Sunday, 24 July 2011

Tibetan Translator Training at Namdroling 2011

Hey everybody,

The first two weeks of this year's Tibetan Translator Training at Namdroling are over. We are a small group living in two guesthouses in and around the big monastery. But before writing everything twice, even though more information could certainly be conveyed, I will just add a link here to my own recently updated blog.

Translation Class with Khenpo Karma Tsering

However, one thing I forgot to mention on my blog: it's raining most of the time. But it's warm, so it doesn't matter much.

Hope you guys are doing well,

Greetings from the land of porotas, pechas and palmtrees. Jurek

Monday, 25 April 2011

Rinpoche Meets with the Shedra

At the end of April, on his way between Australia and Bhutan, Sogyal Rinpoche made a stop in Kathmandu and the Shedra had the chance to meet with him.

We each received a blessing from Rinpoche and he encouraged us
in our studies.

Rinpoche was well and happy and it was very nice to see him!

Friday, 8 April 2011

An update about our teacher, Khenpo Sonam Tobden

In mid-March, just after Losar, our teacher at the Rigpa Shedra in Pharping, Sonam Tobden, was awarded the Khenpo title at Namdroling monastery in South India.

Khenpo Sonam Tobden completed the 9-year shedra study programme at Namdroling monastery in 2006 and received the title of a lobpön. In order to become a khenpo, a lobpön is required to teach for at least three years. Due to the passing away of Kyabjé Penor Rinpoche in 2009, it was only this year that the khenpo title was bestowed again. Khenpo Sonam Tobden is currently in his fourth year of teaching at the shedra in Pharping.

We are very happy to have him with us!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Buddhist Holy Sites of Nepal - Pharping

Pharping lies about two hours by bus from Ratna Park outside of Kathmandu. For Hindus its a very sacred place too and well known, because of the Dakshin Kali temple that lies in the valley near Pharping.

Tsoknyi Rinpoche said in one of his teachings, that for Vajrayana practitioner Pharping is as holy as Bodhgaya.

Many friends of who visited Pharping where surprised when they heard, that in Pharping you find more holy places than just the well known Asura Cave. I thought to show what Pharping has to offer and also in a broader scale what Nepal has to offer, I would like to publish the first of a series yet to come called “Buddhist Holy Sites of Nepal”.
I hope to inspire those who wish to do a pilgrimage. I added a short description for each sacred place, but please forgive me if the information posted is wrong. My knowledge is mainly based on stories I heard from friends and people living here and not from books. If anybody knows more about these places, and would like to contribute, or knows where further information could be found please contact me. Also if you have better photos or any information posted contains mistakes please let me know.

Asura Cave:

Left: Pharping main street. View on Guru Drubney Pema Ösel Ling Monastery. It was built by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche around the Asura Cave. Right: Guru Drubney Pema Ösel Ling

Left: Asura Cave Entrance Right: Hand print (probably) of Guru Rinpoche.

Left: Inside Asura Cave Right: On the left side of the wall is a self-arisen AH syllable.

There are two caves in Pharping one called Asura Cave and one called Yangleshö. Asura Cave is sometimes also called "the upper cave of Yangleshö". Probably Guru Rinpoche meditated in both of them. I also heard that those caves are connected through a tunnel, that was maybe more accessible in early times.

As it says in chapter five, the prayer requested by Nanam Dorje Dudjom, in 'The Prayer in Seven Chapters to Padmakara, the Second Buddha':

“In the rock cave of Yangleshö in Nepal,
You accomplished the practice of Yangdak, 'Essence of Great Bliss'
Liberating all obstacles and obstructors through Vajrakilaya;
And, in this sacred place you attained the siddhi of mahamudra:
To Dorje Tötreng Tsal, we pray!
To the Lotus-born Guru of Orgyen, we pray!

From “A Great Treasure of Blessings”. In the life story of Guru Rinpoche it says:
“Then at Yangleshö, present day Pharping in Nepal, he practised the sadhana of Yangdak Heruka with the consort Shakyadevi, daughter of a king of Nepal. Powerful spirits caused a three year drought, with famine and disease, and Padmasambhava asked his teachers in India for a teaching to counter them. Two men returned, laden with the tantras and commentaries of Vajrakilaya, and the moment they arrived, the obstacles were pacified. Guru Rinpoche and Shakyadevi both attained the third vidyadhara level, 'vidyadhara of the great seal, or mahamudra'. Guru Rinpoche recognized that Yangdak is like a merchant engaging in trade-the achievement can be great, but so can the obstacles, whereas Vajrakilaya is like an armed escort; he is needed to guard against obstacles and overcome them. He then composed sadhanas of Yangdak and Vajrakilaya combined, and bound the guardians of Vajrakilaya to protect the teachings.”

For more information see also:

And a Praise of Yangleshö by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö:


Rigdzin Drubpe Gatsal Ling Monastery built by Chatral Rinpoche.

Left: Yangleshö Cave Entrance Gate Right: Yangleshö Cave (in the corner)

Inside Yangleshö Cave. Above you, you can see the head imprint of Guru Rinpoche.

Left and right: The Jikme Lingpa Stupa

Walking up the stair on the right side of the monastery you reach this stupa. It contains relics of Jikme Lingpa.

Self-Arisen Tara Temple:

On one of the ways up to Asura Cave. Inside you'll find a self-arisen Tara Image.

Right: The shrine room, under restoration. Left: One of the two self arisen Tara images. The second one is on the left side above this one and is less clear.

A brief description of the Self-Arisen Tara Image by Erik Pema Kunsang can be found here:

Second Self-Arisen Tara Image:

Left: Sakya Tharig Monastery Entrance Gate. Right: Big Stupa. Inside this Stupa is another Self-Arisen Tara Image.

Self-Arisen Tara Image.

Following the main road leading through Pharping, before reaching the Self-Arisen Tara Temple, you will pass the entrance gate of Sakya Tharig Monastery to your right. It's quite a beautiful monastery and next to it a huge Stupa was built. You can ask one of the monks to open the Stupa entrance door, because often its locked. Inside the Stupa you will find another Self-Arisen Tara Image. This image was found in the rock, at the place where the Stupa was supposed to be built. The image was removed and placed it within the Stupa. Later it was painted.

Vajrayogini Temple:

Left: the temple Right: Entrance Gate

On the other way up to Asura Cave you'll pass this temple. It contains an amazing image of Varjayogini. Marpa Lotsawa visited it each time on his three trips to India and back. (Taking pictures inside the temple is unfortunately not allowed.)

Stupa of Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche:

Left: Chagdud Tulku Rinpoches Retreat Center. View from the road leading to India. Right: View from the opposite site of the valley.

Left: Inside the compound. The main building on the left is the temple. Right: The Stupa.

Following the main road through Pharping that eventually leads to India, you arrive after about a two hours walk at a small retreat center, built on one of the ridges, that stretch into the valley. There is also a short cut, but if you're not familiar with the local area around Pharping you can easily get lost.
The retreat center was founded by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and still monks are practicing there and do a retreat. After Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche died his body was brought there and cremated. His remains where then placed into a stupa, that was built within the compound.
If you would like to know more about Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, you can read about his life story in a book called "Lord of the Dance". And you can see the cremation ceremony in the movie "Wisdom Fire".

Cave in the valley of Dollu:

Left: the cave Right: Inside the cave.

On the way to Pharping you have to drive through a small village called Dollu. It stretches up a neighboring valley. In one of its side valleys again you'll find this cave, that is only made accessible since this year, 2011. The cave is about 6 meters deep and you need a torch to explore it. This cave is probably somehow related to Varjayogini. People must have used this cave for meditation, because inside you find two little shrines with mats to sit on.

by Stefan

Monday, 14 March 2011

Visiting the Arya Tara School

Before leaving for Shedra, my father showed me a booklet about Ani Chöying Drolma, and the projects she is involved in. It was inspiring to learn how much she is achieving, and it was thrilling to find she had built a school near Pharping: the Arya Tara school. I had to find it!

Upon arriving in Pharping, I tried to figure out where the school might be, since I knew it wasn't in Pharping village itself. On
one of our walks up to the Asura cave I asked our Khenpo if he knew the school. He did, pointing to a red building on the opposite side of the valley, close to a big white temple built by Karma Chagme Rinpoche.

A week later, on a walk towards Dollu – a neighbouring village about 15 minutes away by foot – Jurek, Aaron, and I were on our way to visit the temple in which Thinley Norbu Rinpoche gave empowerments last year. We found it closed, and we wondered what to do next. I suggested a visit to the Arya Tara school. Jurek and Aaron agreed, and 30 Minutes later, after viewing the incredibly rich and detailed wall paintings in the temple of Karma Chagme, we arrived at the gates of Arya Tara.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

My First Time

Before leaving Australia for the Rigpa Shedra East programme of 2011, many fears took hold of me. Would I fit in with the people I would meet, would I understand the teachings, would I be healthy and safe in Nepal? My arrival at Kathmandu airport was not a strong start. I was ripped off by the porter who demanded a $10 - $20 tip for carrying my bag 30 metres to the taxi. I didn't think he would ask me for money; he was not a tout, he was inside the airport proper, and he was wearing a fluorescent yellow vest, a universal symbol of official authority and trustworthiness. What a barbaric place where you can't trust someone in a yellow vest. After meekly handing over $10 I became convinced of everyone's intention to separate me from my money, and my naïve inability to prevent it.

Having spent 2 days in Kathmandu, and feeling nervous, I arrived in Pharping. Rita, our shedra manager, and Damien, our study and care manager, came to meet me, and we chatted over the 5 minute walk from the centre of town to the Nyingma Palyul Retreat Centre, which hosts the shedra. They immediately put me at ease. I then got acquainted with Stefan and Maisie over lunch and I started laughing and relaxing, while learning a lot about the Dharma from them. I've since found one of the most valuable aspects of the shedra is the conversations you have with the dedicated practitioners you meet. There is an absolute wealth of knowledge and experience here.

After lunch, Maisie, Stefan, and I walked up a nearby mountain to one of 2 very holy Guru Rinpoche caves in the area: the Asura cave. This is where Guru Rinpoche accomplished Vajrakilaya and attained enlightenment. According to Tsoknyi Rinpoche, it's as holy a site for Vajrayana practitioners as Bodhgaya is. What I saw when we got there was amazing. Guru Rinpoche's hand print is embedded in the rock face at the cave's entrance – and I mean embedded, as if his hand were made of molten lava!

Stefan had also heard that Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche was in the area at the moment. After breakfast the next morning I went with Stefan and Jurek (who would shortly begin teaching us Tibetan) back up the mountain. We found Dzongsar Khyentse doing a practice on a grassy outcropping above the Asura cave monastery, with Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche by his side. Happening upon such high lamas in this way would be totally inconceivable in Australia; it was clear I wasn't in Kansas anymore.

Dzongsar Khyentse & Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche with monks