November and December 2010
In November and December 2010, a group of ten students travelled with Khenpo-la on pilgrimage to the holy places of Bodhgaya in India, Bhutan and Kathmandu in Nepal. It is a most fortunate thing to make a pilgrimage to the holy Buddhist sites, but to do so with one's teacher, to receive his guidance and instructions along the way, is indeed blessed. This was the 7th pilgrimage that Khenpo-la has undertaken with students.
During the pilgrimage, we made many light offerings throughout India, Bhutan and Nepal , particularly at the holy sites, including butter lamps lit and sponsored at Bodhgaya, on behalf of members of the centre and for the benefit of countless sentient beings. It was an extraordinary journey on many levels and the pilgrim group will continue to reap the benefits for many years and lifetimes to come.
With some sadness leaving Bodhgaya, we travelled to the Shangri-la of Bhutan which is a Buddhist Kingdom that has remained culturally unchanged for centuries. Padmasambhava brought Tibetan Buddhism to Bhutan in the 6th century.
There are many spectacular temples or dzongs in Bhutan, as well as the beautiful countryside. Among the temples that we visited was Chimi Lhakhang dzong, in Punakha valley, dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who in the late 15th century used humour, songs and outrageous behaviour to dramatise his teachings and due to this also known as ‘Divine Madman’. Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan, built in the 17th century and contains the winter monastic temple and coronation halls.
We paid a special visit to a Sakya temple, Tamchog Lhakhang dzong, near Paro where the last iron bridge, built by a renowned Sakya engineer and bridge builder Thangtong Gyalpo from Tibet, remains in use. Thangtong Gyalpo built 108 iron bridges in the 15th century and Tamchog Lhakhang dzong is still maintained by his descendants.
Finally we visited the famous holy site at Tiger's Nest, built in the 17th century in cliffs 900 metres from the valley floor. The Tiger's Nest complex, or Taktshang Lhakhang, includes the temple built around a cave where Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the 8th century. Guru Padmasambhava was said to have flown here on the back of his consort, Yeshe Sogyal, who had transformed into a tigress. Nearby Lion cave, in the chasm behind Tiger's Nest, is where Yeshi Tsogyal meditated.
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