Pilgrimage to Dzachuka, Summer 2007

September 23, 2007

In the summer of 2007, our group of fourteen women, many of us long-time friends, went on pilgrimage to Dzachuka, a region in Kham, Eastern Tibet. The trip was inspired by our connection with Kilung Rinpoche, Buddhist teacher of many in the group. One of us would write about a particular day, and then pass the journal to the next person. What follows is our journey together, as we traveled not only to the monastery of Kilung Rinpoche and other sacred sites, but also to the places inside ourselves that awaken on pilgrimage.

Before our journal begins, here are some photo albums of our group, Rinpoche and the people we met along the way, and some of the sights. These albums are a work in progress, so new photos will be uploaded from time to time.

If the link gives a message “content not found” , just cut and paste the link and it should work.

Photos of Dza Kilung Rinpoche during pilgrimage http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=5154&l=33a78&id=545974228

Group photos taken by LeMing Yang
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=5524&l=0313b&id=545974228

General landscape photos
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4865&l=1c04e&id=545974228

Photos of the people we met along the way

http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4859&l=e5ae4&id=545974228

Photos of the children we met

http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=5155&l=4fa34&id=545974228

Photos of our pilgrimage group:
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4872&l=25abd&id=545974228

Photos of people in all the different kinds of hats
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=5625&l=9bb5a&id=545974228

Within various journal entries are more albums with photos of the events and people of that day.

We begin our pilgrimage…..

June 15, 2007 , written by Judy, with a beautiful illustration of a lotus gracing the top of the page.

Quotation from Longchenpa: “Looking around, I find the perception of beings to be truly amazing. They fixate on what is not real as real, so that it certainly seems real. They fixate on confusion where there is no confusion, so that there certainly seems to be confusion.

They reify what is not so as being so, so that it certainly seems so. They reify what is untenable as tenable, so that it certainly seems so.

Ordinary mind is deluded by trivial sense objects in all their variety. One’s useless focus moment by moment extends into a continuum, as days, months, years, whole lives go by. Beings are deceived by misconstruing what is not dualistic as dualistic.

As a yogin with a pure mind looks inward, awareness, without underlying support or basis, is free of labels. It cannot be perceived in any way that can be characterized or described—structured view and meditation are done away with.

Given this state of infinite evenness, open, relaxed, and spacious, there is no sense of spiritual practice, for there is no distinction between formal sessions and periods in between.

Everything is unrestricted, completely equal and uninterrupted.” LONGCHENPA

After a wonderful greeting at the airport we were settled into the Shu Feng Garden Hotel by Rigdzin and Cary. This morning we met for a tasty breakfast in the hotel which fortified us for trips to the bank to “CHANGA MOONIE”. Then, a most delicious lunch at the Tibetan restaurant around the corner from the hotel. After that some slept, some shopped. This short summary can in no way describe the richness of experience this day that each one of us perceived in our own special way. Judy

Saturday, June 16th, written by Linda

Actually, it’s 4 am on Sunday. I woke up at 3:30 am remembering that I forgot to write in this book, put my camera in my backpack and take my gingko. It seems that even when one’s life is compressed into two bags, the endless To Do list is still there…. even though it’s all an illusion…..

Saturday began with our usual breakfast at the hotel. Then some went to internet cafes, some to banks, some to buy robes. Lunch at the hotel was reported to be excellent (as was dinner on Fri. night).

After lunch a group went to a market and others wandered the Tibetan neighborhood, or discovered a Starbucks nearby…. coffee, the drug of choice. It drizzled most of the day.

In the evening, a few brave souls ventured out for hotpot, famous in Chengdu and in the province. Samples from the menu included Rooster crowns, Duck tongue, Oxen’s “wand”, Alligator blood, Trumpet shell, and full pages entitled Smoking which contained a selection of cigarette brands. Wisely, the group did not order any of these tasty sounding items. We had beef and lamb (both tasty!), a fish (which had been presented to our table briefly in a former live life), 2 kinds of mushrooms, shrimp balls, tofu, lettuce leaves and some things I’ve probably left out- all cooked in either bubbling oil with lots of peppers, or a broth upon which floated leeks and tomatoes. Christine, especially, tucked into the food with gusto and had a red, dripping face from the peppers! This is a visually beautiful city, compared to others I have seen in China. Perhaps we’ll see the sun before we leave. Peace, Linda.

Sunday, June 17th, Chengdu, written by Ani Seltong

Taoist temple
soft day, drifts of incense smoke
gong ringing people bowing
sound disappearing
where?
from one comes two, from two
come ten thousand things
and the one returns
where?

Everything in shades of green and gray, then in the temples brilliant gold huge statues, Laotse and the old masters, Mother of the Universe, fierce generals, stern judges, all gold shimmer in the temple gloom.

Rigdzin gets a divination: all will be smooth now. ShanShan is told to stay in the job she has.

Out of the hush of the temple grounds back to traffic and the amazing dance of taxis buses people bikes scooters all managing to blend in some unfathomable effortless pattern.

Everything’s a mandala.

To White Lane, only place in Chengdu where the old houses, few still stand. Careful recreation of the lane happening all around, but oddly sterile in contrast.

Manjushri Temple and sitting down at last! at last! sipping jasmine tea and nibbling pumpkin seeds. Then an astonishing vegetarian lunch-feast, impossible amounts of incredible food.

After, some went shopping, some wandered the temple grounds, some back to crash at hotel.

Tonight, many went to opera. Others had a bowl of soup for supper.

We’re all here now. Diane Hyde, Shanti and Jeanne came last night, and Mully arrived this evening.

To what does the One return? Ani Seltong

June 17th, written by Linda

Where else could you go but to the Sichuan Opera to get a neck and head rub, an ear cleaning and tune up with tuning forks and free tea? Yes, really…… In addition, Lyle was chosen for the knife throwing guinea pig (2 nd time for him with the same act— first time was in Shanghai at a huge performance with thousands of people). The acts were fabulous—fingerplays behind a screen, dancing, mask changing, fab costumes, singing- WOW! Linda

Monday, June 18th, written by Heidi

Happy Birthday Rigdzin! (sweet drawing of birthday cake with candles)

Had another great lunch and “circle up” at the Tibetan restaurant. Tent shopping after that took quite a while. Shanti, Lynn and Mully finally settled on big green “Pure Land” tents. Purchased a great White Tara statue for Rinpoche with the help of Sonam. Also bought a Green Tara for Gail (Fleming)’s 60th birthday and a Guru Rinpoche thangka for Christine. Yet another wonderful meal (and birthday celebration) after that. Mully brought a sweetheart-shaped cake all the way from Whidbey! Other highlights included- a great fruit cake, gifts, cards and a fab rendition of the Chod dance by Shanti.

If you didn’t read the red book in your room, here are some highlight:

Honorific guests:

Welcome to Chengdu. Welcome to Shu Feng Garden Hotel. We are very homoured for your coming, and we believed you will have a memorable time here, After days, we’ll do our best to offer the grade service an convenience for you.

Notice for Hotel Guests –

2. Please take good care of the rpp, facto; otoes. of any mangled, plese pa for as the rack rate. Don’t install electrical wire and telephone, set goods on fire, paste at will.

3. According to the polic, don’t prostitute oneself, wench, gambling, hit the pipe and spread obscene goods.

4. For security reasons of hotel guets, there is on accepting of things like combustibles, exquisite, exquisite poison and radiated items.

Heidi

Wed, June 20th, written by Mully

Leaving day and we were in the vans in a parade of six driving thru Chengdu talking about chicken fried steak and Lucille and Lynn in the back seat with Heidi – me in the front. I think we’re all pretty excited heading over to Rinpoche’s apartment to pick up Nyima and Cary. It’s 10 a.m.

We left the apartment complex at 12:59 says Lucille. Goodbye Chengdu, for now!

Now it’s 11:00 pm and we are all settled in our rooms in our hotel in Kangding. We plan an early morning departure. We’ve had a long and exciting day and we’re now at 9,000 feet so most of us are TIRED.

Me, I’ve experienced some effects from the altitude including light-headedness, but the symptom I enjoyed most was the “giddiness” experience shared with Jeanne while we folded and rolled many khatak’s at the end of the evening.

For me this morning began sharing homemade banana bread from Lucinda (Herring, friend from Whidbey) with Jeanne and Shanti in their room. It felt important to me to bring Lucinda into our retreat together and the bread, made last Friday the 15 th, her birthday, was still yummy and just the way to INVOKE her presence.

Heidi came by and passed me this journal. That was great because it heightened my AWARENESS of everything happening for our departure. Packing was endless and constant. Breakfast attendance was followed by more packing.

Finally, I pooped! A great gift from my body and a great way to begin our pilgrimage.

We all got ourselves and our luggage downstairs. We had more sweet time with Lyle and ShanShan and the vans and Diane arrived. Daisy came to say goodbye and we gave her a lovely gift of a fountain pen arranged by Christine. More packing into the vans‹more goodbyes and Tashi deleks to the street people we’ve come to know- that baby was waving and smiling and almost blowing kisses, and finally we were off… to get Cary and Nyima-la. But we didn’t realize that the new van needed new tires – three of the four had had major problems on the trip down with Gonpo, Dawa and Gyamtso. They didn’t sleep all night getting here and changing three tires themselves.

Once we arrived at Rinpoche’s apartment complex Rigdzin asked me if I would like to accompany herself, Gonpo and Dawa to choose out tires. I said sure and everyone else went to Rinpoche’s apartment and hung out while the five of us toured all the tire shops.

There were an amazing amount of tire shops as it turned out. With the exception of the first store they were all located across from one another up and down the street.

As you can imagine all five of us and the van wove back and forth across the street in various configurations. Eventually we were joined by Sonam and eventually we found four of the best tires made by Pirelli in Brazil- they are awesome! and have the best tread for the plateau. Rigdzin knew everyone was hungry and that it was lunch time and so made calls back to Cary et al and we all converged at the elegant waterfall restaurant right outside the apartment complex gate. We had a delicious lunch (complete with Rigdzin’s pink birthday lilies on the table) served by waitresses in pink jackets and white gloves, with pink napkins and Evian water- a truly lovely send off from Chengdu.

Then we drove and drove for hours past small farms, and then into the country side. Most of us had wanted to make a silent transition into our pilgrimage. In our car (we dubbed Karma for its green color) Lynn, Lucille, Heidi and I were quiet. How about in your vans?

I kept notes of things I noticed. Here are a few observations: no graffiti, billboards with westerners on display, old communes, major crops everywhere – corn and beans were the main crops‹the corn had huge leaves like our field corn. Smoggy or foggy, abandoned buildings, mostly stucco, mostly rectangular and box-like, tile roofs, walled yards, lots of canvas covered cargo trucks. We were going really fast. Cedar trees lining the freeway at times, China United Property Insurance, China Telecom.

The horn honking code of the road kicked in when the lanes of the highway shrunk to two. Things became more bleak economically and then improved a bit.

We saw flowers- yellow dahlias, hollyhocks- some roses- but mostly the visual color I remember was green- trees, plants, hillsides, lush growth-often times on the mountain roads a combination of forest and jungle, lots of terraced gardens. The climb up to the pass was pretty wild from my view- oil tankers, trucks loaded with coal- and everyone else trying to get where they needed to go- in a great RUSH- no one waits for or defers to anyone.

But as Lucille said, we didn’t see any ROAD KILL- so everyone was skilled at this mode of TRAVEL.

I think the van with Ani-la had some concerns about their driver’s sleep depravation levels, but we all arrived safely.

It got misty and started to rain. When we came out of this LOOOONG tunnel we emerged into clear air and an extensive, expansive mountain view. We were in the first of many places referred to us as TIBET.

We were in the last car so I saw Jerene crossing the road and throwing up paper prayer flags into the wind. Simultaneously she was joined by others. Our van stopped and out we went. I wasn’t really prepared for how I would feel at this moment. But throwing out the flags and flinging my arms in the air in joy and happiness released tears and tears and more tears. We’re here! We’ve made it! How blessed we are how fortunate am I. There were hugs, there were more tears. I pinched everyone when we got back in the van.
I didn’t really stop crying until we got way down the bottom of the mountain.

We then stopped in Luding and walked across the IRON BRIDGE, constructed by Tang-Tong Gyalpo (1385-1509). He was a Tibetan spiritual hero. Gonpo dropped his cell phone from the bridge and it landed on the rocks below. He retrieved it and it still works. It’s a very magical cell phone befitting
its owner.

Here’s some licorice mint from the bathroom that was very handy but you had to pay to leave (dried pressed leaf inbetween pages). I hadn’t peed myself, just gone to see and it was a little “doing” to get me out of there without the giving of one yuan.

I hope I didn’t write too much and say too little. The day, for me, was monumental- an amazing transition into the coming Pureland to which we’re going. It was such a rich day‹filled with the familiar sense of coming home or returning to a place I’ve known deep in my being while being externally stimulated by levels of discomfort caused by the never ending permutations of hordes of humans struggling to make sense out of how to organize themselves, survive and try to live happy, fulfilled lives.

Soon we will be amongst people who have found a way to live that life we all want to experience, share and learn from. My heart leaps up. Mully

Thursday, June 21st. Happy Solstice! written by Shanti

Ah, the roof- we are up now in more ways than one. It is morning in Kangding- horns honking, guys smoking in the lobby, etc. We woke up- at 6 am Jeanne and I did ngondro- prostrating, as is our habit, in the Chinese hotels with the white comforter on the floor- very comfy. When we opened the door we found news of Lynn being sick (cold), Heidi (car sickness and a bit of altitude). But we’ve had breakfast now and we are all on the porch waiting to leave.

Hello again. Now it is night. We have had a very, very long drive- on the road for 12 hours!

Beautiful beautiful green green mountains and pastures, herds of yaks- little Tibetan style villages- although I was somewhat suspect that they were NEW- why did they all look so new and freshly painted?

Lynn and I and Cary and Mully drove up in Rinpoche’s new Jeep with the fabulous Gonpa as the driver. When we got to the first high pass the the Stupa, Gonpa got out and let out a wonderful piercing yell- ya gyal jo!!! or something like that. I handed him some prayer papers and they flew so high in the wind. I loved that. I walked three times around the stupa and felt altitude breath for the first time. It will be exact solstice now in three hours. I had to take my headache pill. Heidi had to take Dramamine after throwing up a few times on the road. Lynn is better, but Ani-la has a terrible headache- so it goes- the ups and downs of the Himalayas.

Our major stop today was a monastery called Lakang, where the Jo (Jowo Shakyamuni) lookalike is that Princess Wen brought from China. The main temple was empty, but the right side was an amazing brilliant Gold Buddha. The night before we folded and rolled our khataks and today we got to go up the side steps of the Buddha and unfurl them across his lap. A new thing for me- tossing the khataks. A little more practice and we will all make it the first toss, I am sure.

We ate lunch before the gonpa visit in a nice little roadside place. And then we drove and drove and drove. Good road most of the way, some patchy spots, whole sections of dusty road, sometimes head hitting bumpy, but fun.

Mully cried and cried after the Gonpa. She shared with us that a man had said it meant she had been there before- how sweet!

Many snacks, many drinks, many pee stops later on, and one jeep washing, we arrived in the dark, after a huge wind storm rain. Happy Solstice. Shanti

Photos of being “on the road” throughout our trip are on
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4876&l=431cc&id=545974228

Summer Solstice 2007, July 22nd Tashi Deleg Tashi Deleg! written by Jerene

Leisured morning- some awaking at 8:30 (sleeping pill assist!) and b-fast at 9 with thick konjee and humbao followed by slow shopping stroll meeting warm grinning smiling exchanges with street peoples.

Women in “easter” hats and men in cowboy hats. One of our group spied by old Tibetan woman with basket on her back saying mala- grabbed Mully and Jeanne with Tibetan chatter. Investigation and exchange (Christine) of malas ensued as well as tears while deep connection was felt and invitation to circumambulate Gonpa was politely turned down as the caravan was about to roll. But not too far! A lengthy stop at the end of town Trango, for selection, digging, preparing for transport—Juniper trees for the monastery. Tibetans gathered around happy and curious, women and children and one old man. Jeanne brought out the polaroid and delight was the result of many photos taken and given.

Rolling on over verdant hills cultivated, grazed and inhabited by more smiling happy Khampas- a couple of small and industrious towns bustling with activity and leisure—pool tables on the streets used by men. Up to the pass into gentle mountain: “Lha Gyalso” the prayer papers fly and nomadic children come to say “hello” and “goodbye” while getting a thorough peek at these foreigners in SUVs wearing different clothes and jumping exuberantly. Now mountains rugged and so very tall behind already tall hills–a lake in the valley. We stop to photograph and witness the monastery ruins on the hillside—the retreat cabins on shoreline hillside far side of lake. Beauty beyond description—our Rigdzin leader teary with love of this awesome home.

Up over the hill with beauty beauty beauty and triangle rainbow prayer flag installation, STUPAS glorious around many turns. Some under construction. Tractors hauling trailer loads of logs and every other things. And into Ganze to the Golden Yak Hotel—room assignments and noodle lunch. Our party splits into street experiences and Hot Springs relaxation with Jeanne’s story-telling of clinic in Tibet from her previous tour with Tsultrim. More street explorations and rest before our first practice together. 21 Taras in one of our rooms while mountain tops softly hugged by pink sunset clouds. OM TARE TUTARE TURE SOHA ~~ AH HO

Showers of blessings throughout another amazing day– with prayers for Ani-la that her blood pressure condition and headache will stabilize before the marrow’s journey on to Sershul. Dinner with French Fries at the Yak in the Box. Jerene

July 23rd, written by Lucille

“Be grateful to everyone” Jamgon Kontrol – Lojong teachings.

Where to start! So many to be grateful to. I’ll start in Chengdu days ago, to briefly describe our amazing tea house experience, with gratitude to Rigdzin for introducing us to the gorgeous tea ritual- serene- an oasis in the bustle of Chengdu. Intro to Puer teas, beginning with one year old, finale is 15 yr. old- tea – sublime. More tea than I’ve ever drunk at one time. So onto today, leaving Ganze- wait, a word or two about the local hot springs. Jerene, Christine, Jeanne and Lucille- Gonpo standing watch over our room, blissful soak in our individual room… Many thanks to Gonpo for guiding us here… we would not have found our way… Next morning… leaving 5 beloveds- Lynn, Diane Ani-la. Nyima and Pemba- to R&R in Ganze- a wild and charming place, image of a very large electric pestle pounding on chili peppers in a shop window. Heaps of beautiful red crushed peppers… Sad to leave them but a good stopping place before the 2000′ climb to Sershul- great vistas. Snow capped mountains, endless valleys, endless yaks, sheep, horses, goats. Fewer and fewer villages , tents, prayer flags, snow at one pass, then Dzogchen Gonpa – small passage into spectacular tear-shaped valley – AH — various buildings old and new under construction situated in the valley-setting drawing the eye out and out and out- practice in the Tara gonpa- tears of joy and gratitude- riding in Rinpoche’s car. Gonpo at the wheel- breaking into song- Calling the Lama on the CD and here he is.- everyone s face wreathed in smiles. Meeting Rinpoche on the road to Shershul- we’re in a broad green- green valley. Beautiful soft rounded hills rolling on and on- a heart breaking moment Rinpoche and Rigdzin greeting each other- Shanti took the best picture then the rest of us tumbling out of jeeps, khataks in hand, tears streaming- moments of bliss- grateful, filled with blessings and smiling our tearfilled faces- then hopping into the jeeps- onwards to a special spot for a picnic tea- beautiful meadow- sun shining- vast sky- welcoming faces. We had to reunite with one jeep load- they had leapt ahead- but we’re all together for picnic tea- delicious and a very sweet moment. On the road to Sershul driving by the dam,- we comment on river overflowing its banks – and no turbines turning- onto Sershul- no electricity- too much water. It’s fresh- brisk- grateful I brought down sleeping bag. We’re all bundling up; hotel is very new- ornate. First westerners in the dining room. delicious many course dinners again. Food is always abundant. . Dinner by generator electricity and we’re joined by two of Rinpoche’s Beijing students. Smell of burning coal pervades the air. Saw golden eagles today and Mully saw ducks.

Be grateful to everyone. Lucille

June 24th, written by Jeanne

Our first full day after meeting Rinpoche-la on the road. We wake up in Sershul. This is the town closest to Kilung Monastery. There is no electricity because there is “too much water in the river” for the dam to handle. I wake up with a headache not so much from the altitude but from the fumes rising up from the kitchen cooking with coal. Some of us sleep in or do practice before breakfast. After breakfast some of us walk the streets looking for….. sun hats, a mandolin, mandala offering plate, etc. What we discover are these wonderful, confident, joyous beings, the Khampas, the nomads from Kham. They seem to be bold, fearless, beautiful people who look you right in the eye and if we could understand the language I’m sure we would get an earful. I think they would say whatever is on their mind; they just have that kind of look. Instead of their horses they pull up on their motorcycles, flashing their gold teeth and beautiful smiles. In their incredible outfits they confidently stride right towards you as curious about us as we are about them. Over and over again it feels as if some intimate information is exchanged, in a glance or a few words of greeting. We get out cameras, including a polaroid and share images. They seem to love pictures of themselves. We have lunch at a Tibetan restaurant, owned by a friend of Rinpoche’s and Rigdzin’s.

After lunch, Rigdzin shares stories about the nomads and some of their challenges. It is Rinpoche’s dream to preserve the nomad way of life. My understanding is that Vajrayana Buddhism has arisen from this very culture and what will happen if this culture is destroyed? The spiritual, monastic and nomadic ways of life are symbiotic with one another. They need one another. Slowly the wild yaks are being poached. If the yak population is destroyed so is the nomadic way of life. We likened this to the buffalos being wiped out in America. Look what happened there. What can we do to prevent that from happening in Kham? Kilung Rinpoche has a vision and is slowly implementing his ideas with a lot of help: the bridge that was built in Kilung Valley to make nomadic life easier, education- starting two schools teaching Tibetan culture, history, dharma, Chinese, etc; rebuilding the monastery, shedra and monks housing, clarifying the boundaries of the monastery with a desire to bring back the Kilung tribe. May each of us in our own ways discover how we can help Rinpoche in this vision.

9:30 pm Rinpoche welcomes us to Dzachuka and we are all together again. Notes from Rinpoche’s talk: Rinpoche reminds us to remember the Mandala of Connection and that when we meet the local Dzachuka people that we let go of fear and open our hearts, that we remember our karmic connection. Rinpoche states that everything is coming alive again in Dzachuka- the Vajrayana practice came out of this land, this culture and it is fully alive now. Observe, open your hearts, the karmic seeds are present. What should we bring back home with us? There is a natural nature to Buddhism, a natural cycle, no separation between Dharma and ordinary life. These mantras will connect you with the local people. Here now is “a good vacation for the mind”. This aspect that Dharma is not separate from ordinary life is important and that this time away from home is also not separate but is your life. This is also important. Utilize every moment. Experience all phenomena with openness. For example, if when you hear a barking dog, if you feel aversion, the barking causes disturbance and no sleep. If you feel openness, then harmony happens and sleep comes. Take every opportunity to practice. Now it’s time for sleeping. Jeanne

Day 12, June 25, written by Christine

Second full day in Sershul. It’s very cold, actually snowed. Hills are beautiful. Breakfast of egg and crunchy toasted bread and weak black tea. People are sleeping in so our breakfast group was smallish. Went to the apartment and organized the gifts and then a silent meditation.

Today is Guru Rinpoche Day and also Rinpoche’s Tibetan Calendar birthday. We prepared a party to celebrate. Because we’ve had no power we could not get a cake. The tea house we’ve been frequenting prepared the dinner which was chose by Rigdzin-la.

Shopping for party food and other items people needed/wanted.

The pace of the people is very slow and restful. There were some very dramatic dresses on some of the Tibetans. Usually a smile and hello lit up their beautiful faces.

Party-time. Nyima-la and cousins came and two of Rinpoche’s students from Beijing. After a feast of several dishes it was time for Karaoke and singing. Rinpoche’s nephew Jamyang (age 9-ish) sang and has a lovely voice. Everyone sang something. A good time was had by all. Christine.

June 26, Tuesday, written by Cary

I’m writing this in the swankiest hotel we’ve been at yet, in the town of Kyerku (pronounced Cherku), in Qinghai Province, scene of an enormous amount of construction and activity. The day is not yet over, but it’s been so full I’ll have to start now when there’s a moment.

We started the day out in our coal-smoke hotel for breakfast, everyone feeling pretty good and almost acclimatized. A short stop at Rinpoche’s family’s home in Sershul was extended to treat Rinpoche’s leg, which had been severely burned by a motorcycle exhaust pipe a few days previously. Two Chinese students of Rinpoche’s, LeMing Yang and Vivien have joined us for this part of the trip, and will be taking professional level photos.

We then headed off through the wide valley plains, dotted by small one-story adobe home and the white summer tents, with many yaks grazing. The hills were in the distance and it was quite spacious. We crossed one pass and in the next valley had a picnic lunch in a meadow, next to a stream, with the stunning backdrop of a hill rising up right behind us and the crystal clear blue sky, with just a few clouds. The rest of last night’s feast was consumed, as well as yogurt and nuts and raisins. It was glorious to picnic together.

It’s hard to remember exactly where we passed it, but along our route was a magnificent mani wall, with the road splitting to the left and the right of it so you could drive past on the correct side. We passed many monasteries, and though it’s now becoming familiar, the sight of the gonpa rising out of the landscape, with the red and white, low monks’ quarters covering the hillside adjacent, never failed to stir our hearts and be a special moment for all of us in the car. Today, Ani-la, Christine, Diane H. and I traveled together.

After lunch we eventually climbed another mountain pass. The roads had been quite bumpy and unpaved until this moment, when we passed into Qinghai Province. What a night and day! The road became flawless asphalt, complete with road signs and a center stripe. The terrain also shifted- more low trees, and as we descended, the plains of yak disappeared and there were modestly terraced fields in the few flat places along the riverside, with mustard blooming. The landscape was much like the canyons of Colorado, and we followed the river down, with the steep, rocky hills rising up above us. The towns were almost pueblo-like in the architecture.

Clearly, Qinghai has invested more in infrastructure. We stopped in Xiwu to wait for the little van, to make sure it turned the right way at the T intersection there. The roads in this little town were enormously wide and the town felt empty compared compared to those we’d experienced in Sichuan Province. (Rinpoche later reminded us we were still in Kham, even though it was a different Chinese province and that Amdo was several hundred miles away.)

At one point we followed a wide and rushing red-brown river, which may have been the Yangtze, or a tributary there of. At Chumda we crossed what definitely was the Yangtze on the “old” bridge (2-lanes and large), and an even newer one was being built nearby- more infrastructure. Trees were newly planted in the floodplain, and also along the road. We passed a monastery ringed with large prayer wheels we may be visiting tomorrow, after we visit Khandro. The white and red, low buildings of the (monk’s houses?) of the monasteries rose up on the hillsides like the Pure Lands. Kyerku is a boom town- wide streets lined with, initially, rows of unopen shops that perhaps aren’t occupied yet. Then the busting city with dust, traffic and construction everywhere. The sidewalks are all broken up and being replaced by paving bricks. The buildings rise up 5-7 stories high. There are banks and bookstores.
After settling into this quite deluxe hotel, many of us headed out for shopping, which is quite spectacular here. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant a short drive away, which Le Min Yang generously treated us all to. Happy to have hot water, warm rooms and electricity, we all went to bed looking forward to tomorrow’s meeting with Khandro and another night in Kyerku. Outside the construction continued in the dust as workers laid sidewalk bricks late into the night, and untold numbers of dogs began their nighttime cacophony. Cary

June 27th, Wed., written by Diane H.

Photos of our visit to Tsele Khandro are on
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4847&l=f5908&id=545974228

A la la ho! What an amazing day we had. Left Kyerku mid-morning, after meeting with Rinpoche. He prepared us for our upcoming trip to the Ani-Gonpa to visit Tsele Khandro and the several hundred anis who live there. We gathered up our khataks and wrote wishes for Khandro (in Tibetan with the help of Rinpoche and Gonpo) on our donation envelopes.

The drive from Kyerku to the gonpa was breathtakingly beautiful. The skies were a brilliant blue with white puffy clouds. We drove through the mountains, past fertile green valleys. After crossing a bridge over the wide, muddy Drichu (Yangtze) River, we soon hit a dirt road that continued for miles and miles (my fellow riders guess-timated the dirt road into the gonpa to be about 35 miles.) A fork of the Drichu ran along far beneath us, as we wound along a rocky edge. At one point the road tilted up, with sheer-rock face to our left and cliff to the right, so some of us opted to get out and walk while the cars squeezed through. We went through a few small communities, all the while greeting passing folks with “Tashi Deleks” and waves. A short distance from the gonpa, we stopped by the river for a picnic lunch. Shanti gathered a big bouquet of wildflowers, augmenting those Heidi had gathered earlier. Unfortunately, Rigdzin and Mully had awakened with stomach troubles, and the long bumpy car ride hadn’t helped. So Jeanne, our resident nurse, Cary and others tended to them, trying various remedies and encouraging them to rest.

After lunch, we packed up and drove into the gonpa entrance. Anis waved as we drove up to the place where throngs of anis greeted us as we climbed out of our cars. Rinpoche let us know Khandro wasn’t feeling well, so we weren’t sure we would be able to see her. We hiked up, through a narrow, windy path, led and encouraged on by the anis, to the Khandro’s quarters. We stood outside, just enjoying connecting with the anis. It is quite amazing how much we were all able to communicate without a shared language. The language of the heart prevailed.

The news was that Khandro would, indeed, grant us each an audience – an opportunity for us to present our khataks, and receive a blessing. One by one we lined up and, ducking our heads to enter the small, ancient, earthen room, approached Khandro. Rinpoche was seated next to her bed, and introduced each of us by name. We leaned forward to present this tiny, wizened dakini our khataks. She returned them, touched her forehead to ours, and said prayers and blessings in Tibetan, along with a personal pith instruction/spiritual advice for each of us. I don’t think there was anyone untouched by her powerful, compassionate presence. Everyone I saw exiting her room had tears of joy in her eyes. Meanwhile, the anis stayed gathered round us, seeming so genuinely happy to have us there and to share in the blessings of their beloved Khandro. We then went to visit the gonpa, a place with spiritual energy that was palpable. Lots of tears, smiles, laughter and then the descent back to our cars. Surely we had karmic ties with these anis for how else to explain the bonding and connecting that took place in a few short hours?

Our car ride back to Kyerku was a quiet one, as we all silently reflected on our encounters and experiences of this amazing day. Diane H.

Thursday, the 28th, written by Judy

“Do not forget the lama: pray to him at all times. Do not be carried away by thought; watch the nature of the mind. [Do not be carried away by thoughts!] Do not forget death; persist in the dharma. Do not forget sentient beings, with compassion dedicate your merit to them.” Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

OK, so we are to watch our thoughts and the one (me) who wrote those words messed up this afternoon when we arrived back at the officially designate foreign hotel in Sershul. Wah! The terlet is in pieces and won’t flush and there is a stream of water from the sink to the drain which has long black hairs in it and… the room is once again full of coal smoke, etc. Wah!

So, I confess and apologize for not watching my mind when……. We had a good breakfast and talk with Ron- a young man seeking his spiritual path in Tibet after having a very detailed dream about being a monk here. When…………. after piling into the cars we started off along the beautiful green valley with the chalky green river with thunder and rain. When……………. we were lucky enough to stop at the place of the hugely many prayers turning in the hugely many prayer wheels and were able to pray for the dog with the completely blind white eyes and the dog on the sidewalk who had been somehow released from his misery. When……………we ate a picnic with sunshine and puffy clouds and blue skies next to a mountain stream. There were decorated tents and chained mastiff dogs and cute puppies, little girl and elderly grandma, pink and yellow meadow flowers, fresh momos, bread, fruit, yak meat. The momos and yak were prepared by the family living there as a business. When……………. we climbed to the top of the pass, shouted our greeting and threw paper blessings. When……………… we all arrived safely and best of all spent the day with Rinpoche!!

Sershul notes: Street blocked by police; high officials being entertained at the hotel; music, singing, dancing, noisy party; moon almost full- Venus and another bright star; eating at the Tibetan restaurant; a man with toilet paper hanging out of his trousers (a very dressed up man); internet for some (Bush regime in hot water); plans with Rigdzin for tomorrow. Then nite! and sweet dreams! Judy

June 29th, written by Lynn

Photos of our festival campground
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4861&l=55181&id=545974228

Photos of Mura Mani Wall
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4856&l=8aaa7&id=545974228

Photos of Dzachu Bridge
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=6003&l=ec940&id=545974228

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=bwbtcm3a.9khflwt2&x=0&y=-72ju6m shows spring flooding and recent repairs

the big day–we go to the mani wall and begin our journey to the Kilung valley. individual breakfasts on the street in sershul– not the favorite town for its coal fragrance, but offering us respite– trinwar. so- surprise! police escort to our destination! flashing lights & racing cars– boys/men the same all over the world!

news that the bridge rinpoche built has been damaged and is unusable. kindly he prepares us for the sight.

as we continue, the procession to greet rinpoche is visible: motorcycles lamas or monks along the road with khataks— horses with prayer banners. rearranging cars with rinpoche at the end– cops deciding where to place themselves then– the mani wall. we do kora before getting out of cars & being ushered into a beautiful big tent for lunch.

carpeted pads to sit on– low tables filled with a warm abundant food offering! endless chunks of meat- yak and lamb- on endless bones — lovely for those among us who like it! bowls of candy, apples, grapes, bananas, melon. a mildly brewed cidery drink- slightly sweet- slightly beery.

long line of us on one side and friends of rinpoche’s and police on the other. monks and others coming in with big smiles and khataks.

forgot chinese masks at the greeting when the sang was burning- 1 huge head and 2 child-sized figures.

watched the toilet be erected for us– heidi and i the eager audience. small bend to enter white tent above 2 holes- one with a carved toilet seat on legs!

tents up– in the blazing sun we assemble– what’s missing– who has extra tent stakes! embarrassing amount of stuff we fill our tents with. with more help than we can use the small encampment pops up.

shanti and I and mully have same tents and go up quickly. jeanne and rigdzin play games with the children. voices echoing as we try to settle ourselves.

khampa style chubas- cary, christine, rigdzin, shanti, lynn.

for our first night of camping we expect a full moon. tired of cars and bumpy roads we expect to enjoy this time of rest in such a beautiful place– rolling hills around us– prayer flags and yaks and their tents

off to join rinpoche and the lamas practice now–

into the tent– rinpoche seated flanked by rows of lamas, monks. serkem flying–spotting the tent in the sun. chanting- conch blown, malas, mantras. butter lamps unlit in rows behind us. suddenly over and all up and leaving.

long slow walk around the mani wall- miracles— hole in one, punched in wall. accompanied by adorable young khampa to keep us safe from dogs.

dinner bell now

full moon rising

long full day

such gratitude Lynn

June 30, World Sang Offering Day, written by Rigdzin

Glorious morning and Kilung Rinpoche off with monks and nomads to the top of a mountain by horseback to make official sang offering. The full group of us women pleading with Rinpoche to reconsider going because of his fresh burn, barely healing on inside of calf- but to no avail. KJR wearing a golden hat of Gesar atop steed, the group trotted off- and we were not to see them again until past two.

Our group trekked up a nearby mountainside overlooking camp and mani wall and Dzachu River- distant mountains and view- for Chod practice, our first as a group. We began with a sharing circle, taking ample time–valuable. Hot sun. By the time we were able to begin Chod, Gonpo appeared to lead us back to lunch. Instead we invited him to join us in our practice. Jerene had a text in Tibetan script for him. Afterwards he repeated 3x “Really good” in Tibetan. Indeed!

After lunch all were sun-exhausted, laying on the cushions on the reception tent. Naps in tent.

Late afternoon we were invited to have an audience with Namkha Senge Rinpoche, the son of the previous Kilung Rinpoche. We offered prostrations, khataks and dana, and he offered us an extensive blessing ceremony, very moving. Beautiful.

Next, horse racing for young kids. Exciting and fun, but perhaps eclipsed by socializing with the nomads, all male because they came from summer pasture grounds for the 3-day festival, leaving women and kids with animals.

A storm followed. Thunder, lightening, wind and RAIN! The reception tent leaked terribly. The main dining tent was half-serviceable. Quite a lot of us got dinner in spite of the liquid challenge, and most small tents were not too badly affected.

Rinpoche was engaged all afternoon in a monastic and community meeting, and as I write this at 11:15 pm in a cozy sleeping bag, I can still hear heated discussion from the Reception Tent, now dry, the storm having passed.

Dogs barking, sheep bleating, motorcycles rumbling. Full moon, lots of energy. Sleep welcome. Rigdzin Chodron

Today is July 1st, written by Mully.

Photos of the Horse Races
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4858&l=4a0f2&id=545974228

I know this because Rigdzin dated yesterday’s entry as June 30th. I have no idea what day of the week this is — The morning was filled with inventory of rain damaged tents. Linda, Jerene and Rigdzin had water intrusion — all helped to improve their situations. We learned we would be leaving “soon” after breakfast for the horse races further down the valley.

Before we had even gone to breakfast there was a morning sang offering among the nomads and their horses– all circumambulating the smoke. Then a blessing of the horses by Rinpoche and Namkha Senge and other monks.

At breakfast a great deal of granola from several sources appeared– bananas, too! They went well with the yogurt and were possibly a new taste experience for Gonpo.

After “getting ready” we loaded into many vehicles and made the hour plus ride to the horse racing fields. It was a beautiful day- not too sunny– enough cloud cover to feel comfortable. At Rinpoche’s suggestions we parked our cars and put our blankets upon the hillside above the races. Then we descended into the people.

Shanti wowed a large group with her magic ring. It’s a lot of pressure to get that magic to work with a large group of intense people who WANT TO DO IT TOO!!!

There were more horse races and then we got out the “Mully balls”. Shanti can juggle and we all had a lot of fun juggling and playing group catch.

Then we went back up the hillside for lunch. Of the 6 balls (3 small and 3 large), four came back up the hill. Soon several women came up the hill and picture taking commenced. I was knitting on a large ball. This young woman wanted to learn so I showed her and she picked it up immediately. More women, children and men arrived seemingly interested in knitting and making balls. Fortunately Jeanne had her crochet hooks and I had 5 sets of needles and lots of yarn. I was intent upon showing them the “way” to make the balls (we made small ones) as I was hoping they may enjoy making them for themselves and continue the fun. Two women knit their own and then I showed them the yarn needles and how to sew the rectangle together and gather the top to make them ready to stuff. We had no stuffing. I showed them the rocks. A beautiful man in a black coat came back with his ball stuffed with mint and rocks. An awesome adaptation. He sewed the ball together. In all we must have made at least 8 small balls and Lucille and Shanti and Rigdzin played all manner of games with them with the children. One woman demonstrated using the balls for jacks with rocks.

This was really beyond my wildest imagination. Although I had visualized parts of it, I loved that the men were as interested as the women and everyone participated at a slow, congenial Tibetan pace. I know all of you were having other experiences but I was so “in the middle of this one” that my narrative is a little narrow in focus. Thanks to Cary-la for rescuing my money belt during the initial knitting frenzy. I did walk further up the hillside for the bigger view and saw Diane doing yoga and Heidi and Cary each having their own view. When I laid down to rest I couldn’t believe how close the herd of sheep came to me. I could hear them munching their grass.

Back home to our encampment. Some rain but not too much.

We rest, we eat dinner, the rain is still gentle. We have potatoes. We miss Lucille. After dinner Rinpoche shares the story of his grandfather and the horse thieves. We miss Lynn.

The rain whips up. We organize the inside of the tent so rugs, cushions, etc. will stay dry. We all go to bed hoping everyone stays dry. Many, many, many blessings this day. Mully

July 2nd, written by Heidi

Photos of the Patrul Rinpoche Mani Wall
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4857&l=a44af&id=545974228

After a very wet and windy night, packed up and headed for the final horse race. Many muddy pot holes and a bout of claustrophobia for Jerene who was riding in the way back. Penba’s jeep was a’rockin. Stopped at the hawk who graciously offered his feathers to us all. Spent what seemed like less than 1/2 an hour watching the horse race, a Kilung horse won! Went to Patrul Rinpoche’s mani wall after that, wonderful!

Very long. I was dizzy at the end. Lynn left her parent’s ashes at the far end. The three level temple contained a statue of Garab Dorje and we gave money for paint so the altars could be finished. Had a snack surrounded by many dogs. It was hard for me not to feed them because they looked so pitiful. Rinpoche drove on the way home and got stuck. A couple of the drivers had to go back to help. Once back, some rested and some went to watch more horse racings. In the late afternoon we attended a dance performance by the young monks. The only name I remember is “offering to Tsawai Lama”. Wonderful yet very cold and windy. Late dinner and interviews with Rinpoche. Rain again. Heidi

July 3rd 2007 (I think), written by Shanti

Rinpoche blessing the sang:
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=5158&l=e3f67&id=545974228
Other festival photos:
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4854&l=2866b&id=545974228

Shanti here. I got up earlier than usual to see if I could do my prostrations before everyone got up- the valley was jumping.

Actually, the moon woke me up. I dared to look out my tent door after hours of rain and wind and there she was– the 2nd day after full moon in the pink/blue dawn sky. So I forced myself up. I really do love doing my prostrations as the camp wakes up. Our nomad neighbor woman is always up before me- standing in her herd- gazing- as I am gazing – sooooo gooood.

We meditated, practiced, washed, talked, awakened and waited for the sang offering. Had breakfast- eggs! tsampa! And what a sang offering it was! All the old prayer flags were replaced on the center pole and while the sang fire was lit, the horses gathered, the nomads pranced, and at a certain unknown time- millions of prayer papers were thrown in the air. La gyal lo!! Rinpoche came with his crown on and blessed the four directions. More prayers were burned and piles of old prayer flag. In the misty smoke horses reared with excitement as they went round and round. At the end the ground was covered with colored confetti prayer papers and when the wind blew they rustled and sometimes went up into the air again. (page also covered with Shanti’s lovely little drawings of the colored paper prayers)

Then a few of us walked the mani wall with Fabio Rocky as our guide or should I say forceful companion. Lynn left her mom and dad’s ashes at the end of the wall.

Lunch and oh yea, a rainstorm! Afternoon wool spinning with ladies and children playing pat-a-cakes, and then an opera no less. Complete with taped music, great costumes and lots of posturing and slow movement dancing. Very long day because then came monks dancing again and open mike singing and playing of instruments. I particularly love the “mountain singing” very haunting, both men and women.

Then many gifts given to the sponsors. The last event was absurdly trying to lift a 300 lb. sack of sand. Rinpoche was the gracious present host the whole day. Thankas of Zagangado (?) -wealth presented. Many pictures all day, of course.

Dinner- Bed- rain and wind!!

spinning mantras,
spinning wool
purifying smoke
purifying obscurations
laughing with the children
stylin’ with the nomads
living with the yaks-sheep-dogs
life death all around
beautiful mountain clouds
high up where the air is thin
and our emotions are thinner
we white women struggle
with our tender hearts emotions
and blessings. obstacles
all go together with
wonderment that we are even here.
Merging with the monks and nomads
is both simple and complicated
May we reach enlightenment,
equanimity and the open heart
of Bodhicitta
Love from the roof of the world. Shanti

July 4th, written by Linda

Fourth of July for us Americanos- someone at practice this morning suggested dedicating the merit to the U.S. to return to our root principles which seem to be in short supply these days.

Right now I am writing this as the hummer of all storms is raging outside! Each one seems like the ultimate storm, but his one really takes the prize! Two hours ago, we were swimming in the hot sun at the river with Rinpoche and the monks and the horses! My tent is thrashing around as the thunder and lightning crash and flash, and I am hoping that Sierra Designs will come thru, plus everyone else’s’!!! The noise of the wind and rain are deafening! This is absolutely the wildest country I’ve ever experienced! and kind of trip that peels away the layers (whether you want it or not) and leaves one feeling exposed, vulnerable, grateful, amazed! There’s no way out, so you may as well go in!!

We’re all hanging in there, visiting with the nomads, washing our hair and clothes in the stream next to our camp. Most everyone has had their share of ailments or emotional angst, but it seems to pass. We all help each other, sharing medicines, snacks, filtered water, and of course, passionate advice about most everything. The storm is abating and so is my writing! Peace, Linda

Tibetan folk opera
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4857&l=a44af&id=545974228

Horse Blessing in Dzachuka River
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4855&l=e1783&id=545974228

July 5th, written by Jerene

Kilung Gonpa
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=6003&1=ec940&id=545974228

Tour of reinstated lands of Kilung Monastery
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4850&l=283dc&id=545974228

3:30 Ayem– awakened 5th (?) morning by yak who shares this field. Snorting, munching—sounds like snoring. He comes every morning right up next to my tent door. Today we have been instructed to break camp early for journey to Sershul and Kilung Valley. But we have come to expect the unexpected and while there is a “plan”, it definitely will alter on this altar of life which predictably happens moment by moment.

Gratitude reigns for the extended time we have made this Dzachuka Valley our home! Making acquaintance with the nomad family of women, children and their extended family of yaks, sheep, and – (not so friendly, but definitely vociferous!) dogs—in and throughout the night).

We have been held by the mattress of the broad plain valley, filled with the beauty of intense white clouds in crystal clear blue skies, watched storms come and go with lightening magnetism and rolling thunders, drenched by torrential cleanse of monsoon downpours.

Mealtimes have come to be, not such an expectation of wondrous taste thrills (although often very nourishing with yogurt, droma, noodles, thukpas, potatoes, rice and ever present muddy water and tea–(hard to tell the difference by looks!) BUT a fun time interacting with our devoted “servers” learning Dzachuka words and personal names. The young monks are a complete delight to come to know along with Rigdzin’s stories of their lives as she knows them.

I am feeling the Wholeness of this place/time. The land with grass, dung, tents, PEOPLE, animals, hills, rivers, sky, rain, clouds and the mark we make here with Mani Walls, new construction, poles, poles, poles of prayer flags- COLOR, and sang pyre- Don’t forget the garbage! For 3 days we talk about how to leave with no footprint, try to burn our wet paper, and throw up our arms with this interface of cultures– western plastic! mostly with no systems for healthy disposal (we guess they may be burning water bottles in the cook stove.) Shanti imagines a big circle of garbage remaining when our tents are lifted and vehicles pull out. I will try to remember to look-see.

More later as the day unfolds. Grateful that the night time feminine waters have subsided (RAIN) and pray our packing up will be in a beautiful dry morning (but we expect the unexpected, don’t we?).

Later- Wasn’t rainy or sunny but was an energetic flurry (with Tibetan helpers) to get the gear packed up and in the transport before water fell from above. Tsampa b-fast followed by Rinpoche announcement he would be staying longer asking for 3 volunteers (Judy, Shanti, Jeanne). A quick trip to the “hidden store” and we’re off the Sershul saying goodbye to our home of 6 nights which came to be a comfortable cradle. Jeanne and Mully trotted to nomad’s tent to gift love offering of some money—only to find they had packed their tents and yaks and already taken themselves to greener pastures. Lunch in Sershul at our fave Tibetan restaurant–internet goers and Diane warmed by words from home!

Rigdzin did the banking and we headed back out of town to Kilung Valley and Gonpa. Over rivers and through meadows– climbing to yet higher elevation we arrived breathless at our destination with “hurry up” messages to get cars unloaded so drivers could return to Mani Wall campgrounds retrieving more supplies. We were gratefully shown tenting options and proceeded to Erectus Unum. Jerene

July 6th, written by Lucille

First day at Kilung Gompa- valley view spectacular. From narrow opening to a broad green basin- yaks and sheep not many, a few horses. Lots of birds- cuckoo’s song- dawn and dusk! Two monks sitting on the crest of the hill. A few people, some workmen building monk’s homes. A few dogs, fewer than we expected. Rebuilding Kilung Gompa is in full swing. Grand tour led by Rigdzin and Dawa. Kilung School- no students- on holiday- started by Rinpoche when Chinese government enforced policy that all children must attend school. Plans to double enrolment soon from 20 to 40. About 7-9 residential.
To the temple- original walls- massive roof cave-in several years ago – Chinese workmen sawing ornate mouldings, etc. to replace destroyed – inside- wet- open roof- most of new roof(tiles) on- central opening for rising golden roof- packed earth walls- meters thick. Old, huge pillars red/blue ochre- held together with wooden pins- Rinpoche said later that the metal central roof should be up in one month- to be gold-leafed later as funds materialise. To the shedra- relatively new (6 years) not in session for 1-2 weeks yet. Lhakhang in the center- surrounded by two stories of rooms- again water damage in places.

Up on the hills- great energy- wonderful vistas- hills rolling off in the distance- dotted in yaks/sheep/goats- a few horses- occasionally a human- animals outnumber the humans. Chod practice on the hill, blazing sun- clouds rain weather systems. Just moving through- quiet. A few of us have interviews with Rinpoche. Food is great. Some of the camp people showing up. Home cooking. Altitude a small problem. Many report feeling tired- wiped out- Heidi isn’t feeling well- weak- maybe we are another 1000′ not sure but we are a little breathless. Everything is up and down- very little level. Sleeping in new monks quarters- very nice stone/adobe/concrete- wood floors- beautiful views from the windows- Goodnight. Lucille

July 7th, written by Lucille

Me again- Day 2 at the gompa. Expect the unexpected- schedule changes moment to moment. At breakfast Rigdzin announces meditation and teaching by Rinpoche. A few of us meditated together this a.m. on the hillside led by Ani-la.

Rinpoche’s teachings: (from notes courtesy of Judy)
Meditate on altitude problems e.g. shortness of breath. The energy of this land will help in your practice. Many masters, Jigme Lingpa, etc. practiced here. This is good to connect with pilgrimage place. Any practice is good, especially guru yoga, vajrakilaya. The energy of these masters is here- get connected- I’m here in Tibet settle down- elements and energy can enrich each other- work together- joyful and open to this place. Use meditation practice best for you at this time- lama, yidam, khandro, root guru. Let your mind rest, no need to follow lare l thoughts- struggle with them. Kleshas arise- normal- good opportunity to recognize nature of mind and transform them. Will give transmission and short teaching of vajrakilaya practice lung- next few days- wisdom diety of all wrathful forms.

Discussion re: possible projects for Kilung Valley and Gompa. Land is now recognized for Kilung Gompa. Very helpful governmental official- respects Tibetan culture. Building community, re-energizing and valuing nomad lifestyle and culture. Stop the flow to city life. Many possible projects- yak products- milk, cheeses. Sheep/goat products- milk, cheeses, wool, etc. Gompa will have herds released for life animals- families hired to care for them. More knowledge about agriculture and economics needed locally. More education. Rinpoche getting help from Khenpo also local people.

We’re also all looking at fabrics for chuba’s, etc. and laundry is happening, courtesy of the helpmed Gompo- no task too great or too small. The monklets- lugging up great carafes of water from the spring to indulge our passion for clean underwear. A very good lunch, courtesy of Christine- delicious veg. soup – amazing that they let her into the kitchen as they tend to shoo us out and dismiss offerings of help. It’s an entirely male world- very few women around here. So far, and certainly none in the kitchen. Ah, the wonderful Pemba is back and he hopes to stay with us until the end of our trip.

After lunch, most of us head off in the jeep for a tour of the Kilung Monastery lands- sheep, yak, horse, jackrabbits, marmots, pica’s, birds, and possibly, a deerlike creature are spotted. Great shots of clouds.- rainstorm for about 10 minutes as we ride along, and a picnic toast to the Kilung Monastery on a flower covered slope in the sunshine. Wonderful momos yak and veg await us.

Another spectacular sky and rainbow tonight from my little window.

Forgot to mention- 1st night and show of LeMing Yang and Vivian’s photos- 1100 of them- great shots- calendar, greeting cards etc. Said goodbye to both of them- we’ll see them again, I’m sure. Goodnight- blessings on everyone! Lucille

Sunday, July 8th, written by Ani Seltong

Visit to Kilung Ani Gonpa (nunnery)
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4848&l=45b5b&id=545974228

To Ani Gonpa in the morning, meditating with Lungtok Rinpoche’s body relic. Most powerful moment for me was seeing Kilung Rinpoche close to tears as he began the Refuge Prayer.

Beautiful new lhakang being built there, endowed by a wealthy Thai woman. Most of the ani’s at Achuk Rinpoche’s gar. Almost no available housing for them here.

Then to visit nomad families and have yogurt and droma, then to distribute gifts- Christmas in Tibet in the rain, Rinpoche & Diane sitting under shelter of two ponchos held up by various of us. Drove to the bridge, very sad to see – most of the center portion underwater and badly skewed.

Back to the monastery with a stop for wildflowers, and hearing a shepherdess high up on a mountain shoulder singing to her flock.

Linda dropped her glasses through the board gaps in the toilet and had to get down on the boards and reach through to fish them out.

Several of us kind of sick; several ready to go home, several ready to stay forever. Ani Seltong

Monday, July 9th, written by Jeanne

Photos of our trip to Ponru School: http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4851&l=c5a40&id=545974228

Photos of students at Ponru School: http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=bwbtcm3a.9eepd9di&x=0&y=-iw6cxl

We are getting ready to leave for Ponru School. Just finished homemade yak yoghurt for breakfast. Shanti asked will it be hot or cold and Ani Seltong said yes! It’s raining now. Well the day at Ponru School was another amazing experience. Rinpoche reported after we arrived and were seated in front of yet another amazing feast under a nomad summer tent, that at least 80% of the Ponru School kid’s families were present for the graduation of their kids. It was a beautiful celebration with both Rinpoche and Diane speaking for the graduation ceremony. We were told at least 15 children would go on to middle school. Rinpoche is really hoping more of the kids will go on to higher education and that he promised families some financial support if they let their kids continue their education. He hopes they go on to high school then university. The graduation children performed beautiful traditional dancing and singing. Mully and I sat with the nomad families. Mully knitting Mully balls to give away and both of us playing with the small children and sitting close to the women just being curious and close to one another.

At the end of the ceremony we took two Polaroid pictures of each student, one for a school picture book and one to give to the student. This wonderful and generous idea was contributed by Diane H. Thanks, Diane! The students and teachers loved this so most. Then we visited the school which included a great greenhouse that the cook, Rinpoche’s niece, grew her greens in. What a beautiful school! We were all impressed.

On our way home we stopped in town to visit the home of the ex-mayor that Rinpoche wants to buy. Another extraordinary moment. The house is amazing with 1000 Taras in its shrine room. We enjoyed visiting with the family and getting to see this traditional Tibetan home. We had dinner in town, giving the “thumbs up” on the home. So, if the family decides to sell, we buy, or as Rinpoche says, if they don’t want to sell, we copy it and put it somewhere else.

We got home around midnight, tired from our long day but full of wonderful memories of hope. Hope that these extraordinary nomad children maintain the motivation to educate themselves and return to their remote homeland and find creative solutions to maintain this fragile nomad way of life that is so similar to the American Indian’s way of life. May this nomad lifestyle and culture be protected and thrive forever. Jeanne

Dakini Day- July 10, written by Christine

After breakfast, we had a brief hiatus and then joined the monks and Rinpoche for a tsok. Lasted about 5 hours and was amazing. Three nuns from the next ridge also joined us.

Then, in the pouring rain we hung 108 prayer flags for Kerry, Jeanne’s daughter, and also other people Jeanne has named.

We shared our experiences at the end of the day at dinner. Christine

July 11- Tuesday, written by Rigdzin

Hike to Jigme Lingpa sacred site
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=4853&l=01e31&id=545974228

There was an all-night community leader meeting last night with about 15 people in the dining room of Rinpoche’s house. It ended at 5:30 am this morning, and all these people slept in various rooms and [[on miscellaneous]] mattresses. Rinpoche said one subject was the new land and that a public announcement would be made right away.

Then, after little sleep, Rinpoche was whisked away to Ponru for an important meeting there to discuss which children would be going on to middle school and so forth. When he returned later in the evening, he came with the news that 25 students would go on! They will have all expenses carried by the educational dept, and if they choose to go on to college/university, one NGO would like to sponsor those expenses.

One day’s highlight was a group climb to the top of the mountain above the gonpa. It was a beautiful day, not hot or rainy. All but Ani-la came- and she couldn’t make it because of her knee- very sad to stay behind. I had tried to find some solution, like a horseride, but too steep and slippery. So, it seemed pretty miraculous that all the rest were able to reach the top- because of some of the age-related physical limitations. But no limitations today! Wildflowers filling the meadow-like slopes, birdsong, huge fluffy clouds, spacious views of mountain after mountain. Over the far side we saw Gemang Monastery with its new retreat buildings and shiny huge lhakang.

We sat a long time by Kilung Jigme Rinpoche’s footprint in stone, which he pressed there about 15 years ago. Some of us, including myself, wept, which I usually do every time I go. The truth and power of who he is- and my own inability to fully appreciate that in every moment. Jeanne brought small lovely things to leave by the stone, among the small altar of white rocks piled up to one side. There was a stone brought from Jigme Lingpa’s seat in Central Tibet, and one from Machig Lapdron’s place from there, too. And shells and stones from Whidbey.

We sat near the stone, before an awesome high view, for Chod practice, sending our voices and wishes over the land, mixing with the elements and blessings of the place. A happy dream to be doing this here.

We left photos of loved ones in the Jigme Lingpa footprint hut, along with a khatak signed with names of people with sufferings. This place was also source of heart-opening experiences (lots of tears). And I reassured our two young monks who had carried some of our bags up the hill, that all was okay, in fact, good. They are beautiful-hearted boys.

After coming down the mountain, many of us were part of the tree-planting crew, headed up by Heidi. The treelings were put into the shedra courtyard, where it seems they’ll be more protected from the elements and certainly no animals will eat them.

The ngondro text workgroup continued work before and after dinner- Jeanne, Cary and myself.

We also, the full group, had a very “big” discussion early in the day about how to help Kilung Gonpa and tribe. Many ideas came, and we decided to organize all for presentation to Rinpoche, rather than having a brainstorm with him. So everyone reported their ideas to Judy, who compiled them in an organized way, and we will use this in an upcoming meeting with Rinpoche. Rigdzin Chodron

Wed., July 12, written by Cary

I write this sitting in my tent looking out at yaks on the hillside in the early morning of our last day. The yaks visited this morning, licking dew off the tent til I gave a shout, afraid their rough tongues might hurt the waterproofing. Yesterday was a quiet day, starting slowly as we figured out the schedule for our last bit of time here. Many did clothes washing, showers, and we also had time to clean up the garbage around the spring and stream below (at least 8-10 bags full), and also around the area of Rinpoche’s house and the parking entrance below. Clothes were brought to give to people, which were washed and then fell in the dirt form the clothes line. Oh well! It was a gloriously sunny day, with the sun greeting us as we awoke- a welcome change from rainy beginnings the few days before.

After lunch there was more cleanup up. Heidi and her crew continued on the tree-planting. Rinpoche returned from his short visit to the Gemang Monastery and had interviews. We then gathered for a meeting where Judy skilfully shared the ideas she had gathered from everyone about how to help with the operations, maintenance and functioning of the monastery. Several immediate ways to help emerged, such as supplying cleaning supplies, and there was also an animated discussion about roofing options. With global warming, modern methods will need to be combined with traditional ones to deal with the changing weather (increased rain and wind). Rinpoche also shared many details of how things are organized, the people involved, and the pace of change, that filled in the bigger picture. He shared many of our concerns and is already working on them.

The chubas and hats and other clothes arrived so there was a great fashion show and shopping spree. Other details to note- continued work on the ngondro, and Lucille was bitten by a dog on her leg. She was backing up while taking a photo of the lhakang and probably spooked a mother dog as she approached her puppy too closely. Fortunately it was a superficial wound, but traumatic nevertheless.

The stars and the Milky Way were brilliant as we went to bed. Cary

July, Friday the 13th– an Auspicious Day! written by Diane H.

Today was an amazing, auspicious day, our final day at Kilung Monastery. It was a day full of activity, ceremony, teachings and celebration. Ani-la began her day with a shower and a shave, in preparation for the private advanced ordination (for lack of a better description) to be given at 9:30 am. Jerene kindly shaved Ani-la’s head down to the nub, leaving only the traditional topknot, for the Khenpo to snip. As things are ever-changing, her ceremony was suddenly changed to the evening…

In the late morning, Rinpoche met with all of us outside (we sat opposite the shedra, as weatherwise, it was a glorious day). He first gave the Vajrakilaya lung, along with teachings and the significance of Vajrakilaya to this land. We felt blessed to be able to receive the lung in this most sacred and powerful place. He then gave refuge to Linda, who was taking refuge for the first time, as well as to Cary and Shanti, who were formally taking refuge again. It gave all of us the opportunity to renew our refuge in the Three Jewels… Rinpoche preceded the formal refuge ceremony with teachings on the three levels of refuge and the meaning of taking refuge from the Vajrayana perspective. Finally, he gave the Ngondro lung, especially requested by Lucille but appreciated by all of us.

The afternoon was spent packing and preparing for an early-morning departure tomorrow. Some of us also found time to do some outside practice, taking in the magnificent Dzogchen view for the last time… Others of us did last-minute tasks as we prepared to leave.

The evening was a celebratory feast that went on into the night (10:30 pm). The dinner was truly a banquet, with about a dozen dishes. We all gathered together, our group and our Tibetan hosts, and toasted to a wonderful visit, with much appreciation for all they have done for us. We had a surprise birthday cake for Rinpoche (his”Injee” birthday is tomorrow, 7/14), and it was a most spectacular cake! It’s centrepiece was a pink plastic lotus that played “Happy Birthday”. Adults and kids alike took great delight in it. Rinpoche seemed both surprised and pleased to have his birthday remembered. Things got a little crazy when the cake frosting started to fly (Lynn, did you start it??), with frosting getting smeared onto people’s faces- all in good fun, and amidst gales of laughter. Gonpo especially got in the act, and almost none of the guys escaped a big dollop of frosting.

Rinpoche honoured each of us with gifts and a khatak, expressing his deep appreciation for coming to visit and acknowledging our deepening connection with him and Kilung Monastery. We each received a khatak, a beautiful photograph of Rinpoche, dutsi from Kilung Monastery, beautiful prayer flags and a lovely piece of Tibetan wool. Then Rinpoche revived an old tradition, the ceremony of honouring those who have been outstanding sponsors of Kilung Monastery. Lynn, Jeanne, Mully and Shanti received the “Jindak” designation, with a beautiful khatak, a wonderful piece of handwoven, gilded fabric and a certificate recognizing them as Jindaks, or sponsors, for their offer to make possible the purchase of the traditional Tibetan home for sale in Sershul. (Rinpoche has felt this could be a guest house for Western visitors, while also valuing its original, beautiful Tibetan craftsmanship.) Rinpoche also honoured Rigdzin for all she has done and gave her a gift of lovely white silk.

Now it was our turn to give our gifts! Rigdzin presented khataks and monetary gifts from the whole group to all those who have worked on our behalf to host us. Then, she presented gifts for the shedra and for the Kilung Children’s School, as well as distributing some other gifts we had brought to our hosts. Meanwhile, we were surprised by yet another round of gifts from Rinpoche’s nephew (?) who brought gifts for us from himself and also from his mother, in appreciation. Finally, we each presented Rinpoche with our khataks, our thanks, and our offerings.

Meanwhile, Ani-la, at the end of our celebration was whisked away (at around 10:30!) for her ceremony with the Khenpo!
It was quite an evening, with laughter and tears shared by all us…. Diane H.

July 14th, written by Lynn

leaving the monastery and our beloved lama! Last chance to taste the delights of Sershul- satisfy needs of shopping (for what?), internet, finding lunch and walking the streets.

but oh the tears—

his enormous smile—

on the road—-

fabulous vistas – at one enormous pass-nearly tossed this book in place of paper prayers!

lines of white butts along the road – sweet relief among the wildflowers

on the way to ganze in the rear of the toyota- hysteria reins and

we’re here and we’re not there – judy

wrap your brain around that one!

(Drawing of an owl on the road’s edge, and a fox)

the dusty dharma darlings arrive at dusk

check-in – new roommates- quick supper, shopping before dinner. oh! we found 2 hats for shanti’s niece’s wedding.

5:30 wake up call to board the prison bus- call block C to chengdu —- hugs! Lynn

July 15th, written by Mully

Today was our second whole day on the road back to Chengdu- in one van there were 11 of us and lots of luggage, in the Toyota four of us and Pema. Leaving by 6:30 got us up early and afforded much napping interspersed with snacks, breakfast at Trango and lunch at a truck stop. We saw tiny mountains emerging out of, but below, the green rolling hills we’ve grown familiar with. The architectural changes from adobe to wood to stone. The highland passes, yak and sheep and nomad life became interspersed with the more

agrarian lifestyle in the fertile lowlands. The highway traffic was treacherous today. We saw our first two, and hopefully only two, vehicular accidents.

We made good time and arrived in Kangding around 6 pm. The horror of “progress” the Chinese have made in the construction of their new Kangding since we were here last was astounding and disturbing.

Kangding is truly a Chinese city and a place where the Chinese government is making a major effort to change the landscape and create new frontiers for itself. Near our Hotel Gesar there is very little

Tibetan presence. Many of us went out walking after dinner and found this to be a very INTENSE city. Lots of Chinese shops with glittery shoes, jeans clothes. A fierce rushing river, taxis, cars, and lots of motorcycle police.

I think the calmest place was the farmer’s market tucked into an alleyway between two busy streets. Dinner at the Hotel was tasty. We hope Rigdzin feels better tomorrow and, as always, there were more beautiful flowers along the way. Maybe we saw mullein.

For me, it’s been difficult to “let go” of our time in Kilung Valley and monastery with Rinpoche and his family and community. These two long days on the road have put a lot of physical distance between us,

but no distance of the heart. Oh yes! Today was the visit from the US Consulate. In our big van we noted this and did Vajrakilaya mantras of support for a positive visit with a good outcome! Mully

Tashi delek! Monday, July 16th, written by Judy

Beautiful illustration of mountains and sky, with nomad tents, yaks and river flowing through valley

6:00 am wake-up call. Baggage by our doors by 6:45. Out buying eggs. No help from hotel staff yet…. man picking through hotel garbage cans for plastics and cans….. the new bus ready to roll….. horns start honking….. city noises after the quiet of Kilung Valley…. as we left the city Green Tara and Guru Rinpoche painted hugely on the cliffs above town watched over us. Surely the mix of Tibetans and Chinese are influenced by those sacred images.

Quick notes from the 16th…..

misty morning- mountain tops hidden
gathering luggage in hotel lobby
new, bigger bus “Tour of Venice- European style”
busdriver anxious to get off early- construction ahead
some getting boiled eggs across the street
a man picks plastic and cans out of the hotel garbage cans. Horns start honking…. a lady sweeps the street with a stick broom
on the road now (in the “jeep”)
narrow valleys, high treed cliffs
many beautiful waterfalls
tunnels – not lighted, not ventilated
going down, down
wee plots of corn, beans, squash stuck into every roadside cranny
flowers – hollyhocks, lilies, etc.
big metal doors with ?? dug into the hillsides
wild roses, sunflowers
Vajrapani painted on rock on hillside
old army clothes worn by young men
wide river – the guard rails and “never-ending knots” on them
really tidy rundown huts – with satellite dishes
people walking and sweeping inside a tunnel!!
Nyima and our driver saying mantras.
new tires wrapped in gold and silver
now we’re high above the river in the mist
our bus- ahead- going on wrong side of the road around a curve to avoid speed bumps!
village hanging on the cliff over the edge – river below
Ani telling us of Trungpa Rinpoche’s “Dorje Kasung” khaki clad dharma practitioners – “Victory without war”
up and over a pass – rain- slippery road
huge truck overturned on curve
people sitting damply by the roadside selling honey. Lynn wanting some!!
bikers riding up this monstrous, curving road with all the traffic in the rain!!
corn, etc. growing on rooftops. Squash, gladiolas, etc – roadside agriculture.
golden bear and deer- huge- peeking out of the bamboo trees – a gate to something?
wreck – head-on – one car really damaged – the men shouting at each other. Police – broken glass.
town – bicycles and “rickshaws” with green velvet curtains
drivers go as fast through town as on the open road – honking!!
melons for sale, rice paddies
toll station
the town with huge tree roots carved into furniture and statues
stuck for 1 ½ hours in a town- construction? No- a wreck on the road ahead – cars streaming from the opposite direction. “Tranquan” the town.
sign saying “Week of July 14th – Ya’an International Panda Animal and Nature Week”
stall selling…… cigarettes, big unusual rocks, TP, umbrellas, flipflops, spray body products, etc.!
*** This Beats All….. A man walking down the hugely trafficky road with a BOAT on a wheelbarrow.
a town featuring white marble carvings and huge chunks of rock
lunch at a roadside stop
big red stones for sale- to carve big pots
toll place then, freeway to Chengdu
hotel check-in – shopping – great dinner and toasting in “Broken Lane” restaurant
a crowded walk to the ice cream booth – back to hotel

Nite nite Judy

The Auspicious Wish

At this very moment, for the peoples and the nations of the Earth,

May not even the names disease, famine, war and suffering be heard.

Rather may their moral conduct, merit, wealth and prosperity increase,

And may supreme good fortune and well-being always arise for them.

From the English/ Red Tara Practice “An Open Door to Bliss and Ultimate Awareness”

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