The 1980s: Sakya Monastery

In 1984, Sakya Tegchen Choling had outgrown its three previous homes: the Center in a house on Ward Street, followed by the Center on Burke Street and the Center in the University District. Finally His Holiness Dagchen Sakya’s vision of establishing a seat for the future of the Sakya Khön Lineage in the United States would be realized. 

When the Monastery’s building in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle was sold to the Sakyas in 1984 it had been a Baptist Church.  It was originally erected in 1928 as the First Presbyterian Church.  In choosing the former church H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche found that the building was not only spacious enough to accommodate the requisite shrines, thrones, and seating area for practitioners, there were also a number of auspicious coincidences. The building’s entrance faced south and had a flat roof typical of Tibetan monasteries, and the address was “108”, an auspicious number for Tibetan Buddhists.

In 1984 Sakya Tegchen Choling was reorganized under H.H. Dagchen Sakya and became Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism.  It took many years of hard work by dedicated volunteers to transform the building into the traditional Tibetan Monastery that it is today.


Painting the Cultural Hall

Construction of Shrine Begins

Many of the murals were painted by Tibetan artist Dawa Dhundrup (right), including the 1000-year long lineage of Sakya masters in the Lamdre lineage on the south wall of the Monastery (below).


H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche oversaw dozens of devoted students in everything from dismantling the shrine room floor (above), to digging the foundation for the Dezhung Tulku Rinpoche III’s memorial stupa (below).


For twelve years while the main shrine room underwent remodeling, the downstairs Cultural Hall was used as an interim location for the Monastery’s religious services. Over the years, the Monastery’s building and contents were consecrated by the highest lamas in Tibetan Buddhism including H.H. Dalai Lama and H.H. Sakya Trizin Rinpoche in order to imbue them with the enlightened spirit of the Buddha.

Above: H.H. Sakya Trichen Rinpoche and H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche teaching in the Cultural Hall in 1988.

Above: H.H. Trinley Rinpoche giving a long-life blessing in the Cultural Hall in 1987.

Below: H.E. Chogye Trichen Rinpoche visits Sakya Monastery in 1989.

H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche with Lama Kang Tso (longtime Dharma brother of H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche in Tibet) in front of Sakya Monastery in 1984.


In 2014, after 30 years, Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism was completed (above).  

 “There were two purposes in my establishing this Monastery here. The main purpose was, as is clear to all people, due to the political change and climate in Tibet, we had to leave our country and bring our tradition and culture to the West.  It was important to preserve that culture and tradition, especially that of the Sakya Khön lineage.  Therefore, the two purposes were to preserve the Khön lineage and the Sakya tradition – and thereby preserve the Buddhadharma for future generations.”

  • H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya 

Construction in Jaigon

Above: H.E. Dagmo Kusho Sakya pointing to land in Jaigaon, India.

The Sakya Heritage Society exists to help realize the vision of H. H. Sakya Dagchen Rinpoche to build an international centre fashioned on Nalanda, the ancient Buddhist centre of higher learning. Situated in Jaigaon, India, Sakya Thegchen Phuntsok Ling will provide the highest quality of spiritual education and community services. 

Above: Architectural model of the completed monastery.

The main building, with 11600 m2 building area, is a 5 floored comprehensive structure with shrine halls, classrooms, library, auditoriums, dormitory, dining hall, etc.

Above: On the path to completion. Progression on the construction of the Monastery.

Above: Jaigaon Monastery, March 2021. Venerable Jamyang Gyaltsen, center, with contractor and crew.

Left: H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Dorje Chang.

Following the passing of H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Dorje Chang in 2016, his family, Sangha and supporters have redoubled efforts to establish the monastery and an adjacent school just as he envisioned.

We’ll be sharing more about the royal family’s journey from Tibet to India, to America, and back to India in our next series of posts.

We are grateful for your company and support.

Sakya Tegchen Choling

The 1970s: The Early Years in Seattle

In the 1974 H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Dorje Chang founded Sakya Tegchen Choling. The Dharma center moved from its initial location on Ward Street in Capitol Hill where H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and H.E. Dezhung Rinpoche gave teachings to small groups of students, to the house on Burke Street in Wallingford in 1976.

H. H. Jigdal Dagchen Dorje Chang at Burke St
Rinpoche at Shrine

Above: H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Dorje Chang at Burke Street. 

Below: H.E. Khöndung Mati Rinpoche, H.H. Jigdal Dachen Dorje Change and H.H. Trinly Rinpoche at the Burke Street center in 1978.

3 Rinpoches at Burke St 1978

In 1979 H.H. Dalai Lama visited the U.S.A for the first time.  He visited Sakya Tegchen Choling on Burke Street. He performed a consecration and gave a Chenrezi teaching.  Outside the center 300 people were able to hear the teachings and receive blessings.

Dalai Lama Entering Sakya Tegchen Choling, 1979
H. H. The Dalai Lama, 1979

Sakya Journey

The Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang in India

The story of the Royal Family’s Journey from Tibet to India to America and back to India

 H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Dorje Chang with Khöndungs and H.E. Dagmo Kusho Sakya.

Where the journey began: Lhasa, Tibet 1959

This family photo was taken in Lhasa just before the Sakya royal family left Tibet. Mati Rinpoche was just over a year. The photo was taken in Lhasa during the time His Holiness Dalai Lama was receiving his Geshe degree. Khöndung Mati Rinpoche was born in Lhasa during this time. The Sakya family left two days after H.H. Dalai Lama left when they had to escape to India in 1959.

The Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang family and entourage arrived at the Bhutanese border after crossing the Himalayan Mountains on yaks, horses and on foot. There were close to 2000 people at the Bhutan border. They were held in between the Tibet and Druktsampa Bhutan border for 3 weeks. Tibetan refugees were sent different routes to reach India. The Sakya family came through the Phuntsoling border which is now Jaigaon. As soon as they got to India the Indian government helped them find a place to stay. They stayed in Jaigaon at least a week at an old army base. It was very hot having just came from Tibet. Some of the sights the family saw for the first time were Indian ladies carrying water jugs on their heads and enormous buffalo wallowing in the river. Sharing the river with these giant animals when bathing and collecting water from the river was somewhat daunting.

Land In Jaigon
The land in Jaigaon where the Sakya Phunsok Phodrang Monastery is currently under construction.

The refugees were being sorted by the Indian government to go to different destinations. Younger monks and nuns were sent to South India. Mothers, children, and elders were sent to Jaigaon. The family was separated for a short time while H.H. Trinley Rinpoche and Mangthola were sent to south India. H.E. Dagmo Kusho and the Khöngdungs were sent to Kalimpong. H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche joined them a few days later. While most refugees had not choice regarding their destination, if one had relatives in India, one could choose to join one’s relatives. H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche had an aunt in Sikkim so he was able to join the rest of the family a few days later. After spending some time in Sikkim, the family moved to Darjeeling.

H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche’s father, Trichen Ngawang Thuthop Wangchuk had visited Darjeeling where he knew Sherpa family patrons. The Sakya family lived in Darjeeling until moving to Seattle in 1961.

Newspaper photo of the Sakya family landing in Hawaii on the way to Seattle. There were 10 people in the Sakya family as well as Geshe Nornang

At the Seattle Woodland Park Zoo with Taktser Rinpoche (eldest brother of the Dalai Lama) in 1963 or 64

H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and H.H. Trinley Rinpoche with Dezhung Rinpoche III’s student, Gene Smith, a graduate student at UW who studied with H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche.

Khöndung Zaya Vajra Rinpoche arrives, the first Tibetan to be born in the United States, 1961.

H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya

Translation of the above:

“This precious human life is hard to obtain, and time is limited for us. When death comes, there is nothing one can do, no matter if we are wealthy or poor. We are all conditioned by impermanence such that death is certain and can strike anytime. Holding this thought in mind is beneficial. It is important to understand the nature of the impermanence, or we will have difficulty improving our dharma practice. If we are not ready for death, we might be reborn in the three lower realms. Therefore we should always keep death and impermanence in our mind while advancing on the path to Buddhahood!” –H.H. Jigdal Dagchen

Translated by Kunga Lhamo