Friday, April 6, 2012

WALK with MONKS | day trip

Trip Report | Raj Gyawali

Something that has been on the cards and worked for over two years now, the first ever WALK with MONKS trip from socialtours finally took off on 04 Apr 2012. This blog post is trying to record this momentous trip while its still fresh in my mind.

Just about a month ago, I got in touch, totally out of coincidence, with Ang Losang, as he was leading a meditation trip in Nagarkot. I talked to him about my intense desire to put together a trip that focuses on Buddhism in practice, and showcases the different types of practice that exist in Nepal, all throughout the upper belt of the Himalayas. All this I wanted to achieve in a trip that is a walk through Boudha, led by a Buddhist Lama. He was immediately interested and told me so.

Born in 1971, Ven Gen Losang La hails from the Everest Region in eastern Nepal. He became a monk at the age of nine at Kopan Monastery under Lama Zopa Rinpoche and was fully ordained by the HH Dalai Lama in India. He has completed studies in all divisions of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. He has taken intensive translation trainings in India on Buddhist philosophy and has travelled to various countries giving teachings. For three years, he was also headmaster of Kopan Gompa in Kathmandu. Currently he is writing books and conducting research on holy places in Nepal.
We did not have to wait long. The disability trip from Lebenshilfe Waltrop in Dortmund - already an epic trip for us, was fully in progress and it had several open days in Kathmandu out of which, one was reserved for Kopan Monastery. Ang Losang agreed, and we had a trip.

The day started out pretty normal. Delays in traffic, a longish toilet break (effects of staying too long in Nepal) meant that we only arrived around 1015 am to the monastery. Losang took us immediately into the main gompa where some mattresses had been set out, and we immediately got into a philosophy session with him. He was simple, funny, practical, and very eloquent in his explanations. He talked about the need to live in the fun side of the world, to have to learn how to switch channels in ones head, from sad to happy, to learn to be able to stay calm, and let the distractions pass us by, to not get too deep into materialism (even though its necessary to some degree). Then he debated with some of the participants a little, on reincarnation, on simplicity. After this we did a small meditation session to learn how to calm the muddy waters of our minds, which is required to be able to have a clear surface on which we can see ourselves and then start to clean ourselves.

After this and a little spare time to walk around the Kopan Monastery, it was time to start the 45 minute walk to Boudha. Phurba Sherpa, the trek leader, had turned up with his family, and also with other members of the trek team - Tarke, Dawa and Pasang - who was also with his family. We all meandered through agricultural fields, and suburban roads while Losang explained the significance of the Kopan area, and different participants debated and learnt more about Buddhism from him.

We stopped over at a Sherpa house for some tea, some cold drinks and the traditional Khaptche, the deep fried bread that is special in Sherpa culture. This was fantastic, as this would be one of the only times anyone gets that sort of hospitality in a local house.

Later we walked the streets and its narrow lanes in Boudha till we came to Boudha Stupa, where we went straight to the monastery where losang conducted a prayer session, where we prayed as one - in English - to all sentient beings in the planet, and for their betterment through our lighting a lamp, that is meant to give light above suffering. We listened to monks chanting, and sat in the calmness that is a monastery.

Later Losang left to go back, as he had to go prepare for his trip to Lumbini the next day, while we spent some more time wandering in the beauty of Boudhanath Stupa.

What a beautiful and fulfilling day! This trip has got to a wonderful start.

Enjoy the pictures!

Getting a class on Buddhist Philosophy

Getting the Khadas blessed!

Group picture at Kopan Monastery

The walk to Boudha starts!

This does not look like Kathmandu

Walking through paddy fields

Michael playing for a bit with kids

Continuing the discussion on philosophy

Walking in a largely Sherpa neighbourhood

On a stopover for tea at a Sherpa house, chance to pose with Losang

Nepali paper production - all handcrafted

Street food - yummy bio maize - freshly roasted!

At the Gompa in Boudha - lighting lamps

reading of prayers to all sentient beings

Dirk decides to meditate a bit while other roam Boudha

Boudha - one of the largest Stupas in Asia.


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