Shugsheb Nunnery complex is the largest in Tibet. In 2019, there are 165 nuns living in the nunnery. The complex is located about 65 km away from Lhasa in a beautiful and peaceful mountain bowl. It makes a great day tour outside of Lhasa away from the crowded tourist attractions. The monastery studies teachings of both Nyingma and Dzogchen schools of Buddhism.
ABOUT SHUGSHEB NUNNERY
The history of Shugsheb started from yogini Machik Labdron who meditated in the caves of the site. The first retreat was established here later, by Gyargom Tsultrim Senge, the founder of Shugsheb Kagyu sect of Buddhism. Starting from 14th century, Shugsheb was an important Nyingma center for nuns. Shugsheb Jetsunma, the female incarnation of Shugsheb is one of the highest reincarnate lamas in Tibet.
The main building of Shugsheb was recently restored. There are 3 floors. The Assembly hall is on the first floor. You can see statues of Guru Rinpoche, Avalokiteshvara and a wall painting of Samding Dorjee Phakmo.
On the second and third floors you can see different chapels, including the 21 Tara Chapel along with statues of various protectors, and a Thousand statues of Padma Sambhava chapel.
We can reach Shugsheb nunery within 40 minutes of driving from Lhasa. Nowadays a new road leads straight to the complex. There is a parking lot by the nunnery complex.
Altitude at the nunnery level is about 4,430 meters. Upon arriving at the nunnery, you will be greeted by goats that graze on the hillside.
If you wish to visit Gangri Tokar at the higher levels of the mountain, you can only hike up there. It takes about 1 hour to hike up to the small temple with the cave inside. The view on the valley below is wonderful. The walk up can be a great way to prepare for a trekking adventure in Tibet.
Gangri Tokar or the White Skull Mountain is located above Shugsheb. The mountain’s shape is said to represent female deity Vajravarahi. It is a sacred mountain for Tibetans. Elevation reaches 5,336 meters at the highest point of the mountain ridge.
An hermitage of great significance is the cave Orgyen Dzong. Longchenpa, an important Dzogchen Lama meditated there in 14th century. At the same time he wrote about his religious practice system.
Recently a new temple was built around the cave. Inside you can see an image of Longchenpa and three Dzogchen protectors.
Three large rocks surround the Orgyen Dzong cave. To both sides of them are two springs, representing breasts of Vajravarahi.
Outside of the hermitage were two juniper trees, nowadays you can only see their stumps. These trees are believed to be home to Tantric protector deities.
Some yogini live and meditate in caves on the mountain.
MORE PLACES TO VISIT NEAR LHASA
Important and fascinating meditation complex near Lhasa. Many famous Buddhist teachers and practitioners meditated in Drak Yerpa throughout the centuries. You can visit the hermitage site as a half day tour or combine it with visiting Ganden monastery.
Ganden Monastery was established by Tsongkhapa, an important Lama. The complex is built in a gorgeous natural mountain amphitheater with an amazing view on the valley. Visiting Ganden monastery can be combined with traveling to a nearby nomad settlement or horse riding.
NUNNERIES TO VISIT IN TIBET
ANI TSAMKHONG NUNNERY
Ani Tsamkhong is the largest and the most active nunnery in Lhasa. There are over 100 nuns living there today. In addition to the nunnery, nuns are running a tea house and a traditional Tibetan hospital. Don’t miss the cave hidden in the back. King Songsten Gampo meditated in this cave back in the 7th century.
Chimpu Hermitage is one of the most important meditation retreats in Tibet. The history of Chimpu is closely connected with Guru Rinpoche who meditated there and taught his disciples. It is best to combine visiting Chimpu with a visit to Samye monastery.