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“[Nepal] is really the most holy place in the world,” Lama Zopa Rinpoche said at a 2007 talk in Kathmandu on the “Value of Meditation and Pilgrimage for Nepal.” “Guru Shakyamuni Buddha took birth in Nepal, and not only that, so many great yogis who achieved enlightenment were born in Nepal. They practiced and achieved the complete path to enlightenment, the path that Buddha has taught. … So Nepal is unbelievable, such a precious holy place.”
Without a doubt, the country of Nepal has been integral to the development and flourishing of FPMT. Lama Zopa Rinpoche, FPMT’s spiritual director, was born in Thami in the Solu Khumbu district of Nepal, known for being the home of Mount Everest. In 1969, FPMT founders Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche came to live on Kopan Hill near Nepal’s Boudhanath Stupa. Within a few years, the Lamas had founded a monastery there and had begun to educate young boys from Nepal’s Buddhist areas. At the same time, Kopan’s November Course was drawing hundreds of Westerners onto the Buddhist path, inspiring invitations to teach around the globe for the Lamas and motivating students to open Dharma centers in their home countries.
Today, FPMT centers, projects and services number around 160 in 37 countries, but Nepal remains a source of profound inspiration and instruction for the organization as well as a place of vibrant Dharma practice. In this issue of Mandala, we’ll take a look at the centers and projects in Nepal connected to FPMT. Please be sure to visit fpmt.org/mandala/ for more photos, stories and interviews from Nepal.
FPMT Spiritual Director Lama Zopa Rinpoche recently returned to Kopan Monastery in Nepal, the country of his birth. Rinpoche comes from the Solu Khumbu region of Nepal. He was born not far from where his previous incarnation, Lama Kunsang Yeshe, known as the Lawudo Lama, meditated.
Today the Lawudo Lama’s cave is part of Lawudo Gompa and Retreat Centre, an FPMT retreat facility known to be a very special place by all who visit. FPMT has several centers and projects in Nepal in addition to Lawudo Gompa and Kopan Monastery. You can see photos online from these many activities, featured in Mandala January-March 2013. You can read more about Lawudo on FPMT International Office’s and Mandala’s websites.
Learn more about Lama Zopa Rinpoche, spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), and Rinpoche’s vision for a better world. Sign up to receive news and updates.
FPMT News Around the World
Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave a Chenrezig initiation at the Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal for the Tamang people on December 23, 2012. About 3000 Tamang traveled from all over Nepal to attend the initiation. The Tamang are traditionally Buddhist and live scattered throughout the remote mountainous areas of Nepal. (more…)
NEPAL: ‘The Most Holy Place in the World’
Geshe Lama Konchog came to Kopan Monastery in 1984, where he spent nearly 18 years devoting himself to teaching the monks and nuns there. Before arriving at Kopan, Geshe Lama Konchog had spent twenty-five years meditating in caves in the Tsum region of Nepal. Geshe Lama Konchog was born in Tibet in 1927 and educated as Sera Monastery. He was known then for his profound commitment to Dharma practice. But it was only after his death in 2001 that his extraordinary qualities were revealed to a wider circle of Dharma practitioners and students. His disciple Geshe Tenzin Zopa detailed the accomplishments of this modern-day Milarepa and shared them with Ven. Robina Courtin for this story published in Mandala March-April 2002.
NEPAL: ‘The Most Holy Place in the World’
In 1982, the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Centre (HBMC) was founded in Kathmandu as the Himalayan Yogic Institute (HYI) by Pam and Karuna Cayton, long-time students of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Pam and Karuna spent several years assisting with the development and running of Kopan Monastery.
By Pam Cayton
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the road to Kopan seemed a lot longer than the road today. It was a rocky, dusty dirt track with potholes and ruts along every twist, bend, up and down of the rural terrain. The road meandered through rice paddies, up and around the terraces, passing a few little houses and stores before making the steep climb up and around the hill to Kopan Monastery. In the monsoon, the road became a rushing river, slippery and muddy that often left Kopan marooned like an island. If a jeep ventured down to town for food and supplies, it inevitably needed to be dug out of a deep muddy bog. Needless to say, taxis to Kopan were expensive and sometimes impossible to find.
During the early years when I was living at Kopan, I would hear stories of travelers who planned to go to Kopan, but never quite made it. I thought that we needed to make it as easy as possible for travelers, backpackers and climbers to access the teachings, so it became my mission to remove as many obstacles as possible for anyone who had the wish to learn more about the many Buddhist thangkas, stupas and temples in Nepal and the teachings that all these represented. The idea of starting a center in more easily accessible Kathmandu had been a burning wish in my mind for a year or so. But when I first made the suggestion to Lama Yeshe, his response was, “Not yet, dear.” I must confess I struggled to muster the patience to wait for the right time.
When Lama finally gave approval for the center to be founded, we had a small house in town that my sister Dale and her husband Christopher had been living in before they returned to Australia. The house, known as Sano Bhang, was in an old walled garden near the Yak and Yeti Hotel. It was a small historical house (“sano” means “small”) that apparently had been part of the Rana palace that was now the Yak and Yeti. It was quaint and charming with stained-glass windows, and surrounded by a magnificent old garden with a stone pond and big, old picassiette cement seats and jardinieres. It was here in 1982 that Lama Yeshe first gave us the go-ahead to start the center. As we stood in the garden, Lama said, “I’m going to call this the Himalayan Yogic Institute!” Lama broke into peals of laughter with my obvious apprehension of the name, but it wasn’t long before I had fallen in love with it.
The Himalayan Yogic Institute (HYI) was a haven and refuge from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu – until the hot water heater exploded and blew the roof off our bathroom at 3 a.m. one morning! So in early 1985, we moved from that site to a newer, more contemporary house. One of my sisters, Mandy, was visiting from Australia and she graciously stepped in to take over the management of HYI while we departed for California for the birth of our first child, Jhana. Unfortunately, that house needed to be vacated quite soon and Sangay, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s brother, became the new director of HYI and it moved to another location where it stayed for several years. It has since moved a number of times and has had many directors, spiritual program coordinators (SPCs) and even a name change (it’s called Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Centre, now)!
Who would have thought that 30 years later, Rinpoche would request our daughter Arya to take on the role of SPC? Rinpoche told me on his arrival back in California last year. He laughed and laughed and then said, “I think she will be very good. Her thinking and ideas will be very good for the center.” It’ll be wonderful to watch what evolves in this next phase of this little FPMT center in Kathmandu. May it benefit countless beings!
Pam Cayton spent 10 years in Nepal studying Asian philosophy and religion and teaching English to Buddhist monks. In 1989, she started Tara Redwood School in California with the aim of educating the whole child: to convey the joy of learning and also to provide a foundation for emotional and inner development. The success of Tara Redwood School encouraged Pam to found Creating Compassionate Cultures, an organization dedicated to developing training programs, tools and resources and share them with educators around the world.
Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Centre is located in the center of Thamel, the bustling tourist hub of Kathmandu. To learn more about the programs available at HBMC, visit www.fpmt-hbmc.org.
NEPAL: ‘The Most Holy Place in the World’
Without a doubt, the country of Nepal has been integral to the development and flourishing of FPMT and continues to be source of profound inspiration and instruction for the organization as well as a place of vibrant Dharma practice. In the January-March 2013 issue of Mandala, we take a look at the FPMT centers and projects in Nepal as well as the projects in Nepal supported by the Lama Zopa Rinpoche Bodhichitta Fund. These activities span from the geshe studies programs at Kopan Monastery and Khachoe Ghakyil Nunnery to building stupas in remote mountainous areas to providing a suitable and Dharma-filled environment for rescued animals to live out their days.
We’ve collected photos old and new to illustrate some of this amazing activity.
(To enlarge the photos, please click the images.)
NEPAL: ‘The Most Holy Place in the World’
I hear the people sometimes talking about the lower realms – “We have to get them out of the lower reams!” – and they look at us. I’m the tallest goat here, and I can tell you I wouldn’t want to be a short goat. That’s the lower realms, in my opinion. I can reach all of the hay racks and lean over the others’ heads. Outside I can reach branches that those little goats could only dream of nibbling. The bigger you are, the more you can push the others away, too. Well, not Rigzin. He may be shorter, but he’s the boss (he’s got the biggest horns!) We all get along pretty well, though. Dawa and Nyima, the sheep, are funny. I wouldn’t mind their wool now the cool weather is coming. Of course none of us (goats and sheep) mess with the cows. THEY are big! And their horns! If we can, we sneak a bit of their food when they’re not watching, but you have to be quick.
Every day Saudip let’s us out and we have breakfast, then we hang around the front while he cleans up the shelter. Us older goats like to stand on the wooden table, but it’s really up to Rigzin who gets to stay. Ram comes from the far gate with his hat on and his bag, and then he will say “namaste,” wander about and sometimes comes with a bucket and all sorts of things. Just now he’s been cleaning my left front foot as it has been sore. I don’t know why he has to jab me in the shoulder. That happens sometimes, usually when there’s something wrong somewhere else. Sometimes Pema helps him. He’s a bit like Rigzin – a boss to the others, but no horns, of course, and only two legs!
About once a week a nice man comes, Dr. Umesh, the vet. Although he’s nice, he does do some strange things to us. It is not always comfortable, but afterwards our problems seem to disappear. Not always. Poor old Dzambala had a sore leg that just got worse and worse. Then one day they took him to the clinic and he came back without part of his leg! His wound is better but it is difficult for him. I sometimes lean on him, as does Jigme and Tamdrin, just to let him know we are sympathizing. He’s one of the old timers. There’s talk of getting him an “artificial leg,” whatever that is.
Things have changed a lot over the years, for the better (although it is getting more crowded). The food’s pretty good, we get fixed when we are sick or hurt, and people give us rubs and scratches. Once a week or so we all go up to the stupa and have to go around it a few times (and if we can, we sneak off to the garden on the way back). A monk comes in the morning while we’re still in the shed, and says mantras to us. Then there’s that little noise-box they put on, something to do with Sing-a-Paw. Apparently there’s a “Rinpoche’s” voice inside it. It chants for us too.
There’s also talk of “the new land” and “the new shelters.” I think as long as I’ve been here there’s been such talk, although now they keep looking over in a particular direction, and it seems like something is really happening. If it is as good as it is here, I won’t complain, unless we have less room in the shelter. I’m OK, but the short ones have less choice. Sometimes I hear people talking about “buying a goat.” Then Tania and Phil, who are here from time to time, get quite upset. “There’s no room! The sanctuary is for Rinpoche’s animals and if everyone buys a goat it’ll be a disaster. Buying a goat is only the beginning. Don’t they know how much work and money it is to look after them properly?” When they look upset, I go up and give them a nudge. They like that. Then I can’t help myself, and rub my neck on them like a scratching post. They’re not too keen on that, but sometimes you have an itch.
Today, after going around the stupa, we had some time around the people shelters to eat some lovely weeds and things. No one likes us eating the colorful ones (“flowers,” they call them, and throw up their hands and say, “No, not the garden!”). We call it the pure land.
Well, they asked for a bit of news from us, I don’t know if this has helped. If you don’t mind, I’d like to join the others around the other side of the hill. We enjoy sitting in the sun or in the shade depending on how we’re feeling. The sad part is hearing about the other goats on the outside. People don’t seem to be so kind to them. “Samsara” someone called it. Not a place I want to be.
Kalarupa, the goat
The Animal Liberation Sanctuary (ALS), Nepal, is a project established to care for animals primarily rescued from slaughter or sacrifice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The animals are currently in temporary accommodation behind Kopan Monastery. New shelters and facilities are being built on land a short walk from Kopan. Due to size constraints, the sanctuary is not able to accept animals rescued by the public. However, any contribution made for the shelter, care, welfare or the provision of Dharma to the animals is considered to be the equivalent of doing an animal liberation oneself, as explained by the late Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup, for without this ongoing care, these rescued animals would not survive. ALS is currently coordinated by Tania Duratovic and Phil Hunt.
In 2011, more than 108 yaks’ lives were saved in Nepal through the efforts of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Geshe Thubten Jinpa and with the support from FPMT’s Animal Liberation Fund and Amitabha Buddhist Centre in Singapore. In order to document the liberation, Geshe Jinpa brought along a camera crew and has just released an exciting new video called 108 Yaks: A Journey of Love and Freedom.
108 Yaks tells the story of the 19-day journey made by the rescued yaks from Dhudkunda, Nepal, where they were sold to Geshe Jinpa, to their new home in the lush pastures of the sacred Rolwaling Valley in northeastern Nepal, where the foot prints of Guru Rinpoche are said to be. The video takes us along on the stunning trek as a team of 22 herders and porters guides the gentle and peaceful yaks over rugged and treacherous mountain terrain.
“Rinpoche first spoke about his wish to rescue yaks in January 2011. He had heard rumours about the trading of yaks for meat up in the Himalayas of Nepal and expressed his concern,” Amitabha Buddhist Centre’s newsletter Tashi Delek reports. Rinpoche sent Geshe Jinpa to investigate. Eventually, Rinpoche arranged for the liberation of 115 yaks and for their care by the villagers living in Rolwaling.
As Lama Zope Rinpoche has advised, animal liberation is not just about saving animals from slaughter, but making sure the animals receive positive Dharma imprints for the rest of their lives through circling holy objects, hearing mantras and so forth.
Geshe Jinpa explained to Tashi Delek the reasons for rescuing the yaks and making the film 108 Yaks :
My whole point of doing this animal liberation is to dedicate for Rinpoche and the gurus’ long lives. But also it is to promote animal liberation, to tell people what animal liberation is and how it should be done. And also [share] what Rinpoche does to benefit sentient beings, with his words, his teachings and actions. Through that we contribute to the welfare of the animals. I mentioned to Rinpoche, by doing so, maybe this can get some support for Rinpoche’s animal liberation projects – building sanctuaries everywhere to accommodate these animals.
You can order 108 Yaks from The Foundation Store.
With 158 centers, projects and services around the globe, there is always news on FPMT activities, teachers and events. Mandala hopes to share as many of these timely stories as possible. If you have news you would like to share, please let us know.
- Tagged: animals, geshe thubten jinpa, lama zopa rinpoche, mandala, nepal, taking care of others, yaks
DHARMA AND THE MODERN WORLD
By Ven. Thubten Khunpel
My name is Thubten Khunpel and I am one of many Kopan monks. When I wake up in the morning, I try to generate the motivation to help all the sentient beings, just like most of my brother monks here. All of us start the day doing prayers and pujas. During the day, some do monastery jobs, others go to class, and the day ends with dedication and prayers. These are our daily activities.
Besides our usual praying and dedicating, a small group of Kopan monks has decided to offer practical help to some of those suffering outside the monastery walls. We are working to support the street children of Kathmandu.
Every year the numbers of street kids here in Kathmandu increases by more than 500. They come from all corners of Nepal. Some are abandoned by their parents, some come from internally displaced families as a result of the Maoist conflict. It is estimated that there are more than 50,000 street children in Nepal, thousands of them begging for food, eating garbage, addicted to drugs and sleeping on the street in the hot sun and in the cold night. They suffer from exploitation, child abuse and other violence. Uneducated girls are subject to human trafficking and boys are kept for household purposes akin to slavery.
The motivation of our group, Illuminating the Darkness Nepal, is it to make the life of these children more meaningful. We will try to open their minds to a wider perspective and a better future.
Currently, we meet with the children once a month after collecting them from various places in Kathmandu. We give them medical care if needed. We distribute clothes, blankets and medical supplies to the children directly, or their families if they are around. We have started to introduce them to the teachings of the Buddha by arranging small gatherings (not an easy task with children that are very independent and gang based!) We try to show them the importance of caring for others.
To really help these children, they need to be taken out of their present situation. For this we need a house to give them not only accommodation and food, but also daily care and supervision, schooling, counseling and life skills training.
We, the members of Illuminating Darkness Nepal, are committed to helping street kids in Kathmandu as much as possible. We try to give them hope and courage to live a harmonious life in this society.
To learn more about Illuminating Darkness Nepal or offer support, please contact the project through its website.
TAKING CARE OF OTHERS
By Tania Duratovic
Over the past month the Animal Liberation Sanctuary in Nepal has welcomed a few new four-legged friends rescued from being killed for meat. These goats are currently in quarantine at Kachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery until they are clear to join the main herd. Lama Zopa Rinpoche himself has rescued most of these animals and recently they were fortunate to receive a personal visit from Rinpoche. Rinpoche not only blessed the animals (the nunnery’s dogs also came for a listen) but did extensive sutra recitation for them as well.
Please go to the Enlightenment for the Dear Animals’ Facebook page to see even more photos of this wonderful event.
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Without understanding how your inner nature evolves, how can you possibly discover eternal happiness? Where is eternal happiness? It’s not in the sky or in the jungle; you won’t find it in the air or under the ground. Everlasting happiness is within you, within your psyche, your consciousness, your mind. That’s why it’s important that you investigate the nature of your own mind.
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