On the morning of the 23rd of January, I went by myself to pilgrimage the Swayambhunath Stupa. In the Drukpa Kagyu Monastery I offered 100 butter lamps. In front of the Newari Buddhist Temple a lay master was performing a ritual service of offering; I offered 10 rupees and put them into the mandala in front of him. I paid my respects to Shahti Acarya also offering 10 rupees, and then fed the monkeys and pigeons with 10-rupees worth of yellow corn. In the Monastery of H.H. Karmapa I offered 100 butter lamps which happened to be all those on the table directly in front of the gigantic statue of His Holiness. I offered the two Lamas in charge of the butter lamp preparations 10 rupees each.
Afterwards, accompanied by a local friend, Mr. Kuo Yu Ma, I went to the Thai Embassy to hand in my passport and airline tickets for the visa application. Because I was using the passport of the Republic of China, I had to wait until the next morning to get my special permit.
Then we took a taxi and arrived at Pharping after a one hour ride. Our goal was to pilgrimage the Padmasambhava cave and the Vajra Yogini Temple. Half way up the hill there was a large monastery; on the opposite side, in the valley below, we saw an ocean of prayer flags waving in the wind. I walked into the main shrine hall where there were thirteen Lamas, old and young, chanting sutras. I dared not disturb their ritual ceremony, so I simply made three full length prostrations to the magnificent giant statue of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) at the center of the altar. While getting ready to leave I caught sight of butter lamps prepared for pilgrims and wanted to make such an offering.
Fortunately, there was a Caucasian Upasaka (male Buddhist layman) sitting among the assembly, so I told him in English that I would like to offer 100 butter lamps. He forwarded my request to the Lamas and, while they were bringing out the lamps, showed me the Tara Rock in the adjacent shrine hall. Over a period of 20-plus years a relief of Tara, a female transformation of Avalokitesvara, gradually and miraculously emerged from the surface of a rock. The relief was about the size of an adults palm and its outline clearly showed a Tara. The shrine hall had been built to house this miraculous relief of Tara and statues of the Twenty One Taras were revered on the altar. I offered five butter lamps with 10 rupees as well as 50 rupees to the elderly nun who was chanting a sutra and had completed years of retreat in the cave up on the hill.
We returned to the main shrine hall and discovered that a table with 100 butter lamps atop had been set up in front of the statue of Guru Rinpoche. A novice monk and I worked together to light all these lamps. The donation for these lamps was 200 rupees. The Caucasian Upasaka informed me that one might ask the Head Lama for a recitation of the traditional Auspicious Prayer that accompanied the offering of butter lamps. Hence, I added 50 rupees to the Mandala offering in front of Guru Rinpoche. I also offered a khata with 50 rupees to the Lama in charge, Ralo Rinpoche; my request was transmitted to him through the Caucasian Upasakas translation to Tibetan. The Lama instructed me to do three full length prostrations to Guru Rinpoche, then they started to chant the prayer; I knelt down facing Guru Rinpoche to recite my Bodhicitta Vows:
- May virtuous gurus remain with us and those departed return soon!
- May perverse views and violence soon become extinct, and Dharma spread without hindrance!
- May all beings proceed diligently on the path toward Buddhahood and achieve the goal before death!
- May the Great Compassion flourish in all beings and never regress until they reach perfect Buddhahood!
- May the Great Wisdom thrive in all beings and never regress until they reach perfect Buddhahood!
As I knelt there, seeing the compassionate face of Guru Rinpoche, and hearing the music of the ritual chorus sung by Lamas, which were accompanied by drums and horns, I seemed to have been miraculously transferred to the Pure Land of Guru Rinpoche. During this pilgrimage I had offered as many butter lamps as I could at various holy sites, thus resulting in Buddhas special blessing of granting me such a wonderful Dharma assembly at the last major offering of butter lamps. As a total stranger here, I could not have arranged such a large Dharma assemblage even if I had tried to. I really appreciate the kindness of Ralo Rinpoche and the Caucasian Upasaka for inserting the offering and the chanting of prayer into their schedule.
Afterwards, we walked up to the small cave on the hill behind the monastery; Guru Rinpoche was believed to have done his retreat here. I prostrated to the cave, lit five butter lamps on the table and left 10 rupees for the lamps. Then we walked along the trail in search of the Padmasambhava Cave. We came across a Padmasambhava Temple and a Tibetan nun unlocked the door to the shrine hall to let us in; we went in to worship. I made prostrations and offered 30 rupees on the Mandala offering.
As soon as I entered the Padmasambhava Cave, I felt the force of blessing. A stone statue of Guru Rinpoche was revered herein, and a Tibetan woman was attending the lamp and incense offerings. I prostrated to Guru Rinpoche, offered five butter lamps, and lit a package of incense. Near the entrance on the stone ceiling was an indentation marked by Guru Rinpoches crown.
Holding the package of burning incense, we searched for the Vajra Yogini Temple. It was on the second floor of the building and no photographs were allowed. There were a few young girls joyfully chatting in the courtyard downstairs. Upstairs there was a novice monk, about 10 years old, who led us through three circumambulations in the corridor around the shrine room. Then we worshipped outside the door of the shrine room (the door was locked with metal railings). Inside there was a statue of a standing Vajra Yogini. I prostrated and offered six butter lamps with 30 rupees. A girl, about 12 or 13 years old, was there to prepare the butter lamps, and downstairs there was an old nun guarding the stairway. I gave each of these three guardians a 10 rupee offering.
When we went downstairs there was a Tibetan nun passing by, and she asked me to give her the package of burning incense in my hand so she could bring it along on her pilgrimage to the Padmasambhava Cave and I happily complied with her request. After we went down the hill, there was another Padmasambhava Cave near a pond, but the small entrance door was locked, so I prostrated outside the entrance, then went up to the Padmasambhava Temple which was on a small hill nearby. There I offered 20 rupees and lit a package of incense. An old man was following us and begging, I gave him five rupees.
Mr. Ma and I were talking along the way. I mentioned that in the United States many elderly people had to spend their final years in nursing homes with very little caring attention. Mr. Ma told me that in Nepal old folks stayed home and their children and grandchildren took very good care of them. I also mentioned the highlights of my late Gurus Dharma activities, including his 25-year retreat in India. He asked me, "Where?" As soon as I answered, "Kalimpong," he knew who my Guru was. My Guru was retreating in a room on the second floor of L. M. Lodge, at which time Mas family lived across the street a few steps away. At that time, as a small child, he could not understand why Yogi Chen never came outdoors. Sometimes Yogi Chen would lower down a basket with a rope, and ask the kids to take the money from it and go shopping for him. Quite often Yogi Chen would distribute candy from his window to the kids. This was the candy which had been offered to Buddha; Mr. Ma was among those who used to eat his candy.
This discovery made us feel very close to each other. He immediately promised to be the guide for my future pilgrimage to the L. M. Lodge, the site of Guru Chens 25-year retreat. Only two days ago I had dreamed of signs for going on that pilgrimage and now I had unexpectedly met my guide for it. Considering the facts that Mr. Ma spoke Mandarin, English, Tibetan, Hindustani and Nepali, and that he came from Kalimpong, he was no doubt the best choice for the guide. Yet incredibly, without any effort on my part to search for such a guide I had naturally encountered him. Who could say that such a wonderful arrangement was not due to Buddhas Grace?
I returned to the hotel in the late afternoon. Although a little bit tired, I still went on the Dharma activity of accompanying Minor and Ann from our group to shop for a Thanka of the Wheel of Life and some handheld Dharma wheels. When we went downtown we discovered that most of the Thankas being sold were counterfeits to attract tourists and they did not meet the Dharmic requirements.
At dinner, fellow pilgrims Rolf and Gerry told me that they had understood a pilgrimage on a deeper level through me and that they respected my Dharmic endeavors. Such kind encouragement cheered up my spirits.