Event Analysis Of The Founding Of Sangpu Néütok Monastery

Tibetan Renaissance Seminar

Event Analysis of the Founding of Sangpu Néütok Monastery

Brief Description

Sangpu Néütok Monastery (gsang phu) was founded as a Kadampa monastery in 1073 A.D. by Ngok Lekpé Shérap near Lushon Village in Central Tibet. Sangpu Néütok was later associated with the Gelupkpa and the Sakyapa.

Blue Annals References: {Roerich} 141, 155, 201, 307, 308, 310, 322, 325, 332, 334, 335, 339, 340, 341, 464, 490, 524, 525, 529, 532, 570, 596, 630, 678, 751, 781, 805, 1043, 1080


The eleventh century was a time of rapid monastery building for the Kadampa sect. It’s estimated that by the middle of the century, 3-4 dozen monasteries were built, without a break in stride. Like most of the great Kadampa monasteries founded in 11th century Tibet, Sangpu Néütok was established in the Eastern Vinaya tradition.

Sangpu Néütok was founded in 1073 by Ngok Lekpé Shérap (1059 - 1109) who established a strong intellectual tradition there. Interestingly, the Blue Annals does not supply the names of any of his teachers or the teachings he received. Both Ngok Lekpé Shérap and his nephew Ngok Loden Shérap were translators and were close disciples of Atiśa.

Sangpu Néütok became known for its study of the newest phisophical systems and its dedication to the Mahayanist doctrine. It’s often referred to as a locus of the beginning of Tibetan scholasticism and debate. Because of the weakening of the previously dominant Kadampa monastery Reting, Sangpu Néütok assumed primary importance among the Kadampa monasteries in the early twelfth century. At first there were two Kadampa schools at this monastery, one called Longto and the other Lingme. Eventually, these colleges morphed into a mixed bag of seven Sakya schools and four Gelupkpa schools.

A monk known for his unorthodox views and willingness to challenge accepted precepts lived at Sangpu Néütok in the mid-eleventh century. Chökyi Sengé’s (1109-69) attempts at doctrinal innovation were definitively snuffed out, which was typical of the period’s deep skepticism of ideas that were exclusively Tibetan. One of the late twelfth monastic century stars of the Khön, Sönam Tsémo, studied with Chapa at Sangpu Néütok. Sönam Tsémo was very dedicated to Chapa and yet and he and his relatives played a fundamental role in the burgeoning Sakya sect.

The fact that Sönam Tsémo studied with a Kadampa master yet he was also instrumental in the Sakya sect’s beginnings shows the fluidity of sectarian affiliations at this point in Tibetan history. It wasn’t until a few centuries later that the lines were clearly drawn between what we now know as the major sects of Tibetan Buddhism.

Sangpu Néütok remained an active monastery through at least the fifteenth century, including the addition of a famous pupil in the fourteenth century, Longchenpa, after which Sangpu Néütok was absorbed into the Gelukpa sect. Sangpu Néütok’s history after the fifteenth century is not easily researched, although it is still mentioned in current travel guides.



Blue Annals, Roerich Translation

Ronald Davison’s Tibetan Renaissance

external link: University of Colorado’s Tibetan Monastery Inventory

Dorje, Gyurme. Tibet Handbook. Footprint Travel Guides, 1999.

Michael Kapstein’s The Tibetans