Firstly and very importantly, I’ve walked 10 miles today! 😉 more about that in a while…..
06.00 I started my day by joining the locals, the monks & the tourists doing kora around the stupa. What does that mean, I hear you ask? Kora is a morning ritual or pilgrimage, where participants walk around the stupa several times, some in silence, some chanting, spinning the prayer wheels, mala beads in left hand, Om Mani Padme Hum playing somewhere in the distance, bells being rung, monks chanting and more. This is a daily ritual for most of the Nepalese, part of their life and interwoven with their day. What an amazing experience! I think I went round about 10 times before it was time for our morning Yoga Practice – an hour and a half today. I shall definitely take part tomorrow too _/i\_
After breakfast we set off in jeeps for Nagi Gompa, a nunnery in the Shivapuri National Park on the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley. Nagi Gompa was the residence of the Buddhist nun, Ani Choyling Dolma, known in Nepal and throughout the world for bringing many Tibetan Buddhist chants and feast songs to mainstream audiences. She has been recently appointed as the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to Nepal. She has the most wonderful voice – some of you will have heard her songs in my Yoga practices.
After a drive up through the villages, we entered the Shivapuri National Park we were driving along a fairly treacherous track which climbed up steeply, round hairpin bends, often dangerously near the due of the track, but we survived! Hurray!! We weren’t quite there when the jeep parked and the remainder of the journey was on foot up steps to our destination – quite a pilgrimage and what spectacular views!! The air was so clean and the birdsong incredible! At an altitude of 2,330m the monastery is home to over 100 nuns, who have come here to meditate and study the Buddhist scriptures.
Once again James enthusiastically shared his knowledge of Buddhism with us in the beautiful surroundings of the Upper Temple.
Nagi Gompa is also home to 12 year old Tulku Urgyen Yangsi Rinpoche, the reincarnation of the late Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. He was born in USA to Tibetan parents and is being educated here in the nunnery. It may be difficult for some of us to understand how and why someone is chosen as the reincarnation of another living being but it is with great pride that this little one’s parents find themselves in this life changing situation – fascinating indeed…..Here’s a photo of him (a little blurred) which is in the temple and taken not long after he arrived at Nagi Gompa…
We didn’t know until the last minute that we were going to be able to meet him, and to blessed by him! We each went into a room where he was sitting, knelt before him, presented him with the traditional white scarf, called a Khata, which he then put around our necks and touched the top of our heads A Khata offered and received back by a Tibetan personally will be cherished and preciously kept as it is now a very special blessing, a talisman and protector. I too will treasure my Khata – what an honour to have been in Tulku Urgyen Yangsihi’s presence…..I was somewhat overwhelmed. Here we all are with him afterwards….
Stunned into relative silence (well for a moment or two!) we were offered lunch by the nuns in the garden – a simple but delicious lunch of rice, vegetable curry and spinach, a pudding and tea to wash it down with.
As we left we passed the Lower Temple which has been very badly damaged by the earthquake and will need to be demolished – a sorry site indeed.
After such an amazing morning, we set off for a 2 hour hike down to Pullahari Monastery.
What a beautiful walk it was! The views were incredible – we passed through small villages, occasionally coming across damaged buildings and also newly constructed corrugated homes – all a result of the earthquake.
After almost 2 hours we arrived at Pullahari Monastery. It is the seat of His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. In the secluded serenity with spacious views, the age-old tradition of prayers, rituals, training, and education of monks continues in the monastery, and also in the Mahamudra retreat centre. In addition, residential programs for lay practitioners are offered at the Rigpe Dorje Institute, and the facilities for individual retreat are open throughout the year.
We were able to sit in on the evening Puja, a ceremony of chanting, music, offerings and prayers practiced at the end of each day and observe the daily life of the monks.
From the Temple we walked around the grounds (by now I’m sure you can understand how we clocked up 10 miles!). The Pullahari Stupas, eight in total, were draped in flags and with there were beautiful views over the valley and mountains beyond. As I watched the sunset I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by all that we’d done today……