Posts in Inspirational
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

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!

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

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?

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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.

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