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The temple was built more than 500 years ago
The temple was built more than 500 years ago

The story of Tsitog goenpa’s restoration

Perched atop a hill that is believed to resemble a Vajrakilaya (phurba), Tsitog goenpa in Paro offers a picturesque panoramic view of the valley. It faces the Taktshang monastery while the majestic Jomolhari towers in the north.

The geonpa is associated with mystical anecdotes of antiquity.

Tsitog Lam, Doley said the temple is more than 500 years old and was built by the 14th century saint, Lam Lotay Jamtsho. He said that the chronicles of events relating to Tsitog goenpa are well reflected in the autobiography of Lam Lotay Jamtsho.

Jill McDonnel and Stephen McDonnel
Jill McDonnel and Stephen McDonnel

It is said that Lam Lotay Jamtsho meditated for 12 years in Taktshang. As his meditation came to an end, a small statue of Palchen Dorji Zhenu, alias phurba (Vajrakilaya) instated in the main temple of Taktshang flew towards the location where the goenpa stands today.

Vajrakilaya is a deity embodying the enlightened activity of all the Buddhas and whose practice is famous for being the most powerful in removing obstacles, destroying forces hostile to compassion and purifying the spiritual pollution.

Having discovered relics and exuding various spiritual deeds, the great master left the world in a state of meditation. “It would take days to narrate the anecdotes of Lam Lotay Jamtsho’s divine deeds in building Tsitog goenpa,” Lam Doley said. The great saint’s kudung is instated as relic inside a choeten near the main temple.

The innate miracle that led to the establishment of the goenpa however could not have saved the temple from the 2011 earthquake. It was desperate for renovation.

“We thought of demolishing the whole structure as nothing could be salvaged,” the former DT thrizin, Phub Tshering said.

Things looked up when an American couple, Stephen McDonnel and his wife Jill McDonnel, offered their support to rebuild the temple.

Four years ago, the couple hiked to the temple and its beauty besides impressing the couple also sparked devoutness in them. A month later, the couple was in Italy when Stephen suffered a major stroke.

“It was Christmas and there was no one at the hospital,” Jill McDonnel said. Two doctors attended to her husband. “They performed a surgery that was not even approved in the United States.”

As a gesture to honor the two doctors, the couple decided to do something for the benefit of all beings and that is how restoration work for Tsitog goenpa began two years ago.

The couple chose not to reveal the amount of money they contributed but they took the help of World Monument Fund (WMF) to conserve the old structures and murals.

“We inserted nut and bolts in the old wall and the whole restoration is done professionally to withstand tremors,” said Choening Dorji, an architect with Tashi Deling consultancy who partnered with the WMF. The consultancy firm is also working on the restoration of Wangduechholing palace in Bumthang.

The American couple and their three children attended the consecration ceremony of the restored Tsitog geonpa two days ago. Stephen could barely walk and it was risky for him to hike uphill. But he made it.

“This project has brought a group of strangers to work together, the whole community was involved,” Jill said adding that the level of trust, honesty and hard work displayed by everyone involved is beyond her expectation.

“This is nothing short of divine intervention,” she said. “World need kindness and generosity.”

As residents from the community gather to offer khadhar to the couple and to celebrate the goenpa’s consecration, Jill McDonnel hands over the photo of the two doctors to the Tsitog lam to be hung in the temple.

Tshering Dorji | Paro

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