After a 3-day program in Drikung Kagyu Rinchen Ling Monastery and a 2-day program in Rinchen Palri Monastery in early July, H.E. Garchen Rinpoche traveled to Lapchi on 21 July.
The first group of 22 pilgrims left for Lapchi on 5 July. The group consisted of Chime Dorje Tulku (a.k.a Achung Tulku), monks from Jangchub Ling Monastery, Rinchen Palri Monastery, Rinchen Ling Monastery and Sikkim; nuns from Samten Ling Nunnery and eight foreigners including Vietnamese, Singaporeans and Chinese. Accompanying them was a member of Lapchi Association. The journey would take them one day of bus ride and 3 days of tough trekking in the monsoon season.
The group faced their very first obstacle on the first day of the bus ride just when they were approaching Lamabagar. Collapsed rocks had completely blocked the road and the group had to trek up a steep rocky hill.
On the next day when the group had to start the actual trekking, they faced another sticky situation – no porters! It turned out that many of the local villagers had ventured into the mountains to look for valuable herbs for sale. No one was willing to take up the exhausting and risky portering job even when the pilgrims were offering a much higher price than the normal rate.
The group had no choice but to repack and select only the essential stuff to carry. However, there were still plenty of offering items for the Lapchi retreatants, and most of the monks also helped the ladies with their backpacks. So they ended up carrying 20-30kg of stuff!
With heavy backpacks, the group had to brave through wet weather, decaying and broken bridges, rising water level, path-covering grasses, slippery logs, muddy paths, steep mountains and the omnipresent blood-sucking leeches.
In Lamabagar, one monk was crossing a bridge when the plank under his feet suddenly snapped. He dropped right into the river with three heavy bags on his back. Luckily he knew how to swim. Not only that, he managed to retrieve the bags from the river. However, the exhaustion took its toll and he fell very sick on the next day.
Peace Kwek from Singapore also fell into a river near Trang Chenmo. Luckily he was saved. He said later on, “I didn’t even know how I fell into the river!” He continued, “Along the way whenever the exhaustion set in and I started to question myself why I’m putting myself through this, I quickly reminded myself that before we left, Garchen Rinpoche told us to keep chanting the Tara mantra along the way, and Nubpa Rinpoche told us to keep maintaining a pure motivation. So I chanted the mantra and tuned my motivation. Then I realized what a great blessing it was to be able to go to Lapchi!”
The group finally arrived in Lapchi safe and sound on 8 July.
Garchen Rinpoche was initially scheduled to fly up to Lapchi on 9 July. However, due to technical problem with flying permit and bad weather conditions, the trip was delayed over and over again until 21 July. There was a group of 16 pilgrims following Rinpoche including Bunima Lama and Rinpoche’s younger sister. The rest of the pilgrims were from USA, Canada, Germany, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan.
During the waiting process, Garchen Rinpoche reminded everyone to set a pure motivation and to practice patience. Rinpoche cited the example of how Milarepa was instructed by Marpa to build towers. Every time a tower was half-built, Marpa would order Milarepa to demolish it and rebuild another one. However, Milarepa endured all the hardships in order to fulfill his quest for the Dharma.
Everyone felt more encouraged and uplifted after hearing Rinpoche’s words.
Due to the flight delay, we also had a chance to visit Tara Sangchen Drubte Retreat Center in Sankhu on 18 July. Everyone had a great time with Garchen Rinpoche and Nubpa Rinpoche despite the rain. We also visited the Vajrayogini temple near the Sankhu town. There are several small caves there believed to have been used by Naropa, Marpa and Rechungpa. To see the wonderful photos captured on that day, please visit http://lapchimilarepadk.org/eng/photo-gallery/?album=1&gallery=53
On 21 July, Garchen Rinpoche finally flew up to Lapchi. He was warmly welcomed by Lapchi Drubpon Dorzin Dondrub Palden Rinpoche, the abbot and monks of Chöra Gephel Ling Monastery, Lapchi villagers and a few Lapchi retreatants (most of the Lapchi retreatants remained in closed retreat).
On 23 July, Garchen Rinpoche led a guru yoga tsog offering puja in Chöra Gephel Ling Monastery. The pilgrims had great fun making torma and khap-sey (fried Tibetan snack) together with the gonpa monks.
On 1 Aug, the abbot of Chöra Gephel Ling Monastery granted a rare viewing of the holy objects kept in the monastery. These holy objects included Milarepa’s cotton robe and bearskin hat, King Songtsen Gonpo’s relic and so on. Garchen Rinpoche specially gave a teaching on the three kayas and how one should venerate holy objects with the right motivation. Needless to say, everyone had a very blessed session.
Garchen Rinpoche also visited Dundul Phug (Cave of Subjugation of the Mara), where Milarepa was trapped for six months by snow storm and he subsequently accomplished the practice of tummo.
Rinpoche spent the rest of his stay doing meditation and meeting Tibetan devotees from around the area. Once, a young girl walked for one day all by herself just to get to Lapchi to see Rinpoche. Rinpoche was very touched and kept telling the girl not to do such things again as there would be dangers of the girl falling off the cliff or into the rapids.
The rest of the foreign pilgrims spent their days visiting the holy caves in Lapchi. To see the precious moments captured by the pilgrims, please visit http://lapchimilarepadk.org/eng/photo-gallery/?album=1&gallery=54
On 7 Aug, Garchen Rinpoche returned to Drikung Kagyu Rinchen Ling Monastery. Rinpoche left Nepal on 14 Aug to continue traveling around the world to benefit sentient beings.