Sangye Migyur Ling Monastery

Sangye Migyur Ling (SML) Foundation was established in 2010 to build a Vajrayana monastery and nine- storey Milarepa Tower in Phuntsholing, Bhutan. The founder of SML Foundation is Ven. Lama Kelzang Tshuthrim who was born in 1959 in East Bhutan. He entered Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim as a novice at 12 years of age to study under HH 16th Karmapa and was later ordained as a lama, completing his three-year three-month retreat under his root guru, Bokhar Rinpoche. In 1988, he was appointed as Resident Lama at the Karma Kagyu Centre in Hong Kong. At the end of his tenure, he set up Jangchub Phuntsok Ling Buddhist Charity Centre in 1997 for Dharma teaching, meditation, empowerment and charitable activities. Lama Kelzang is well known for his kindness and compassion; speaks English, Tibetan and Cantonese and has many Dharma students.

Sangye Migyur Ling Monastery has been under construction for ten years and its Grand Opening is planned for late 2020. The monastery consists of a nine-storey Milarepa Tower (the only one in Bhutan) which is already a tourist attraction and pilgrimage centre in the region, a Shrine Hall and Mahakala Hall. At present 26 novice lamas are receiving education from 8 teachers there and Lama Kelzang hopes that in future the monastery could accommodate up to 500 monks. The complex will include a retreat and meditation centre and visitors are most welcome.

Karma Kagyu is one of the four major lineages in Vajrayana Buddhism. It was founded by Marpa the Translator, and continued by Milarepa, Gampopa and Dusum Khenpa, the 1st Karmapa. The 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, left Tibet for Bhutan in 1959 with 160 students and set up a new monastery at Rumtek in Sikkim. He predicted that the West would embrace Buddhism and in 1974 embarked on his first world tour, visiting Europe, Canada and the United States, giving several Black Crown ceremonies. He passed away in the US in 1981.

The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje was born in Tibet in 1985, enthroned at Tsurphu Monastery and left for India in 2000. His Holiness lived in Dharamsala until last year, receiving tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world and leading the annual Kagyu Monlam prayer festival in Bodhgaya every winter. He also travelled to Europe, Canada and the US to teach the Dharma. At present, he is living in the US. The name Sangye Migyur Ling was given to Lama Kelzang’s monastery by His Holiness.

Lama Kelzang

In 2007, Venerable Lama Kelzang, who has lived in Hong Kong for 28 years, made a pilgrimage to the Milarepa Tower in Qinghai, and in a moment of inspiration, decided to build a similar tower and monastery in his home country, Bhutan. Following a positive response from the Royal Government, 9.8 acres of land were acquired at Rigzinling, about 10km from (and 900m above) the border town of Phuentsholing in south Bhutan. The new monastery is called ‘Sangye Migyur Ling’ (SML).

Most people know the story of the famous Tibetan saint who learned black magic in his early life to take revenge on enemies but later became a disciple of the great translator Marpa, who had brought many sacred texts back from India. Knowing that his new student had accumulated bad karma, Marpa treated him harshly and made him build a nine-storey tower (Sekhar Guthok) with his bare hands. When it was nearly finished, he told him to move it to another location. This happened a few times until Milarepa had removed his bad karma. Later, he went off to meditate in mountain caves and became enlightened in one lifetime. Milarepa is a shining example of the virtues of renunciation, diligent practice and devotion to his guru.

Venerable Lama Kelzang’s plan is that the monastery and tower should become a holy site to attract pilgrims from Bhutan, where Kagyupa Buddhism is the official religion, and from Northeast India (e.g. Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim). Already, the Milarepa Tower and Shrine Hall have become prominent landmarks above the town of Phuentsholing and are clearly visible from the Indian plain beyond. He hopes that in future, 500 monks will be in residence at SML, and that he can also build a Retreat Centre.