In 1991, a group of determined nuns entered the traditional Tibetan three-year, three-month retreat in a cave high on a remote mountain in Nangchen, eastern Tibet. The cave has been used for retreat by great masters in the past; a rough living space was built into it over 200 years ago. However, it is quite damp, and the nuns sustained health problems while staying there. When they came out of their seclusion, they built Samtenling , a small retreat facility, on a site further down the mountain, with the help of local villagers.
Lagen Lhundrup, a retreat master from Korche Monastery, assisted the nuns in preparing for retreat and taught at Samtenling until he passed away in 1999. Since that time, other lamas from the area have visited Samtenling to give teachings and guidance.
Currently, 40 nuns are engaged in a three-year retreat. Lamas from Korche Monastery visit Samtenling regularly to teach, and Venerable Lama Norlha Rinpoche also visits Samtenling when in Tibet to give teachings and empowerments.
The nuns of Samtenling follow the traditional three-year retreat program of the Kagyu lineage. They do not leave the retreat facility during the course of the program; their families offer them food and support. Samtenling (pictured top) now consists of a small shrine room and dormitory rooms, all made of mud walls and an earthen floor. There is also an external structure housing a shrine and guest room that is available for people who wish to do short retreats. The nuns would like to improve their facilities by adding running water and electricity; at present they must carry in their water from a nearby stream.
Samtenling is solely a retreat facility. Once the nuns have finished the three-year program, they have the option of doing another retreat or of going to live at Kala Rongo, with which Samtenling is now affiliated.
Domka Monastery (pictured bottom) was established by Tsawa Trulku Rinpoche almost 400 years ago. Tsawa Trulku Rinpoche was a student of the first Chagme Rinpoche, originator of the Neydo Kagyu Lineage. Domka has been affiliated with Korche Monastery since the time of its founding.
Domka is small and remote; it serves 150 monks and is accessible only by foot or on horseback. Nevertheless, it is a fully equipped monastery, complete with a retreat house and a shedra (monastic college). There are currently 11 monks in three-year retreat at Domka; the current retreat cycle began one year ago and is the fifth three-year retreat that has been held since re-establishment of the retreat program. The current retreat is taking place in a new structure that was built with funding from NYEMA. Also thanks to NYEMA support, there are presently 26 monks in the Domka shedra, as opposed to 15 three years ago.