Shabdrung Jigme Drakpa (1791—1830).

Since the mediaeval era, local traders and merchants leaving for Tibet and India  would pay a visit here to seek the blessings of Aum Zinchen Wangmo for a safe journey and a successful business trip. On their return they would bring a gift for her – usually consisting of corals and turquoise, as she is believed to be fond of them.

Aum Zinchen Wangmo is also known as Dorje Yudronma, who is considered as one of the Twelve Tenmas (Dz. བསྟན་མ་བཅུ་གཉིས་, Skt. sthāvarā) in Vajrayana Buddhism, and who are believed to have been subdued by Guru Padmasambhava and enrolled as worldly dharma protectors.

Dorje Yudronma is also known for providing a perfect divination with her turquoise drum that she holds in her right hand. State oracles of the Tibetan government in the past often consulted her through a medium.

Here, to seek her divination one must roll the dice and hit the perfect 5 (which is statistically quite difficult) or 7 or 15. If you receive one of the numbers you have her total blessings. Your wish will also be fulfilled if you have other numbers associated to other deities and divinities. However, as a worldly dharma protector, once you accomplish your mission you must return there and express your gratitude by bringing a piece of jewellery as a gift.

In some Vajrayana traditions, Aum Zinchen Wangmo is considered as one of the Six Ejajati Sisters. Aum Jomo is believed to be the eldest and Aum Zinchen Wangmo is the youngest and the most beautiful.

Buddha wears a crown

Coincidentally, in the same temple the statue of Buddha Shakyamuni also exhibits wealth by wearing a crown. This is strange, because Buddha is normally represented as wearing only a robe. But there is an interesting story behind the crown.

During the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the King of Ladakh offered four estates around Mt. Kailash to Zhabdrung as a gift (the land was Bhutan’s exclave inside Tibet until the late 20th Century). A lama, who was referred to as Gangri Lam was sent from Bhutan. During the long journey there and back they often met a tragic end at the hands of thieves and bandits.

One particular Lam from Geleykha who was deputed there, prayed to this Buddha Shakyamuni before he left, and promised to offer something valuable if he made it safely back to Bhutan. He did make it back and hence, the crown on the Buddha.

The Weeping Avalokiteshvara

One thing that I never miss is the mind-blowing mural painting of Chenrizig (Avalokiteshvara), which is believed to have shed tears when Kyabje Jamyang Gyaltshen passed away. It is to the immediate left after you enter the inner sanctum of the four lamas. The mural painting in the main temple is attributed as the handwork of Je Jamyang Gyaltsen himself.

The wellbeing temple

Mahayana Buddhism, and also Vajrayana, does not frown upon people seeking wealth or longevity as long as both are employed as means to attain a greater good, such as enlightenment, or to help others to achieve the same. What would be wrong is to practice materialistic tendencies such as hoarding or hedonism.

The third temple is the Kuenra – main prayer hall. And here, where the monks gather every day there are two very sacred statues that flank the main statues of Duesum Sangye (Buddhas of Three Era). They are Jetsun Jamyang (Manjushri) and Lhamo Yangchenma (Saraswati). Both are believed to be sungjoen (statues that have spoken).

These two divinities help the devotees and practitioners not only to acquire knowledge but to also conquer ignorance – which is one of the main causes of suffering. What one should aspire for is to attain wellbeing and equanimity, and work towards enlightenment, and to eventually remove oneself from the cyclic existence of the Samsara. Knowledge and wisdom are thus seen as the best tools to get there. While we may not be able to dedicate our whole life like the monks, time is relative in Buddhism. Even if one can spend a minute or an hour there in silence and in good intention it is a great start of your journey towards realisation.

Honorary mentionThe wellbeing waters

At the side of the Tsuglakhang is a small spring that is believed to have been blessed by the mantras of Namgyelma (Unisha Vijjaya) – the Victorious One. Namgyelma is the deity of both health and wealth. Story goes that Je Yonten Thaye on his third visit to the holy Tsari Mountains in Tibet brought a rock which when he placed it over another rock at Dodeydra produced this Namgyelma Drupchu. 

The water is believed to cleanse one’s bad karma that may be standing in our way towards health, prosperity and enlightenment.

My annual offerings to Aum Zinchen Wangmo.

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