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Dear Love Lawudo Friends,

Greetings on the holy day of Saka Dawa! Please enjoy this opportunity to re-connect with the highest and most remote retreat centre in the FPMT. 

In this newsletter we focus on the wonderful practice of Nyung Nä that is so closely associated with Lawudo at Saka Dawa, but which – as you will see – has also been quietly taking place at other times of the year. Please rejoice with us in the merits of everyone who participates in Nyung Nä at Lawudo, past present and future, and of Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche and the precious Lawudo family who make this possible. 
Please also join us in our prayers for the health, safety and wellbeing of all our dear friends both in the mountains and in the Kathmandu valley. As you may know, Nepal is now experiencing a devastating second wave of the pandemic. To date around half a million people in the country have been infected with Covid-19, with over 6000 fatalities. The lockdown in the Kathmandu Valley has just been extended for a fourth week, which is creating great economic hardship, and photographs in the Kathmandu Post show families queuing for oxygen after hospital supplies ran out. 

The arrival of Covid-19 in Solu Khumbu seems to be mainly aligned with the re-opening of the mountaineering season, which has brought hundreds of porters, guides and climbers up to Everest Base Camp and was welcomed at the time as a source of much-needed income for the local Sherpas. Kunde Hospital, which is run by the Himalayan Trust, published a report on 13 May about their work of distributing face masks and hand sanitisers and providing concentrator machines and vaccinations. Around 60% of local people aged 55 or over have now received a first dose, and a small number of patients requiring ICU and ventilator support have been evacuated to Kathmandu.  

Lawudo Nyung Nä 2016 - photo Alison Murdoch

Nyung Nä at Lawudo

  1. The annual Nyung Nä group retreat
  2. You can do Nyung Nä at Lawudo at any time of year!
  3. Some advice from Ven Namdrol on doing Nyung Nä at Lawudo
We hope you enjoy this brief Nyung Nä photo story and text, which has been extracted from The Lawudo Chronicles (TLC). The aim of TLC is to gather together stories and images from the Lawudo family, and from past visitors and students who have spent time at Lawudo, while we are still alive to share them. Please contact TLC at lhamone@outlook.com if you would like to add to our growing archive. 

A huge thank you to Ven Namdrol, Michelle Le Dinma and Melissa Zebrasky for agreeing to be interviewed for the Chronicles and allowing us to include excerpts here. We hope to share their full stories at a future date. 

1. The annual Nyung Nä group retreat

Anyone who has had the rare good fortune to be at Lawudo during Saka Dawa will know what a very special time this is. For weeks in advance, the gompa is cleaned and polished until it glitters and shines. Every cushion and corner is fully occupied: in the foreground by the Kari nuns, who arrive several days in advance to run the retreat, and further back into the shadows by local Sherpas and Inji visitors. The kitchen provides a non-stop feast of food offerings, visitor refreshments and meals for the participants, their appetites stoked by long days of prayers and prostrations. The air is filled with the smell of incense and the sounds of horns, drums and cymbals. 

Lawudo mani retreat spring 80 - photo Michelle Le Dinma
Lawudo mani retreat spring 80 - photo Michelle Le Dinma
I remember how moved I was when Rinpoche arrived at Lawudo, seeing his mother going down to the stupa below - amidst the smoke of a large pile of burning odorous branches (pine and juniper) - and prostrating in front of her son… Rinpoche would give frequent teachings and we had a complete night of Tara. It may have lasted for two weeks. (Michelle Le Dinma, 1980)
Lawudo Nyung Nä 2016 - photo Alison Murdoch
The alarm went off. It was 2am. I fumbled in the dark for my torch. Butterflies had already started to dance in my stomach. I got dressed and ventured out into the quiet waxing moonlit night and up to the gompa. The lights in the kitchen were already on and Ani Ngawang Samten, Sangmo and a few other nuns and a local lady were busy making tea. Pairs of slippers neatly sat side by side on the gompa steps. To announce the beginning of the Nyung Nä retreat two of the nuns blew on the Dungchens that could undoubtedly be heard from down below in Mende. The deep eery sound of the horns added to an atmosphere charged with anticipation. (Lhamone, 2017)
Ani Dolma, the Nyung Nä chef - photo Lhamone
On the drinking and eating days, tea was served continuously throughout the day and the food was a feast like I’d never seen at Lawudo. Anila, Sangmo, the nuns and local Sherpa ladies looked after everyone with so much care and dedication. (Lhamone, 2017)
Lawudo Nyung Nä volunteers - photo Alison Murdoch
The Sherpas were quiet, relaxed and smiling, sitting outside together during the breaks. During the retreat, especially on the last day of Saka Dawa, many locals came to make offerings. They would make offerings to Lawudo, to the thrones in the gompa, to the Lawudo family, the people serving and the Nyung Nä practioners. I found something very humbling about the way that Sherpas both offer and accept offerings, each person bowing slightly to the other with respect. (Lhamone, 2017)
Nyung Nä offerings - photo Lhamone

2. You can do Nyung Nä at Lawudo at any time of year!

In 2008 I did Nyung Näs in the cave from July until September. It is hard, because of the altitude, but the way that Anila takes care of you is just amazing. I didn't have any problems with the food, it was just incredible. It is simple, but it was so delicious, with all the greens that Anila grows in the greenhouse, and I saw the biggest potatoes that I have ever seen before. She made momos, and everybody knows how Anila likes to feed us. So, can you imagine when you are doing Nyung Näs? I had about 25 momos! During that time I was the only guest - which was nice sometimes - so I asked them if they could take the food to my room. If I left some momos, Anila would say, “So, why, what’s happening? Why you didn’t eat them all?!” 

It is hard there, but I'm from Brazil, so I’m quite relaxed. I don't push. The thing is, I'm very down to earth. I also feel that at Lawudo, because it's simple, for me that simplicity brings so much peace. It’s so peaceful. Just because of not having all these things we think we need. Just to be there is peaceful in that way. And, of course there are all the blessings, and then you go out and see the mountains. It’s incredible. You are at 4000 metres, and then you see the mountains up above you. And sometimes, when you're with Ven Ngawang Samten, it’s just like you’re with Rinpoche. She was so kind. (Ven Namdrol, 2008)
From left to right Anila Ngawang Samten, Melissa Zebrasky, Ven Namdrol, Ven Amy Miller and Melissa Zebrasky in the temple at Lawudo
You know there will be hardship associated with doing a Nyung Nä practice at Lawudo. But the experience offered by that space, and that place in the mountains, and the history of our teachers, is something that's unique. It's going to be profound and precious and something you will never forget. And maybe part of the reason it's so profound is because it is a more challenging place to do a Nyung Nä practice. 

When I returned to Kathmandu after my Nyung Näs, I was the sickest I have ever been in my life. Maybe I wanted to struggle a little bit, because I felt like maybe there was more purification happening if I was struggling. Right? So, I got it this time! I was in bed in Kathmandu for three days and then I flew home. It was incredibly challenging, because I was alone. And, as a doctor I understand what's happening to the body, and I was really concerned that I wouldn't make it because I was so sick. And, when I got home I had to go into hospital. I had pneumonia, I had influenza, I had ear infections, I was on IV antibiotics. I was really really sick. They were worried that I was septic, and that I was in shock. I was purifying from my Nyung Näs, but I was also cultivating a level of compassion that I don't know that I could have had without that experience. 

I work with sick patients all the time. I feel like I have compassion for my patients and I do a compassion practice every day. However there is an experiential understanding that happens when you yourself personally go through that. So I was grateful, and I think doing the Nyung Nä practice allowed me to have that perspective. (Melissa Zebrasky, 2018) 

3. Some advice from Ven Namdrol on doing Nyung Nä at Lawudo

I met Lama Zopa Rinpoche for the first time in March 2005, shortly after being ordained by His Holiness. I was a volunteer at Tushita in Dharamsala, and had done one Nyung Nä there in 2003 and another in 2004. I asked Rinpoche about doing the three month Vajrasattva retreat, and Nyung Nä, as purification practice for my first year. Rinpoche said, “Vajrasattva ok, but you do Nyung Nä. If you can, do six hundred and if you can, one thousand.” I was quite a beginner, even with the Lamrim, and I hadn’t done any Ngöndro before. I had only done the ten-day introduction course at Tushita, so I was just at the beginning. For me, the most important thing was to have met Rinpoche. I didn't know what one thousand Nyung Näs really meant, but I was so happy, because Rinpoche mentioned it. 

I have done Nyung Näs in many different places: in Bodhgaya, in Leh, Tso Pema, Maratika, in Jyalsa and in Lahoul. Rinpoche asked me once if there are differences. Maybe there are differences, but I think it's just the state of my mind. It’s hard in Lawudo, particularly doing Nyung Näs there, but it's very possible. Ven Tsenla did fifty, but of course she has Tibetan blood. I did twenty-nine there. If you have more to do, just try - it's the same as with any retreat, just try. 
Ven Namdrol doing Nyung Nä in the cave at Lawudo, 2018
The good thing is, they have almost everything there like bowls and bompa. There are a lot of offerings with Nyung Nä, so it’s worthwhile to bring those from Kathmandu, because to buy them from Namche Bazaar is very expensive. Take something that people from the West like, maybe some nuts, chocolate protein powder or vitamin supplements. The library is very comfortable. They have Abiding in the Retreat, but you need to bring the updated Nyung Nä sadhana. They have many books for you to read, so you don’t need to carry them from Kopan, or somewhere else.

For me, it’s not very clear why I went to Lawudo. But, there’s no doubt that my Guru devotion was stronger in Lawudo. So, if anybody feels that kind of connection to Lawudo, and if people say to you, “Oh, this and that…” just go, don't listen to anything!

 

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May Lawudo flourish and bring peace and happiness to the world.

With every good wish from the LoveLawudo team: Ven Katy, Ven Khadro, Ven Künkhyen, Alison, Capucine, Lhamo and Violette. An international group of volunteers established in 2017 to offer support to Lawudo Gompa.

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