|An Extraordinary Spiritual Experience|
written by Kuenga Lhendup, Coordinator of the pilgrimage and an active volunteer of ADC - Of the many events that unfold in one’s life, some fade away with time but the impact of some are so strong that they are simply unforgettable. These unforgettable events determinately remain etched in our memories forever. And it is also such memorable events that give us the much needed smile in reminiscence to believe that we have spent our life meaningfully, be it at least for mere two weeks. One such event was the Pilgrimage to Singye Dzong, the Lion Fortress in Eastern Bhutan, with His Eminence Kyabje Khamtrul Rinpoche Jigme Pema Nyinjadh.
We started our journey on the 31st of October 2009 from Thimphu with blessings and prayers from Kyabje Rinpoche. We were sixty eight of us in all and an unrivalled number so far for such a large congregation of lay followers on a pilgrimage of this magnitude to Singye Dzong. Memories flashed back to how we envied the more than seven hundred pilgrims who accompanied His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa on the “Pad Yatra”. For us, the Pilgrimage to Singye Dzong was our very own miniature version of the “Walking Pilgrimage”.
The first two days we travelled by car to Bumthang and to Lhuntshi. We were astonished by the unexpected turn out of people at every settlement to receive blessings from Rinpoche. As desired by Rinpoche, the pilgrimage was actually designed to be a private affair among the pilgrims but how all these thousands of people came to know mesmerized us. But deep within we felt a sense of satisfaction.
It is seldom that such Boddhisatvas visit these places and the joy we saw in the eyes of the local people were immeasurable on all counts. We were also served tea and lunch by devotees at different points. It touched our deepest sentimental chords when Rinpoche said that he “had the constant prayers and blessings of His Holiness and his predecessors”. We felt our own connection with Rinpoche and rejoiced for our past good deeds that brought us to the company of such holy and genuine master.
On the second of November, on the bequest of His Eminence Gyeltshen Trulku Rinpoche and the people of Minje village under Lhuntshi district, Kyabje Rinpoche administered Tshe Wang (Long Life blessing) and also shared his kind words of wisdom.
As I sat listening to the teaching, a senior nun next to me burst into tears. I could not help myself but join her company. A tear of joy! Everywhere we went Kyabje Rinpoche’s wisdom and humbleness touched us all; be it the pilgrims or any stranger that came across our way.
Now begins the tedious three days walk to Singye Dzong. We start from the village of Khoma on the morning of 3rd November 2009. The sun shone brightly; perhaps to test our determination. After walking for 8-9 hours we reached our first destination of the day, the Khomagang Village of only seven households. I looked up at the sun to say we have stood his test but it had already set, perhaps shied away! The locals in the village happily and warmly welcomed us into their homes. A human quality that we now get to experience only in these remote areas where the ills of modernization and money has not found their way yet and where coexistence and compassion is still a way of life.
The second day, we confounded ourselves that the journey would be easier and shorter but it took us the equal amount of time. It was however, a unique and pleasant experience to walk amidst the woods and be thankful for the occasional cool breezes that renewed our energy. The journey was a lesson of its own. Often times, being amidst the luxuries in the towns and cities, we take many things for granted. But when we are thrown amidst this jungle, everything becomes a luxury; be it a gulp of water when you are tired and thirsty or a piece of chocolate. We cherished and savoured with great joy and thankfulness making sure not to leave a bite. I admired Lopen Ala for the merits he accumulated through sharing because almost every time I saw him, he always had something to share. Perhaps he felt pity on my tortured looking face! But he always shared with everyone. Despite all the hardships I always found joy and happiness in Ala and all the monks who were more than happy to be accompanying Rinpoche. I almost envied and felt jealous of them at times.
The third day was the big day. We arrive at Singye Dzong, our destination! On arrival at Singye Dzong, we were greeted by showers of light snow, the first at Singye Dzong this year. This is considered most auspicious in our tradition. A light shower or snow is believed to be showering of flowers by the local deities to welcome a great master or a great soul. Some of our friends who were ahead of us said they saw the snow shower moving with Rinpoche’s entourage!
The next two days would be the most wonderful part of our trip. Lead by His Eminence, we visited the eight dzongs; Gawa Dzong, Namkha Dzong, Pema Dzong, Singye Dzong, Duelwa Dzong, Dorji Dzong, Tsemo Dzong, Rinchen Dzong. As we visited the many sacred sites, we cherished the achievement of the masters of the past as well as aspired and prayed to be able to follow their footsteps and rededicate our energies towards practicing compassion and generating positive energy. Together with Rinpoche we dedicated the merits we accumulated through this pilgrimage for the long life of all our Drukpa Masters as well as for the benefit and well being of all sentient beings.