Particularities of Dagpo Shedrub Ling
Dagpo Shedrub Ling was and still is renowned among Tibetans for a number of remarkable traits.
The Subjects Studied
Buddhist philosophy is taught and studied with reference to five major treatises, as well as Je Tsongkhapa’s Great Lamrim. Teaching and meditating the instructions the latter contains form its core practice that earned the monastery the name of Lamrim Dratsang. In Tibet every spring a special session was dedicated to the study and practice of the Lamrim, and once every three years the abbot taught the complete of the Great Lamrim (800 pages).
Thanks to these efforts the Lamrim teaching was widespread in Dagpo. Numerous monks achieved high realizations through meditating on the Lamrim’s topics and as a result the Lamrim teaching lineage includes many spiritual teachers from Dagpo Shedrub Ling.
Stated very simply, the Lamrim is a step-by-step training in the three principal qualities of the spiritual path: renunciation from attachment and the wish for freedom, the altruistic aspiration to Buddhahood (bodhicitta) and insight into the emptiness of inherent existence through the understanding of everything’s interdependence (correct view).
In 2000 an English translation of the Great Lamrim of Je Tsongkhapa was printed by Snow Lion Publications. In the notes on the back of the book Professor Robert A.F. Thurman called this book “…one of the greatest religious or secular works in the library of our human heritage” and Professor D.S. Ruegg of the University of London commented, “The Great Treatise is one of the world’s great monuments of philosophy and spirituality as well as one of the most renowned works of Buddhist thought and practice to have been composed in Tibet”.
How Knowledge is Tested
During the long period of their studies, the monks’ ability to memorize the works they are studying is regularly tested, as is their ability to apply that knowledge in dialectic debate. Once they have covered the curriculum and passed the final examinations, they receive the title of Rabjam, the equivalent of Geshe in other monastic institutions. They may then enter a college specialized in the study of tantra, the esoteric branch of Buddhism.
Dagpo Dratsang is famous for its beautiful chanting and melodies. They are mentioned in many biographies of spiritual teachers. A large number of the melodies still used during prayers and rituals today were created by the 2nd Dalai Lama. Most of them were composed spontaneously subsequent to a practitioner’s exceptional spiritual experience.
Strict Monastic Discipline
Dagpo Shedrup Ling is renowned for its strict application of the vinaya, (the rules of monastic discipline) as set forth by the Buddha in the fifth century BC . For example in Tibet the wearing of shoes in the monastery was forbidden, even in the depths of winter, and at all times travelling on horseback was prohibited. To avoid greed and desire, no one, not even the abbot, was allowed to use utensils made of valuable materials such as silver, copper, porcelain or even aluminium. Only those made from materials such as clay, stone, iron or wood could be used.