Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The last place on earth


Sometimes I thought of leaving everything behind and go somewhere where I can just live in peace for the rest of my life in practice. One place came to mind frequently is Nepal. 

Some years ago, I was on a retreat at Kopan Monastery for a couple of weeks. It was a wonderful and liberating experience. I had just arrived in Nepal for the very first time, and I had a very strange thought that I would die there. It was a pretty intense feeling, like an urge. Nepal was new to me yet it felt quite familiar at the same time. 

Kathmandu valley was beautiful. Kopan was beautiful. The mountains were beautiful. The people were beautiful.  It is definitely more laid back than Singapore and I am not sure if I can get used to the lifestyle there. I just had this intense urge that it will be the place I want to be when I die. So morbid, I know. I don't even know if I can survive a month there yet I had this strong feeling. I wonder if I will have the same feeling when I next visit. 

During that previous time, every night before I went to bed, I penned down my feelings and thoughts of the day on my mobile. I've actually forgotten all about it until I saw the notes on my mobile again. So maybe I'll post all my scribbles and random babblings of each day of my stay there in different posts. 

Day 1 

Arrived at Kopan Monastery finally. Loved the drive from the airport and then uphill to Kopan, along the dusty and slightly bumpy roads. But as we drove uphill, the air became cooler and I felt refreshed. At the same time, excited.

There was a little commotion when we got onto our respective vans, as our friend J was missing from the group. When we reached Kopan, it was confirmed she was not in all the vans. One of the in-charge had to go back to the airport to look for her. She was found sobbing, as she claimed she could not find all 50 of us after she retrieved her luggage.  My drama friend J! All is fine now.

My retreat bedroom was quite bare with 3 beds although there are only me and my friend JY. It is above the Chenrezig gompa. Khenrinpoche Lama Lhundrup's room is at the top floor above us and the gompa. He had just passed away and the entire Kopan Monastery and Nunnery are now conducting 24/7 prayers for the entire 49 days.

I am very touched and elated that I made this trip here which coincided within his 49 days of passing. 

So first thing first, after we checked in and settled into our room, in the late afternoon we went to Lama Lhundrup’s room to pay our respects. His relics were so many! Kunkhen showed and explained each relic to us. Offered khata to Lama Lhundrup.  Felt so immensely happy I am finally here to 'see' Lama Lhundrup.

Anyway after a delightful dinner at the dining hall and a brisk stroll back to the room, I totally knocked out for the night.

Day 2

The next morning, back at the dining hall, I was happy to see hard boiled eggs for breakfast. Dipped them with light soya sauce which J brought along from home.  The view in Kopan was so beautiful as we are on top of the hill, and surrounded by the valley below.

During the first session, a lot of explanation before we start. I was reading Lama Zopa Rinpoche's commentary of a teaching. Felt like he himself was present giving the teaching. Some words made me tear. 

Going to have no connection to internet for 2 weeks and I think I can still survive. My phone is in airplane mode. I think I can survive doing a solitary retreat in a cave or something. Haha, very ambitious! 

Someone wanted to bring me to Phuntsok Rinpoche's house which was here in Kopan itself. I said no because feel guilty breaking retreat rule but at the same time regret missing the opportunity. Hope I will get the chance before I leave Kopan. Can't wait for him to grow up and to receive his teachings. I think I'll be 60 by then. Phuntosk Rinpoche is the reincarnation of Geshe Lama Kunchog.

Anyway I sighted him from my bedroom window early this morning walking up the hill. His house is a little further down the hill. 

I don't know why but I have sudden thoughts that I want to die here next time, if I've the good karma to. And it is only the first night here. Shall I make a living of writing and travelling to holy places? Can I survive? 

For the first time, I saw random big drops of rain in Kopan with thunder but no rain came eventually. No sunset either. Had the Nepali equivalent of our hum chim peng again.  So good. 

Helped an old monk with walking stick down the steps to the holy stupa. He sat on the stone seat next to the stupa and pray. Captured shots of him. He reminds me of the old Geshes of Gaden Shartse Monastery. 

Tsog offering since it is guru tsog day. Specially offered incense and circumambulated the holy stupa of Geshe Lama Kunchog after the last session late tonight. Made my wishes.

Miss my guru Lama Zopa Rinpoche too. Disappointed he's not in Kopan during my first trip here. I know I don't have enough merits to see him as I wish. 

Still searching for my calling in this samsaric world, although I think I've already found my calling in my future lifetimes. Irony much!

Day 3

Woke up at 4.30am because our first session starts at 5am. Vincent is the designated morning call IC, he goes around with a real copper bell, ringing it slowly.

The gompa is freezing cold in the morning yet I love the fresh air which flows into the gompa which was not brightly lit but very cosy. Everyone saunters into the gompa and we start the session at the same time. 

Continued reading my book during session, and besides going through the prayer text there is nothing to do except to meditate. A few people are chanting. I'm praying we can finish 1,2 days earlier so we can do something else. Hehe. 

Pretty uneventful day. Still trying to meditate. Still trying to do visualization. The Buddha in my mind 24/7.

Trying to read and absorb the teaching on emptiness. Brain went on strike. Fascinated by the meditation of the method taught though. 

Highlight of the day: Bumped into Sangpo, LZR's personal attendant, when I was up on the hill catching the beautiful sunset. Chatted with him for a while and took a photo with him. He looked happy. His sisters were here to visit him. Gave him an angpow although he refused at first but I insisted.

A thin and friendly monk talked to me up on the hill too. His name is Namdol and he has been in Kopan for only 8 months. Gave him an angpow too. 

My friend J is the heart of our 'makan gang' of 4, making us laugh during meal times although we are supposed to be silent during this retreat.  -__-

But really meal times are our happiest. I have never felt vegetarian food is that appetising until now. Khenrinpoche Geshe Chonyi has kindly asked the kitchen to take special care of our meals; we have so many fresh dishes with different variety every day.  I especially love the deep fried cauliflowers and cheese and momos.

Now I’m full and happy that tomorrow we are starting smoothly with the next target. A day earlier according to schedule. Gambatte, retreatants!!!

Day 4

Confirmed I'm quite fast in chanting mantras. I have no other talent. I’m joking. This is my first time officially doing a retreat and I happened to love the deity very much.  

We have quite a long break after lunch, about 4 hours of free time each day. It is also ‘me time’’ because we are supposed to be on silence mode so each of us is doing our own thing; sleeping, taking bath, roaming the garden grounds where it’s within retreat boundary. 

Searching for a place to do my prayers as I prefer the outdoors than being in my room. Sat on the stone seat next to the holy stupa but before I could begin, Ram the Kopan driver, came and talked to me. Within a couple of minutes, made my escape. Ended on the steps of main gompa doing my prayers. It is so peaceful and quiet here.

Decided to write a letter to LZR since Sangpo is leaving in a couple of days to meet up with LZR. Had no decent paper. Went to the admin office to ask for paper. Met Namdol again at the main gompa. Excused myself before he can talk to me. Not in the mood to chat and I am not supposed to talk!

Finally found a spot to write my letter... Inside my retreat gompa. Next, to find Sangpo. 

Noticed Jambhalas in the pond in front of the main gompa, threw some coins into it and made my wish. 

Visited the Kopan clinic down the hill because a friend was sick. Nice buildings sprouting within Kopan. Ventured a little further and passed by the monks' quarters, communal living.

Tenzin, the monk in charge of the library/shop was very helpful. Asked him to help me change to smaller rupees. He said he could close the Kopan shop later for me to shop if I do not have enough time before I leave. The library/shop is out of bounds during retreat. I also passed my letter and money offering for LZR to Tenzin to pass to Sangpo since they are good friends. 

This trip I get a  'high' feeling. I always get this kind of  'high' feeling which is all too familiar but like the rest, I know it is just futile. Just dwell in the moment and let it pass. 

Day 5

Got up slightly late. Didn't hear the alarm. Because I was having a long dream and also something seemed stuck inside my ear. 

Contemplating on impermanence.... om....

Had 2 hard boiled eggs, 2 hum chin peng, a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Really love the meals here. Delicious and I have no tummy ache issues.  I also love the view everyday from the dining hall, the monks' school building is just below.

My friend G helped the old Geshe with walking stick down the steps to the stupa again. We notice he always go to the same spot next to the stupa.

G also saved an earthworm on the steps. She has saved a drowning butterfly from the pond, ants and earthworms. I think she will be the future Buddha who liberates beings in lower realms. 

My body is burning hot when chanting the mantra after a few malas. Liking every session now that I am in momentum and enjoying myself. 

Got stung by a bee in the gompa. It flew right inside of my right palm and died immediately after giving me its venom. My hand is painful and numb now.  Wonder why it sacrificed its life just to sting me? Someone gave me painkiller and cream on my wound. I still find this strange. What was a bee doing inside our gompa? 🤔

Went to Lama Lhundrup's room again. Kunkhen and 2 monks were still sorting more relics from his ashes. Took photos of them and paid respect to Lama Lhundrup again.  Felt so at home and Kunkhen let me roam around the whole apartment. 

Went to the roof top where light offerings are being lit 24/7 with a few nuns monitoring round the clock.

They have put up cascading lightings covering the whole building getting ready for Lama Lhundrup's 49th day passing into nirvana.

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