17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.

THE 17th GYALWA KARMAPA

Travel Log - In Nepal and India with Lama Puntso

See the original in French

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Between Earth and Sky

The View of Sharminub Arriving on the Single Road that Goes There

Upon my arrival at Sharminub Monastery, the size of the place (it’s big!), its beauty (dare I say elegance?), and its location between the hillside and the valley (between earth and sky?) immediately brought to mind Shamar Rinpoche. This place is a clear expression of him.

After, thirty-six hours of travel—twelve of which I spent in a palace in Muscat, capital of the Omani sultanate, due to a missed connection, and five of which I spent waiting in the airport of the same city due to a late plane—anyway, after a relatively-timely-despite-delays, Bordeaux-Paris-Muscat-Kathmandu hop, the taxi left me at the door of the apartment that will be my nest for the week. Without dallying much, I set off for the monastery, which is only a few minutes walk away. Once I stepped through the entrance, I took everything in.
There are very few people around, just a few children playing. On the flat roof, site of Shamar Rinpoche’s cremation, I spy three people. I go up and recognize Khenpo Gyaltsen, director of the children’s school. With a perceptive yet kind gaze, he welcomes my arrival without ostentation. Rapid introductions are made. He gestures to where I can find, “Your friends, the monks.”

I head in the direction he gestured to, and towards the back of the building I find a door marked “No Entry,” so of course I enter. I find myself in a peaceful haven under the afternoon sun. Several monks chat quietly. And there I find “my friends, the monks,” four monks from Dhagpo and Kundreul Ling who have just taken guetsul (novice) vows. I’ll share more on that in another post.

This place one is not supposed to enter is a retreat center for a dozen fully-ordained monks, hand-selected by Shamar Rinpoche for their motivation and capacity so that they may fully devote themselves to Mahamudra meditation. Some of you know Lama Nyigyam; well, this is where he lives.


The Buddha of Austerity

I enter the temple in the middle of the monastic retreat center (or monastic ermitage). And there, impermanence greets me from above in the form of a statue of the Buddha of Austerity. I have seen numerous painted images of this Buddha, but I have never before seen a statue. It is a reference to the experience of Siddhartha when, having explored sense pleasures, he delves into the other extreme, that of austerity. Which leads him to the conclusion that extremes do not free us from ignorance and the confusion it creates. Nonetheless, as soon as I see this representation, it brings me to impermanence. Must be the skeletal aspect. I sit a little while. I leave, and, not far from there, I run into Jigme Rinpoche. We plan to meet up later to go over the last details of the retreat.

The Monastery from Behind

Following this, I continue my visit. It is hard to describe this place and impossible to photograph the entirety of it (without a drone). I take the stairs to the upper level of the hall containing Shamar Rinpoche’s stupa, which has been set up as a teaching hall for an expected 150 people. There are cushions to go around, but tables are hard to come by and cardboard boxes of various sizes serve just fine in their stead.


Here and there, I run into people from Dhagpo or practitioners I have known a long time. I chat with Audrey. Time passes. Three buses from Nyima’s outfit (which organized all of the infrastructure of the retreat) arrive filled with pilgrims coming for a first visit to the monastery and welcome from the children—to get the lay of the land before tomorrow, when the retreat begins. It’s a group of 120!


More time passes (it never stops!), and someone recommends I go watch the children’s Mahakala practice. I am not disappointed and rather impressed. Not disappointed because some people yell this ritual, which, here, is sung in higher octaves. Impressed because, among the hundred kids, a third recite the text, a third play the instruments, and a third take care of the offerings. In short, it’s education in action.


In a corner of this great temple, several monks prepare the torma for the retreat. They have finished their philosophy studies at the monastic university in Kalimpong; they are here to continue their studies and deepen their knowledge.

I realize that when we talk about the three aspects of practice—study, meditation, and activity—at Dhagpo, we are putting words to what has existed in the Dharma for two thousand five hundred years. Be it the monastery’s adopted children, the old monks in the retreat center, or the young scholars deepening their knowledge, all three apply the Dharma according to these three aspects, the same Dharma that we strive to apply each day.

Large Signs Announce the Retreat at the Monastery’s Various Entrances

When evening came, I met with Rinpoche and Audrey for the final check-in. He wishes to keep it simple; to alternate between teachings and practice; to give essential instructions. As for the rest, we’ll work it out day by day.

Close-up of Shamar Rinpoche’s Stupa

Lama Puntso

Dhagpo Kagyu Ling - Landrevie - 24290 Saint-Léon sur Vézère - France - 0033 5 53 50 70 75 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.