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Shechen Monastery, Kham Tibet

Shechen Monastery in eastern Tibet was the heart of a network of nearly a hundred and sixty monasteries. It was founded in 1695 by Rabjam Tenpai Gyaltsen who had been sent by the Fifth Dalai Lama to Kham with the mission to found a Nyingma monastery. When he arrived there, Rabjam Tenpai Gyaltsen had a vision in which the great master Padmasambhava advised him to build a monastery near a white rock in the shape of a leaping lion. He predicted that if it was built, "immense benefits for the Buddha's teaching will be the result."

Shechen rapidly became one of the six principal monasteries of the Nyingma, or "ancient" tradition. It was renowned for the pure spirituality of its teachers and hermits, for the quality of the teaching at its philosophical college, and for the authenticity of its sacred arts (ritual, chants, music and dance). Many great masters originated from Shechen Monastery including Shechen Gyalstab, Shechen Kongtrul, Khempo Gangsar, and the sage Mipham Rinpoche. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa and many other important 20th century teachers took teachings at the Monastery.

Following the Chinese communist invasion of Tibet in 1957, the Monastery and its 110 branch monasteries were all razed to the ground. In 1985 when Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche returned to Tibet after more than twenty-five years in exile, he found nothing but ruins. Thanks to his inspiration and to the unchangeable strength of mind of the Tibetan people, the Monastery is now rebuilt and despite the difficult situation in Tibet, its activities have partially been resumed.

With his support and that of the present abbot of Shechen Monastery, the seventh Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, the long process of rebuilding has begun. The restoration of the main Shechen Monastery is almost finished and about thirty of its affiliated monasteries have been rebuilt, but an enormous amount still needs to be done.

The Shedra (monastic college) was reconstructed with the hope that Shechen can once again become a key center of knowledge. The nine-year college program has proven to be very successful and facilities are being expanded to accommodate a total of 200 students. The rebuilt three-year retreat center needs to be expanded so that more people can participate. Funds are needed to complete these projects.

Shechen has also constructed a school for 130 children and a medical dispensary to help the poor lay nomadic community that lives in the area and has no access to educational facilities or health care.