Eleven Americans and Europeans of the Pointing Out Way traveled to Chengdu en route to Rahob Rinpoche’s place. Chengdu is provincial capital of Sichuan Province of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Sichuan is a big province, the Silicon Valley of the PRC, and Chengdu dwarfs Boston. We traveled to Rahob Monastery and Village in the far west of the province, known as Kham in the old Tibet (the eastern-most province of Tibet). In 1949, Rinpoche’s area was annexed into the PRC. Technically as far as the PRC was concerned we never left Sichuan yet it was clearly old Tibet. The journey was long, costly, and arduous, but well worth every hardship because it was the trip of a lifetime.
Our goals were to consecrate the new philosophy school, attend the Gesar of Ling festival and meet our Tibetan sisters and brothers. The monks, nuns, people and nomads know that we are the same Sangha. We lived with them for over a week. Tibet or the west we are one.
We met up as a group In Chengdu (Fredi Mueller was in Nepal but joined us later). We became a tightly bound group with nine year old Forrest Bissanti as our glue and faith in the future. Pandas, good hotels, Mount Emei and its statue Kunta Zanpo, the giant Buddha of Leshan, Chinese performance art, and Tibet Town were highlights of Chengdu. The fellowship was foremost.
Tip. I recommend the pigeon soup. Traditional recipes include the pigeon head. It tastes like chicken soup, but don’t eat the head. There was a noticeable lack of pigeons in Chengdu. Coincidence? My Chinese father always said, “gosh those southern Chinese will eat anything”
The Journey to Rahob monastery and Village
It was a three-day journey to Rahob Monastery. There were maybe twelve to seventeen cars at the beginning, including Rinpoche and his monks. When we arrived three days later there were well over one hundred cars, and many, many nomads on motorcycles and on horseback. Countless local Tibetan people and monks lined the road showering us with katas and blessings. It was overwhelming evidence that westerners and Tibetans are one group bounded by love and the teaching of Rinpoche. Even the local Chinese, including local government officials and members of the People’s Liberation Army were part of the Sangha.
Imagine yourself surrounded by a sea of strange, but dear friends. That begins to capture the experience. I will not speak of the ceremony and the events at the monastery because words fail me.
Tip: Always travel with toilet paper! Learn what a squat toilet is.
The delighted heart
My heart soared in Tibet. The week in Tibet is a blur of friendly faces, genuine hospitality, compassion, and recognition of our common ground.
We broke into two groups staying with local families.. Dan, Michelle and Forrest, Gayle and Rich and I (and eventually Fredi) stayed at Dr. G’s house. Annaleis, Coen, Susan, and Marc were at another house. It was coming home in the best sense of the American phrase and yet it was roughing it: yak dung fired stove to warm the house and prepare breakfast; a bucket of water for our shower.
All who stayed with Dr, G’s family have a deep love for him and his wife and grandson. It was home. We were part of a family without common language but bound by loving conduct.
I burst into song, joked, punned, and quoted as we trudged up the mountain to see Rinpoche in his ashram. The infinite skies, the green mountains, the head waters of the Mekong River were all there at a glance. How could one not burst out into song and merriment? Dan quipped I had a rare form Tourette’s Syndrome. As I did my best yak imitation another friend observed that I was making promises to the female yak I could not keep.
Tip: Yak meat is tasty especially if you can get a rib. It could use barbeque sauce. Don’t eat the gristle–at best as tough as shoe leather.
Gesar of Ling Festival
We attended this event along with about two to three thousand villagers and nomads. Tibetan culture is alive and well. We saw it
If you do a Google Search you’ll get pages of reference and scholarly discussion. To the Sangha of Kham Gesar is a historical person who reunited Tibet, overcame the five poisons, and became a full Buddha by the grace of Padmasambhava. The Tibetan cowboys reenact the whole pageant in costume on horseback
As chance would have it I arrived first and alone with a monk who spoke a few words of English. I was alone amongst a sea of Tibetans. Yet this seemed like an even deeper home.
We were in the tent where the nomads put their make up on, and where the monks and Rinpoche met. Our western group formed around Gesar, and the event unfolded. Those nomads, who we would call cowboys, know how to ride a horse!
The intense sun, the blue sky, the flower covered green, green mountains, the people, and the sense of déjà vu left me dumb struck.
When the Gesar of Ling festival finished, the western and eastern Sangha gathered with Rinpoche. He commented to Dan how hot it had been and how thirsty the grasses and flowers were. Within twenty minutes he made it rain—a thirty minute deluge. The tin roof leaked from the amount of water. Then the rain stopped and all was clear. What can one say after that?
The consensus opinion of the westerners was that Rinpoche is Lord Peme. Well he proved it
Tip: The public latrines will test your emptiness practice. No Port-o-Potty booths.
We are one Sangha
Nationality, sex, race, education, vocation, religion do not matter. We are all the same Sangha. Whether North American, South American, European, Australian, Israeli, Indian, Tibetan, or Chinese, we love Dzogchen and our teacher Rahob Rinpoche I think Dharma will endure in this part of Tibet, and it certainly flourishes in the west. We are all the same, spanning the globe as One Sangha. My heart has always been in Tibet and remains there now.
My thanks to Gayle Colman and Michelle Bissanti for the Tibetan cowboy hat.
May we honor our teachers.
Paul Kimberley Ling, PhD