Intents and views in Buddhism

Intentions, or view, is the most important aspect in Mahayana Buddhism. Whatever you do, whatever you say, ultimately one’s karmic merit or retribution depends on what is the main intention. Put simply, the end justifies the means as long as the end is noble, and the means does not violate the Five Precepts of the Vinaya. In fact, a popular saying goes something like, “If your intentions are clear, the earth and the paths will be cleared for you” (sampa zang na, sa dang laam yang zang).

Stories are abound of intents, and power of wishes, known as moelam in local languages. The most popular cliche being a self-arising statue of Buddha emerging out of a bone of a dog, because of faith, intent and moelam.

And of course, the lama who took this view to the extreme was our favourite Divine Madman, Drukpa Kuenley, who defied every convention and norm to prove this point.

There is a month-long teaching going on in Thimphu. And it is bestowed by none other than our Living Buddha, Trulku Jigme Choedra, the curent Je Khenpo of Bhutan, and one of the purest living soul of our generation. There are thousands of devotees from all over the country, and many monks and ordinary people from Ladakh, Sikkim, and other places in India.

So, today, on the advice of my teacher, I paid a visit, listened to his teaching from the woods (which I didn’t understand a word but it’s fine), made a monetary offering for the organisers, and a cake with less sugar for His Holiness. And above all, as instructed I prostrated three times from a distance, from this spot (I didn’t bother the curious onlookers) and told the Buddha that with this today’s visit I be marked present for every day of the thirty days. I promised to be better in my next life by being a monk and be a more serious practioner.

I think the Buddha said OK, because the Living Buddha kindly sent me some protection chords and blessed pills of the Medicine Buddha (Pix 3) in exchange for the cake. These gifts will go straight into my treasure box.

May all those who cannot come even for a day, for genuone reasons, but can see and listen to the teachings (Pix 2) be blessed for life.

#mahayana #buddhism #intention #buddha #dharma #bluesky #teaching

The birth-deity temple in Thimphu

Chang Gangkha lhakhang is located on a hill overlooking the core city area of Thimphu. It is probably the oldest temple in Thimphu valley and thus it is a very sacred and a popular place. Many sources attribute its establishment to Sey Nima, one of the sons of Phajo Drugom Zhigpo (1184-1251).

Phajo Drugom emerged from eastern Tibet and is responsible for introducing the Drukpa Kagyu lineage tradition into Bhutan. While Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594-1651) is revered as the founder of Bhutan, it is thanks to the foundations laid by Phajo Drugom centuries earlier that the Zhabdrung could also achieve what he achieved.

Phajo Drugom is considered as the emanation of Avalokitshvara (Chenrizig) and so the main statue in Chang Gangkha is the large bronze and “self-arisen” statue, in seated position, of Chenrizig. Because it is believed to be self-arisen and not man-made, it is considered as a very sacred and wish-fulfilling statue.

Facing the main temple, and with a dark-colored walls, is goenkang (temple for the tutelary deities). One interesting feature of this goenkang is the four guardians of the four directions in standing position, and not seated like in other temples. This style resembles the guardians at the entrance of Chinese and Japanese temples. When I enquired no one could give me a satisfactory explaination. My own conclusion is that they are dra-lhas, and not gyalpos.

Chang Gangkha is, however, more popular as the temple protector of babies. This is because the local deity, Ap Genyen Domtshang, is considered as the kay-lha (birth deity) of children born in lower Thimphu. By lower Thimphu, it refers to the geographical boundary of south of Chubachu stream that flows from west to east. Since the country’s main hospital, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, falls in lower Thimphu, and since this part of the city accounts for much of the population, practically almost every child born in Thimphu comes under the spiritual protection of Aap Genyen Domtshang.

For those born in upper Thimphu, the birth deity is Aap Genyen Jagpa Melen of Dechenphu temple, another extremely popular place.

Aap Domtsang’s statue is inside the main temple, and so, besides the protection for babies, he is also the territorial lord of Thimphu, whose help can be sought for protections from bad dreams, and if attacked by other malignant spirits like sa-dag, nye-dag, mamo or lu.

NB.

The word, Genyen, is not a name but a title confered to a group of 21 king-spirit and local deities by the Buddhist master, Guru Rimpoche, after they received a certain level of teaching. But they are still not enlightened. Instead, one could say that they are half-enlightened deity, who will someday attain full enlightenment.

This distinction is important to understand because unlike other unenlightened and wordly deities (jigtenpa lha) are believed to imprison you as their servants after you die, genyens won’t. So, it doesn’t harm to seek their support for mundane problems.

In Bhutan people avoid some temples because of, either very demanding the guardian deities, or because some of them are believed to require you to come back on the same every year, failing which one could face the wrath.

#changangkha #thimphu #birthdeity #yulha #domtshang #jdwnrh #buddhism

Self arisen Avalokiteshvara (Source: Facebook)

The deity’s stove

Salading Peak, 4,350m, central Bhutan – Three boulders, believed to be Aap Shatsi’s stove, stand today on the peak of Salading among the Black Mountains.

The valley of Rukha and Athang, and the lower valley of Phobjikha, hold a mountain deity called Aap Shatsi, as one of the deities that they have to appease – on an annual basis.

This peak of the mountain towards the south of Phobjikha is believed to be his abode. It is a four-day journey on foot from Rukha to this place.

Since two years, however, the people of Rukha don’t have to do this ardous journey. The image of the deity has been painted inside the sacred chambers in Rukha Lhakhang. The locals appease the deity in the community temple itself. So far, Aap Shatsi has not complained. I hope he continues to accept the offer from there.

The Black Mountains range in central Bhutan holds many untold stories. It hosts the powerful mountain deity, Jowo Durshing (last photo), who is revered by the indigenous communities of Monpa and the Oleps, plus by some villages in Trongsa and Zhemgang.

The highest peak in this area, Durshing Gang, is believed to be the abode of the deity. In Lhoi Choejung, a history book by Lopen Pemala, this peak is mentioned as the first thing to emerge from the ocean as the Indian Subcontinent landmass collided with the Asian tectonic plate.

During the medieaval period, the Black Mountain area was a destination for Tibetan monks and medicine men looking for the sacred places blessed by Guru Rimpoche, and for the medicinal plants respectively.

A nation’s identity is the story it tells itself, so argued the British cultural studies scholar, Stuart Hall. Stories of deities and denizens, of magical placed and medicinal herbs, and of sacred sites and sanctuaries make this nation called Bhutan. This is us – our identity. We lose these stories, we lose our identity.

NB – At the Fourth International Conference on Vajrayana Buddhism in Thimphu, Oct 2-4, I spoke on the role of the deities in the social and communal life of the Bhutan and on the formation of national identity of the Bhutanese

On royal command, forever.

My father (seen in the picture seeing off my nephew to the UK), briefly worked as a royal chauffeur to His Majesty the Third King of Bhutan, and Their HRHs. He was assigned to HRH Princess Sonam Choden on most days but also drove HRH the Crown Prince (later the Fourth Druk Gyalpo). It was the late 1960s.

Those days the Third King was pouring his heart and soul and the country’s limited resources into school education. And day in and day out, per my father, was fully engrossed with the modernisation proess that Bhutan had just launched under His personal stewardship in 1961.

On one of the drives, the King asked if my father had children. My father replied that he had two (my younger sister and my brother were not born then).

“When they turn 5, I want you to enroll them into modern school,” HM told my father. HM went on to elaborate how modern education will change the lives of the Bhutanese.

So, in 1972, when I was about to turn five, my father appeared in our village to take me and sister away. And with his measly salary (by then he was transfered to the erstwhile BGTS in Phuntsholing) my father educated almost every member of the next generation, including all the nieces and nephews. He started with me. The year was 1972.

50 years on, he still gets super excited when anyone in the family wins a scholarship or aces in the academics. When I completed my PhD, he visited every temple in the valley and thanked every divinity he saw.

Now he is on the seventh heaven. Two of his grandsons (my nephews) got Chevening Fellowship to the UK this year, and although the news is months old, he is still celebrating, and walking around with pride everyday.

And yet, sending children to school during his time was hard, as more hands were needed at the farm. Affluent families in those days bribed state functionaries to keep their children home. Besides, in my case, being from a religious line, I had just started my monastic training under my maternal grandfather, when my father showed up to fulfill the Royal Command.

If there’s one staunch believer in the power of education, it’s him. His commitment has resulted in our household in Tashigang producing more masters grad than the entire village combined – something that made him an envy among his peers. He still insists on education over material wealth, and wants to see few more PhDs in the family.

Dokhachu Gonpa, Chapcha

Located in Chapcha gewog, Dokhachu means “a boulder standing upright and facing the sky”, and refers to a large boulder that sits near the main temple. A small chapel is attached to this sacred boulder.

Dokhachu was established by Lama Thinley Gyamtsho in the second half of the 17th century. The temple later hosted Terton Drukda Dorji a century later.

Both the lamas had as their yidham in Ekajati (Dzongkha: Ralchikma. རལ་གཅིག་མ). Yidhams are the paramount meditational deities who guide the practitioners in their final stages of their vajrayana practices.

Terton Drukdra Dorji

Terton Drukda Dorji, a dharmic treasure revealer, is believed to be the emanation of Lhalung Pelgyi Dorji and he travelled through Tibet, Bhutan and other Himalayan areas to fulfil this destiny. He lived in the early part of the 18th century.

In Bhutan, his dharma activities occurred mainly along the Wangchu valley from Lungchosekha to Tshelungna, and in Chukha valley.

His life and works, however, coincided with that of the reformist and the “anti-dharma” ruler of Bhutan, the Eighth Desi, Druk Rabgye (reign: 1707 – 1719), who gave orders to kill the Terton. He was eventually assassinated, through suffocation, in Mertsem, a village below Gedu, by two men from Bjachhu village. (Because of this sin, it is believed that the descendants of these killers from Bjachhu are cursed with a bad voice/throat).

The dead body of Terton was brought towards Tshamdra for cremation at the request of Tshamdra Trulku, Ngawang Drub. However, when it reached Chapcha Dzong, it refused to move further. Terton Drukda Dorji cremated there. A stupa stands there on the spot he was cremated. A story goes that the devas and the dakinis descended from heaven in the form of a gust of wind, to grab his ashes. Only a handful was saved by the presiding lama for the human realm, which is now believed to be house in Tsamdrak Gonpa – a temple that is further north of Chapcha.

Terton Drukdra Dorji is best known for his prophecy in the 18th century on the birth of Fourth King of Bhutan, HM Jigme Singye Wangchuck (born in 1955). As of writing this post, his reincarnation has been recognised and has started his dharma activities.

Lama Thinley Jamtsho

Lama Thinley Jamtsho was one of the first students of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594 – 1651) when the latter establised a Drukpa Kagyu monastery in Bhutan in 1620 at Chagri in Thimphu. Among many of Thinley Jamtsho’s achievement was establishing the presence of Drukpa Kagyu in Ladakh under the patronage of King Sengye Namgyel (1572 – 1642). It is not clear if he also served as the first Gangri Lam to Mt Kailash. He built Dokhachu Gonpa in his latter years and after his return from Ladakh.

The powerful dharmapala, Ekajati

Although Dokhachu Gonpa is associated with two great historical figures, Terton Drukda Dorji and Lam Thinley Jamtsho, Dokhachu is chiefly known as the abode of yidham Ekajati (Dzongkha: Ralchikma. རལ་གཅིག་མ).

Ralchikma means “one baird of hair”. She is one of the three principal deities of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. She is represented in iconography as having one strand of hair, one eye, one fang, one leg, one arm, and one breast. Legend has it that one of her eyes was pierced by Guru Padmasambhava to enable her to see better and help him suppress the evils and demons. Another belief is that she was on the verge of dissolving her body through intense meditation, before being stopped by her celestial teacher, Buddha Akshobaya (Sangye Mithrupa in Dzongkha: མི་བསྐྱོད་པ), so that she remains a bodhisattva and avoids entering into Nirvana.

Mamo Ekajati, as she is also known by, is one of the three main protectors of Nyingma school, collectively known as Ma Za Dam Sum. The other two being Za Rahula and Damchen Dorje Legpa.

Nangtehn (sacred relics) of the temple

The most important piece of statue-relic (nang-tehn) of the temple – and the Yeshey Sempa – is the self-arising (ter in Dzongkha) statue of Ekajati, which was discovered by Terton Drukda Dorji. There is also another small statue of Ekajati that was sculpted out of a cypress block by him.

Equally amazing sacred relics are the other personal possessions of the Terton such as the the vajra and the bell, and the statues of Guru Tshoki Dorji and of Chakrasamvara. There is also the bell believed to belong to Lingrey Pema Dorji (1128-1188), the teacher of Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorji (1161-1211) – the founder of Drukpa Kagyu.

And there is my favourite – a unique miniature statue of Ganesh (Dzongkha: ཚོགས་བདག tsog gi dag po) – a wealth deity. The bodhisattva Manjushri, many eons before, is said to have carved four of such statues and released them into the universe. One of them is supposed to have landed in Japan.

Other than the relics, another important piece is the “speaking” statue of Guru Padmasambhava, and the Three Buddha of Three Eras known as Due-Sum Sangye.

What to seek there as blessing

Being a female deity, Ekajati is quick to respond to any genuine plea for help – even with mundane requests. This makes her extremely popular among those seeking prosperity and offsprings. One myth goes that the people of Chapcha gewog are wealthy because of the blessings of Aum Ekajati. A close friend of mine become a mother at 40 after she visiting Dokhachu Gonpa.

Ekajati is also believed to be equally short-tempered and impatient and any complacency or delay in offering propitiating rituals will be met with her wrath. But her blessing is money-back guaranteed.

“I have been here for four years now, and so far no one had their wish not fulfilled,” says the caretaker monk, Tashi, who led us through the two-storied temple. “Many prominent people from Thimphu, and almost every person born in this region reveres her as their protector and wish-fulfilling deity.”

The temple is popular for those seeking wealth, longevity and offsprings. Story has it that the Third King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928-1972) visited the temple and sought the blessing of Aum Ekajati, and a royal prince was born in 1955, who later became the Great Fourth Druk Gyalpo (reign 1972-2006). Subsequently, Her Majesty Queen Kesang Choden initiated the reconstruction in the 1970s.

Among the serious believers was former Drabi Lopon, Hung Hung (nickname), who guaranteed the birth of a royal prince to the Third King of Bhutan, and even dared to place a bet with the King. Story goes that he received direct assurances from the deity herself.

Important days to note

The temple conducts its most important annual rituals to the deities on the 13th, 14th and 15th Day of the 4th month of the Bhutanese calendar. The relics are also open for public viewing and receiving blessings from.

Getting there

Dokhachu Gonpa is located above Chapcha Dzong. It is is two and half hours drive from Thimphu, Paro, Haa or Phuntsholing. From Thimphu take the old highway at Damcho and at the highest point at Chapcha, turn left towards Chapcha School. The gonpa is 3 kilometers above the school.

The upright standing boulder
Ekajati (Dzongkha: Aum Kangchigma). Source: Internet

The relics are in the temple with the golden pinnacle on the roof. There are 40 monks studying there.

Tshering Chhe Nga

Tshering Chhe Nga (Dzongkha: ཚེ་རིང་མཆེད་ལྔ་) means “five Tshering sisters” and refers to the five demigods (lhamayin in Dzongkha), who are revered as Dharma Protectors (dharmapala) by the Kagyu and Nyingma school of Vajrayana Buddhism.

Legend has it they once wandered around the Himalayas along Tibet-Nepal border, terrorising pilgrims and meditators, before they were subdued by Guru Padmasambhava, and later by Milarepa, into becoming tutelary deities. Their abode is considered to be the Mt. Dhaulagiri at the India-Tibet border.

Being worldly deities (འཇིག་རྟེན་པའི་ལྷ།), Tshering Chenga are believed to also help with mundane things like wealth, success and health to those who seek them.

Paro is believed to host all the Tsheringma sisters, making it a prosperous valley. The sacred abodes of the sisters are Dzongdrakha – Tinghi Zhay Zangma (Deity of the East), Gangteng Lhakhang – Talkar Dro Zangma (North), Drangoe Gonpa – Tashi Tsheringma (Centre), Tengchen Gonpa – Miyo Lang Zangma (South), and Ramna – Choepen Drin Zangma (West).

The cult of Tsheringma, however, spreads across all  Himalayan cultures. For example, Mount Everest is believed to be an abode of Miyo Langzangma – second eldest of the Tsheringma sisters. Thus, they’re revered by the Sherpas of Nepal, and every Sherpa who climbs Mt. Everest prays to Miyo Lang Zangma, for which they are considered as the most reliable guides to the peak.

While every sister is as good as the other in terms of bestowing protections and blessings, there are few subtle differences.
• Tashi Tseringma (བཀྲ་ཤིས་ཚེ་རིང་མ་), the eldest and the all-purpose Tsheringma, is for seeking long life, and for auspiciousness in major undertakings.
• Miyo Lang Zangma (མི་གཡོ་གླང་བཟང་མ་) is for receiving blessings of cattle and good harvest.
• Chöpen Drin Zangma (ཅོད་པན་མགྲིན་བཟང་མ་) to help with fulfilling any wish – be it for having offsprings or wealth.
• Talkar Dro Zangma (གཏལ་དཀར་འགྲོ་བཟང་མ་) to help fight off diseases, envy and sorcery.
• Thinggi Shyal Zangma (མཐིང་གི་ཞལ་བཟང་མ་ ) to wish for victory, charm and safe journeys.

While there’re no religious requirements, it is believed that if one visits all the Tsheringma sisters in one day, they protect you and help you prosper.

I made an unplanned visit today to all the Tshering Che Nga temples in Paro. I had gone to Dzongdrakha for a leisurely Sunday morning drive/walk, when the lama there told me that today is Full Moon day and I should visit all the Tsheringma sisters.

There are several versions as to where to start and where to end the pilgrimage. I conducted a detailed pilgrimage and some research to all the sites last year. My suggestion is, visit in this order: Drangoe Gonpa, Tengchen Gonpa, Ramna House, Gangteng Lhakhang, and Dzongdrakha Lhakhang, so that we follow the traditional kar-ser-mar-jang pattern.

Or simply, just visit Dzongdrakha, which is believed to house the three aspects of devotion and reverance – Ter (relic), tehn (inner relic) and nye (sacred place).

Or if you are walking, follow the traditional itinerary, which starts from Dzongdrakha and ends in Ramna.

(The relic statue is a file picture from Ugyen Guru in Pangbisa, Paro)

Rice is more than a food

Paro is one of the most fertile valleys in Bhutan, and also the most productive with the best worked paddyfields in the country. People are very hardworking around here.

There is also another reason. Honour.

It is a disgrace to the family if the fields are left barren. However, with rising wages and declining rural population it is increasingly becoming difficult, if not impossible, to maintain this beauty.

If no policy interventions, such as providing state subsidies or intensive mecchanisation are initiated, it won’t be long before these flatlands turn into barren lands like in much of eastern Bhutan.

It will be just this generation who will hold on to that family honour or dignity – or whatever is left of it.

There is, of course, more than the family honour and pride, as to why we need to preserve this rice farming tradition in Bhutan.

It is cultural

Every plantation season and the harvest are accompanied by age-old rituals and traditions that make Paro, and other farming communities, the site of important cultural heritage and practices. Such cultural traditions shape individual identities as Bhutanese.

According to some culture studies scholars, throughout Asia, rice is still considered a sacred crop and “the ritual of harvesting rice has shaped Southeast Asian cultures and tradition for centuries.”

It is social

The activity of rice farming requires many hands. It thus brings people together. One theory as to why Asian countries and cultures are communal and family-centric is because of rice farming. Unity, communal harmony, collaborative mindsets will be lost if rice farming disappears and in its place will be individualism, ego and divisions.

Writing for the Scientific American, psychologist David Biello shares a study from China where they found that “the cooperation required to plant, tend and harvest rice grown paddy-style makes those born in southern China think more communally than those born in northern China, where the primary crop is easier-to-farm wheat.”

It is spiritual

Rice farming is not a random activity. You cannot pick a random date to start ploughing the fields. The community decides based on the advices of astrologers as to when the earth can be disturbed. Accordingly a lama kicks off the plantation season with a ceremony to mother earth, and only then the community can start tilling the mud.

Likewise the first harvest, which consist of a bowl of freshly ground rice, is offered to deities and divinities, as a mark of gratitude for their protection and blessings. The reverance for earth, the power of reciprocal blessings and the aspirations of the lamas and the farmers will eventually strengthen the spiritual equity for future generations.

Rice, therefore, is not just a Ministry of Agriculture issue, but a national one, if one can understand, and appreciate everything that revolves around it.

Divine mountain or the mountain of the divine?

The high Himalayan mountains have been known to the locals around them as the abodes of the divine. For example, Mt. Jumolhari and Mt. Tshering Khang (the two left peaks in the picture) are considered the abodes of Jumo Tashi Tsheringma, the longevity and prosperity deity revered in Vajrayana Buddhism.

Mountain dwellers, all over the Himalayas, especially those living in high altitudes such as the Sherpas in Nepal and the Layaps in Bhutan make daily offerings to either appease them or seek her blessing. Likewise, other high peaks and even lower mountains are the spiritual sanctuaries of a pantheon of Vajrayana Buddhist gods and deities making the region highly sacred.

In recent years, many Tibetologists and anthropologists working in the Himalayas are questioning this concept based on the local terminology and the related translation. Some argue that something has been lost in translation since the “mountain deity” does not appear in any scriptures in Tibetan Buddhism. Instead there are many references to “divine mountains” such as lhari (ལྷ་རི་). 

The question is: are some of the mountains deities themselves?

To cite an example, the three sacred mountains in the main Haa valley, in western #Bhutan, locally known as Meri Puensum (Three Divine Siblings) are revered as the embodiments of the three bodhisattvas of Jampelyang (Manjushri), Chana Dorje (Vajrapani), and Chenrizig (Avalokiteshvara).

Divine mountains and the mountains of the divine are, therefore, two different concepts altogether and proper understanding of this concept is key to understanding on how traditional communities in Bhutan and the Himalayan region make sense of the places. In fact the conventional wisdom of the local respect for nature, and living in harmony with environment is drawn from this belief, which if contested or discounted would have profound impact on the environment itself.

Coming back to translation, for instance, “Tsen” is translated as “mountain deity”. The translation does not hold when it is translated back to Dzongkha, which is necessary for a translation to hold water.

The Three Siblings Mountains of Haa (Photo: http://www.sangayphuntshog.com)

Nyechen Dongkala and Mendrup Gonpa

Dongkala (also written as Dongkarla) Gonpa was established in the 16th century by Terton Tshering Dorji, who was a student of Drubwang Rinchen Choedor of Mendrup Gonpa.

Story has it that Drubwang Rinchen Choedor, who was the resident lama of Mendrup Gonpa, saw a fireball on the peak of Dongkala, which was unusual. He instructed Tshering Dorji to take a hike up and check out.

Terton Tshering Dorji found a ter (sacred relic), which was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa from Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake) and which had flown in to Dongkala. This ter can be seen in the main altar room on the top floor, today.

In the same altar room of the temple are the urn, which the infamous thief wanted to steal, and the Kaypi Marmey (Eternal Butter Lamp), which has been burning since the foundation of the temple in the 16th century. A kudrung chorten (memorial stupa) of Terton Tshering Dorji is on the left side of the altar, and believed as wish-fulfilling stupa.

And then my favorite – the rescued statue of Guru Padmasambhava, which came from another temple in the area. Apparently, that temple was caught by an accidental fire and the statue cried for help to rescue it. The statue is believed to have been brought by a single person, despite its size.

Dongkarla is also the abode of the powerful mountain deity Dongko Tsen, Lotey, who according to one story prevented a thief from stealing a sacred urn from the temple. The thief got his hand stuck on the vase. Desperate to leave when dawn broke, the thief chopped his wrist and escaped leaving behind his severed hand. The mummified hand is still visible in the goenkang today and is a main attraction for the visitors.

While the Zhung Dratshang manages the gonpa, the goenkang (altar room of the guardian deity) still maintains the dharma protectors of the Peling tradition, such as Gonpo Maning Nagpo, and the daily propitiating rituals are conducted in their honour. The goenkang also has mural paintings of several local deities such as Genyen Jakpa Melen, and Dongko Tsen Lotey.

Dongkala is the most beautiful viewpoint in the Thimphu-Paro region. On a clear day, you can see as far as Mt Kanchenjunga to the west (Nepal-Sikkim border), and Mt. Jumolhari, Tsherim Khang, and the most beautiful Mt. Jichu Drakey to the north. To the east, one can see the Table Mountain and Mt. Gangkar Puensem, the highest unclimbed peak in the world. To the south, you can see  Takti Peak.

Mendrup Gonpa

A visit to Dongkala is, of course, incomplete if one does not visit Mendrup Gonpa, which is on the hill below. This is because the two temples were respectively founded by the Lama and his disciple, and thus the sacred Lama-Loma Damtsig is a powerful source of blessing and inspiration.

Mendrup literally means “Medicine Making” and is named after Drubwang Rinchen Choedor, who was an accomplished medicine maker. Even today, the stone grinder he used is believed to possess the power to cure skin diseases and muscular pain.

Mendrup Gonpa was founded by Drubwang Rinchen Choedor, who was a prominent disciple of Terton Pema Lingpa. In fact he was assigned to the western regions of Bhutan by Terton to hold the Peling tradition.

It is believed that Drubwang Rinchen had hundreds of students, some of whom were the likes of Terton Tshering Dorji, who established Dongkarla; terton Ngawang Drakpa, who established the Neyphu Gonpa; and Lam Sangay who built Jabdho Gonpa.

Mendrup Gonpa is still under the patronage of Gangtey Trulku Rimpoche, the mind reincarnation of terton Pema Lingpa, while Neyphu Gonpa is under the spiritual leadership of the line of reincarnation of Ngawang Drakpa, referred to as Neyphu Trulku.

The centerpiece of Mendrup Gonpa are the stone grinder, and the footprint of the Drubwang.

Getting there

At Shaba Bridge, on the Paro-Thimphu highway, take the dirt road to the left and drive upstream. And follow the sign to Yuthok Gonpa first, and then continue uphill and drive past Dra Karp.

The first temple to the right is Mendrup Gonpa. From there you will see Phurdo Gonpa on the left and Dongkarla on the right peak

#dongkala #paro #bhutan #pemalingpa #terton #peling #mendrup

You stop learning. You stop living

I see lots of our people, especially youth, these days who are inspired by this college-dropping story of Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg or Elon Musk, who nonetheless have made it big. This implies education is not important.

Well, what one must also know is that these people were born with silver spoon in their mouth. They did not grow up being fed on WFP supplies or walking barefoot. Or go hungry even for a minute. They didn’t start off with no money. Otherwise they would also stayed there. Broke.

Bill’s mom was apparently a board member of IBM computers, who probably played a role in buying Bill’s software called MsDOS to drive the PCs. Mark’s parents were wealthy millionaire-doctors who could afford to send him to kindergarten where school fees were 30K per year. Elon Musk family owned an emerald mine in Zambia. To be able to enroll in Ivy league colleges, you have to be from a well-to-do family. To be able to drop off, you got to be really rich.

Hence, to be impressed by these people is fine, but for inspiration, look closer to those around you – unless you want to languish in a corner of a bar and whine all your life. Otherwise you have to have the right connections or solid financial backing like them – or both.

For most of us, the proleteriat from the fringes of the society, what matters is your education, and your zeal for lifelong learning, new skills, and hard work. A good education with a sound all-around knowledge is your only passport in life for you to move up the social and economic ladder. At least, it was in my case.

Fill your life and your social media feeds with people whom you can emulate and from whom you can learn one thing every day – and not with celebrities you dream of, or with billionaires whose life you will never have.

In one of my favourite films from my childhoo days, The Good, Bad, and the Ugly, Biondi (played by Clint Eastwood) tells the Ugly.

“You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.”

Yes, put your heads down and keep digging. We don’t have the gun.