A legend goes that a man accidentally entered the mythical paradise. After wandering aimlessly for a while he found a tree to shelter himself from the heat of the Sun. Having refreshed a bit, he felt hungry and wished for some food. Immediately the food appeared before him. He then thought he would like some wine. The wine appeared too. Startled and shocked, he thought some ghosts were there providing him everything. Then the ghost appeared.
In the Buddhist-Hindu-Jain mythology there is the legend of wish-granting tree known as the pagsam jongshing (Dz: དཔག་བསམ་ལྗོན་ཤིང; Skt: Kalpavruksha).Wish-granting trees are believed to bestow any wish one makes.
There is a story that in Paro, at the spot where Nyephu Gonpa is located today, there once stood one such pagsam jongshing tree. The people back then wished for abundant harvests. Their wish was granted. They received an endless supply of grains, fruits and vegetables – to the point that they became lazy, idle, bored and wild.
They got so wild that even attempted to kill Gyalwang Choeje Kunga Paljor (1428-1476), who back then was in retreat at Do Choten Gonpa.
They also chopped off the pagsam jongshing tree. Though there is hardly a trace of pagsam jongshing tree stands today, it is believed that one can still make a wish on the spot. Neyphu area holds the key to the mythical paradise, called Bae-Yul in Dzongkha, and that by just setting foot in the area, one is liberated from being reborn in the lower realm.
So, here I am, on the Duechen Ngazom (Vesak) of 2023 I made my maiden visit to make a wish, and had the most amazing day.
The Neyphu Valley, Paro
From Shaba Bridge, coming from Thimphu, if one turns right and takes the dirt road, one enters the Neyphu Valley. Some refer to it as Heyphu, after the name of the village below Neyphu temple.
Neyphug literally means “the sacred hermitage caves”. According to lopen Karma Jurmey, who completed a six-year retreat at Menchunag, there are 108 sacred caves.
The valley that slowly rises in altitude is a beautiful and blissful place surrounded by mountain-top temples such as Do Choten, Bemri, Dongkala and Phurdo Gonpa. It truly feels like a hidden sacred valley that is referred to as Bae-Yul in the holy scriptures. One actually only realises its sacredness when one leaves the valley and hits the Thimphu – Paro highway.
Terton Ngawang Drakpa
Neyphu Temple was established by terton (treasure revealer) Ngawang Drakpa (1525-1599), a Peling lama, born in Sha Kunzangling. According to some sources, he attained enlightenment at the peak known as Samten Tsemo (where Bemri stands today), and was looking for an appropriate site to establish a seat for his Dharma activities. The village elders of Neyphu valley offered that spot where the pagsam jongshing tree once stood.
The birth of Terton Ngawang Drakpa was envisioned by Terton Pema Lingpa (1450-1521), who left instructions to his son, Thuksey Dawa Gyeltshen, to confer to him all sacred and secret teachings and practices. Terton Ngawang Drakpa, thus travelled to Bumthang and not only was a student of Thuksey, but later also became the teacher to Terton Tshering Dorji, who founded Nyechen Dongkala. He was thus one of the greatest Bhutanese yogis and dzongchen masters of all time, who started the lineage of Nyephu Trulku. The current one is the Ninth Nyephu Trulku, Ngawang Shedrup Chokyi Nima.
In his previous existence, Terton Ngawang Drakpa was Acharya Yeshey Yang – who was a disciple of Guru Padmasambhava and responsible for all clerical works.
The main statues on the ground floor are the Duesum Sangye ( Dz. དུས་གསུམ་སངས་རྒྱས; Buddhas of The Three Eras – Buddha Dipankara, Buddha Shakyamuni and Buddha Maitreya). The statue of Shakyamuni is considered as sung-joen (talking statue) and hence is very sacred.
On the top floor the temple they plan to reinstate the statues of Guru Padmasambhava, Dorje Sempa (Vajrasattva), Sangye Tshepamay (Amitayus) and two Chenrizig Chukchizhey (Eleven-arms Avalokitesvara). Of special interest is the set of the statues representing the Eight Manifestations of Guru that were sculpted by the Fourth Neyphu Trulku, Sangdag Neduen Dorji.
The scripture/speech relic (sung-ten) is a set of Kanjur – the holy cannon of Buddhism, believed to have been written by the Second Nyephu Trulku, Sangag Gyeltshen (1600-1661).
As the most-sacred inner relics, known as the nang-ten, the monastery also has one of the Five-Envoy-Statues (སྐུ་ཚབ་) of Guru Padmasambhava – considered to be the kutshab (physical representations) of Guru, the blessing of which is at par with meeting Guru in person. (See below for background of kutshab)
The caretaker-monk says that the Kutsab statue was retrieved from the large Buddha statue at Kyichu temple in Paro. Terton Pemalingpa is believed to have seen it in his vision, and revealed it to his son, Thugsey Dawa Gyeltshen, who then later instructed Terton Ngawang Drakpa to retrieve it.
Other sacred relics are a pair of shoes that belonged to Guru Padmasambhava, the ritual hat of Zahor worn by second Neyphu Trulku, and a clay-statue of Jampayang (Manjushri), which is believed to have come flying from Tibet.
The monastery also has the Chamber of the Protector Deities of the Nyingma Tradition – Ma-Za-Dam Sum, which is the short form of Mamo Ekajati, Za Rahula, and Damchen Dorje Legpa.
The Neyphu Monasteries Network
Neyphu Monastery is not a single stand-alone temple but the centre of a vast and loose network of temples and monastic institutes in Paro, such as Bemri, Chorten Gangkha, Menchu Gonpa, Minrekha, Phurdok Gonpa, Tshedrak Gonpa, Tsundru Gonpa, Yangchi Gonpa and Zhelgno ruins (which has been restored and a cafe has been built at the side to support the monastic body).
Around Neyphu Monastery
About an hour walk from Neyphu Gonpa is a stupa, which contains the relics of Sangye Osung (Buddha Kashyapa) – making the stupa as sacred as Boudha Stupa in Kathmandu. The other close place to visit is Menchu Gonpa, where there is the self-arisen painting of Avalokitesvara.
When to visit
On any auspicious day, there are prayers and rituals to the deities and divinities. The most significant is, however, on the 8th Day of the Second month, coinciding with the Birth Anniversary of terton Ngawang Drakpa, all the sacred relics are displayed for public viewing. What is very special would be to view the Guru Kutsab statue, which is equivalent of meeting the Guru in person.
In the Eighth Century, when Guru Rinpoche was leaving for the southwestern land of the Rakshas, King Muthri Tsenpo of Tibet requested Guru to leave something behind to represent him. It is said that Guru instructed Acharya Shantarakshita to make five statues with five different costumes – of Zahor, Nepal, India, Tibet and China. The statues were buried into the earth as termas, to be revealed by tertons at a later period.
These lines were believed to have been spoken by Guru to King Mutri Tsenpo on the sacredness of the Guru Kutsab:
Whoever sees or gets blessings from these statues,
it is no different than seeing me, Guru Padmasambhava!
As for the temporal, they grant whichever common attainment one may wish for,
And ultimately, to the abode of myself, Padmasambhava, escorted with honor by the assembly of Dakas and Dakinis, will be brought to the Supreme Celestial Mansion of Lotus Luminosity!
Even the places where these statues are kept, would have no difference as that of the Celestial Mansion of Lotus Luminosity!
Huge gatherings of Dakas and Dakinis will take place, auspiciousness would pervade everywhere and there will be bountiful crops and cattle,
The kalpa (eons) of sickness, war, and famine would soon get over!