June 28: Namgyal Tse, Jyekundo, Domkar, Thrangu, and Benchen
The following dispatch was received in a phone conversation with Kusung Dapön Mark Thorpe and Peter Volz of the Shambhala Office of International Affairs at approximately 9:45 a.m. eastern standard time or approximately 9:45 p.m. in Tibet. They were calling from a pay phone in Jyekundo (aka Yushu) to a cell phone in Halifax, pumping in phone cards until they were depleted.
Dapön Thorpe and Mr. Volz made it very clear that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and the delegation are acutely aware of what has occurred at Serda and are acting accordingly. The Sakyong and party appreciate the outpouring of concern and want everyone to know that they are hale and hardy, all in good health and a good frame of mind.
We departed Surmang Dutsi-til and took an uneventful (although bumpy and beautifully panoramic) five-hour drive to the other main Surmang monastery, Namgyal Tse, seat of the Venerable Garwang Rinpoche, who will be attending the consecration. As we knew, Garwang Rinpoche was unable to be there at the time of our visit and asked the general secretary Surmang Drukpa Rinpoche to receive us on his behalf.
As we approached Namgyal Tse, we could immediately see that it lay in a much more expansive and opulent valley than Surmang Dutsi-til. The monastery is also much larger and the area appears more prosperous. Basically, the topography there can support a much greater level of activity. In Kham, the lay of the land and the level of the activity upon
it are very much in synch.
Once again, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche was greeted in grand style, with a chorus of 60 monks beating drums and a number of gyelgongs (long Tibetan horns held up by ropes) blaring and resounding through the valley. We processed up to the lhakong (main shrine room) for a greeting ceremony and then rested for the night. There is a new shedra under construction, which is where we all stayed dormitory style, waking up the next morning to beautiful, resort-like views outside our windows.
Today was consumed with a Sadhana of Mahamudra abhisheka for 3000 - 4000 people in bright sunshine, culminating in the longest blessing line in our memory, holding together almost like an enormous one-celled snake-like organism and filing through at over twenty people/minute. The end of the line was served by a group of monks and kasung receiving offerings in bags.
The kasung needed to lift some people up to receive the blessing from the Sakyong who often leaned over and met them halfway in mid-flight, tattooing them with a hearty bonk. As with the other Sadhana of Mahamudra abhishekas performed here, the air was pervaded with a joyful breeze of delight.
We made the seven-hour drive to Jyekundo for several days of rest, traveling at an average altitude of 11,000 feet or more. When we arrived at Jyekundo, the base we had jumped off from when we started our Surmang trek, we were struck with culture shock. The kind of Chinese-Khampa blending in the streets of the town contrasts sharply with the feeling of the places we've been. The westerners in the delegation exist in a fishbowl here as we make our way around town, extracting stares and hellos (the only Western language word in currency here) and giggles in abundance.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has visited two monasteries in the area, while the delegation went on to visit a third.
The first visit was to Domkar, seat of the 18th Domkar tülku. The first Domkar tülku was one of the two main disciples of the first Karmapa. Domkar is one of the two main Karma Kagyü monasteries in the area.
The second visit was to the other main Karma Kagyü monastery in the area, Thrangu, traditional seat of Thrangu Rinpoche, a very close friend to the Vidyadhara who has served as such an important teacher, advisor, leader, and friend for the Shambhala community and many of its students. Naturally, this was an important moment for us all---to visit the original monastery of a teacher who we have been so very close to for such a long time in the West.
Some of the delegation went on to visit Benchen, seat of Tenga Rinpoche, another teacher who has been an extremely important teacher who has brought many benefits to our community for a very long time. Once again, we felt honored to have the opportunity to visit the original home of a teacher whom we have regarded so dearly. The ranking tülku at Benchen is Sangye Nyempa, a very important teacher who greeted us most warmly and graciously.
In the main, the Sakyong and the delegation have been using the time in Jyekundo for some very badly needed rest and recharge before embarking on the next 18 days of the trip. Much of this upcoming leg of the excursion will involve difficult travel, and opportunities to communicate will be less frequent. We will do our best to send messages when we can. All of you are in our thoughts as we continue this momentous journey.