The place where First Karmapa was born

In June 2016, me and my friends managed to stay two very busy weeks in the Eastern Tibet. We visited many very important places connected with the history of one of four main Buddhist schools of Tibet – Karma Kagyu. Please find below selected parts of my diary about this trip.

In October 2017 we organise the similar trip. We are going to Kham again, and we want to take a dozen of friends with us. We are going to visit new and already discovered places in Eastern Tibet. We are also open to any new connections, that is why if you don’t consider yourself a Buddhist, welcome to our group anyway!

Dates of the trip and the points of entry and exit are published! Look the programm!

6th June 2016

Have slept enough. Eat ‘baozi’ on breakfast a popular Chinese dish, small steamed pie. Searched and found ATM since all our cash in RMB came to an end.

Gardze

Came to bus station, there is only morning bus to Chengdu, the distance is 800 km which takes 18-20 hours. Slava would like to visit the Wuhou Museum in Chengdu, dedicated to heroes of the Three Kingdoms era. Though everyone agreed that before a long flight it is better to spend a day not travelling by bus, but somehow relaxed walking along beautiful parks or buying gifts and souvenirs. There are no night buses passing through Gardze. There are too many people in China, Chinese people complain themselves. We have managed to quickly find private 4×4 wheeled SUV with driver ready to transport us at a convenient for us time. It costs 350 yuan per seat. The bus costs 280 yuan. The private driver called his friend, who drove us 5 hours around the neighborhood for 200 yuan on his mini-car. The driver was quite tall for Tibetans, stately, with a neat little beard. It’s not clear how he fit into his tiny mini-car including us not small ones.

Gardze

It is a lot of sightseeing places in Gardze and neighborhood, according to the general opinion a great deal of holy places is too excess. But there were places related to the birth and childhood of the First Karmapa (Karmapa), so we recruited our willpower and kept moving on. On the slopes of local mountains ‘Karmapa Chenno’ mantra is paved with stones, instead of familiar and ubiquitous ‘Om mani peme hung’. The driver behaved with dignity, translated from the Kham dialect into Chinese, he was interested to visit those places he hasn’t been yet and learned about them with great interest.

‘Karmapa Chenno’ mantra

The first stop at Bengen monastery is one of the Karma Kagyu school monasteries in the past. One of the teachers of Lama Ole and Hannah – Kalu Rinpoche was closely associated with this monastery. There are several statues of Kalu Rinpoche in the monastery. The monk, who showed us monastery and gave a tour was very touched when found out that I was in India in Sonada town and visited the monastery where the body of Kalu Rinpoche is stored in stupa. The old gompa was broken by Chinese, and a new one, which is built at another place close to the old gompa location had roof leak. A merry bearded retreating master (Tibetan ‘drupen’) Lama Yargje whom we met at the Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche retreat center, Tsadra Ringcheng Drak, came from this monastery.

Bengen monastery in Gardze

Kalu Rinpoche in Bengen monastery in Gardze

Kalu Rinpoche in Bengen monastery in Gardze

Short trip at the neighborhood in search of house where 900 years ago (in 1110) Düsum Khyenpa was born. He was born from servant girl in influential family. The servant girl gave him birth in stable. The descendants of this influential family are present owners of the house and taking care of this place. The house that stands here has been rebuilt many times, the current building is just 7 years old. The house owner is layman, he willingly showed and explained us everything. He himself is follower of Situpa and supports Situpa accordingly, but behaves quite politely with all foreign visitors. Moreover, many followers of Kagyu, especially those from Taiwan donate big cash contributions. In general, the whole area is under protection of Palden Lhamo. On the first floor, the very place where Karmapa was born. Being already an adult, Karmapa once approached that place and pointed his finger at the rock leaving a deep fingerprint and said that he was born in this place. In the house is statue made by Karmapa, the Diamond Sutra, written by his hand and his robes. Near the house grows poplar, which is his ‘Tree of soul’ (Tibetan ‘lashing’) which grew right before the birth of Karmapa. He is 900 years old. I have not seen such old trees. Right behind the house is a small hill in form of Karmapa Crown that is his ‘Hill of soul’ (Tibetan ‘lari’).

House on the place where   900 years ago (in 1110) Düsum Khyenpa was born.

House on the place where 900 years ago (in 1110) Düsum Khyenpa was born.

First Karmapa's house

First Karmapa's house

First Karmapa's house

First Karmapa's house

First Karmapa's house

First Karmapa's house

On the way to Gardze, driver showed us a couple of places related to the childhood of Karmapa, who was shepherd as a kid. One of these days someone of his equals in age threw a stone at him. Karmapa dodged, fell on his elbow and left his elbow imprint on the rock. Nearby is stone with imprint of his knees. Somewhere nearby, there is an imprint of his foot, but driver didn’t know its location. There is also Karmapa’s self-appeared spring well.

First Karmapa

imprint on the rock by First Karmapa

imprint on the rock by First Karmapa

imprint on the rock

In the city on the opposite bank of Yalong River is located Jokhang Temple under the supervision of neighboring Sakya tradition monastery. The temple is interesting because it was founded by Princess Wencheng. She left there one of three Buddha statues of Jowo Buddha. The most important statue is in Lhasa in the same name temple of Jokhang, the second statue is in Kāngdìng. The local original statue was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but one monk managed to hide the contents (filling) of the statue. Later, when the repression ceased, the statue was recreated and filled. The temple is built around an ancient dagoba. There are statues of 84 mahasiddhas around the dagoba boule inside the temple. The statue of Jowo was previously stored in stupa but now it has a separate annexed room.

Jokhang Temple in Gardze

Jokhang Temple in Gardze

84 mahasiddhas

Jowo Buddha in Gardze

Jowo Buddha in Gardze

Inside, around the stupa, very old prayer drums, covered with leather (which is untypical), with the Manjushri mantra. Also in the temple are disassembled walls of the house, in which Karmapa accepted the monk’s oaths. The painting of the walls with the image of Atisha, Marpa and life story of is preserved. As the monk-caretaker claims, the painting was made in the time of Karmapa. In the main monastery of Sakya school in the neighborhood 20 years ago erected a very high stupa of Kalachakra.

Manjushri mantra

Manjushri mantra

Marpa

Marpa

Milarepa

Milarepa

stupa of Kalachakra

stupa of Kalachakra

We returned to the city. It was unusual to see the rare faces of Europeans. We have not seen them since the moment we left Lhasa by train.

to be continued!

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8 Comments

  1. By Linda Rabassa Witham Posted on June 15, 2017

    Read your article about your visit to the first karmapas sitúe, really interesting and would like to see more 😊.

  2. By Calvin Posted on June 29, 2017

    Hi where was the first picture exactly?
    :)

  3. By Marietta Heldstab Posted on July 11, 2017

    Hope, that my wishes comes true and that I can visiting Tibet one day.
    Thank you for the beautiful pictures. Gorgeous !!

  4. By Maria Posted on November 25, 2017

    Hi there, thanks for the beautiful pictures and your story . The Marpa depiction is very unusual -are you sure it is him?
    many thanks

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