Dongtsang Ritro Hermitage
Gebchak Gonpa is situated at an altitude of 4,300m (14,110ft) in a remote valley of Nangchen, Qinghai, on the Tibetan Plateau. At a lower altitude from Gebchak Gonpa, across the Mekong River from the town centre of Nangchen prefecture, is the retreat hermitage called Dongtsang Ritro. Wangdrak Rinpoche began establishing Dongtsang Ritro in 2012 and secured the land as a contemporary sacred site by building a magnificent Padmasambhava statue, which now overlooks the town with its protective gaze. A 3-year retreat centre has been built here as a training hub for nuns from Gebchak’s many branch nunneries across Eastern Tibet. Wangdrak Rinpoche is presently constructing a community shrine hall for Gebchak rituals and group prayer ceremonies.
Dongtsang Ritro is infused with blessings. The 12th century yogin, Tishi Repa, had his hermitage on this exact spot. Tishi Repa was a disciple of Barompa Darma Wangchuk, who was a disciple of Gampopa. Wangdrak Rinpoche established Dongtsang Ritro to preserve yogic practice in modern Nangchen, a region that has been historically known in Tibetan as ‘Gomdé’ – the Land of Meditators’. The hermitage presently has 15 nuns and monks in extended retreat.
More specifically, Dongtsang Ritro serves Gebchak nuns requiring a base near town for health or practical reasons. In the future, as Gebchak Gonpa’s population ages and few young nuns choose to join such a remote nunnery, Dongtsang Ritro may serve as an important base for the Gebchak community. State school is mandatory across China, and ordaining as a monk or nun is not permitted by law until age 18. Dongtsang Ritro is developing with a view to adapting and preserving Gebchak’s practice lineage in the future.
Laypersons with a strong wish to practice in intensive retreat have also stayed at Dongtsang Ritro. Every two years a group of Rinpoche’s Australian disciples visits Dongtsang Ritro in Nangchen for teachings and meditation on this sacred and significant retreat land. So far two such retreats have taken place and have been experiences of a lifetime for all who joined.