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After her ordination on March 27, 2012 at Kopan Monastery, Christel Hammerby (now, Ven. Lobsang Deden) went on pilgrimage to Lawudo, the site where Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s previous incarnation, Lawudo Lama Kusang Yeshe (biography available in print), meditated and attained profound realizations.
At an altitude of 13,000 feet (4,000 meters), Lawudo rests in the highest area of Solu Khumbu, the northeastern region of Nepal bordering the Upper Tsang in southern Tibet. Although Lawudo is extremely isolated, active construction at the site meant Ven. Deden was never too far from either Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s brother or sister – Sangay Sherpa and Ani Ngawang Samten – or the other various residents and builders.
“Every morning I had the good fortune to spend a few priceless, blessed hours in Lama Zopa’s cave (a very cozy fridge!) wrapped up in several heavy blankets,” Ven. Deden shares. “In the afternoons I talked a lot to Sangay about his and, of course, Lama Zopa’s vision for Lawudo … The vision for the project is to create a small Padmasambhava’s pure land from which concentrated positive energy can spread throughout the world. At present, the old gompa (meditation hall) is being restored and the construction of a new library and an additional gompa has begun. Thereafter, the retreat facilities will be improved and extended. A new building for resident Sangha is also in the works.”
However, Ven. Deden points out that the project is not entirely “spiritual,” but also contains elements of social service in order to “reinvigorate and breathe new life into the whole fragile region, now suffering severely from the consequences of decades of governmental neglect.” Plans include a school for local children to receive a Buddhist education and a home for elderly people in need of care.
The high altitude and harsh environment means that construction in Lawduo is almost impossible (and relatively expensive!) as materials have to be flown in from Kathmandu to Lukla by plane or to Syangboche by helicopter and then brought up to Lawudo on the back of the legendary Sherpa porters.
“After a conversation with Tulku Tenzin Sherpa in Munich, who like Rinpoche comes from Thame in Solu Khumbu and was one of the first young monks who received an education at the [now defunct] Lawudo School and then later at Kopan, I asked him, ‘Why is virtually nobody talking about Lawudo and this beneficial project?’ He responded, ‘You know, for Lama Zopa, promoting Lawudo would be similar to asking a favor for himself and his family – that is almost impossible – he is far too humble to do that!’”
Ven. Lobsang Deden welcomes any questions or comments about her travels to Lawudo and her work for Lawudo Retreat Centre. You can gain access to scores of photos from Lawudo by joining her on Facebook.
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