Pilgrimage Pure Perception

Jigme Gyalwe Nyugu recounts a pilgrimage he made in his youth with his teacher and Dharma brother, the First Dodrupchen Rinpoche, walking through a no-man’s-land in the Yadrog area of central Tibet. His teacher got very sick but remained very cheerful. Jigme Gyalwe Nyugu writes:
When we, teacher and disciple, were going downward in Yadrog Valley, the Lord Lama Dodrupchen got seriously sick from an imbalance of the air humor and rheumatism. He was in constant excruciating pain and became so weak that he was almost dying. We didn’t have much to eat except a piece of rotten animal fat and a pot of oil. We didn’t have even a spoonful of tsampa. We drank black tea.

After he sat down to rest, in order for him to stand, I had to help him by pulling him up with the full strength of my two hands. Although physically he was in critical condition, instead of being depressed, he would say: ‘‘Oh, today I have a chance to pursue a little austerity in Dharma practice by putting pressure on my mortal, wild body and my hurting, greedy mind. I am achieving the essence for my precious human life. . . . There is no doubt that the hard experiences I am going through are the fortunate fruitions produced by the accumulation of merits and purification of obscurations in my numerous lives in the past.’’ There was great joy in his mind.

I also was joyful, thinking, ‘‘It is wonderful that this lord lama is putting into practice what the Buddha taught:

‘Preserve Dharma forever,
By [at the cost of even] crossing [a wall of] flames and [a field of] razors.’ ’’

Source: The Healing Power of Mind, Tulku Thondup

Choosing the Right Footwear for Tibet

During your Sangha Journeys pilgrimage to Tibet, you will encounter a variety of different walking conditions, from paved city streets to rocky rough paths. Sangha Journeys pilgrimages are typically not physically strenuous, but you will be encountering different types of terrain and weather, so it's a good idea to be prepared with the right footwear to support your comfort and safety.

The ideal walking shoe for Tibet will feature a comfortable, non-slip sole, a cushioned foot bed, and reliable laces or straps to keep shoes securely on your feet even if we encounter mud. If you purchase new shoes for your trip, please walk in them for several weeks or even months before you travel so that you are familiar with them, and so that they are well broken-in.

You will also want to bring several pairs of clean socks that have a cushioned sole, or that will wick away moisture, in case we encounter rain. Spraying your shoes with a layer of waterproofing is not a bad idea, either, as June through September can be rainy. If your feet are prone to dryness, make sure to bring a nourishing lotion to use at night, since high altitude can exacerbate dry skin.

As you are walking through Tibet in your own comfortable shoes or sneakers, be sure to check out the beauty of the local footwear, too!

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EducationalYeshe Matthews
The Return of Dodrupchen Rinpoche to Tibet: What A Blessing!

Our 2018 Eastern Tibet Pilgrimage to Kham-Amdo-Golok will feature a visit to an important Longchen Nying Thik site, Dodrupchen Sanctuary and Monastery in Golok. Founded in 1862 by the heart-student of Jigme Lingpa known as Dodrupchen Jikmé Puntsok Jungné, Dodrupchen is now overseen by one of the most accomplished Dzogchen masters on Earth. 

Kyabjé Dodrupchen Rinpoche, aka Jikmé Trinlé Palbar, was born in Golok in 1927. He fled Tibet for Sikkim in 1957. Today, he continues to oversee the well-being and development of his Tibet community of 400 monks. In 2017, Rinpoche was able to visit Dodrupchen. Please enjoy this video of Rinpoche bestowing blessings during his joyful homecoming last year.

What a privilege for us to visit this blessed place!

Experience Landing in Lhasa

We'll be landing in Lhasa — July 3, 2018!

The flight from Chengdu to Lhasa is unforgettable as it passes over the Himalaya and the river gorges of Kham. Arriving at Gongkar Airport, our guides and driver will greet us, and hopefully a few Tsogyal Latso nuns. 

From there, it's a 45-minute scenic drive to Lhasa and the lovely Kyichu Hotel, where we can relax, enjoy a meal at the great on-site restaurant (Nepalese and Western fare), enjoy tea or cappuccino in the garden cafe, and begin getting used to the idea that we are in Lhasa!

Buddhist scholar, Stephen Batchelor, describes the origins of this holy city:

"Rasa, the summer capital of the Yarlung Empire, was probably no more than a small town. Its name literally meant “Place of the Goat...the cathedral erected on this site was called the Jokhang ('House that Enshrines the Jowo (i.e. the Buddha)') and the city was renamed 'Lhasa,' which means 'Place of the Gods.'  A Tibetan etymology explains the word thus: 'The city is called the Place (sa) of the Gods (lha) because it is as though a lofty realm of the devas had fallen to earth (s a) through the richness of the Dharma.'"

If you feel like exploring, the famous Barkhor surrounding the Jokhang is just a ten-minute walk from our hotel. The Barkhor is fantastic for people watching, mingling with Tibetans and of course, spiritual practice.

Our first morning in Lhasa, we will move slowly, with plenty of free time to have breakfast and adjust. If you would like to explore, possibilities include the Barkhor and circumambulating the Jokhang or just mingling in the streets. 

After lunch, we go inside the Jokhang temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the spiritual heart of Lhasa and Tibetan Buddhism. Revered as the most sacred of all temples in Tibet, it houses the Jowo Shakyamuni statue believed to be an image of the historical Shakyamuni Buddha. Built by Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal in the early seventh century, the Jokhang was built on an important geomantic site and has undergone continuous renovations through the centuries. We highly recommend you learn more about the fascinating architecture and history of the Jokhang before the pilgrimage.

Later in the day, we will walk to nearby Ramoche Temple, the second most important temple in Lhasa. Founded by Princess Wen Cheng, Ramoche is reputed to be her burial site, which she divined as having a direct connection with the subterranean crystal palace of the nagas. Inside, there is a life-size statue of the eight-year-old Shakyamuni that was brought to Tibet by the Nepalese Princess.

All in all, the first day in central Tibet is out of this world!

Is 2018 your year to experience and connect with the holy temples and sites of Vajrayana?

High Altitude: the first few days

If you live below an elevation of 5,000 feet, it may take a few days to adjust to moving around at high altitude. Your body needs to adjust to the amount of oxygen in the air and the new environment. Sangha Journeys plans easy, low-exertion activities for your first few days above 10,000 feet. To help you acclimate, you might consider the following steps:

Did you know there are 432 steps up to the Potala Palace?

Did you know there are 432 steps up to the Potala Palace?


  • Drink lots of water. Lama Dechen Yeshe Wangmo recommends one bottle of water per hour for best results.
  • Take it easy. Walk slowly, don't stand up too quickly, and don't overdo it. Try to center yourself in a meditative and mindful state, and move your body gently.
  • Let nature help you. There are several natural remedies on the market that might help you acclimate to high altitude. Mountaineering blogs recommend a wide variety of herbal supplements, including ChlorOxygen and Acli-Mate Mountain Drink. Sangha Journeys does not represent any product, but we encourage you to research on your own if natural supplements are helpful to you.
  • Get a Doctor's Advice. Your doctor can discuss the potential effects of altitude on your body when you go for a regular check-up, and might recommend a prescription medication to help prevent altitude sickness.
  • Wait it out. Usually, even if you have some symptoms of altitude sickness (queasiness, slight headache, mild discomfort) they will disappear within a few days of your adjustment. If things don't improve, our guide can help you find local medicine.


EducationalYeshe Matthews
Timeless Barkhor, Lhasa

This video was taken near the Jokhang Temple in the Barkhor District of Lhasa in September, 2015.

The people walking past are doing circumambulations around the temple as others do prostrations near the building. While it doesn’t represent the size of the Jokhang, the video gives you an idea of the people you’ll see there, continuing these longstanding devotional practices. —Genevieve Legacy with Sangha Journeys. —Genevieve Legacy

Preparing Your Body for Pilgrimage

A pilgrimage presents opportunities to create strength, both in practice and in the body. Good health can be cultivated in the months leading up to your trip which will be beneficial to your pilgrimage experience.

Here are some tips to create optimum physical conditions for your journey:

  • Take vitamins regularly and try to avoid illness in the weeks before entering Tibet.
  • Make sure you get plenty of rest and sleep before your trip.
  • Hydrate yourself heavily before arriving in Tibet.
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol before and during your journey.
  • Before you go and while you are there, consume small, high carbohydrate meals for more energy. 
  • Exercise regularly in the months before your pilgrimage, especially pay attention to cardio.
  • Talk with your doctor about altitude sickness prevention and treatment, blood pressure regulation, and heart health.

Preparing your body for Tibet is an exercise in self-care. Paying good attention to your well-being, however that works for you, will help you be ready for the circumstances you might encounter on your sacred sangha journey. However, even more than the body, be sure to prepare your mind.

Level of Difficulty in 2018:

Central Tibet & Kailash: The three-day circumambulation of Kailash is considered difficult. However, once you reach Darchen, you can hire a horse and horseperson or a porter to carry your stuff.

Easter Tibetan (Kham, Amdo and Golok): there are no strenuous hikes

EducationalYeshe Matthews
Pema Shelpuk

Pema Shelpuk: One of Our Eastern Tibet Destinations

Pema Shelpuk (Crystal Lotus Cave) is one of the twenty-five major sacred sites of Amdo and Kham. It represents the speech aspect of enlightenment's attributes.

Located above Dzongsar Monastery, Pema Shelpuk (4,510 m) is a hermitage and treasure site of Jamyang Khentse Wangmo and Chogyur Dechen Lingpa. It is said to have been blessed by four masters—Garab Dorje, Shri Singha, Guru Rinpoche and Vairotsana.

It was here that Chogyur Dechen Lingpa discovered the "Three Classes of the Great Perfection" and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo placed a precious statue of Guru Dewachenpo in the cave. Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodro would often stay there in the summertime. The cave contains several naturally appearing images and letters. Yeshe Tsogyal practiced in a small cave to the left. The caves of Vairotsana and Shri Singha are at the top of the rock.

Since time is of the essence, we will hire motorcycles (driven by locals) to make our journey swift.

Sacred Places in Vajrayana
Go to the mountain tops, charnel grounds, islets, and fairgrounds…
Places that make the mind waver,
And let the mind project innumerable thoughts.
Fuse them with the view and practice of spontaneous liberation,
Then all arises as the Path.
— Longchenpa

Pilgrimage is a powerful metaphor and an important devotional practice for all spiritual seekers. Regardless of religion, pilgrimage always involves a journey to one or more sacred places. How are sacred places understood in Vajrayana?

First, because the origin of all places, without exception, is the radiant luminosity of the nature of reality, Vajrayana holds that all places are ultimately pure. As it is stated:

In the primordial basis, there is nothing at all.
Yet, from this basis, all appearances rise.

To the enlightened, places appear but are immaterial. From such places, apparent loci manifest to benefit the unenlightened. Those of great spiritual development experience them as the pure lands of buddhas and deities. Those of moderate development experience them as sacred places or power sites and those who are spiritually immature experience them as ordinary places made of earth, water, fire, wind and space.

According to Vajrayana, there are countless sacred places in the world and in relation to Tibetan Vajrayana, throughout the Himalaya. These are all branches of the thirty-two principal sacred places that are sourced in legendary time, in the elements of the true nature of reality. Some of the secondary sacred places are natural and some have become sacred by virtue of narrative history such as having been consecrated by masters, awareness-holders, and yogins. It is also the view of Vajrayana that these secondary places are the appearances in the external world of the impure channels, energy winds, and vital essences of the inner subtle body which practitioners strive to purify. 

There are various enumerations of these secondary places, but in general, they include:

  • 5 supreme places for meditation
  • 5 supreme places of enlightenment's body, speech, and mind
  • 25 wondrous great places
  • 5 valleys, 3 provinces, and 1 park
  • 8 major meditation places
  • 4 snow mountain ranges
  • 21 hidden regions
  • 21 snow mountains
  • 108 major sacred places
  • 1002 minor sacred places
The two—the person and the place—merge as one.
There is nothing to see: the viewer is at the very basis empty.
Meditation is impossible: the meditator has vanished into the absolute expanse.

Throughout Sangha Journeys pilgrimages, we will enter monasteries and temples filled with sacred icons and libraries, walk the land and visit caves, hermitages. We will meet lamas, monastics and practicing householders, and there will be many opportunities to make offerings, pray and meditate.

Guru Rinpoche himself was a pilgrim. With Yeshe Tsogyal, he traveled to all the Himalayan sacred sites, concealing his spiritual treasures for the future benefit of others. Later, the greatest Tibetan masters were also pilgrims, often undertaking several long and arduous journeys in their lifetimes and writing guides to pilgrimage sites. And last but not least, the Tibetan people themselves, despite unfavorable circumstances, have continued the practice of pilgrimage and rebuilding sacred sites.

In The Wake of Pilgrimage
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Wisdom and insight come from how we pay attention. To say the least, Vajrayana is expert at nudging and pushing us to change our habits of attention!
Night and day were filled with unscripted experiences needing responses. This ranged all the way from, Will I board the bus tomorrow morning? Will I take the next step on this hike? Everything—from the ritual of personal hygiene to the ritual of sadhana— was magnified, like seeing myself under a powerful microscope. The power of the pilgrimage method of awakening is that there are no time outs or spacing outs. Always, it's the pressure cooker of what state of mind do I create right now? How do I choose to embrace what’s happening? One tacticI adopted was not speaking unless spoken to. I let everyone know I was doing this.

. . .

Too often, the way of samsara legitimizes not embracing the moment if it’s difficult and fighting it instead. This doesn’t allow for new meanings and so old meanings keep repeating themselves. When I couldn't  authentically embrace a situation, I used prayer to recast the energy and shift my attention. Gradually light returned—nothing to decide, find or accomplish. Release and enlivened trust in the actuality of osel, the luminous nature of mind. For me, at this time, there's only training in osel's pure vision theater.

. . .

Vajrayana is a way of healing or ending the inner trauma of samsara. The inner trauma of samsara is that of being disconnected and lost—apart from something vital to our wellness. This separation creates an absence of true meaning. That is the wound. Pilgrimage, three inner yogas, prayer and spiritual narratives of the masters—these methods guide us home. Gradually, they mandala-ize us.

. . .

2017 was my eighth pilgrimage to Tibet. I often ask myself why is this so important to me? At this point, I’m understanding pilgrimage as field research into the gaps between my vajrayana education and my daily life. Can my humanness and my buddhaness be one ? In Tibet this is much easier for me that in the West. It is always a great relief and wellness. The tortuous gap dissolves.I am in comfort where I can be inspired and strengthened to return to my Western incarnation and move forward.

. . .

All vajrayana reconstructs old into new. Pilgrimage practice is a living and breathing sadhana. The holy landscape replaces visualization. Purification and freedom are arise. I relate this to how Vajrayana was established in 6th century Tibet. The  Chinese Princess Wencheng identified the lay of the land as a supine ogress that must be suppressed in order to allow the Dharma to flourish. Thus many suppressing temples were built at strategic points of the terrain. I like to imagine that each pilgrimage builds a suppressing temple on my own samsaric meridians?

DYW 2017 (2).jpg

Lama Yeshe Dechen Wangmo (Vajrayana World Editor) is a lineage lama of the Dudjom Dakini Heart Essence (mkha 'gro thug thig). Based on thirty-nine years of vajrayana study and practice and a knowledge of literary Tibetan, she offers inspiration, teaching and guidance. In 2002, she established Jnanasukha Foundation as a venue for the teachings of Yeshe Tsogyal and the female buddhas. Since then, the Foundation has generated several initiatives such as support for the birthplace of Yeshe Tsogyal in Tibet, pilgrimages to Tibet, scholarships, grants and humanitarian giving. www.jnanasukha.org

Highlights from our 2017 Pilgrimage to Central Tibet & Mt. Kailash!

Sangha Journeys spends a lot of time planning the details of our trip itineraries. One of our goals is to offer many opportunities for pilgrims to make living, authentic, connections with the sacred sites and find inspiration for their spiritual paths. Here are some highlights from 2017 

Jokhang Temple. The Jokhang is the spiritual heart of Lhasa and of Tibetan Buddhism. The most sacred of all temples, it's home to a very special Shakyamuni statue. Texts such as the 11th century Vase-Shaped Pillar Testament suggest that the Jowo Shakyamuni was sculpted from a life portrait of the Buddha. In the 7th century the Chinese princess, Wencheng is said to have brought it to Tibet as part of her marriage dowry to emperor Songtsen Gampo in 641.

Tibetan pilgrims praying outside the Jokhang. Photo Dechen Steele.

Tibetan pilgrims praying outside the Jokhang. Photo Dechen Steele.

Main temple and black stupa at Samye. Photo Dechen Steele.

Main temple and black stupa at Samye. Photo Dechen Steele.

Samye. Samye was the first Buddhist monastery built in Tibet during the time of King Trisong Detsen (8th century). This architectural complex is a model of Mahayana Buddhist cosmology featuring the main temple and peripheral branch temples that represent Mt. Meru and the four continents. The buildings have been re-constructed throughout the centuries. Today, there are four gates, four stupas, the central temple and satellite temples and just in the past two years, great landscaping. It's truly an incredible place!

Tsogyal Latso. Tsogyal Latso is the birthplace of Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal. Cradled in a valley that legend honors as the abode of Vajra Varahi and Saraswati, it is well known for Tsogyal's life-force lake or latso that spontaneously arose at her birth. Within walking distance are two natural springs believed to flow with Tsogyal's miraculous breast milk, the original life-force tree that nourished her as a baby, and a stupa marking her actual birthplace.

Our 2017 group enjoying the springs at Tsogyal Latso. Video Dechen Steele.

We made it! Our 2017 group, after the 3 day Mt. Kailash circuit. Photo Laura Marchelya.

We made it! Our 2017 group, after the 3 day Mt. Kailash circuit. Photo Laura Marchelya.

"Tibetans are doing kora around Kailash because we believe it is a home of Buddha and countless deities. Kora cleanses bad karma that we have gained via so many lifetimes, and it is believed that it is not only helpful after death but brings good luck and prosperity in our present life." -Tsewang Lhamo, our 2017 guide with Road To Tibet

Mount Kailash. Located in Western Tibet, Kailash is sacred to almost one-fifth of humankind. Serving as the watershed of South Asia, its magnificent peak lies near the source of the Indus, the Brahmaputra and the Ganges Rivers. Kailash is an interfaith pilgrimage site shared by Buddhists, Hindus, Bonpos, and Jains. Following traditions that span a millennium, every year thousands of pilgrims travel to circumambulate on foot. Starting at 4,600 m./15,000 ft. and going as high a 5,500 m./18,200 ft., trekking or pilgrimage around Kailash takes about three days.

Mount Everest. This is the highest mountain in the world. The most common Tibetan name for Everest is Chomolungma, meaning Goddess Mother of the World or Goddess of the Valley. The Sanskrit name, Sagarmatha, means Peak of Heaven.

North face of Everest peaking out of the morning clouds. Photo Laura Marchelya.

North face of Everest peaking out of the morning clouds. Photo Laura Marchelya.

Dakini Day at Lake Manasarovar. Photo Laura Marchelya.

Dakini Day at Lake Manasarovar. Photo Laura Marchelya.

Lake Manasarovar. This is the world's highest freshwater lake. At the southern foot of Mt. Kailash, the lake is exceptionally beautiful. According to Hindu mythology, it was created by Lord Brahma. According to Buddhism, it is said that Lord Buddha was conceived at this very lake and that Padmasambhava spent his last seven days in Tibet here at the lakeshore Chi'u Monastery.

Guge Kingdom. Founded in the 10th century by a descendant of a Tibetan King, Guge's emergence marked the second promulgation of Buddhism in Tibet. Lost in the 17th century under mysterious circumstances, it was rediscovered in the 1930's by the Italian explorer, Guiseppe Tucci.  Today the area includes houses, caves, monasteries, stupas, sculptures, carvings and well-preserved original murals.

Reconstructed monastery on the top of hill amongst the ancient ruins. Photo Dechen Steele

Reconstructed monastery on the top of hill amongst the ancient ruins. Photo Dechen Steele

Author: Dechen Steele

Thriving On The Path Of Pilgrimage
2017 Pilgrims in Lhasa.

2017 Pilgrims in Lhasa.


Say, "Yes to pilgrimage!"

When we're called to go on pilgrimage, I've noticed an interesting thing happens. First, we make the decision. Depending on circumstances, this can be instantaneous or, it can take some time. Sometimes, our life gently or dramatically unfolds so that we can see clearly, Yes, this is the thing to do! At that point, pilgrimage begins. The moment we say, "Yes," every dimension of life begins aligning with our decision and the momentum needed to prepare and go on the pilgrimage accelerates.

Pilgrimage unfolds in different ways.

At times, pilgrimage can be deep and profoundly moving but it can also be hair-raising and intensely challenging. I remember hearing Lama Yeshe Wangmo say, "When you step off the plane in Lhasa, your karma meets Tibet and then all bets are off."

    Everyone who goes on pilgrimage to Tibet probably has a deep karmic connection with Tibet. With three pilgrimages under my belt, it's increasingly clear that much of my personal karma is closely interwoven with Tibet. There's definitely a vital part of myself that never leaves Tibet even though my body returns home.

    It's a homecoming!

    During pilgrimage, we are immersed 24/7 in a world of sacred art and magnificent landscapes. We are spellbound by the display of temples, stupas, statues and the culture of the Tibetan people. We are physically in the same places once inhabited by our holy gurus. It's like the greatest imaginable "homecoming"! The blessings of Tibet imprint themselves onto our mind, heart and subtle body, transforming us into living embodiments of Dharma.


    I'd love to hear from you in the Comments below!

    • Whether you've been on pilgrimage with us or not, how did your experience enrich your life?
    • Still want to go on pilgrimage?
    • What does the idea of pilgrimage as a spiritual practice mean to you?
    Dechen Steele, Sangha Journeys Manager and Trip Laeader

    Dechen Steele, Sangha Journeys Manager and Trip Laeader

    Circumambulation of Mount Kailash

    Mount Kailash, or Gang Rinpoche is associated with Mt. Meru, the axis mundi or center of the world, and is thus considered one of the world’s most sacred mountains. Four major rivers – the Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, and Karnali – originate in the four cardinal directions nearby.  As such, it is a destination for pilgrimage and circumambulation for Tibetan Buddhists, Bonpos, Hindus, and Jains.  Tibetan Buddhists consider it a dwelling place of Demchog (Chakrasamvara) and for Hindus it is the abode of Lord Shiva. For Jains, it is the place where the first Tirthankara attained enlightenment, and for Bonpos, Mt Kailash is a nine-story swastika mountain that is the seat of spiritual power. Moreover, the region of the mountain and nearby Lake Manasarovar is where Thonpa Sherab founded and disseminated Bon.

    Located in western Tibet, near the contemporary borders of the PRC, Nepal, and India, the symmetrical cone-shaped Mount Kailash, at 6638 meters (21,778 feet), rises alone above the rugged landscape. Tibetan pilgrims typically complete the 52-kilometer circumambulation route over the 5600-meter (18,500 feet) Dolma La pass in 15 hours, rising at 3am and finishing at 6pm. 

    Along the route, pilgrims visit monasteries and other important sites. Among these are a number of footprints, including those of Milarepa, the Buddha, and Gyalwa Gotsangba (who ‘opened’ the circumambulation path in the thirteenth century), as well as numerous self-arisen forms, including a saddle of King Gesar, the Karmapa’s black hat, and prayer beads.  Pilgrims touch the various manifestations with their own prayer beads or bow to touch their foreheads upon them.  In still other places pilgrims test their level of merit, sin, and fortune through physical encounters with the landscape.

    Lake Manasarovar (ma pham g.yu mtsho, the Unconquerable Turquoise Lake) lies at 4590 meters and is located to the south of Mount Kailash. Pilgrims also circumambulate the lake, which is eighty-eight kilometers in circumference. This is now possible by car as well as foot.  For Hindus, bathing and drinking from the lake cleanses all sins and guarantees going to the abode of Shiva after death. Though Kailash is now the more important focus for Tibetans, there is considerable historical evidence that the earliest sacrality was of the lake rather than the mountain. Indeed, Alex McKay has found that as late as the early 1900s, Kailash was more an ideal heavenly place than one associated with any particular place on the earth’s surface. He finds little evidence that the earthly mountain was considered sacred until the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, or that Kailash was considered the premier pilgrimage site of Tibet until the twentieth century. Its emergence as sacred in the 12th/13th centuries was related to a power struggle between Buddhism and Bön, now told as a contest between the magical powers of Milarepa and Naro Bönchung.



    Guge Kingdom

    It’s not so easy to get to Guge in Western Tibet. It's about 1,200 hundred miles away from Lhasa or a ten-hour drive from the closest airport. It's not far from Kailash and Lake Manasarover, so often it's part of a pilgrimage to  Kailash. In July 2017, Sangha-Journeys will be incorporate Guge in its itinerary to Kailash.


    Founded in the 10th century by a descendant of a Tibetan king, Guge's emergence marked the second promulgation of Buddhism in Tibet. Lost in the 17th century under mysterious circumstances, it was rediscovered in the 1930's by the Italian explorer, Guiseppe Tucci.

    The site includes houses, once-inhabited caves, monasteries and stupas as well as sculptures, carvings and murals. The ruins cover an area of 720,000 sq. meters and lie at 3,800 m / 12,400 ft.

    Tsaparong was the capital of Guge. It is a fortress perched on a pyramid-shaped rock. At the base was a village where the common people lived. At mid-level, two temples for monks, and higher up, the royal quarters including a summer palace at the very summit. from the 17th century onward, Tsaparang was a ruin intact in time until the devastation of the Cultural Revolution. It is now deemed part of the great artistic and historical treasures of ancient China.

    Tholing (or Tho Ding) means hovering in the heights. It is twelve miles east of Tsaparong. This monastery was built in the 11th century under the guidance of the famous translator Rinchen Zangpo. It includes six major temples and well preserved murals in the Guge style of Buddhist art. The great Atisha spent three years there and the caves of previous meditators can be seen in the cliffs.        

    Further resources:

    Enjoy the Slideshow!

    Onphu Taktsang

    Onphu Taktsang (Onphu Tiger Lair) is one of thirteen taktsangs in the world. These are power sites created by Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). The three most famous ones still known today are  Onphu  Taktsang  in  Lhokha,  Paro  Taktsang  in  Bhutan,  and  Rongme  Karmo  Taktsang  in  Derge., Eatern Tibet.

    Not far from Samye, Onphu Takstang figured prominently in the life story of Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal in the 8th Century.

    The  cave  hermitages are a trekking  distance from  Akhor,  passing  en  route  the  destroyed  nunnery  of  Ganden  Lhatse  and  the  last  cultivated  farmland  of  the  valley. 

    Yeshe  Tsogyal  twice  visited  Onphu  Taktsang  in  the  course  of  her  life—on  the  first  occasion  fleeing  from  an  unwanted  suitor  and  on  the  second  to  receive  the  Amitayus  and  Vajrakilaya  empowerments  from Padmasambhava.

    The  forested  hillside  at  Onphu  Taktsang  is  said  to  resemble the  Glorious  Copper‐Colored  Mountain  of  Padmasambhava; and  on  the  approach  there  is  a  stone  impression  of  the  great  master’s  riding  horse.

    Enjoy the slideshow of Sangha Journey's pilgrimage to Onphu Taktsang in 2009: