ABOUT RAMOCHE TEMPLE
Ramoche Temple is one of the oldest religious buildings in Lhasa. Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo built it in the 7th century. The temple houses the statue of the Jowo Mikyo Dorje, representing the Present Buddha at the age of 8.
The temple is located on the Ramoche road, going to the North from Beijing road (and North of Jokhang).
Ramoche is very popular with local visitors and pilgrims from all over Tibet. However, very few tourists visit it. If you have time to visit Ramoche, you will enjoy this opportunity to get away from tourist crowds and engage in people-watching in the center of Lhasa.
Ramoche Temple’s history is closely related to the Jokhang Temple. They were built at the same time to display 2 important Buddha statues: Jowo Shakyamuni in Ramoche and Jowo Mikyo Dorje in Jokhang.
In the 7th century king Songtsen Gompo married Chinese princess Wenchen and Nepalese princess Bhrikuti to strengthen ties with neighboring countries. Both princesses brought many important religious objects, scriptures in Tibet, including the two statues.
JOWO MIKYO DORJE STATUE
Princess Wenchen brought to Tibet the statue of Jowo Shakyamuni depicting Buddha at the age of 12. Originally, Ramoche temple was built to house the Jowo Shakyamuni statue. Ramoche is facing East (China) and was built in Chinese style. Only later after several fires, Ramoche was rebuilt in Tibetan style.
However, Chinese princess Wencheng worried that the Chinese army would try to get the statue back and concealed it in one of the Jokhang hidden chapels.
After Songtsen Gampo’s death, Tibetans moved the statue of Jowo Mikyo Dorje to the Ramoche. This statue sculpted by Vishvakarman was a part of the dowry brought by the king’s Nepalese wife. The statue depicts eight years old Shakyamuni (present Buddha). Similar to the statue in Jokhang, it shows the Present Buddha as a prince, before his enlightenment. That’s why the statue is layered with gold and decorated with precious stones.
Unfortunately, the statue was badly damaged and cut into 2 parts during the Cultural Revolution. The 10th Panchen Lama found the torso and returned it to Tibet. He repaired it using the original pieces.
HISTORY OF RAMOCHE
Although Ramoche Temple was built at the same time as Jokhang, it was always overshadowed by it. Kunga Dondrup, the disciple of Tsongkhapa took over the temple in 1474. He used it as the main assembly hall for the newly founded Upper Tantric College (Gyu- to). There were around 500 monks studying in the Tantric college in its heyday. The monks received training in chanting, construction of mandalas, and performed complex tantric rituals. Upper Tantric College monks still use the temple.
When entering Ramoche the hallway takes you first to the protectors chapel on the left side. In the chapel, you will see Dorje Yu Dru Ma, the special protectress of the Upper Tantric College, among others. Walking straight you will enter the main Assembly hall with rows of cushion seats for monks. In the center, there is the Dalai Lama’s throne. To both sides from it are the statues of Tsongkhapa, Kunga Dhundup, the founder of the Upper Tantric College, and Trijiang Rinpoche, the Tutor of the present Dalai Lama.
THE MAIN SHRINE
You will approach the main shrine at the back of the temple. First, you will pass through the statues of the Four Guardian Kings. After that, you will see the precious statue of Akshobhya representing Buddha at the age of 8.
Many Tibetans traditionally walk around the temple, performing prostrations, reciting mantras and spinning prayer wheels. If you join pilgrims to walk the kora around the Temple, you will see murals with images of the three Deities of Longevity. Many Tibetans come here very often to get the blessing from the Buddha of Longevity.
Tsepak Lhakhang is a temple that is a part of Ramoche, and people visit them at the same time. To the left from Ramoche (when looking at the Temple), you will see rows of sellers of juniper tree incense and the large burner with smoke rising above it. Right behind it is the entrance to the Tsepak Lhakhang.
The name of the temple means the chapel of the Buddha of Longevity.
Inside the main chapel of Tsepak Lhakhang, you can see three large statues of Tsepame (Amitayus) in the center with Future and Present Buddhas on the sides. There is also a small Assembly hall and a protector’s chapel. Most of the statues of protectors are related to Tantric and Gelukpa orders of Tibetan Buddhism.
There is Jang (North) Rigsum Lhakhang nunnery on Ramoche road. Rigsum means three Buddhas: Compassion Buddha, Wisdom Buddha, and Vajrapani. When you walk towards Ramoche from Beijing road, look on the right for the sign saying “The Temple of North Three Protectors”. Walk through the arch lined with prayer wheels and in the back you will find a small nunnery.