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Drak Yerpa

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The historical complex of caves and temples of Drak Yerpa, the entrance to the Yerpa Valley, is located about 16-kilometres northeast of Lhasa, on the northern bank of the River Kyichu. The great and ancient meditation caves in the spectacular limestone cliffs of the Yerpa Valley are sacred places for Buddhist belief and to all.

There are several small hermitages and shrines, and the site of the cliff contains the ancient meditation sites in Tibet, dating back to pre-Buddhist times. Among the most famous are those traditionally connected with Songtsän Gampo, the first emperor of the united Tibet and the 33rd king of the Yarlung Dynasty, 604–650 CE. His Tibetan queen, Monza Triucham, founded the Drak Yerpa temple here. Songtsan Gampo and his two foreign-born queens are said to have meditated in the Peu Marsergyi Temple and Chogyel Phuk (Phuk – Cave) and discovered self-originated symbols of the Buddha-body, speech and mind. From the late 7th to early 8th century, Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche meditated and practised tantric yoga with his yogini Yeshe Tsogyal for seven months in the Dawa Phuk; the site is among his three most important places of attainment. In the course, Yerpa became one of the three most important meditation and retreat centres in Central Tibet. Many of Guru Rinpoche’s disciples meditated here. The Atisha, 982-1054 CE, preached extensively in the valley. The hermitage of Atisha is still in ruins but had 300 monks until the late 19th century and was the summer quarters for the Ramoche Monastery, the Upper Tantric College. After the cultural revolutions ‘ destructions, most of the temples and monasteries are newly built. One can see the giant ruins of monasteries, around and far from the site, destructed in cultural revolutions.

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