[Historical Importance]

GURU RINPOCHE/PADMASAMBHAVA AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SETTLEMENT OF CHUNGTHANG/TSUNTHANG

Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava) is regarded as the founder of the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan/Himalayan Buddhism.
In several Buddhist Sutra and Tantra texts, one finds mention of Lord Buddha's prophecy about the emanation of Guru Padmasambava/Guru Rinpoche.
In the Sutra, 'Myang-hDas-mDo', the Buddha Sakyamuni has said, "Oh my ashusman disciple Ananda, after my passing away, that is twelve hundred years later, a person far superior to me, who would be the lord of the masses, named Padmasambhava would be emanated. He would be like a gem from the sea; like Ushnisha Vijaya among medicinal divinities; like Sun and Moon among the clusters of stars; like a lion among beasts; and like a Garuda among birds".
In consonance with this prophecy, it is said that the Buddha Amitabha took birth as Padmasambhava for the welfare of sentient beings. For this, he chose the spiritual country of Buddha Sakyamuni. The Buddha Amitabha chose as his birth-place, the 'Dhanakosa Lake', in ancient Urgyen country/Swat region in modern day Pakistan. It was here that King Indrabudhi, who had been yearning for a child, found Padmasambhava- as a wonderful child of about eight years old, seated within a multi coloured lotus and talking like a mature person. The King, after interacting with the divine child, asked him to be his heir- which the child agreed. However, upon attaining adulthood, just like Buddha Sakyamuni before him, Padmasambhava too, gave up the throne, in order to attain and grant spiritual benefit to humankind.
During the eight century AD, Guru Rinpoche visited Tibet at the invitation of the Tibetan emperor, Trisong Deutsen and introduced the practice of Tantric Buddhism to the Tibetans. He is regarded as the founder of the Nyingma (ancient/old) tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and is also said to have established Samye Gonpa, the oldest Buddhist monastery in Tibet.
Following completion of his spiritual mission in Tibet, Guru Rinpoche went on to select four major and four minor hidden lands around Tibet. The purpose for this was to prepare spiritual resorts for Dhamma practitioners who would be taking refuge in these lands in the future when Dhamma declines with the approach of degenerate age (sNyigs-ma lNga) in Tibet. Guru Rinpoche then made his first visit to the present Guru Dongmar Lake in north Sikkim to test an omen in the lake. Hence, the term 'Dongmar' meaning First- the first major landmark that the Guru came across upon his entry into the fabled hidden land of "Denjong"/"Demojong". The word "Dongmar Shab Chakpa" refers to his visit to this place. He recognised the lake as a part of Dorje Nyima/Chorten Nyima, a sacred place of worship in northern Sikkim. It is believed that the Guru, in order to provide drinking water to the local people during winter when the lake freezes, placed his hands on a part of the lake, which miraculously stopped freezing during winter, thereby facilitating in provision of drinking water to the locals. Since then, the water of the lake is considered sacred. Guru Rinpoche is also believed to have halted at Tsunthang/Chungthang, a holy place in north Sikkim. This place is referred to in the Denjong Nye-Yig (The Pilgrim's Guide to The Hidden Land of Sikkim, by Jigme Pawo, reincarnation of Gyalwa Lhatsun Chenpo) as Tsunthang, as is the actual pronunciation, derived from the word 'Tsemo Rinchen Thang' meaning 'top precious plain'. Tsunthang is revered by Buddhists for its sacred rock, known as 'Lhedo' or 'Neydo', which was blessed and bears body imprints and footprints of Guru Rinpoche. There is a perennial source of holy water at the site too. Here, Guru Rinpoche is believed to have subjugated a mischievous demon called 'Deutsen' who had been reluctant to come under the Guru's spiritual domain. The paddy field located next to the Leydo/Neydo is considered sacred, as according to Buddhist religious tradition, paddy started growing here after Guru Rinpoche, following a meal, threw some leftover rice at the very spot. This is considered a miracle as paddy normally does not grow in the area. It is further believed that Guru Rinpoche personally consecrated the site, where later, Lepcha Buddhists built a monastery in 1788 AD and named it as Tsunthang Ridgzin Choeling Gonpa.
Following this, Guru Rinpoche is believed to have miraculously landed at Tashiding hill in west Sikkim along-with twenty-five disciples. Here, he sanctified the entire land and marked the hill as the navel point of the sacred land- 'Denjong'. Thereafter, the Guru explored the whole of this region, blessing and sanctifying caves, rocks, lakes, streams and also left his footprints on several rocks. He further concealed many religious treasures in its major places of worship for benefit of future spiritual followers.

CHUNGTHANG/TSUNTHANG-

As per Denjong Nye-Yig (The Pilgrim's Guide to The Hidden Land of Sikkim, by Jigme Pawo, reincarnation of Gyalwa Lhatsun Chenpo) the name of the north Sikkim located settlement of Chungthang or Tsunthang, as is the actual pronunciation, is derived from the word 'Tsemo Rinchen Thang' meaning 'top precious plain'.

This place is revered by Buddhists for its sacred rock, known as 'Lhedo' or 'Neydo', which was blessed and bears body imprints and footprints of Guru Padmasambhava/Guru Rinpoche. There is a perennial source of holy water at the site too.

During the eight century AD, Guru Rinpoche, who hailed from the Swat region in present-day northwest Pakistan, visited Tibet at the invitation of the Tibetan emperor, Trisong Deutsen and introduced the practice of Tantric Buddhism to the Tibetans. He is regarded as the founder of the Nyingma (ancient/old) tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and is also said to have established Samye Monastery, the oldest Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

On his way back from Tibet, Guru Rinpoche is believed to have halted at Tsunthang/Chungthang where he subjugated a mischievous demon called 'Deutsen' who had been reluctant to come under the Guru's spiritual domain. The paddy field located next to the Leydo/Neydo is considered sacred, as according to Buddhist religious tradition, paddy started growing here after Guru Rinpoche, following a meal, threw some leftover rice at the very spot. This is considered a miracle as paddy normally does not grow in the area.

It is further believed that Guru Rinpoche personally consecrated the site, where later, Lepcha Buddhists built a monastery in 1788 AD and named it as Tsunthang Ridgzin Choeling Gonpa.