Monastery ruins, 1993
|Wylie transliteration||g•yer pa|
|Pronunciation in IPA||[[jeːpa]]|
|Official transcription (PRC)||Yêrba|
|Location||Yerpa Valley, Lhasa Prefecture, Tibet, China|
|Founded by||Songtsen Gampo and Trisong Detsen|
Yerpa (also known as: Brag Yer-pa, Drak Yerpa, Druk Yerpa, Dagyeba, Dayerpa, and Trayerpa), is only a short drive to the east of Lhasa, Tibet, and consists of a monastery and a number of ancient meditation caves that used to house about 300 monks.
The entrance to the Yerpa Valley is about 16 km northeast of Lhasa on the northern bank of the Kyichu. From there, it is another 10 km to the famous ancient meditation caves in the spectacular limestone cliffs of the Yerpa Valley. (Tibetan: བྲག་ཡེར་པ་, Wylie: Brag Yer-pa)
There are a number of small temples shrines and hermitages and the cliffs contain some of the earliest known meditation sites in Tibet, some dating back to pre-Buddhist times. Among the more famous are those traditionally connected with Songtsen Gampo (604–650 CE), (traditionally the 33rd king of the Yarlung Dynasty and first emperor of a united Tibet). His Tibetan queen, Monza Triucham, founded the Dra Yerpa temple here.
He and his two foreign-born queens are said to have meditated in the 'Peu Marsergyi Temple' and in the 'Chogyel Puk', and to have discovered 'self-originated' symbols of the Buddha-body, speech and mind. Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche (late 8th to early 9th century), meditated and practiced tantric yoga with his yogini Yeshe Tsogyal here, and to have spent 7 months in meditation in the 'Dawa Puk', which is considered to be one of his three most important places of attainment.
After this, Yerpa became one of the three most important centres of meditation and retreat in Central Tibet. Several of Guru Rinpoche's disciples are also said to have meditated here. Atisha (982 – 1054 CE) preached extensively in the valley. Atisha's hermitage is in ruins but had 300 monks in the 19th century and was the summer quarters for the Ramoche Monastery (the Upper Tantric College).
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Tradition says that after Songtsen Gampo's only son, Gungri Gungsten, was born to Mangza Tricham, Princess of Mang, one of his wives: "A shrine and a stupa dedicated to the tutelary deity of mother and son were built upon the lap of a rocky mountain that resembled a seated image of the Holy Tara in the region of Yerpa."
The famous legendary hero Gesar of Ling is said to have visited the valley. The holes his arrows left in the cliffs are believed to be evidence of his presence.
The ancient Kadampa gompa (Yerpa Drubde) passed to the Gelukpa control after Tsongkapa's reformation. There were some 300 monks living here from at least the beginning of the 19th century until 1959. It also acted as summer residence for the Gyuto Lhasa Tantric College. The gompa was destroyed and the caves ransacked during the cultural revolution but there has been some rebuilding; new statues have been made and images repainted in the caves.
After Lhalung Pelgyi Dorje assassinated the anti-Buddhist Bon Emperor Langdarma in 842 CE, he is said to have hidden himself in a cave and meditated for 22 years, and his hat was kept there until 1959.
There is an ancient sky burial site opposite the main caves.
Entrance to Dawa Puk, Guru Rinpoche's cave
A statue of Emperor Songtsän Gampo in his meditation cave at Yerpa
Statue of Guru Rinpoche in his meditation cave at Yerpa
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- Dowman (1988) p. 79.
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