Sunday, August 16, 2015

X-Tour: Yunan Tour (Dali, Lijiang, Shangrila, Deqin)

(Mt. Meili seen outside of the hotel room window)

In 2002, we planned to visit Yunan, Dali, Lijiang and Zhongdian but were advised by Weidong from Beijing that it would be too cold in December then. Instead, he suggested the Southern Silk Road which was warmer instead (an ancient route for horse and tea leaf trading). So, we travelled to Kunming, Ruili and Tengchong and gave the scenic Dali, Lijing and Zhongdian a miss.
This time, however, we are fully prepared to fulfil our original plan. 13 years later, on 2nd August 2015, 21 of us took a flight to Yunan which we have been longing for, with two other members from Hangzhou meeting us at Kunming. Our airplane were encircled by a rainbow throughout the whole flight, lasting more than 3 hours.
On the first day, our tour guide, a dark and skinny lady, kept telling us about the current social problems facing China. Those born in the 80s and 90s are experiencing a high divorce rate today, and she said a marriage will end up being a divorce without fail. She even illustrated her point by sharing with us a real story that happened to someone she knew – a couple decided to go their separate ways over a bag of garbage! China, after going through ten years of mishaps, followed by speedy economic development, is facing many social ills now. Finally, when she told us that she wished to be born as a panda in her next life, I was completely dumbfounded!
On the second day, we ascended Mt. Jizu. It was a very formidable task to a Singaporean making our way up the mountain (3,240 m in altitude), despite the fact that we took a cable car ride to complete the first part of the journey. When we arrived at the foot of the mountain, a sun halo appeared in the sky, showing the presence of the enlightened beings and the dharma protectors and their firm commitment to be with us at all times. When we reached the Huashoumen (cave), we did a Avalokitesvara Prayer and made offering of buttered lamps. Dharma Sister Bing later shared with me that she “saw” the entire cave transforming into rainbow lights. She could see the rainbow lights whether she opened or closed her eyes. She had a vision of Mahakasyapa and Avolikitesvara appearing in the rainbow lights. Dharma Brother Shao had a vision too that he “saw” all of us entering the cave to pay homage to Mahakasyapa who has entered a state of profound meditation since more than 2,500 years ago. He has been waiting for the arrival of Maitreya Buddha in this world, as instructed by Sakyamuni Buddha during his time, to hand over his robe to Maitreya in future. Everyone in the group made a vow before Mahaksyapa, “In future, when Bodhisattva Maitreya comes to this world to attain his Buddhahood, we will join Mahakasyapa in welcoming his arrival.”
On the third day, our official tour guide, Xiao Shan, finally appeared. She also shared the same story about the couple who divorced over a bag of garbage! It is obvious that China is facing a serious social problem today! Only the teachings of the Buddha can cure the social ills by treating the mental health of the people.
When we arrived at Lijiang, we headed straight to the Vajrayogini Cave. Sakyamuni Buddha called it “The Most Supreme Spiritual Cave in Jambuvipa”. It is connected to 25 other dakini caves. Today, there is a majestic looking Tibetan temple being built right in front of the cave and the abbot is Yingba Vajra Master from the Karma Kagyud. Someone said that Yingba Vajra Master did his retreat in Southern India for more than 10 years. He was identified by H.E Tai-situ as the right candidate to build a monastery at Vajrayogini Cave. So, he returned to China to fulfil the task assigned by his teacher. There is a place within the vicinity of the Vajrayogini Cave that is believed to hold the key to the Huashoumen. Legend has it that when Mahakasyapa left India with the robe of Sakyamuni Buddha in his hands, he came to this Vajrayogini Cave to pay homage to Vajrayogini. He left behind the key to the Huashoumen before heading his way to Mt. Jizu. Traditionally, the Tibetan Buddhists would draw the key from here before heading to Mt. Jizu. We saw the video footages of Venerable Haitao on his pilgrimage tour to Mt. Jizu and learnt about this history. Venerable Haitao has a strong connection with H.H Karmapa. His pilgrimage tour to Mt. Jizu was quite an important event in the Buddhist circle. According to the legend, the 1st Karmapa had a vision of this Vajrayogini Cave in his meditation. The 8th Karmapa personally made a pilgrimage tour to the cave. And the 10th Karmapa stayed at the cave for more than 20 years. This cave has a strong karmic connection with the Karma Kagyud indeed.
On the 7th day, on the 8th of August, we came to Zhiyun Temple. It was so coincidental that August is the period when the Karma Kagyud holds its annual grand ceremony. This time, the 17th Dongbao Zhongba Rinpoche personally presided over the ceremony attended by thousands of layman Buddhists and ordained monks. We took part in the ceremony too since we happened to appear at the right place at the right time. We offered khattas and our X-Tour books to Dongbao Zhongba Rinpoche too.
Of course, we also visited the ancient cities of Dali and Lijiang, including the Mt. Yulong. We did not spend much time on these locations partly because it was the summer holiday of China, where every place was full of crowds. They were also not our places of interest anyway. When we reached Shangrila, we merely made a brief stop at Songzanlin Monastery which was also very crowded. Very quickly, we headed straight to Mt. Meili as it was one of the most important stops in our plan.
Mt. Meili ranked first in the list of eight sacred mountains within the region of Big Tibet. It is ahead of Mt. Kailash. The road was bumpy. Xiao Shan told us that Mt. Meili hardly showed its face. It will be even more difficult for us to catch a glimpse of it in this rainy season. Song Song, our local tour guide told us that this is the year-of-birth (year of goat) of Mt. Meili, where Tibetans have the tradition of doing pilgrimage tours around the mountain during this period. She already did it this year. She also had a dream last night that she found herself arriving at Mt. Meili. When we were approaching Mt. Meili, the cloudy sky (it has been raining daily since our arrival) suddenly changed into a sunny sky near the area of Mt. Meili. Nearly all thirteen peaks showed their faces right before our eyes. We felt exhilarated! Our group did a Padmasambhava Prayer before Mt. Meili. All the clouds suddenly seemed to come to a stand-still, exposing Mt. Meili before us. When the prayer was over, Padmasambha appeared in the form of cloud above the sky. It was absolutely inconceivable! We prayed before every sacred Buddha statues that we came across – not knowing that we actually became part of the scenery to the Chinese tourists who either stood around watching us or joining us in the prayer at times.  
On our way back to Shangrila, we visited a small temple – Feilai Temple. The image of the mountain god – Gawagebo of Mt. Meili was enshrined within the temple. When we paid our respect to him, he descended and gave blessing to everyone. There were many Tibetans who came to this temple who requested me to touch their heads as a form of blessing. Surprisingly, the person in-charge of the temple asked me if I could help to invite Dongbao Zhongba Rinpoche to visit this temple? Obviously, Donbao Zhongba Rinpoche must be too pre-occupied by the various religious activities that he has not been coming to this place for a long time.
When the whole tour was about to come to a perfect closure, we met a local lady at the airport who has been working for Silk Air for more than 20 years. She saw how cheerful our members were – chatting and laughing in a carefree manner – a social behavior that is hardly seen in China for a long time. She felt very touched and requested to take a photo with us. She told me that she has been working here for 20 years for a reason – for a meeting with me today! She sent me off at the boarding gate, and returned to her duty with much reluctance. We only met once, and yet she has so much faith in me, and we felt so familiar with each other. I saw the tears in her eyes, when she finally turned away……
Only the true teachings of the Buddha can help all sentient beings during this degeneration time…… I truly believe in this, especially when I visited Yunan, Dali, Lijiang and Shangrila this time.
Acho Rinpoche
14th August 2015

 Blessing the Tibetans
 Mt. Jizu

 Yingba Vajra Master, Abbot of Vajrayogini Cave.
 Xiao Shan & Song Song, our tour guides.
Mt. Meili