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News from Lawudo

Greetings on the holy day of Chökhor Duchen! Please enjoy some of the latest news from the highest and most remote retreat centre in the FPMT.

We’re glad to report that the precious Lawudo family are all healthy and well, with the exception of the creaking bones and arthritis that come with age.

It’s currently the monsoon in Khumbu. Generally Sherpas that live in Khumbu stay up there during this time. There’s still work to do, but it’s also the season for practice and prayer festivals. Although there were no Nyung Nays at Lawudo this year, many tormas were offered.

Like the rest of the world, there is a new normal. Or maybe it is just a glimpse of the old normal again. There’s lots of rain in Khumbu, no covid-19 or lockdown…and no tourists. There have been no visitors to Lawudo in the past seven months. “We pray, we pray good coming next year, people coming,” Anila Ngawang Samten told us earlier this week. Lawudo's director Sangay Sherpa mentioned that everything is going well at Lawudo and guests are most welcome.

Nepal Coronavirus Update

As of last week, the mountain areas of Nepal have had virtually no cases of Covid-19. Khumbu, Manang, Mustang all closed their borders as soon as the three-month lockdown began. The current drop in pollution means that the high Himalayas can even be seen from Kopan and the Kathmandu valley.

As of last week, the mountain areas of Nepal have had virtually no cases of Covid-19. Khumbu, Manang, Mustang all closed their borders as soon as the three-month lockdown began. The current drop in pollution means that the high Himalayas can even be seen from Kopan and the Kathmandu valley.

The WHO total for coronavirus infections in Nepal is 17,344 (of which 365 have been reported in the Kathmandu valley) with a total of 39 deaths. Most of the cases were reported in the Terai border areas and involved migrant labourers returning from India. Migrants from the Middle East are now being repatriated back to Kathmandu but are being tested before arrival. The low death rate is probably due to the fact that most of the people affected are young men who work abroad. It’s not yet clear whether there has been community spread.

“I would be surprised if there is any tourism this year” says Frances Howland, a long-term FPMT student who lives in Kathmandu. “My friends with travel companies think the next season will be spring 2021. Trekking visas will depend on the local areas but as everyone is desperate for income I’m sure that if flights start and tourists come, there will be trekking visas available. Everyone is hurting economically.” 

The latest news is that domestic flights will recommence on 5th August and international flights on the 17th. These dates have already changed many times, but the Ministry of Tourism and tour operators are keen to get things moving again. Regular updates can be found on, which reported on 15 July:

Kathmandu is currently on Phase I of lockdown relaxation, which means that schools, theaters, hotels, and grouping facilities, including temples are closed – however, Nepal being Nepal – pretty much everything else is open…The Nepali people are the way we are, that has not changed at all – still taking life as it gives – with smiles and laughter through all the hardship...While all this is going on, our message to you – keep the dreams alive – Nepal is still the same, and waiting patiently to welcome you again.

Opportunities to visit Lawudo in 2021

The Lawudo Pilgrimage and Retreat led by Ven Amy Miller and scheduled for May 10 – 28, 2020 has been rescheduled for April 26 to May 14, 2021. Ven Amy is a long-time visitor to Lawudo who teaches and leads retreats and pilgrimages all around the world. Her website has a beautiful 9-minute slideshow of the flight and walk to Lawudo. If you are interested in participating, you can find the detailed itinerary HERE. For registration information, please contact

From 15th April – 6th May 2021, Ven Thubten Khadro will be leading a Calm Abiding and Bodhichitta Retreat at Lawudo, which will include a guided trek, 7-day retreat and visits to Buddhist sites in the Kathmandu valley. More information is available from or from the Lawudo website

Ven Robina Courtin’s fourth Lawudo Trek will now take place from 6 - 21 October 2021. This is a wonderful opportunity to visit Lawudo in the company of like-minded people and with the inspiring leadership of a close student of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who was the Lawudo Lama in his last life. The local guide, Amber Tamang, has worked with Ven Robina since 2001, and the trek will raise much-needed funds for Lawudo. You can find out more, watch videos of previous treks and register on

The Lawudo Chronicles

The aim of the Lawudo Chronicles is to gather together stories and images of Lawudo from past visitors, while we are still alive to share them. Thank you to everyone who has supported the project so far: please contact Simone Fry if you would like to contribute.

On Retreat with The Snow Lion Cat of Lawudo

Wendy Cook, 1998
Taken from an interview with Wendy at Institut Vajra Yogini, France, June 2019

Such a Short Time!”

When I had an opportunity to ask Rinpoche in 1997 where to do my Vajrasattva retreat, Rinpoche suggested I go to Lawudo. I'd given Him four choices and just threw Lawudo in there as a kind of wild card and that's what came out. I was so happy! So I went to Lawudo in 1998, after the CPMT that took place at Kopan in May.

Rinpoche arrived at Lawudo while I was there. It was Saka Dawa, and we did two Nyung Nays with the Thamo nuns. Amy Miller was there, before she became a nun, and we sat together towards the back of the Gompa. She’d already been to Lawudo a few times and of course she's been many times since. So she was able to help orient me. Then I remember we had some teachings with Rinpoche in the cave - that was really wonderful. I had an incredibly special experience in the cave.

All that Rinpoche said to me about the Vajrasattva retreat was, "It's a very short time!" This was my first three-month retreat and Rinpoche says, "Such a short time! Such a short time!" Which was so helpful, because most of the time there was this big banner in my mind that said "F O R E V E R!!!” Ha ha ha! Rinpoche already knew.

Little filthy dirty cat

When I was about to start retreat I suddenly met this cat, this little filthy dirty grey cat. I like cats, but in Lama Yeshe's book Tantric Path of Purification - now called Becoming Vajrasattva - he says not to engage with animals during retreat –not to let them in your retreat room, not to get distracted by pets and animals. I was trying to follow Lama’s advice, but I started giving the cat a little bit of chapati and butter on my doorstep in the mornings. As the retreat went along, of course I got more and more attached to this cat. I was there in monsoon and it was raining. So, when the cat came to eat, I'd let it inside my room, just in the doorstep. I wouldn't let it go anywhere else for about two weeks and then: “Ok you can just go on my bed, but you just have to stay there! And if you meow and I’m in session I can't let you out.”

By about halfway through the retreat the cat was now sleeping with me inside my sleeping bag at night. She literally burrowed into the sleeping bag and I couldn't get her out. She would sleep inside there with me every night. It was beautiful, it was so sweet. I mean, this rule of not having an animal as being part of your retreat was so blown out of the water at this point. And by about the last two weeks, when I had nearly finished my Vajrasattva mantras, she was meditating with me in the box.

Pusstah the Snow Lion Cat

At the end of the retreat, I told Anila Ngawang Samten that I wanted to take the cat – which I had called Pusstah – back to America with me. At first, she was a little like, “Hmm I don't know if Lawudo cat wants to go to America.” But then she quickly became supportive as she started watching my relationship with the cat.

Pusstah was a very special cat. As soon as I started engaging with her and feeding her, she began to clean herself. Then I understood how neglected she had been. Pusstah was actually a really snowy white cat with grey patches who was so happy when fed and loved. She also had really heavy eyelids and thick eyebrows. It was like she was a snow lion cat, because I always felt like her eyes were designed to keep out the bright sun and the snow. Her eyes were very unique.

The Journey Back to Kathmandu

When Amy and I were heading down from Lawudo, we got to a point just past Mende where Pusstah didn't want to follow me anymore. She was like, “Ok this is my boundary,” and I was like, “No come Puss now we go”. She really didn't want to come. I picked her up and she started crying for a while and I just remember saying to her, “It's ok just a couple of days of suffering and then a good life, come with me.” After about an hour she settled down and then she would just ride on my shoulders or my bag. I created a harness around her shoulders using two khatags.

When we got to Lukla, our friends from the guest house said, “Don't tell the people you have a cat, just put her in your bag and get on the plane. Don't say anything about having a cat.” Poor old Pusstah! When the plane took off the cat came out of the bag and no one really cared, she just stayed on my lap. You could have taken a goat on the plane and no one would have cared.

Charok Lama and Pusstah Jangchup Chöling the Kora Cat

Back in Kathmandu we went up to Kopan. I told Charok Lama, who was about 4 years old at that point, that I’d brought a cat down from Lawudo and he asked me to bring Pusstah to the Kopan picnic the following day. When I introduced her to Charok Lama he said, “You call her Jangchup Chöling.”

I was in Kathmandu for about ten days and every day there I used to go to Bouddha with her. I'd take her up the high levels of the stupa and try to get her to walk around. She'd go a little bit and then she'd want to go the other way or wouldn't keep going. By the end of the 10 days, she actually did a circumbulation around the stupa on her four little fur feet, all by herself! I felt like that was my proud moment of, “Yes you did it!” She was very special and everyone was always paying attention to her – I learned a little Nepalese because of the cat.

Back to America

Getting Jangchup Choling back to the USA involved quite a lot of paperwork, health certificates and shots, but she didn’t have to be quarantined because America is not an island. It wasn’t a comfortable flight for me: I was so concerned about this pussy cat the entire way that I couldn't relax at all. My husband picked me up in Boston and we were finally reunited in the cargo section of the airport. There she was, sitting waiting on the counter: “Meow meow meow.”

Soon after I got home, I got a letter from Anila saying: “Oh now there are too many pheasants around.” It seems that Jangchup Choling was keeping down some of the other animal population at Lawudo. She was really happy that Pusstah Jangchup Chöling had come home with me, but now there was a problem with the pheasants.

Last New Home

We were living in a benefactors’ apartment and after a few months they wanted us to move to a different place where we couldn't keep the cat, so I was pretty devastated. I found another home for her with a friend, where she lived for about a year and a half. The friend later became quite a big benefactor at the centre. The cat made quite a big connection for us and so this other woman got an opportunity to create a lot of merit, to help a lot. Then one day Pusstah Jangchub Choling Girlfriend didn't come home. It was in the woods at night. Quite likely she was taken out by a coyote, which would make sense because she would have killed a lot in her life.

She was an amazing, beautiful pussy cat and I still think about her a lot. I miss her terribly. There's never been another cat like her before or since, nothing even close. We had a very strong connection and I dare say we'll meet again.

Retreat at Lawudo: A Life-changing Experience

Doing retreat at Lawudo was a life-changing experience for me. I was mostly in silence, so I didn't have any other retreaters to talk to, just Anila Ngawang Samten. Sometimes I would go and chat with her after lunch. She was so lovely, and always made my favourite foods. I found out afterwards that she didn't make French fries very often, but she knew I loved them, so I got them about every four or five days. When we got French fries, it was such a great day!

In that retreat something turned in my mind where I was able to have compassion for myself and to look at myself with more tenderness and kindness. That was huge, because in ‘81 and then again in ‘84 I had been very suicidal in my life. I think because it was a three-month retreat, there was lots of time. So, I got bored, I got lonely, I got depressed. Even though Rinpoche told me it was, "A very short retreat!" I'm just a mere mortal, so it didn't feel that short. I had all these different emotions come up, but the place I eventually arrived at was this great compassionate attitude towards myself and I think I couldn't have arrived there without the retreat being as long as it was.

The other day here in Boston, someone was guiding a meditation and they said, “Think of one of your favourite places. Take yourself to one of your favorite places in the world, a place where you feel safe and where you can relax.” Well, for me that was Lawudo and particularly the old stupa1 the one on the right side, when you're looking at Lawudo. Near the old stupa there was a big rock, and in some of my breaks I used to go and lie on that rock and look at the sky and the mountains. It was where I’d go when I wanted to feel completely safe and peaceful in my mind, in my heart. I would just lie there and look at the mountains and think about how those mountains that look so solid and old are not inherently existent. It was timeless, and I felt complete peace in my heart. I'm very very very very grateful to have had that experience in this lifetime.

1 The Lawudo Lama Kunsang Yeshe purkhang, which was mostly destroyed during the earthquake in 2015

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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 Kunkhen, Alison, Capucine, Simone and Violette. An international group of volunteers established in 2017 to offer support to Lawudo Gompa.

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