Palace Athub – the house of 16th Karmapa

In October 2017 we organise the trip to Eastern Tibet. We are going to Kham again, and we want to take a dozen of friends with us. We are going to visit new and already discovered places in Eastern Tibet. We are also open to any new connections, that is why if you don’t consider yourself a Buddhist, welcome to our group anyway!

Dates of the trip and the points of entry and exit are published! Look the programm!

The house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

The house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Here is the information from Pavel Martynov, that has been living and working in China for many years. He gave us a tip where to find the house of Karmapa XVI. Because Pavel speaks very well Chinese, you can find different transliterations of some Tibetan names.

Palace Athub - the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Palace Athub – the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Palace Athub.

The house was built about 300 years ago when Sakya school was predominating in the region. Soon afterwards Gelugpa school came to power and stays still the most popular school nowadays. About 150 years ago the house was completely repaired. A bit later the father of Karmapa XVI became a local governor and bought the house. That is how the house got its current name – Palace of Athub klan. Initially the house had an adobe base and a wooden frame. In 1930s  the extra floor made from clay and little stones was built over it.

Denkok in Eastern Tibet

Denkok in Eastern Tibet

In front of the house there is a square so that people could gather on great religious holidays. In the middle of the square there a monument to a legendary Tibetan hero – Denmar the Archer. Denmar is less popular than Geser outside Tibet but he is still greatly honored in Kham. Denkhok Valley is also considered to be his homeland. And the name of Denmar the Archer was mentioned in Karmapa XV’s letter where he foretells his next reincarnation.

Palace Athub - the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Palace Athub – the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

On the first floor there were some administrative rooms in one of which the father of Karmapa XVI was meeting with his executors, dealing with local court cases and occasionally caned the guilty ones. On the second floor there was a kitchen (there people heard how Karmapa XVI was reciting Om Mani Peme Hung mantra being in his mother’s womb), two rooms to store food (one room stored meat, the other butter, tea, tsampa etc), the owners and theirs kids’ bedrooms. Later on one of the rooms was given to Karmapa XVI for Mahakala Puja. Now there is a monastery library.

Palace Athub - the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Palace Athub – the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

There is also a hall on the second floor. There were some monks sent by XI Situpa Pema Wangchuk to find Khakyab Dorje reincarnation and they were invited to this hall. In this very place they recognized a little son of the local governor as Karmapa XVI. Now sometimes pilgrims are allowed to stay there overnight, and every evening monks gather to sing full Mahakala Puja. In a room behind the hall Shamar Rinpoche spent some time before leaving for Bhutan.

Palace Athub - the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Palace Athub – the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Now some rooms are used as cells. There is a new alter in the father’s room. The head of the monastery meditates and sleeps there. The former grain storage has also got an alter with 108 little stupas with pounded Shamar Rinpoche’s phalanx inside.

Palace Athub - the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Palace Athub – the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

The library and the third floor keeps memories from a tragic period in Tibetan history – Tibetan Uprising. In 1959 a Chinese officer and his henchmen stayed in the house. It is said that Chinese soldiers felt very uncomfortable and constantly heard tambourine sound at night. That was a room where Karmapa XVI had played tambourine while singing Mahakala Puja. When the rebellion started, partisans – khampas – overtook the house and shot down the unwanted guests. There are still bullet holes on the floor. Besides from the second floor you have a good overview and shooting point at the Yangtze river. When Chinese avengers came to the village, they machine-gunned the house and you can still find the holes remained after the firing. The roof collapsed into the courtyard. The house stayed like this for about half a century, till 2003. The house was not considered to be of any cultural value and was also abandoned, that’s why it hadn’t been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution when hun-vei-bins (Red Guards) demolished Tsurphu monastery, Yangpachen monastery and many others.

Palace Athub - the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Palace Athub – the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

In 2003 Jamgon Jaba Rinpoche bought the ruins of the house and slowly began to restore it as a cultural heritage site of the region, not as a monastery officially. Nonetheless, there is a small society of monks, about 12 people, who are actually reconstructing the house. The monks aged from 15 to 25 live under a common roof but in different cells. The discipline is quite strict, life is regulated by the rules. If they talk idly to each other or guests, they are fined to do prostrations in their personal time which is not so long. Daily they make pujas, learn texts and do different house work. They are allowed to have mobile phones so that they could contact their families in the evenings, but the internet is prohibited together with TV which is not available in the palace anyway. They cook themselves in the kitchen (the former meat storage), on a metal stove which is usually stocked up with yak’s dung. There is no lack of food, starvation and vegetarianism are not popular in the monastery. The kitchen is lit worse than the rest of the house, but the dim light and the fire in the stove create the atmosphere of Old Tibet. Although there are not so many disciples in the monastery, they came from different Kham regions, there are even a few from Lhasa.

Palace Athub - the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Palace Athub – the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Somewhere in the mountains behind the house there is a cave of Padmacambhava where Rangjung Rigpe Dorje was born. Once Situpa followers decided to built a so called cultural complex there, and as people say during the constructing process destroyed the cave with heavy machinery. Besides when  Jamgon Jaba Rinpoche allowed me (Pavel Martynov) to live in the palace, he insisted that I shouldn’t go there. So it’s hard to say how is everything there.

Palace Athub - the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Palace Athub – the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

The house itself is quite unique not only because you can visit a significant place of Karma Kagyu Linage, but also because you can feel the atmosphere of the past and meditate as much as you want. Rinpoche values Samaya and keeps the doors open for disciples of each master who supports  H.H. XVII Gyalwa Karmapa Thaye Dorje. That is the only place in Kham, by the way, where you can find images of  H.H. XVII Gyalwa Karmapa Thaye Dorje and Shamar Rinpoche. The interesting fact is that in the corridor there are some photos of honored guests with a picture of Ole and Hannah next to the picture of the mayor of Sychuan. Rinpoche got Ole and Hannah’s picture from a lama in Nepal. He didn’t know much about Lama Ole’s activity but he immediately showed great interest and respect.

Palace Athub - the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

Palace Athub – the house of Karmapa XVI in Eastern Tibet

In the future, when the second floor and the roof will be finished, they plan to put golden statues of all Kagyu Lamas – from Tilopa to Karmapa – and furnish a big gompa. They also plan to build some houses for lamas and pilgrims close to the house. That’s why the house where Karmapa XVI spent first years of his life will not only become a pilgrimage site but also a place where there will be more opportunities to realize the nature of mind.

tulku Jamyang Dragpe Rinpoche

tulku Jamyang Dragpe Rinpoche

to be continued!

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One Response

  1. By Eliska Fajkusova Posted on June 29, 2017

    Thank you very much for your articles. Karmapa cheno. EF

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