[temple]. Drukpa Kunley is the most revered crazy mahasiddha in Bhutan, beloved over the centuries by many generations of Bhutanese. The next day, on a bridge over a sacred river, chanting mantras and praying, we scattered the ashes three pilgrims had brought of their loved ones. I was by then beginning to realize that I had pneumonia, so I went back to rest for half a day, while the pilgrims hiked up to Khamsum Namgyal chörten. Also dedicated to Dorje Phurba, one of the queen mothers had this built in the 90’s on a site that Guru Rinpoche had recommended as an auspicious holy spot. Breathtakingly lovely, the group was able to have a deep meditation inside.
They also visited Punakha Dzong,
perhaps the most impressive (it’s a tough competition) of the dzongs in Bhutan. Dzongs, built as fortresses, usually house government offices, lhakhangs and monasteries. The main lhakhang can seat thousands and has gorgeous, large statutes of the three figures most often seen in every Bhutanese lhakhang: Guru Rinpoche, Shakyamuni Buddha and the Shabdrung, a Tibetan rinpoche who unified Bhutan and ruled as both a secular and religious leader in the 17th century. (Photo: Punakha Dzong)
Once we reached the Bumthang area,
Benchen Khenpo, Lama Sonam and Rigzin joined usagain, just in time to visit the place where Longchen Rabjam, the great 14th century Dzogchen yogi and writer, lived for many years. We were again blessed to meditate in the old lhakhang and to meet Khenpo Nyima, who is restoring and building better monastic quarters here, as well as new lhakhangs. I was thrilled that we were able to visit this sacred place of Longchenpa, where also many of the lamas I knew in Bhutan in my early days–including Dilgo Khyentse, Loppon Nado, and Nyöshul Khenpo–spent time. (Photo: Lama Sonam, Khenpo Nyima, Benchen Khenpo and Rigzin)
The pilgrimage continued on to more caves and lhakhangs where Guru Rinpoche, Yeshe Tsogyal, Milarepa, Machig Lhadron and many others practiced over the 12-13 centuries of Buddhism in Bhutan. We continued to have ever deepening meditations and spiritual experiences, not the least of which were in the presence of Maitreya Buddha statues in the Guru Rinpoche temples. As we drank in the blessings of these sacred places, each of us were purifying, transforming and healing in our own ways. Even though I did turn out to have pneumonia, I felt completely held in the love of both our visible and invisible hosts.
In Trongsa district, we also made pilgrimage to Karma Drubdey nunnery,
founded by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, one of my dearly beloved teachers. We had the most delicious lunch here followed by a catch-up with the head Anila, and then meditation in the lhakhang. Here we enjoyed the , exquisite murals, all painted by the nuns themselves. (Photo: Ani Yeshe with Lama Palden)
Our last night in Thimphu, before going back to Paro and up to Taksang (Eng: Tiger’s Nest), Benchen Khenpo, his wife and nephew treated us to a beautiful dinner adorned by native singers and dancers. We were also honored to have with us two Ministers from the Cabinet,and the General in charge of the Royal Body Guard. The minister, who is Cabinet Chair, talked to us about the pillars of the Gross National Happiness policy.
Our last couple of days were spent in the Paro Valley.
In addition to the powerful places of Guru Rinpoche — while I rested, everyone else made it up to Taktsang, where Guru Rinpoche, Yeshe Tsogyal, Machig and Milarepa all meditated. Then we visited Thangtong Gyalpo’s chörten and again wound our way up inside the stupa. This place is particularly meaningful for us as Shangpa practitioners, since Thangtong Gyalpo, great mahasiddha and bridge builder (14-15th c.), was a very important Shangpa lineage holder and the author of many of our commentaries. Many of us felt a strong connection with this humble chörten as we looked around and saw the Shangpa yidams, protectors and dakinis painted on the walls. Thangtong Gyalpo also gave us the Chenresig meditation on compassion that people do all over the world. Om Mani Padme Hum! (Photo: Taktsang Monastery)
All in all, I was again so honored and delighted to walk, pray, meditate, visit and lay my head down in this beloved country, this land of Buddhadharma. Many thanks to all the pilgrims, to Benchen Khenpo and his family and guides, to everyone who made the pilgrimage possible, and to all those who shared their lives with us.
Love to you all,