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Happy Lhabab Düchen

Welcome to the seventh Lawudo newsletter, bringing you news and stories from the highest and most remote retreat centre in the FPMT.

For this Lhabab Düchen edition we are very fortunate to share stories from Charok Lama Rinpoche and Merry Colony. Rinpoche kindly agreed to write about his connection to Lawudo and has also given us some wise and inspiring words to reflect upon. Merry first went up to Lawudo and neighbouring Charok 40 years ago this year, and has maintained a strong and close connection ever since. She has kindly shared some stories about Charok Rinpoche’s fascinating childhood. We also share a short article from Eric Hagen, the last European student to visit Lawudo before the lockdown in March.

Latest News

The news from Lawudo this week is that although there is no longer a formal lockdown, visitors are being discouraged for at least the remainder of this year to limit the spread of Covid-19 in the region. All the family are currently well. Sangay the Director of Lawudo has just arrived from Kathmandu to supervise the continuation of the building projects, so we hope to share more updates in the next newsletter.
All group pilgrimages have been postponed this year until the pandemic has receded. Ven Amy Miller is scheduled to lead a pilgrimage to Lawudo from 26 April to 14 May 2021: more information at https://amymiller.com/5850-2/. Ven Robina Courtin has postponed her fourth Annual Lawudo Trek to October 2021. For more information about Ven Robina’s Lawudo treks, plus many wonderful articles and teachings, visit her Lawudo Trek Facebook page. You can also find her teaching schedule on www.robinacourtin.com.

Enjoy a Virtual Pilgrimage to Lawudo

Are you missing Lawudo, or do you simply need a deep breath of clean fresh air in these challenging times? No worries – Ven Robina Courtin is now offering us the opportunity to join her on an online pilgrimage. Get a taste of the Himalayas, enjoy some wonderful photographs, and listen to stories about sacred places, holy beings and great meditators who spent time in the region. You will also hear about Lama Zopa Rinpoche's vision of a Guru Rinpoche Pure Land at Lawudo and about Ven Robina’s past treks.

The two virtual pilgrimages are being hosted by Ocean of Compassion Buddhist Centre and will take place on:

  • Monday 9th November at 7.00 PST (Pacific Standard Time)
  • Wednesday 2nd December at 12 noon PST

One of the aims is to raise funds for Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Guru Rinpoche Pure Land project at Lawudo. You can book your place here.

The Lawudo Chronicles

The aim of The Lawudo Chronicles (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.

A huge thank you to both Charok Lama and Merry and to all those who have supported the project so far. May these stories bring blessings, inspiration and benefit to many and fulfill Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s holy wishes for Lawudo. Please contact TLC at lhamone@outlook.com if you would like to contribute a story.

Charok Lama and Merry Colony, 2015. All the photos in these two articles are from Merry Colony.

My First Home

by Charok Lama Rinpoche

How conditions play out is as magical as it is mysterious, and so my connection to Lawudo, as far as I know, is a magical one which only karma can explain; how I lost my Dad, how my mom went looking for Charok, how Anila Ngawang Samten met my Mom, how she took me in and looked after me until I came down to Kopan monastery are all events that are a huge part of my life, yet it's all very vague. Whether it’s all just a big coincidence, destiny or karma, as far as I can tell Lawudo was my first home, my first connection to the dharma and my first connection to my gurus.

When it comes to Lawudo, what I remember is Anila Ngawang Samten’s love, the delicious food, the beautiful scenery, the majestic mountains, the simple lifestyle, the humble people, the clouds below us streaming away and a culture that holds on to your heart even after many many years away, which I am positive that nearly everyone who’s been there will agree on. 
Ani Ngawang Samten and Charok Lama, Oct 1995
My journey started from there, through Kopan and on to Sera, and presently on to my 15th year in Sera studying Vinaya and hopefully to become a Geshe in the near future. But with times like this we are coming to a strong sense of understanding not to expect too much and to be happy with what we have, so in short the future is extremely uncertain, but I would really like to continue my practice after finishing my studies, and maybe, just maybe, my journey will hopefully end where it all started. 

We Need Calmness and Tranquility
Realizing these uncertain times and understanding change can be fearful at times and seeing how parts of the world are trying to deal with it, it seems we are lacking a big part of ourselves and the things around us. One's ability to stay sane when everything else is falling apart depends a lot on the state of one's present mind, and without practice and effort, it's going to be nearly impossible to keep your cool when you come face to face with life, problems, challenges, losses, sickness and death. 

Without practice and using both wisdom and method, one could end up doing drugs, becoming dependent on intoxicants, and even killing oneself just to escape these problems, especially in these degenerate times, and in a chaotic world where trusting and depending on others has become very hard.

So in order to deal with all of this, one needs to first find peace within, a state of calmness and tranquility, and for ordinary beings such as us we need the help of a calm environment and surroundings and a place where our mind can sit still and relax. When the mind isn’t strong enough to do things by itself we search for ways to support its load and ways to divert its concentration and pressures. And if the mind isn’t calm and clear, it's impossible to not depend on emotional judgment and reasoning, which gives us a big disadvantage in realizing and understanding things for what they really are.

Having the Right Environment for Practice
So the first step in every practice is to become a person who can think calmly and act based on one's ability to absorb and understand from all angles and perspectives, giving us a clear path on what is the truth and how to benefit others and oneself the most through one's actions. And to attain this state of mind, what takes many many years can be done in just a few when you have the right guidance and are in the right environment, with the right energy and support. 

Lawudo is one such place, where the energy is serene. It’s a place with fewer distractions and the experiences one has are enlightening in so many ways, giving a totally different perspective on life, and what’s important in it. Unlike our average city life with lush lifestyles, where money, fame and power matter the most, being up there makes us actually scratch the surface of the merely labeled I and understand a different way of looking at things. It shifts our views and concern on to making ourselves happier by dealing with the inner destructive emotions and learning to tame the spoiled mind, because we know in this modern society we just spoil our mind even further and let it indulge in ignorance and let it run wild, instead of understanding, dealing with and taming it.

In short Lawudo is a place where many like me have started our journey towards Dharma. It’s a place which has provided many with the opportunity to get in touch with themselves and their practices, a place of peace and tranquility in which you’ll find the energy, strength and will to keep moving forward in life, a place where great beings have attained realizations and a place where you can start your journey to becoming a happier, kinder and better person.

And with every passing year I look forward to the day I can go back and find myself at peace again.


Charok Sherpa, Kopan Monastery, Sept, 2020

You are one 
Others are countless
Therefore cherishing others is more important than cherishing oneself
Charok Lama, October 1995

Early Days

by Merry Colony

As Rinpoche’s memories of his early life at Lawudo are vague I will fill in a bit. Rinpoche’s first two years were spent with his two sisters, brother and Mom in an extremely poor household in Thamo Deng, 20 minutes walk from Lawudo. His Dad had passed away when he was just an infant and his Mom worked when she could as a porter. Life was very difficult for all the family. In addition to the daily struggle of caring for her children, Rinpoche added a particular kind of stress to the family dynamic. From the time he could talk Rinpoche insisted to be taken to his “home at Charok”. He would speak the name of his previous life daughter, Pema Chodron, and describe his house “under the big rock”.
Charok Lama and Merry Colony, October 1995
Not understanding what her son was talking about, and at her wits end, Mom put her young 2½ year-old son on her back and started up the mountain to find this place called Charok that was under a rock. Surprisingly Rinpoche’s Mom had never been to Charok and unable to find it she took Rinpoche to Genukpa, a small hamlet below Charok, hoping this would appease the boy. But Rinpoche would have none of it. Exasperated, both mother and child became quite hysterical. It was at that moment that Ngawang Samten, who was out to collect water, came upon the two of them at the landslide between Genukpa and Lawudo. Hearing the mother’s story and being no fool to the antics of incarnate Lamas, Nawang Samten offered to take the boy to Lawudo for some time. And this, as Rinpoche says, was the beginning of his dharma life. He never returned to his home and never lived with his family again.
Charok Lama with his Mom and sister
Soon thereafter Ngawang Samten wrote me a letter saying she thought she had found the incarnation of “Kusho Mangden” (Charok Lama’s previous life) and to please come to Lawudo quickly. I was living with a friend in San Francisco at the time recovering from a near nervous breakdown after 3 years of living at Root Institute working for the Maitreya Project. Prior to that Charok had been my home for nearly six years and Kusho Mangden my guardian protector and inspiration. News of his return was like life saving air and in no time at all I was back in Nepal making the trek up to Lawudo. There were no cell phones in those days so my arrival was a surprise. Yet when I climbed over the wall (the entry gate to the Lawudo courtyard was locked) there was Nawang Samten with the young Charok Lama, who greeted me by name. This was the beginning of my reconnection with one of the most important people in my life.

Rinpoche was three by this time, but certainly unlike any 3 year old I’d ever met. With absolute confidence and insistence our days revolved around his demands; most particularly to do “pujas”. As master of ceremonies Rinpoche would sit on the carpeted dining room bench at Lawudo, oversized pandit hat on his head, bell and dorje in hand, text on the table and in a very loud voice shout out his rendition of the words while instructing all of us on the floor when to play our various instruments. Nawang Samden was on cymbals (two enamel cup lids), Ani Wy on drums (tin pots) and me on gyaling (plastic pipe). This could go on for hours and NO ONE was allowed to leave until the puja was finished. When not doing puja Rinpoche would instruct Nawang Samden that it was time to make tormas and together they would sit outside in the washing area making piles and piles of tormas made of mud.
But most significant of this period was Rinpoche’s insistence on going to Kopan. At night around the kitchen fire Rinpoche would dictate letters that I was to send to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Lama Lhundup and Sangye all saying the same thing; “I am Charok Lama and I want to go to Kopan, then Sera, then teach in the West and you must help me”. His clarity of purpose was mind blowing. When I left Lawudo and delivered those letters I was told in no uncertain terms by Lama Lhundup that Rinpoche was too young and Kopan could not take him, but knowing his desperation I was equally desperate to fulfill his wish. As it happened I saw Lama Zopa Rinpoche soon thereafter and explained the situation and Lama Lhundup’s reluctance. Rinpoche provided the perfect solution; take Rinpoche to Kopan’s Ani Gompa where the nuns would adore him and look after him until he could start his studies. When I returned to Kopan and relayed the news Lama Lhundup did a quick about face and said I could now bring Rinpoche to Kopan! Rinpoche’s first wish had been granted.
Tsultrim Norbu and Charok Lama, Nov 1996
In the fall of 1996 I went back to Lawudo to bring the now four-year old Charok Lama down to Kopan. Ever clear and ever vigilant, Rinpoche’s obsession had now become helicopters, and every day he was sure to let anyone and everyone in earshot know that soon he was “helicopter going.” When the day of departure arrived Rinpoche was up and packed before daybreak, all too ready to begin his new life. While for his de-facto Mom Nawang Samden there were tears, Rinpoche ran out the Lawudo gate past the mani stone, Ashang on one hand and Tsultrim Norbu on the other focused only on what lay ahead. Later that day, miraculously a Russian cargo helicopter flew into Shangboche and agreed to take us down to Kathmandu. Norbu, Rinpoche and I climbed in and Rinpoche, breathless with excitement, sat backwards in his seat so he could see fully out of the window. As the chopper rose straight up off the ground Rinpoche’s eyes grew bigger and bigger and when suddenly it lurched forward on its descent Rinpoche slapped me on the shoulder and with a huge grin gave me a “mission accomplished” thumbs up. He was on his way………

There is of course much more to fill in of Rinpoche’s story and I have full intentions to write that story in full. For now this will do.

Merry Colony, Crestone, Colorado Sept 2020

Editor’s note: you may not be surprised to hear that we’ve made a heartfelt request to Merry to continue her story in a future LoveLawudo newsletter

My Time in Lawudo: an Unforgettable Experience and a Lesson on Life 

By Eric Hagen

On the 14th of March 2020, after four days of trekking from Lukla airport, I finally arrived at the dream destination of my whole Nepali journey: Lawudo Gompa. Eighteen years old and having just finished school in Germany, the desire to leave the western world that I grew up in and enter an oasis of stillness, simplicity and purity begun to arise in me. Because of my fascination for ancient Buddhist culture and my wish to find a beautifully remote place far away from every distraction, I chose the path to go to Lawudo.
When I entered the Lawudo kitchen, coming in from the cold of the Himalaya mountains, I looked onto surprised but happy faces. Nobody seemed to expect a guest facing the upcoming Covid pandemic this year. Anyway, Anila, Sangmo, Nyima and the other Lawudo members welcomed me warmly and made me feel accepted right away. That was the moment where I slowly started to realize that my dream had come true.

What I experienced in the two weeks after that was different from everything else I had known from my western world and taught me a great lesson on the different perspectives of life, culture and my own conscious being in this world. Waking up every day to the bitter cold Himalaya night disappearing behind the mountain peaks and watching the shimmering national birds reflecting the light with their feathers; hearing the cowbells ringing and following them and Nyima down to the fields after the morning tea to help him with the work and to play with the Sherpa children during the breaks; spending time every day to meditate in the holy cave and the big gompa room and reading Buddhist literature on top of the library looking down into the vast Khumbu valley. Those and so many other small special moments made my stay a defining experience in my life.

Last but not least also because of such kind, caring and interesting human beings like Anila, Nyima, Sangmo, Anila’s Uncle and Tsultrim Norbu. It was a great honor to share the meals, tea and talks together with them sitting in the kitchen or community room in front of the oven. Even though I was on my own and it was the most isolated that I have ever been in my life, they made me feel like part of the family and gave me all the freedom to explore everything up there and develop myself. The clarity and new insights into a different perspective on life and the depths of my own mind, but also the great personal connection, will accompany me for a long time.
Thank you Lawudo Gompa.

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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.

Copyright © 2020 Lawudo Gompa & Retreat Center, All rights reserved.


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