Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu, Nepal — January 1, 2011
From Ven. Roger Kunsang:
Rinpoche arrived back in Nepal on the fifth of December after a six hour drive to the Seattle airport followed by three flights and 35 hours of travel. From the airport in Kathmandu Rinpoche first visited the Kopan Nunnery. All 400 nuns lined up with khatags. Following the reception, Rinpoche heads to the gompa and as usual spends time doing prostrations, maybe 20 minutes. He then offered khatags to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s throne and to the altars. Then upstairs and a short talk and tea. Following this we’re back in the car and drive up to Kopan Monastery. Around 350 monks are lined up. The smallest was first (no more than three feet tall and cute, like the little nuns). As Rinpoche moves along the line they gradually increase in height. Then there are the people doing the course, more than 200 individuals (interesting faces from all over the world) crowding around offering khatags etc. with the Sherpa gaylings leading the way. The nunnery and monastery, and of course the people, take a few hours. Then we arrive in Rinpoche’s rooms where there is some longer talk and tea. Meanwhile a lot of unpacking starts, setting up Rinpoche’s altar, etc.. This is done wherever we go. So that is how the arrival finished following the long flight.
Rinpoche taught for one week of the November course. Around 260 people were in attendance. It is always a very nice and peaceful atmosphere. Then we had to pack again and fly to the borders of Nepal and India, then drive six hours to Kalimpong on a long winding narrow road where people drive like there is no oncoming traffic. On the way we met the Abbot of Sera Je Monastery and had a very late lunch together. We arrived in the evening at the monastery of Domo Geshe Rinpoche (who you may remember the previous incarnation from the book, The Way of the White Clouds), Tharpa Choling. Rinpoche has, with students, sponsored the building of a new Labrang at Tharpa Choling.
His Holiness arrived the next day and there were two days of teachings and then we headed back to Kathmandu where Rinpoche offered teachings to the monks and nuns of Kopan as well as 80 Westerners who were doing the seven-day lam-rim retreat following the one month November course. Rinpoche also accepted to give the lung of the Sutra of Golden Light which was requested by a young African student who received the Sutra of Golden Light as one of his preliminaries from Rinpoche. Teachings happened every night. Somewhere in all of this there are a few all-day intensive pilgrimages… really interesting ones!
Now it is after midnight and we have to catch a plane tomorrow after lunch. Rinpoche decides it is very important to give a long life initiation to Lama Lhundrup first thing the next morning, then visit the nunnery to see what artwork is needed for the new temple. All this is to be done before we leave at midday. Next we catch a little sleep and then later lots of activity as we need to pack (and that is no small job). Also Rinpoche needs to do preparation for the initiation. I can see we are already way behind schedule and there are always so many last minute things to do! Now it is mid-morning and we have to decide: do we get the flight or cancel? Too many things going on and not enough time. It is Saturday and the travel agency is closed, no way to see if we can delay or not, so I race into town to the airlines. Internet is down, they can’t help! Cell phones are not working, the signals are overloaded and it is difficult to call out. In the end I manage to cancel the flight but no seats for another week…a bit of a disaster. I get back to Kopan and Rinpoche has finished the initiation and is heading for the nunnery. Back from the nunnery around 7 pm and…Rinpoche’s altar is on fire!
The rooms are filled with thick heavy smoke, you can’t see anything, it very difficult to breathe, like choking, in the heavy smoke! Try to get to the source of where the fire is. Okay, main altar, three of us start throwing water and wet towels. Get it under control. It is quite a mess and there is damage to holy objects. Rinpoche discovered the fire first and yelled “fire!” The next thing Rinpoche said was…he was the cause as he left candles burning.