June 14: Journey to Surmang
We received the following update on the Tibet journey last night when Kusung Adam Lobel called from Tibet, with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche offering comments in the background.
The Sakyong and party, after flying from Beijing, where they toured the Forbidden City, were met in Xining by blood relatives of the first Mipham. These included the former Mayor of Golok province (the grand nephew of the first Mipham) as well as Mipham scholars and close friends of Lama Chonam (one of the members of our touring party, who is a good friend and adviser to the Sakyong and the translators who originally comes from the area near Magyal Pomra in Golok).
Khatas were offered as well as a large formal Tibetan feast at which, among other delicacies, the Sakyong was served (and ate) sheep's eyes. Traditional singing and dancing were followed by prepared poetry of praises to Mipham as Manjushri, chanted/sung over an echoing microphone. Before he could depart, the Sakyong was surrounded by a press of Tibetans seeking photographs with him. In Xining the party also visited the very beautiful and ornate Gelug Kumbum monastery, where Tsongkhapa was born.
After a half-day drive to Hainan for a brief rest, the party drove - from 5am until 4am the following day - crossing high passes over 16,000 feet, plunging through ravines, and seeing for the first time nomad villages and herds of yaks and sheep. The clutch of one of the jeeps having broken, they had to leave one vehicle and driver behind and continue the last half of
the trip in close quarters. Having crossed what they described as "the worst roads imaginable," they all arrived in good health in Jyekundo (now known as Yushu), the Sakyong not needing the altitude medication which others found valuable.
In Yushu they found a decent hotel and were greeted by a party from Surmang, including the young Trungpa tülku and Rolpe Dorje tülku and other officials from Dutsi-til (the monastery where Trungpa Rinpoche is the supreme abbot) and Namgyaltse (another of the main Surmang monasteries, led by Garwang Rinpoche, who will attend the consecration this summer). The sweet young Trungpa tülku was at first very shy, in awe of the Sakyong. In their second meeting he became more relaxed. The local Kagyü lama of Yushu's monastery took the Sakyong to dinner.
Since arriving in Yushu, the Sakyong has been surrounded by pilgrims making offerings. Between 50 and 75 Khampas, wearing heavy woolen clothing and large turquoise beads, with dark sun-worn faces, prostrated to the Sakyong, offering inordinately large (in relation to their circumstances) cash gifts, many weeping openly. As Mr. Lobel delivered this report at 6:15am local time, three hotel workers were already offering khatas to the Sakyong.
Today, once additional jeeps have been obtained, the party will drive on to Surmang, which could take from 3 to 12 hours, depending on circumstances. Just before arriving at Surmang, they will be met by a delegation with a herd of hundreds of horses. The Sakyong will then enter Surmang on horseback.