June 18: Surmang
This is the second installment of a dispatch received on June 18 from Peter Volz and Derek Koleeny of the Office of International Affairs and Kusung Dapön Mark Thorpe.
Atmosphere & Interactions
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has been very, very busy from morning to night. People are coming in and asking for blessings in a steady stream. The monastery is actually quite a busy place. It reminds one of the fact that Trungpa Rinpoche said in Born in Tibet that he had to move to Dorje Khyung Dzong, a couple of hundred yards up the valley--and at 1500 feet higher elevation straight up--to escape the busyness of the monastery.
The throne ceremony held on Saturday the 16th was really quite magnificent and significant. According to Sangye Khandro (translator who is part of the Shambhala traveling party), it was a kind of ceremony that would be done only under extremely rare circumstances. At the height of the ceremony, the Trungpa Tulkü and all of the Surmang lamas each made offerings to the Sakyong. Then, they made a specific request and supplication to the Sakyong. Having requested him to remain in this world to continue to benefit beings, they requested that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche be the throne holder, lineage holder, and the leader of the Surmang monasteries. In the days following, they have already begun to discuss various issues with the Sakyong concerning the present activities and the future of the monasteries.
Lady Kunchok's family members have come here to Surmang. Five of them drove 600 miles from Lhasa. It took them five days. There are two brothers (i.e., uncles of the Sakyong) and other in-laws. They've been here since we got here, and they are leaving tomorrow. She's been greatly enjoying talking to them. She sits in the office and chats and laughs with them all day long. They are very beautiful, dignified people. They were left behind when she escaped, but she had managed to see them once before this occasion. When they were all fleeing Tibet, these family members were unable to cross a big river and she had to look back and say good-bye across the river. This had been a wonderful reunion, and it has really lifted her spirits.
There was an immediate mutual affection between Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and the 12th Trungpa, and they've been together constantly. They hold hands all the time, and the Sakyong puts his arm around his shoulder. The Sakyong has said that there is a certain chemistry between them. They've had much private time together. The Trungpa Tulkü comes in and just plays. His family lives right next door, so he's in and out all the time.
The Sakyong has also sent two vehicles to bring Damchö Rinpoche, Trungpa Rinpoche's maternal half-brother (and therefore the Sakyong's uncle), here to see us. The Sakyong is very eager to see his uncle, who has been very ill and may require medical treatment. This will amount to quite a reunion for this far-flung family.
By the measure of what we are used to in North America and Europe, the accommodations here are primitive beyond your wildest imagination. It makes camping look like the Hilton, but at the same time the hospitality has been extraordinary. We are pervaded by the warmth, the playfulness and the friendliness of the people. We all feel that we are in luxury, in a certain way--luxury with a medieval ambience. It's like a time capsule. We live in dirt quarters that are pitch dark, not just for us, but for Rinpoche. To get into Rinpoche's quarters, you go over these planks that are bouncing up and down over a kind of a moat. Suffice it to say that "hole in the wall" (or the floor) is an apt description of a bathroom. By this point, though, we've all settled in and feel quite welcome. It's wonderful. We're getting along well together, or at least as Rinpoche said the other day, "Nobody has been voted off the island... yet."