Samding Monastery, located in the south of the Yamdrok Lake, is an ancient monastery with a history of more than 300 years. Towering on a steep mountain, this monastery belongs to the Shangpa Kagyu Branch of Kagyu Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It enjoys a special status among various monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism since it is the only monastery that is presided over by a female incarnate lama (living Buddha). According to existing records, the Samding Monastery was built by a disciple of the founder of Shangpa Kagyu Branch. Another saying, however, told that it was constructed in 1451, where monks and nuns lived together. At the very beginning, Samding Monastery was only a very small monastery, extended under the assistance of certain people. The fifth abbess not only repaired and expanded this temple but also newly constructed statues and stupas.
The Samding Monastery looked similar to Lhasa Potala Palace in terms of its overall structure, which is divided into the red part and the white one. In the eighteenth century, there was a total number of 80 people in the temple involved both monks and nuns while in the 20th century, the number went up to nearly 200 but was reduced in the following years. The female living Buddha Dorje Phagmo has long been regarded as the flesh reproduction of Indian Vajra Yogini so that she is much admired by believers. Besides, there were enshrined the flesh body of successive Dorje Phagmo inside of Samding Monastery. Monks and nuns of this temple mainly practice Vajravahari dharma as well as Indian Yoga Tantra. Under the regime of the second Dorje Phagmo, the monastery was extended and some statues and stupas were newly constructed. Later on, some precious cultural relics of Samding Monastery are kept by local government and some are scattered to countryside. Fortunately, most of its precious cultural relics have been returned to Samding Monastery. Meanwhile, it has also been repaired to brightly new.
As introduced above, Samding Monastery is the only existing monastery that is presided over by the female living Buddha-Dorje Phagmo (Indian Vajra Yogini). In addition, the female living Buddha reincarnation inheritance has been passed twelve generations so far. Among them, the first Dorje Phagmo was the princess of Ali King, succeeded by the second Dorje Phagmo-the niece of the sixth Panchen. At present, the twelfth living Buddha is now taking office as the vice chairman of the CPPCC Tibet Autonomous Region and member of the national committee of CPPCC as well as the deputy to the NPC. According to Tibetan calendar, on the eighth day of the second month, 1942, Dechen Choedon was welcomed to Samding Monastery by monks and laymen singing and dancing in the blare of music. After held the enthrone ceremony, she officially became the twelfth Dorje Phagmo of Samding Monastery.
Dechen Choedon’s father was a steward of a manor. Actually, when she was young, some eminent monks had predicted that there would be a female living Buddha in this family. Not long after her birth, she got extremely sick. After Buddha divination, she was sent to a female Buddhist temple in Lhasa where she recognized the thing that last living Buddha used. Therefore, she was entitled as the female living Buddha by the 14th Dalai Lama. Since then, she has become the Dorje Phagmo of Samding Monastery. She was just 5 years old in that year of 1946. To become the living Buddha, her hair has to be cut off by Lama but the 14th Lama was still too young to do this so that the Dazha living Buddha replaced his to cut off a little of her hair.
This young twelfth Dorje Phagmo has been enjoying a lot of privileges since she lived in Samding Monastery. She must be approved by the local government of Tibet to leave Lhasa and there must be four monk officials and four secular officers as her escorts. At each post along the way, she would be subject to a grand reception. Her childhood was almost spent in worshipping Buddha, chanting and practice. A great number of living Buddha and eminent monks had been her tutor. In addition, she will go to the ancient city of Gyantse to preach a sermon and pray for followers.
However, all this happiness and piece ended in March, 1959 when there was a serious political event happened and Samding Monastery was just situated in the center of this event. The living Buddha, together with several close attendants, was forced to escape to hide on an island in the center of the Yamdrok Lake. Unfortunately, they were captured still and were compelled to travel in other countries. Her path of practice was interrupted since then. During her exile, she had been to Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Mongolia and came back to Beijing, which put an end to her more than six-month vagrant days overseas. After returning Lhasa, she accepted to practice at home instead of monastery under the arrangement of local government.