Traditionally, three principle positions in a monastery are that of the umdzé, the gekkö and the chöpön. The chöpöns, or ‘shrine masters,’ hold the ceremonial knowledge of all the ritual aspects of the traditions that the monastery practises. They oversee preparations for rituals, and act as the master of ceremonies for daily practices, drupchens, and empowerments.
Traditionally, trainee chöpöns (chöyok) are selected from young monks aged between seven to ten years old. Their role is to assist the chöpön and learn how to prepare for, and perform, all the different aspects of ritual. As part of their training they learn how to make offerings, tormas and other materials required for ceremonies.
At the age of fifteen or sixteen these trainees will usually progress to the role of chöpön and will hold this position for three years. Once they have completed their training they may be selected to go onto training as an umdzé or gekkö, to continue as a chöpön, or to enter the monastery's shedra.
These traditional roles are an integral part of every lineage of practice and are preserved as authentically as possible.