Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hair, Lunar New Year, and Temples

I am headed back up to Chapagaon today after a few days in Boudhanath visiting friends and attending the Lunar NewYear festivities. Today should be a slow day of reflection and meditation, as it is Ash Wednesday, after all, the first day of the Spring fasting and planting season.

My birthday is on Saturday, and I plan on celebrating it with a Tara offering ritual (Female Compassionate Buddha of Liberation, who clears obstacles and grants long-life), and a feast with all the monks at the Chapagaon monastery. It is a nice way for me to give them a party. After the feast and some digestion, we will have a soccer tournament!


As all things, my dreadlocked hair is definately impermanent. Phagchog Rinpoche decided to demonstrate this to me in a direct way last week with a quick haircut, my first in almost six years.

After my hair cutting blessing by His Eminence Phagchog Rinpoche. I have been offering my obscuration and defilement saturated locks to power places in the Kathmandu Valley with a prayer for purification.

Self portrait as of new haircut today.

But at least I didn't shave my head and become a monk, like this little guy, our youngest addition to the sangha in Chapagaon. Now there are 45 monks at the monastery!

Cute monks playing on a tree, photo taken by other cute young monks. They are pretty good photographers, sometimes.

More cute monks in front of a doorhang, taken by other cute young monks when I wasn't around.


May the New Fire Hog year 2007-2008 be auspicious for all, may our obstacles for selfless action be dispelled for the sake of all beings!

A charming little Tibetan girl eating some ice cream her own way. Since its Tibetan New Years, her parents have her all dressed up in a brand new red chupa (Tibetan ladies dress).

The great stupa Boudhanath, in the neighborhood I have lived in for part of the last three and a half years. A Nepali guy has shimmied up the pole in the foreground to hang some new prayerflags, as it was Tibetan Lunar New Year (Losar).

Some of the young monks I am working with in Chapagaon all dressed up in the ceremonial yellow robe at the Lunar New Year festivities in Boudha. Some of them have only been monks for about a week, at the tender age of six...

A monk dancing at the White Monastery in Boudha for the pre-Lunar New Year festivities.

The great Chokling Rinpoche, the incarnation of the last of the 108 major treasure revealers of Tibet Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, presiding over the Cham Lama dancing last week at the White Monastery.

The protector dieties dispelling obstacles for the coming Lunar year.

Monks chanting in assembly at the rituals for anniversary of the death of Orgyen Tulku Rinpoche at the White Monastery.


A bell in a traditional Newari Buddhist courtyard (Bahal). Before the 15th Century these courtyards were inhabited by ordained monks, but now they are used for lay rituals done by lay preists. There are a number of beautiful old chaityas (Buddhist devotional monument) in the background.

A nighttime shot of a Krishna temple in Hadigaon, east Kathmandu.

This statue of Nagarjuna (Phagpa Ludrup) in an old Bahal in Kimdol, is said to be about 400 years old, and is also said to be the only one of its kind in the Kathmandu Valley. The great 2nd Century Indian Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna developed the tenets of the Madhyamika (Middle Way) philosophical system, treasured by most Himalayan Buddhists as the highest and most subtle explanation of reality possible.

Happy Losar, Happy Mardi Gras!

Feb. 18 was the first day of the Fire Hog year, the Lunar New Year for the Tibetans and Chinese. Therefore I have been hanging around the Boudha area to visit old Tibetan friends, meet with some lamas to make offerings for an auspicious connection in the coming year, and attend some teachings on the BuddhaDharma by His Eminence Phagchog Rinpoche.

Today was also MardiGras, so I am missing my home in louisiana a bit and wishing that everyone has a fantastic time wherever they are, getting in the correct frame of mind to give up hard drinking for at least a little while. I went around and gave the mardi gras beads Chris sent me in the mail to my Nepali and Tibetan friends here, they all thought the shiny prayer beads were quite a novelty.

I am traveling to Dharamsala from Nepal from Feb. 28 til March 15. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is giving public teachings on the Bodhisatvacaryavatara by Santideva for ten days. It should be pretty rad, I'll also get to visit old friends who work for the Emory University Program, Dan and Amber. I'm stoked.

Research has started rolling, a few local Newaris have taken interest in what I'm doing and are helping me out a good deal.

Also working on a journal submission for the Buddhist Himalaya magazine. It will be an historical sketch of the great nonsectarian master Khari Rinpoche of Phadrug, South Tibet. I have until the India trip to finish, which should be a race. Of course.

Hoping all the best for all of you, whatever festival you are celebrating right now!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More nuns: Khari Gompa and Nagi Gompa

A photo of the Khari nuns at the Lawudo Gompa (Lama Zopa Rinpoche's previous' meditation cave, for the Nyungnay Avalokiteshvara fasting retreat in Saka Dawa May/June 2005. These are some of the nuns I'm sponsoring and raising some money for. The Khari Rinpoche, the reincarnated lama who runs the nunnery, is seated in the center of the photo.

Some more Khari Gompa nuns with flowers they grew. I took this photo in March 2004.

Three generations of practiotioners at the Khari Ani Gompa (nunnery) in Khumbu, Nepal (Everest Region). Sangye Thinlay, the older monk, passed away last year. His grandneice in the center of the photo has since taken robes there as a nun and lives and studies with her aunt, the nun on the left.

Below Nagi Gompa there is a Tamang village that the trail from Boudha winds through. The monument is a Buddhist stupa, a type of reliquary built to give people something to make offerings to, among many other things. Some older Tamangs are taking a break from walking next to the small tea shop on the left.

Some cute goats I spied while walking from Boudha up to Nagi Gompa for the drupchen and some retreat about two weeks ago. I took this about fifteen minutes climb from the stupa in the previous photo.

My seat at the Ngagso (confession and mending of samaya) drupchen, with the pecha (tibetan text) I borrowed in front of me. I got the opportunity to read along with the monks and nuns for a few days, and even mananged to lend an English translation from a friend, so I could better understand what was meant in the prayers. Very powerful stuff!

Prayerflags in the wind above where I set my tent at Nagi Gompa for the drupchen ceremony.

Kathmandu for You featured on Blogmandu Buddhist Metablog

Blogmandu has picked up the twin photo from a few posts ago has nominated this site as a "blogisattva." Check it out, http://zenunbound.com/2007/02/double-pleasure-double-fun.html.

The blogisattva awards are for "honoring excellence in English-language Buddhist blogging: blogisattva.blogspot.com.

Nice to know a few people are glancing at the photos!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

back from the nagi gompa

Today I walked quickly back down to Kathmandu, on a dusty limestone path that follows a pine ridge south from the Shivapuri National Forest. It took me two hours to get back to a hot shower and the internet, it takes over three to walk up the hill, a climb of about four thousand feet. I spent the last ten days at the nunnery. I managed to attend the last five days of the Ngagso Puja Drubchen (a nine day continuous ceremony for mending breaks in committments to the Dharma). The past five days were spent actually doing some practice, as I have been fantasizing about for some time.

Wake up with the horns announcing the morning chanting session for the nuns, which starts at 5:30. Prostrate, chant, meditation until 7:30. Breakfast with some nuns and an American, three Canadians and a Swede. Back on the cushion before 8:30, until 11:30 for a lunch of lentils, rice, vegetables and fresh yogurt, cow and water buffalo. Afternoon session was difficult for the legs and back, it varied for me, but usually from 1:00 to 7:00 with an hour break in between for some physical yoga stretches to loosen up my legs and back. Dinner and then reading a Dharma book for awhile, and finally an hour of practice before passing out, exhausted into a swirl of dream fantasy and peace.

There are around 90 nuns at Nagi Gompa, 32 of which have completed a 3year 3 month intense meditation retreat. There are ten who are in retreat right now, and after 2 years that number will increase to 42. Its quite impressive, the nuns are more dedicated to actual recitation and meditation than most monks I've met, but part of that comes from their lack of other opportunities. They have no formal education, and do not get to participate in the courses of study in philosophy or language like their male counterparts.

Related to this, I have sponsored the purchase of a text on basic philosophy for the nuns at the Khari Gompa in Khumbu Nepal (Everest Region), where I spent 2 months on three different occasions over the last few years. I bought 31 copies of the introduction to LamRim, which cost about $170 in total, but it was well worth it, because I believe strongly in the equal education of monks and nuns, and have had a wonderful experience with these nuns. I hope to spend a longer period of time with them in the future, at least for some retreat at their beautiful mountain hermitage.

After my short retreat this week, I am even more committed and excited about doing longer silent solitary meditation retreats. I am praying for long life, if only to be able to take advantage of this opportunity for plodding the path.

I snagged this photo of the Khari Nuns from the Tibetan Nuns Project website.