It was in the year 2005, right after a pilgrimage trip to Bodhgaya that a few of us were encouraged by H.E. Tsem Rinpoche to go for another pilgrimage to Gaden Monastery. This trip was especially to educate those of us, including me, who have not been to Gaden to see where exactly our dearest Lama is from; to appreciate, understand and to receive the lineage blessings. It was by far the most sacred of all pilgrimages, in my opinion, because we were going to witness and experience 3000 monks in full action in their practice to become great masters on the path to Enlightenment!
Through the great kindness of my Lama, I was one of the very lucky few who were personally sponsored by Rinpoche to go on this trip. I would have definitely not have been able to go on this pilgrimage, if it wasn’t for Rinpoche’s genuine care and sponsorship. This is how much Rinpoche values educating his students and how much Rinpoche would give to make sure that we know our lineage, where our Guru is from and received the great blessings of our lineage masters.
The Guru is said to be the emanation of all the Buddhas, so going to visit where the Guru comes from and received all His training and teachings from is like entering the Guru’s source of knowledge. Imagine the energy and feeling you actually experience when you see, hear and feel 3000 monks chanting Lama Chopa at 4am in the morning! I could never forget this feeling but being there was like as if we were in Tushita heaven.
Even though Rinpoche was not with us during the pilgrimage, but we could feel Rinpoche’s presence everywhere because every monk or Lama we met had great reverence towards Rinpoche and they all spoke highly of Rinpoche. Their great respect and appreciation towards Rinpoche was shown in the way they treated us, which was very humbling. They guided us around the monastery showing us how much Rinpoche had contributed and sponsored such as; the water pump, the monks dormitory and the renovation for a new floor for the main prayer hall, Lachi, which at that time was still under construction. The monks would go out of their way to prepare good food to host us. I remembered when we were visiting Rinpoche’s Khangsten called Pukhang Khangsten, the monks prepare a lavish buffet of food for us and we noticed their very beautiful and detailed presentation that was very much Rinpoche style and standard. This showed us their deep respect and appreciation for all that Rinpoche has done for them.
We were also very fortunate to be granted audiences with eminent High Lamas who actually took time out of their busy schedule to speak to us. We had blessed audiences with the Abbot at that time H.E. Khen Rinpoche Dakpa Tenzin, the current incarnation of H.H. Zong Rinpoche, the late H.H Lati Rinpoche and Venerable Geshe Yeshe. Meeting the current Zong Rinpoche was unbelievable as I got to experience seeing an “incarnated” Lama for the very first time. All of this is only possible because of our kind Rinpoche and all that Rinpoche has done for the monastery, as well as Rinpoche’s pure Guru samaya (relationship).
Rinpoche’s great kindness and generosity was certainly appreciated and felt everywhere. Almost every monk we spoke to will share with us their experience of Rinpoche’s kindness, one of them was Geshe Yeshe , a very old senior pure noble monk who told us that our Rinpoche was no ordinary being. He shared with us stories of how Rinpoche showed great generosity to even the villagers, giving them food even though Rinpoche himself had very little at that time. Geshe Yeshe said Rinpoche was a Bodhisattva as Rinpoche’s actions was like one, always benefitting others. He said that Rinpoche consistently showed kindness and generosity and that we should feel extremely fortunate to have met such a qualified Lama.
Everything and everyone we saw had such significant impact on us because Rinpoche out of His great compassion, had mentally prepared, educated and taught us to value what we experienced. This is so that our pilgrimage trip was not an empty one, but one filled with great blessings, appreciation, knowledge that would strengthen our foundation and faith in the Dharma more. The whole pilgrimage trip was magical, peaceful and surreal; it really felt like you were in Lama Tsongkhapa’s paradise and you were out of “samsara”. Many of us including me, was quite disheartened when it was our last day. None of this would have been possible without Rinpoche’s love that is without agenda except to benefit us. None of this would be possible for me without Rinpoche’s compassion for me. Everything that is of true value and happiness derives from the Guru and this is one of the many I have so fortunately experienced. There is definitely no way I can ever repay Rinpoche’s kindness but to only apply Rinpoche’s kind teachings to transform, and perhaps in the effort to do this, some gratitude for Rinpoche’s hard work and love can be produced. Thank you(s) are never enough.
Note: Khangsten/Khamtsen = Monks live in house groupings (khangsten) organized on the basis of their home region in Tibet.
- Full story of Gaden Pilgrimage 2005 here: Journey to Gaden… in 2005!
- My Short Bio in pictures
- Private Audiences with The Abbot and Abbot Emeritus of Gaden Shartse!
- Interview with H.E Ken Rinpoche about H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche
- Interview with High Lamas of Gaden Monastery – Geshe Yeshe
- #19: Noble Activities