The Wandering Rinpoche (Part Three)Posted On: 22 December, 2017
That night, alone in the dark room, I felt scared and sad. I missed my mother terribly. I huddled in the corner, reflecting hard upon my karma, which had caused me so many obstructions on my pilgrimage to Mount Kailash.
The next day the border police set me free and instructed me to return to Nepal. I finally realized that I might have been too naïve. So I decided to go back to India and try to obtain the required legal documents. My desire to visit Mount Kailash and Tibet remained unabated. I would go there against all odds and at all costs.
I had planned not to contact anyonethroughout the time of my roaming practice. Having no other alternatives, however, I had to turn to my dharma friend Zurmang Garwang Rinpoche in Malaysia for assistance. After hearing mypredicament, he invited me to go to Malaysia and helped me to get the paperwork done.
After several months’ effort, I was finally ready to visit the sacred land of my dreams. I was filled with anticipation about the journey and gratitude towards Zurmang Garwang Rinpoche. I deeply felt that as long as there were right goals and right effort, any obstacles could be overcome.
In September 2010I leftKuala Lumpur for Beijing, and from theretook a connecting flight to Xining. I had two huge backpacks with me packed with thick clothes, books, climbing tools, and camera, among other things. At the railway station of Xining, as I sat eating I noticed one of the packs was missing. I searched around anxiously and spotted someone running away with my bag. I jumped up to chase him,desperately trying to retrieve my belongings. But I lost track of him and in the end came back only to find that the other bag was stolen too. I was furious at that moment. My heartbeat raced, my breath became heavy, and curses came hurling out of my mouth at the thieves. I wanted to break down and cry but I could not. Something seemed to have blocked me emotionally. The intense feeling of anger lasted for over ten minutes. When I finally calmed down, I came to the realization that anger could be so powerful and that even a trained mind could be turned immediately into a source of curses. My twenty years’ practice seemed to have vanished in a puff of smoke. I also realized that the stolen bags could not be retrieved. Fortunately, I still had my passport and wallet. I forgave the thieves and prayed that my belongings could be helpful to them and their family. I felt muchhappier once I changed my perspective to see my loss as a donation.
It was time for departure. I rushed into the waiting room and got on the train. After finding my compartment, I let out a sigh of relief.
In Xining, I was able to board the train, which traveled along the highest elevation in the world. The scenery along the Qinghai-Tibet railway was breathtaking. I hadheard about and seen pictures of the extraordinary scenery of Tibet when I was in Nepal and India, but that could not be compared to seeing it for the first time. The spiritual catharsis I felt completely distracted me from the unpleasant experiences of that morning. The train passed through Hoh Xil with its boundless and vast tawny earth covered by yellowish short shrubs,dotted by Tibetan antelopes. The other passengers became excited at the sight, and I was no exception. I remember it vividly.
The color of the sky was azure blue, and the clouds were pure white, reminiscent of the cotton candy I had when I was little. The sparkling of the dazzling sunlight on the Snow Mountains, which were a vast expanse of whiteness, and the emerald green Qinghai Lake, all impressed me with their natural colors. The passengers cheered again at seeing yaks. I was excited as well since it was my first time seeing them.
As the elevation increased, the passengers calmed down due to the high altitude. Growing up in Nepal and India, I had never been to a place of such height abovesea level. I felt my head became swollen and dizzy, but I managed tostill gaze at the view outside the window. I simply did not want to miss such dreamlike beautiful scenery. I felt I had checked an important item off my bucket list.
After arriving at Lhasa’s train station, I went to rest in a youth hostel. The next morning, I got upearly to go to pay homage to the Potala Palace. Its majestic view was unbelievable. Under the blue sky, its white, vermilion and yellow palaces standatop a hill. It was showered with golden sunshine. The palace has more than ten stories, countless windows, and numerous stairs down along the slope. The sun rose when I climbed to a high place and I saw that the whole city of Lhasa was shrouded by a thin mist, making the visitors wonder if it was the land of immortals. The Tibetan people roseearly in the morning to burn incense and worship the Buddha. While chanting mantras, holding prayer wheels, or counting malas, they did full prostrations on their way. Surrounded by the ambience of the dharmaI felt that I had arrived in the Pure Land, which was blissful and warm.
I prayed for an answer from the Buddhist statues when paying respects to the Jokhang Temple. When I was young I heard stories about eminent monks communicating with them.Though a highly modernized city, Lhasa is filled with devout people. There are long lines waiting to enter the templesevery day. In the case of Jokhang, the temple ground is filled with hundreds of people doing full prostrations on a daily basis.
Afterwards, I went to visit Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery, which are located in the suburbs of Lhasa. I also visited Samye temple, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, and Sakya Monastery. Finally, I headed out for Mount Kailash. I was so excited. Itwas almost like I was going to see my mother.
had heard about Mount Kailash when I was a boy. It is a mysterious and sacred area where Marpa and Milarepa practiced. I had always wanted to go on a pilgrimage there.It is a worldrecognized sacred mountain, and is the center for Tibetan Bon Tradition, Tantric Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Bon is said to haveoriginated here.Hinduism regards it as the dwelling place of Shiva and Jainism sees the mountain as the place where its founder attained enlightenment.For Tibetan Buddhists it is the home of Chakrasamvara, the embodiment of limitless bliss. It is widely believed that circumambulating clockwise around Mount Kailash will purify the sins accumulated over past existences as well as the ignorance of the mind. Therefore, believers can be seen here all year long.
I arrived at a place near Mount Kailash in the evening. The mountain was not clearly visible due to the mist, and it was crowded with noisy restaurants, hotels, and shops,different from the Pure Land I had imagined.
Since I would be there for quite a while, I decided to seek lodging from the local people. I stayed with an old lady whoseinitial hesitancy was eventually overcome by her kindness. She set up a tent made of black yak hair for me in the yard of her Tibetan style stone house.
That night, I was too excited to fall asleep at the thought of being able to worship Mount Kailash. The next day I got up early and left for my pilgrimage. My heart melted upon seeing the mountain of my dreams. I saw a snow-capped summit glistening in the resplendent sunshine. I could not help prostrating in deep respect and love for the mountain. Tears of happiness streamed down,not just because I finally saw Mount Kailash, but also due to the confirmed belief that I would meet myroot guruhere.
When I walked around the mountain, I noticed that some early birds managed to finish a full round, a total of 32miles, within a single day. The route was dangerous, with an elevation of 15,000 feet at the lowest and 18,500feet the highest. Being unaccustomed to the elevation of the plateau, I was easily overwhelmed by fits of dizziness, which slowed me down. I also met some ascetics from India, Nepal, and Tibet, and a few from Mainland China and the West. At one time, I even spotted the funny image of someone circling the mountain on horseback!
With the help of some tsampa, I slowly wended my way around the mountain. When feeling tired, I stopped at temples nearby or open ground to do sitting meditation. The next evening, when climbing up the Drolma La (the highest pass at the Mount Kailash track), I had to stop for a rest every ten minutes. It was so exhausting that I thought about quitting in despair. The Tibetan worshippers passed by airily.They encouraged me by saying “It will be all downhill after this hill. Hang in there!”Finally I managed to cross Drolma La (18,500 feet). Breathing became difficult and even stopped for a moment. I thought I might die here, but felt satisfied because, after all, no onecould have asked for a place betterthan this to rest permanently.
With the Bodhisattvas’ blessings, nevertheless, I survived Drolma La, and kept walking to reach a small beautiful lake. The complete circling around the mountain took me about three to three and half days.
I recall the hagiographies that I read as a child, in which there were many great, eminent monks retreating into the caves on Mount Kailash where they sat in meditation.The stories even described them flying through the sky. Naturally, I could not help peeking into some of the caves, hoping to meet my lama there.
I walked clockwise, but that there were people going counter-clockwiseraised my interest. At one point, a monk in blue clothing and I were resting in the same place. Out of curiosity, I askedhim why some were walking counter-clockwise. The monk replied, “That is a Bon tradition.” He further explained it to me from an astrological perspective,and Ilikewise explained my way from Tibetan Buddhist cosmology.
After repeatedly bumping into each other, we became companions. Each time we rested we would sit together to share food and chat. I benefited greatly from his knowledge of Bon. He was a very kind and genuine friend.
Some Tibetan friends have asked me in confidence why I have befriended Hindus and followers of Bon. I answered them by saying that those who believe in other faiths are just as human as we are. Respecting other’s religion is equivalent to respecting one’s own faith.
I have always believed that the three poisons ofattachment, aversion, and delusion are the reason for sentient beings’ fall into samsara. The three are derived from ignorance rooted in ego, which is a result of an obsessive mind of differentiation. To follow the teachings of the Buddha is for the very purpose of eliminating the dualistic differentiating mind and learning to treat sentient beings with loving kindness. To achieve that goal, respecting others’ beliefs is the first step.
My three-monthstay at Mount Kailash was happy and rewarding. Twenty years’ of book knowledge obtained from Buddhist temples and institutions were fully implemented during my pilgrimage walk around the mountain as well as my sitting meditations. I felt I had embraced limitless wisdom.Due to the blissful environment of the sacred mountain of Chakrasamvara, over the months I noticed an increasing feeling of lightness and easiness in both my body and mind. For this I am deeply grateful for all the positive conditions and blessings that made my trip to Mount Kailash possible. Yet as time went by, despite more Buddhists arriving, I never met my root guru. So, I decided to keep roaming to other places.
I arrived at Lake Manasarovar close to Mount Kailash on foot. Its water was crystal clear, just as a giant piece of blue glass. Legend has it that the lake was a gift of sweet dews bestowed upon humans by Chakrasamvara and that the sacred water is able to purify the three unwholesome roots in our minds. There were not as many people there as at Mount Kailash so the area was quiet. I visited a temple next to the lake. It was my desired pure land, without a single soul or building to be seen. With a sense of satisfaction, I sat down to meditate. But I still did not find my guru there. The locals told me of the Kham area, where many achieved monks lived. With that knowledge, I embarked on my journey of searching for my root guru again.