History of Pangan Monastery

Mewa Khenchen Thupten Özer

Mewa Khenchen Thupten Özer

Pangan Gonpa follows the Longchen Nyingthig tradition of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. This lineage traces its roots to the eight century, the time when Buddhism first came to Tibet from India.

Mewa Khenchen Thupten Özer was the founder of Pangan Gonpa. Khenchen Thupten Özer was born in Mewa in Nyarong in the Amdo region of Eastern Tibet. His father was Tsering Wangchuk and his mother was called Lhakyi. At the age of seven, he entered Mewa monastery and received ordination from Khenpo Yeshe Dargye and was given the name Thupten Özer, although later in life he was often referred to as Mewa Khenchen. He received teachings from his paternal uncle, Jalu Khenchen Tsewang Rigdzin, who attained the rainbow body, and also from his maternal uncle, Khenpo Sonam Nyima.

Around the age of fourteen, his paternal uncle the great Jalupa ("one who attains the rainbow body") sent him to study under Khenpo Thubga (Thupten Chophel) of Changma hermitage.  Mewa Khenchen Thubten Ozer studied sutra and tantra under Khenpo Thubga for more than a year.  Afterwards, he spent a decade studying the entire works of Jamgon Mipham Namgyal Gyamtso with his main teacher, Bodpa  Tulku Dongak Tenpé Nyima from Gegong Monastery in Dzachuka. Mewa Khenchen Thubten Ozer stayed at Changma Rithro in Dzachuka, opposite Gegong Monastery where he received teachings from more than 30 teachers. His main teachers were all from the Longchen Nyingthig tradition of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Mewa Khenchen Thubten Özer left Tibet for Tso Pema, India in 1960 when he was 32 years old. In 1964, he received his Gelong vows (full ordination) from Kyabje Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche in Tso Pema Nyingma Monastery. In 1965, he moved to a place called Pangan, near Manali in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh. It was an empty valley at that time, and Mewa Khenchen Thubten Ozer came to start a solitary retreat. He stayed in a cave for the first five or six years of his retreat. Afterwards, a local man named Wangchuk built a small temple made of old metal. The temple was large enough for about 20 people. Slowly, people heard about the temple and others came to join Mewa Khenchen Thubten Ozer because of his good reputation. Children started to come, and over time the monastery grew. 

After spending about 13 years in retreat in Pangan,Mewa Khencheb Thubten Özer found himself surrounded by students and began teaching all the tulkus, khenpos, lamas, monks and nuns that had come to ask him for guidance.  He became known for the special kindness and care he took in the training and teaching of nuns, whom he treated as equals to all of the monks.

Mewa Khenchen Thubten Ozer passed away in September of 2000. By that time, he was considered to be one of the most important teachers for many of the Nyingma tulkus and lineage-holders teaching today.

After Mewa Khenchen Thubten Özer passed away, representatives from Pangan Gonpa traveled to Chorten Gonpa, H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche's monastery in Gangtok, Sikkim. At Chorten Gonpa, many puja ceremonies were performed for signs of where to find the new Yangsi ("reincarnation") of Mewa Khenchen Thubten Ozer.

Yangsi Rinpoche Jigme Tenzin Gyurme

On July 20, 2001 Mewa Khenchen Thubten Özer took rebirth in Toronto in Ontario, Canada. His reincarnation, known as Yangsi Rinpoche Jigme Tenzin Gyurme was recognized at age six by H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche. Yangsi Rinpoche initially received the name Gonpo from H.H. Penor Rinpoche. Yangsi Rinpoche's parents had lived in Manali at one time and had been students of Mewa Khenchen Thubten Ozer.  At age six, Yangsi Rinpoche briefly returned to Pangan Gonpa and then went to live at Dodrupchen Rinpoche's monastery in Sikkim. Yangsi Rinpoche is now 18 years old and receiving a traditional monastic education at Chorten Gonpa. He will remain at Dodrupchen's monastery until his education is complete, and then he will return to his traditional monastic seat at Pangan Gonpa.

Khenpo Samten Tsering

Khenpo Samten Tsering is the current president of Pangan Gonpa. Khenpo Samten was born not far from the monastery in the hill town of Manali. His father was Tsering Jambal and his mother was Yangdon.  Khenpo Samten Tsering came to Pangan Gonpa in 1979. He took novice ordination vows at age seven and Gelong vows at age 20. 

Khenpo Samten Tsering was Mewa Khenchen Thubten Özer's main disciple for 21 years. He studied at Pangan Gonpa for 10 years and then at the prestigious Sakya College in Dehradun for nine years. While at Sakya College, he studied under the late Khenpo Migmar Tsering, Khenpo Jamyang Tenzin and Khenpo Lungrik Sengay, graduating with the title of Lopon (Master of Philosophy) in 1997. His other main teachers include Khenchen Appey Rinpoche, Khenchen Kunga Wangchuk, H.H. Sakya Trinzin, H.E. Ngor Sharchen Ludhing Khen Rinpoche and H.H. the Dalai Lama.

After graduation from Sakya College, Khenpo Samten returned to Pangan Gonpa. In 1999, Mewa Khenchen Thubten Ozer started a school of Buddhist philosophical studies for the younger resident monks and nuns. That same year, Khenpo Samten was appointed as the teacher of the school. 

In 2008 Khenpo Samten Tsering was awarded the title of Khenpo by both H.H. Sakya Trinzin and the Sakya College. Khenpo Samten Tsering continued to teach at Pangan Gonpa until 2012.

On September 20, 2012, Khenpo Samten Tsering was elected as president of the monastery for a three- year term. He was re-elected in 2015 and again in 2018 and will continue to serve until 2021. Over the years, many disciples of Mewa Khenchen Thubten Ozer came to the monastery from all over India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. Currently, the Pangan Gonpa has 125 members, consisting of both monks and nuns ranging in age from 20 to 80. However, when Khenpo Samten Tsering first arrived at Pangan Gonpa, there were only 30 people. In those early days, life at the monastery was very difficult. There were no real buildings, only small structures made of wood, earth and metal. 

Since those early days, H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche has visited Pangan Gonpa, as well as Chatral Rinpoche, Khenpo Dazer and other teachers from Tibet. Most recently, Taklung Tsethrul Rinpoche came in September 2015 and bestowed the Nyingthig tsa sum (Three Roots) empowerments. In June 2016, H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche came to the monastery and bestowed a tse wang (long life) ceremony and also the Tsig Sum Nedeg ("Three Words That Strike the Vital Points”) oral transmission.

Ngoedup Choeling School

Since Mewa Khenchen Thubten Özer passed away in 2000, few new monks and nuns have come to Pangan Gonpa. So, in 2014 the monastery developed a plan to build a school for young children around the ages of eight to 10. The school would ultimately have facilities for 30 students. The children would take novice ordination vows when they arrive, and they would receive a traditional monastic education in the Tibetan language. As the children get older and new students come, the monastery would continue to grow and flourish. H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche provided the initial guidance on the establishment of the school, and the teachers were selected from within the monastery.

Construction began later in 2014 and the grand opening of the Ngoedup Choeling School was held on June 4, 2017. The school building has four stories and is located near the top of the monastery. The school building currently has several classrooms, as well as dormitory bedrooms and bathrooms for 15 students. There is a kitchen, dining room, small shrine room, office space, rooms for teachers and administrative staff, and several rooms for visitors and retreats.

Recently, the monastery has developed plans to construct an adjacent building containing a library, larger shrine room, additional classroom, bedrooms, bathrooms and related facilities. The school will need this additional space in order to accommodate 30 students, and in particular as the students begin to get older they will need additional space.