Culture

Local Legends about 10th Century Buddhism in India

Lama Tenzin is the monk who looks after #Lalung Monastery, and he is a person of great learning and experience. Apart from knowledge regarding the written and oral scriptures, Lama Tenzin is also a treasure trove of traditional and local lore, especially regarding the resurrection of Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, in the Indian subcontinent.

He gave us a brief overview of the legend of how Rinchen Sangpo undertook the divine task of building 108 monasteries overnight. The legend goes that he took a withered dry Willow and visited different places in Ladakh, Spiti, Kinnaur, also Bhutan, among other places and planted individual shoots/branches, and wherever the plant sprung leaves (came to life so to say), a monastery was built in due course.

The legend while being a legend provides information that, in my mind, provides coherence to what I am discovering about Buddhism in Kinnaur, and Spiti – all the monasteries seem to be of similar antiquity and of similar architectural style with local variations (even the monasteries in Bhutan seem to be similar going by what I have observed from Kaushik Naik’s blog posts) and thus it is likely that they were built in the same period.

Please note that the interview content is specifically in response to the question “What is the local legend/lore regarding how the monasteries were built?” It is not to be mistaken for history which represents documented information on antiquity and therefore different from oral traditions such as legends and lore.

Any gaps in interpretation or translation (names, spellings) are entirely my fault and my apologies for the same.

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