Sharchukhul Monastery

Sharkhul Phuntsog Choling (shar khul phun tshogs chos gling) is one of the three main Drikung Kagyu Monasteries in Ladakh. It is one of 3525 monasteries prophesied by Lord Jigten Sumgon. Some say that Sharchukhul was the first Drikung monastery in Ladakh established by Denma Kunga Drakpa.

As early as during the reign of the 12th King of Ladakh Lhachen Ngodrub (reigned 1290-1320) one of the main pupils of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon, Chenga Sherab Jungne (spyan snga shes rab ‘byung gnas, 1187-1241) visited Ladakh while he was staying in the Kailash region in western Tibet. He entered Ladakh (then called Mangyul, mang yul) through the region of lake Pangong. In its vicinity he spent some time meditating in a cave at Pangmig Serbumchen (pang mig gser bum can). Chenga Sherab Jungne used to walk down to the lake from his retreat cave along a path lined by flowers with golden blossoms called Serbum (gser bum). Hence also the monastery later built at this place was called Serbumchen (gser bum can).

Shachukul Monastery

At the shrine of Serbumchen a statue of Jigten Sumgon was erected during the lifetime of Sherab Jungne. Nearby the White Monastery (gon dkar po) was founded with a retreat center for practitioners. Serbumchen and Gonkarpo were the first establishments of the Drikung Kagyu lineage in Ladakh.
However for three centuries there was no expansion of the order in the region. This situation changed remarkably with the arrival of Denma Kunga Drakpa (ldan ma kun dga’ grags pa) as the new Dorzin (meditation master) at Gyangdrag Monastery at Mount Kailash in the early 16th century. His fame spread to the neighboring country and he accepted an invitation from the king of Ladakh, Tashi Namgyal (bkra shis rnam rgyal, ca. 1555-1575) Kunga Drakpa became the root master of the king and was rewarded for his spiritual guidance with land and monasteries. It was due to his impressive personality and his efforts that the main monasteries of the Drikungpa were established in Ladakh: Phyang, Lamayuru, and Sharchukhul.

During the 18th century the 6th reincarnation of Togden Rinpoche, Tenzin Chodrak, had renewed the influence of the Drikungpa in Ladakh. He was the first tulku of his reincarnation lineage to leave central Tibet and settle in Phyang Monastery for a long time, where he became the teacher of two kings of Ladakh.

The 8th Togden Ngawang Lodro Gyaltsen, who was the son of Jigme Kunga Namgyal, a prince of Ladakh, received his monastic training in Yangrigar Monastery. After his return he renovated the monasteries of Phyang and Lamayuru. The present 9th Togden Rinpoche Konchog Tenzin Thubten Tenpe Gyaltsen, born in 1938 in Dorkhul, a small village in eastern Ladakh, is one of the most learned and influential men in the spiritual life of Ladakh. He is also the 33rd Drikung Choje (Dharma Master) of Ladakh.

Fell into decay. Legend tells that Denma Kunga Drakpa ordered the monks of Sharchukhul to carry the old statue of Jigten Sumgon from Serbumchen into their new monastery. As they made a pause on the way, they were not able to move the figure any more. It is said that the statue then flew to Sharchukhul monastery.

When the 6th Chungtsang Chokyi Lodro (1868-1906) visited the three main Drikung monasteries of Ladakh in 1897 he spent the summer at Sharchukhul. During that time while gazing at the Snow Mountains he saw Dakinis. Chokyi Lodro composed the ritual text Tsugtor Namgyal Tongcho (gtsug gtor rnam rgyal stong mchod) at Sharchukhul. While he performed a religious ceremony (‘jam dpal gshin rje sgub chen) in the winter time, nectar flowed from the skull head.

In earlier times Sharchukhul Monastery used to be a branch of Phyang Monastery. During the visit of Kyabgon Chokyi Lodro a new rule was put in power that assigned to the three parts of Ladakh each their own independent main monastery: Sharchukhul, Phyang, and Lamayuru. Thus the monastery that had been under the care of thirty-one Dharma masters (chos rje) was officially recognized as the main monastery of the Chanthang region in Ladakh under the 31th Choje Togden Konchok Tenzin Damcho Gyurme.

Later, the old monastery was fully renovated and new structures added by Chagdzo Phurbu with generous donations and support from the monks and lay followers. Upon the completion of the renovation it was named Shargon Phuntsog Choling. Presently, the monastery has more than one hundred resident monks and a dozen of more than eighteen branch monasteries spread all over Lalok-Chanthang.