Journey to Tibet: The Heart of the Lineage

Journey to Tibet: The Heart of the Lineage


Lama Döndrup shares photos and inspirations from her trip to Tibet.

Editor’s note: Lama Döndrup will present slides of her journey to Tibet at Sukhasiddhi Foundation on October 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. This is the first session of her weekly class, Pilgrimage and the Shangpa Masters. All are invited to attend.

prayer_flags Lama Döndrup: This summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to go on pilgrimage to Tibet with a small group of practitioners from around the world. The focus of this pilgrimage, which was arranged and led by Michael Sheehy of the Jonang Foundation, was visiting Shangpa and Jonangpa sacred sites in Central and Western Tibet – those which are well known, as well as sites that have largely been forgotten. We also had the opportunity to visit sites that are sacred to other lineages and see first hand that the great, early masters of multiple lineages often practiced and studied together at the same institutions.

In the months leading up to the trip, the majority of my attention was on logistics and the physical conditions of traveling at a high altitude, so I felt quite prepared in that way. What I was not prepared for was the exquisite beauty of the land. As we drove for many hours, I was constantly enthralled by the vast landscape, the towering mountains, and varied terrain. I was also not prepared for the depth of connection I felt with the lineage while there. I was swept off my feet by this upon arriving in Lhasa and this experience continued for the entire journey. It felt like plugging into the source of the teachings, and this allowed the blessings and the brilliant light of awakened mind to freely flow.

potala Over the course of 33 days, we made a small and a large circumambulation outside and around the city of Lhasa. We began the pilgrimage by visiting the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple, the sacred sites in the heart of Lhasa. From there, we traveled to 1-2 pilgrimage places a day. The common theme at nearly every monastery we visited was that of destruction and rebirth. Newer buildings stood next to the ruins of the original structures, some of which were destroyed by age while most others were leveled in the cultural revolution. Experiencing the resilience, kindness, and joy of the Tibetan people was deeply touching.

The highlight of the trip for me was visiting the Shangpa sites, including places where Thangtong Gyalpo and Taranata lived and practiced. I was especially touched by our visit to Zhang Zhung Dorje Den in the Shang Valley, which has just recently been rebuilt. This is one of only a few Shangpa monasteries in Tibet, and it is at this location that the stupa which holds the remains of Khyungpo Naljor stands. The heartfelt connection with the lineage was strong and particularly special here.

It was a profound blessing to walk on the land and sit in the practice places of the great masters of the past, and to feel the depth and richness of the Vajrayana tradition as it continues today.

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