Katok Monastery in Baiyu County, Garze

Katok Monastery (Tibetan: ཀཿ་ཐོག་རྡོ་རྗེ་གདན་, THL Katok Dorjé Den/甘孜州白玉县噶陀寺), also transliterated as Kathok or Kathog Monastery, was founded in 1159 and is one of the “Six Mother Monasteries” in Tibet of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, built after Samye Monastery. It is located in Payul (Chinese Baiyu County), Karze Prefecture (Garze Prefecture), Sichuan, China, known as Kham.


Katok Monastery is located 4,000m above sea level on the eastern flanks of a mountain range in Baiyu County, Garze, Sichuan.[1] The entire monastery complex is approximately 700m above the valley floor and is accessed by a dirt road containing 18 hairpin turns. The nearest town is Horpo (Chinese: 河坡; pinyin: Hépō), 17 km to the north.[2]


Katok is a famous early Nyingma monastery which grew to include numerous branch monasteries within the Do Kham region and beyond. It is also credited as influencing the spread of the Nyingma monasteries known of as the “Six Mother Monasteries”.

Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche, spent 25 days visiting the site before the monastery was built, and sat on a rock with a double vajra, called Dorje Gatramo, with a “ka” syllable on top. From this the name of “Ka-tok” was formed, meaning “on top of ka”. Also called Ka tok Dorje Den, the monastery was built on the rock and is one of Guru Rinpoche’s 25 sacred sites in Do Kham.

Katok Monastery was founded in 1159 by a younger brother of Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo, Katok Kadampa Deshek, prophesied by Guru Rinpoche to be an emanation of Yeshe Tsogyal. He built at Derge, the historic seat of the Kingdom of Derge in Kham. The prophecy that 100,000 people would achieve rainbow body at Katok is said to have been realized.

Katok Monastery’s third abbot, Jampa Bum (1179-1252), whose 26-year tenure as abbot ended in 1252, “is said to have ordained thousands of monks from across Tibet, and especially from Kham region of Minyak (mi nyag), Jang (‘byang), and Gyémorong (rgyal mo rong).”

The original gompa fell into disrepair and was rebuilt on the same site in 1656 through the impetus of tertöns Düddül Dorjé (1615–72) and Rigdzin Longsal Nyingpo (1625-1682/92 or 1685–1752). After 1966, the monastery was destroyed by the Chinese while lamas were imprisoned. The monastery was rebuilt through the efforts of Moktsa Tulku after he was released from prison, and of Khenpo Ngakchung tulku.[6]

Katok Monastery held a reputation of fine scholarship. Prior to the annexation of Tibet in 1951, Katok Monastery housed about 800 monks.

Katok was long renowned as a center specializing in the oral lineages (as opposed to terma) and as a center of monasticism, although both of these features were disrupted under Longsel Nyingpo (1625–1692).

According to The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Centre, disciples of Kenpo Munsel and Kenpo Jamyang compiled a Katok edition of the oral lineages (Wylie: bka’ ma shin tu rgyas pa (kaH thog)) in 120 volumes in 1999: “[T]wice the size of the Dudjom edition, it contains many rare Nyingma treatises on Mahayoga, Anuyoga, and Atiyoga that heretofore had never been seen outside of Tibet.”

According to Alexander Berzin,

Katog has 112 branch monasteries, not only in Tibet, but also in Mongolia, Inner China, Yunnan, and Sikkim. For instance, Katog Rigdzin-tsewang-norbu (Ka:-thog Rigs-‘dzin Tshe-dbang nor-bu) (1698-1755) founded a large branch in Sikkim, and when the Eighth Tai Situ Rinpoche, Situ Panchen Chokyi-jungney (Si-tu Pan-chen Chos-kyi ‘byung-gnas) (1700-1744), visited China, he stayed at the Katog branch-monastery at the Five-Peaked Mountain of Manjushri (Ri-bo rtse-lnga, Chin: Wutai Shan), to the southwest of Beijing.


Kathog Monastery became a bastion of the Anuyoga tradition when it became neglected by other Nyingmapa institutions. The Compendium of the Intentions Sūtra (Wylie: dgongs pa ’dus pa’i mdo) the root text of the Anuyoga tradition was instrumental in the early Kathog educational system.[11] Nubchen Sangye Yeshe wrote a lengthy commentary on the Compendium of the Intentions Sūtra rendered in English as Armor Against Darkness (Wylie: mun pa’i go cha).


In 2016, an expansion of the Katok Monastery to the northeast was completed. This expansion included a new temple and assembly hall, directly adjacent to the existing monastery complex.