Friday, May 8, 2015

X-Tour: Tibet Tour

Over the years, it seemed as if fate has eluded us as we could never make our way into the sacred lands of Tibet due to the dreadfully difficult process of obtaining tourist visas for visitors. Despite having made several pilgrimage trips around the Sichuan – Tibetan region in 2005, 2009 and 2011 respectively, visiting Tibet remained a dream. Finally in 2014, with Buddha’s immense blessings, organising a trip to Tibet finally took some form of shape, despite encountering numerous challenges as we were planning a trip for a total of 53 participants of 6 different nationalities. On the 1st of August, we departed for Tibet via Chengdu, all ready for yet another extra-ordinary spiritual journey.
On that fateful day of departure, a beautiful rainbow-coloured halo was spotted around the sun as we made our way to Changi Airport. It was as though all the holy beings were present to accompany and watch over us on this spiritual trip, creating an immeasurable energy within and around us. Much to everyone’s surprise, this mystical rainbow-coloured halo accompanied us every single day throughout our 12-day journey without fail! It would only appear as we arrived on a holy ground - Tripong Monastery, Jokhang Temple, Tsurphu Monastery, Samye Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery, The Potala Palace. At Tripong Monastery, this rainbow halo followed us for a total of 3 hours right until we left. At Samye Monastery, many Dharma brothers and sister took pictures of me with the halo in the background, resulting in enigmatic effects where one of the photos showing my face completely immersed in a bright disc of light, leaving only my hands and shoulders visible; while in a few other photos you can see rainbow light reflecting off my face. How miraculous!
As we arrived into Nyingchi, Tibet, Zhen Sister had a soul attachment experience and this earthbound spirit had been awaiting my presence for a long time, requesting my help. On the next day, while on location at Guru Rinpoche’s Meditation Cave by the Basongcuo River, Hua Sister also experienced soul attachment, many spirits that were once dharma practitioners pleaded for help. As Guru Rinpoche once meditated here, this humble little mountain cave has since then been blessed with boundless sacred energy, what an amazing experience!
Stepping into the city of Lhasa, we all encountered unexpected mixed feelings. We were greeted by a modern concrete city, not unlike many big, developed urban capitals in China. Chinese-owned tourist shops crowded along the famous Barkhor Street, situated next to the Jokhang Temple, and popular Chinese music could be heard as we turned at every street corner, as opposed to sights of devoted prostrating pilgrims or local Tibetans chanting prayers along with their prayer wheels. If The Dalai Lama were to return to the city of Lhasa today, He would be bound speechless by the sight in front of him because Lhasa has unfortunately been transformed into a completely unrecognizable, modern city. This illustrates how fleeting and transient life is!           
At Tripong Monastery, as I was blessing our Dharma brothers and sisters with Maitreya Bhuddha’s holy rope, attracted a huge line of devotees encompassing Chinese from Mainland China, Taiwanese and many local Tibetans, all waiting to be blessed by me. A Dharma sister was experiencing splitting headache and another Dharma brother had pains and could not lift his left arm, however, all discomforts were alleviated after they were blessed. Another occasion at Tsurphu Monastery, while I was blessing our Dharma brothers and sisters with a Karmapa’s holy shoe, also attracted a massive queue of people, all requesting to be blessed. It was a moving sight, many Dharma brothers and sisters wept uncontrollably with great feeling of nostalgia, as if they have returned to a place they once called home and some even kissed the floorboards or embraced the walls of the monastery. Lastly, amidst the throngs and throngs of crowd of inland tourists and visitors from around the world at the Jokhang Temple, we were enveloped and it was impossible to move around the temple grounds, especially near the enshrined statue of a 12 year-old Shakyamuni Bhuddha image, said to have been brought into Tibet by Princess Wencheng. However, by a stroke of miracle, a Lama in charge actually allowed all 53 of us into the shrine to pay our respects and furthermore, allowed us to practice our prayers at the main hall of the temple, an area that is closed off to the public. As we were leaving the temple, Bing sister all of a sudden bowed down and prostrated to me three times while weeping uncontrollably. She said many spirits present in the temple all cried out in unison, “You have finally returned!” and proceeded to prostrate to me…
We also visited three of Tibet’s holiest lakes: Pagsum Lake, Namtso Lake and Yamdrok Lake; scaled to the top of Mount Mila at 5,013m above sea level. The first leg of this trip started in Chengdu, China, thereafter we flew to Nyingchi of Tibet where we stayed for 2 days to become accustomed to the altitude of 3,000m above sea level, before continuing to Lhasa, at 3,650m above sea level. After 3 nights in Lhasa, we traveled further north to a dizzying height of 4,200m at Damxung County. This itinerary was specially planned so that we were able to acclimatize gradually and with the use of medication, most of us only experienced slight symptoms of altitude sickness. As such, we were all excited to plan and conquer greater heights for our next trip to the Ngari Prefecture of Tibet!
At our visit to the Karola Glacier, we were awestruck by the force of the Mountain God, as a small avalanche unfolded right before our eyes. This is also the very location where the film "Red River Valley” was filmed, recounting the tragic story of the British’s second invasion of Tibet from 1888 to 1904. During prayer practice that night at our hotel, many spirits of fallen soldiers during the battle arrived to request for soul liberation…
            As we journeyed into The Roof of The World, we regarded the Potala Palace built on the Tibetan plateau, worshipped the golden shrines and tombs of The Dalai Lama from all 8 reincarnations, venerated the holy shrines and altars of The Panchen Lama from different rebirths at The Tashilhunpo Monastery. And we also witnessed the seemingly lifeless Chinese Yuan Renminbi piled sky-high in front of every great Buddha statue, in the denomination of 10 cents; Lamas collecting and counting monies collected from the “Photography Fees”; inland Chinese tourists helping themselves to change large bills to smaller denominations in donation boxes – self-collecting 90 cents RMB change for every 1 RMB they donated… what a bizarre sight! I cannot resist but kept thinking of a famous saying by a Taiwanese guru from the past – “One should not worry about having no temple but he should worry about having no spiritual attainment.”  
Homage to Sun-Moon-Lamp Buddha
Acho Rinpoche
18 August 2014
(Translated by Tryena Zhang)