Posts in Destinations
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?

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

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.

Circumambulation of Mount Kailash
 
img_0269.jpg
 

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.

Sourcehttp://www.colorado.edu/tibethimalayainitiative/2017/01/06/circumambulation-mount-kailash

 

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.

History:

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:

Ten Days in Tibet

4-minute film by Dwayne Koh in Central Tibet (TAR) 2014. Lhasa, Yarlung Valley, Yamdrok Turquoise Lake and Gyantse. "A trip everyone should try to make at least once in their lifetime." Camera: black magic pocket cinema camera on a iglide/glidecam | Canon 5Dmark III Lenses: Kowa 8/1.4, Zesis 50/1.4, Sigma 70-200/2.8 Music : M83: outro.

Tsogyal Latso

Yeshe Tsogyal

Visiting Tsogyal Latso was a highlight of my life. The deep meaning and truth of this sacred sight is a wonder of this world. Please do yourself a favor. Visit this sacred place!
— Mukara Meredith 2010.

Tsogyal Latso, on the north shore of the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra River in southern Tibet, is the birthplace of Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal, an enlightened female buddha of the 8th century. It is cradled in a valley which legend honors as the abode of Vajra Varahi and Saraswati.

Yeshe Tsogyal is revered as the mother of Tibetan Buddhism and as an emanation of Saraswati. Her birthplace is best known for her lifeforce lake or latso that spontaneously arose at her birth and still exists today. Over the centuries it became a visionary lake and continues into the present as unique pilgrimage destination of the enlightened feminine.

Nearby, one finds the Tsogyal breast-milk springs, the life-force tree that nourished her as a baby, and a contemporary enlightenment stupa marking her actual birthplace.

Today, there is a community of sixteen nuns at Tsogyal Latso. Last year, they built a much-needed temple, beautified the landscape, and expanded the facilities. Since 2009, Jnanasukha Foundation has supported the nuns and their projects.

Visiting Tsogyal Latso and the nuns is a deeply nourishing and relaxing experience as we discover our connection with this sacred ecology and get to know the nuns.

The sacred birthplace of the Lady Tsoygal has retained a spacious peace and purity. The green grass greener, sky even bluer, the structures of the nunnery and holy relics humble and yet illumined, the shrine and lake, stupa and humble abodes of the people all made me feel like I could actually live there. The nuns and villagers have cared for this holy place as best they could and welcomed us as family.
— Yeshe Palmo 2009.

Please enjoy these photos.

Namtso Sky Lake

Namtso, Tibetan for 'Sky Lake', lies at an elevation of 4,718 m (15,479 ft.), and has a surface area of 1,920 km (740 sq. mi.). This salt lake is the largest in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and is the highest saltwater lake in the world. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, open grasslands, yak herds and nomads, the crystal clear water of Namtso is one of the most beautiful places in Tibet.

The lake has five uninhabited islands that were traditionally used for spiritual retreat. Pilgrims walked over the lake's frozen surface at the end of winter, carrying their food and supplies, and then, spend the summer months in retreat, unable to return to shore until the water froze the following winter.

There are also five peninsulas. Tashi Dor in the southeast and today is where most of

the spiritual activities happen nowadays. It is a limestone peninsula with a natural stone bridge connecting stone peaks and rock caves that are filled with stalactites.There is also a large cave with a natural lotus pagoda inside. There are more then fifty small caves and small chapels. Although much was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, monks and nuns have been returning and rebuilding the cave temples and residences. One can also enjoy an endless variety of birds, hares and other local wildlife that are part of the ecosystem of this picturesque destination.

It is said that Namtso is the wife of the protector god of Nyenchen Tonglha Mountains and the incarnation of Vajrayogini. Buddhist pilgrims walk around the pilgrimage trail lined with stone walls and caves, boasting breathtaking scenery.

Enjoy these Photos