Ven. Tsultrim of the Sangha Onlus Association has been in retreat in Lawudo since April 2022 and has sent us a beautiful story, with many images.
Lawudo is a very important sacred and blessed place, at the foot of Everest, linked to the story of our spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
His sister Anila Ngawang Samtem takes care of it.
Lama Zopa was born in 1946 in the village of Thami in the Solo Khumbu region of Nepal near Everest. From his native house he could observe the mountainside and see Lawudo, where the cave of the previous Lawudo Lama was located, a great teacher who for the last twenty years of his life had lived in the cave carrying out his practice aimed at the benefit. of all beings. At the age of three, Rinpoche was recognized as his reincarnation.
We let you discover this extraordinary experience through the words of Ven. Tsultrim.
The arrival in Lawudo
After studying the Masters Program at the Lama Tsong Khapa Institute and the 3 years spent as didactic coordinator of the Basic and Masters Program, I felt, deeper in my heart, a strong need to retire and integrate my studies.
It was not easy for me to leave Pomaia after 11 years, my brothers and sisters of the Sangha Onlus Association, friends of the Lama Tzong Khapa Institute and above all our Geshe and students, I really love that place, it was my home. But the urgency to go to the retreat became clear to me and, supported by the blessing of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, I packed my bags with all my things and went to Bern, my hometown in Switzerland, to prepare for the retreat.
Rinpoche advised me to do the retreat in Lawudo, Nepal, but due to the Covid situation I was unable to travel. Fortunately I had the opportunity to stay for a year at Thakpa Kachoe, a small FPMT retreat center in the “Alpes Maritimes”, in the south of France. It was a very valuable experience. In any case, I made a commitment to follow Rinpoche's advice and to go on a retreat in Lawudo.
In March 2022 I was able to reach Nepal and at the beginning of April I took a plane to Lukla. There my guide "Maila" was waiting for me and together, like two old friends, we walked to Namche Bazaar and Lawudo. I really enjoyed trekking along the river, crossing it with high bridges and immersing myself in the nature of the Himalayan region.
Most of the tourists were headed to Everest Base Camp. As a nun I was a completely exotic figure and many wanted to know where I would go, what I would do and they could not imagine that I would meditate for 2-3 months in an isolated place at almost 4000 meters above sea level. Some had questions about Buddhism and asked for advice on books to read.
Finally, after 5 days of walking, including a day of rest, we arrived with great happiness and curiosity at the Lawudo retreat center.
A SACRED AND BLESSED PLACE
Lawudo is a very special, blessed and sacred place, located in Solo Kumbu, in the Everest region, at 3950m. It is here that the Lawudo Lama, Kunsang Yeshe, previous incarnation of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, remained in meditation for more than 20 years in the cave, known as "The cave of the realization of bliss".
Now next to the cave is a beautiful temple with extraordinary statues, a large prayer wheel, a kitchen with dining room and many small retreat houses, a large library and the cow shed.
Surrounded by a range of Himalayan mountains, it has a fantastic view that takes your breath away and is very mystical as soon as the snow-capped peak emerges from the clouds.
On a clear night you see the deep sky with the milky way.
ANILA NGAWANG SAMTEN
Being in Lawudo is an unexpected and very special experience for me.
Anila Ngawang Samtem is the heart of Lawudo. Fifty-three years ago she came here to take care of this place. At the time there was only the cave and a small kitchen made of bamboo.
With great love today she takes care of the cave, the temple, the prayer wheel, the cows and even more so the people on retreat. In May we celebrated his 80th birthday!
The way he acts and speaks, his facial expression, his gestures and above all his laughter - it feels like you have Lama Zopa Rinpoche in front of you!
I enjoy hearing the many stories from her life, how she took care of Rinpoche when she was a child and later when Rinpoche came with Lama Yeshe and many students to Lawudo. In addition, she takes care of mothers and abandoned children, Anila is a mother to everyone.
At that time there was no running water or electricity. Honestly, I can't imagine how Anila managed to cook for so many people, bring water and all the necessities.
There has only been running water for three years, thanks to her and to Sangye, Lama Zopa Rinpoche's brother.
I feel like I'm in the middle of Rinpoche's family and living the life of the Sherpas. The energy of Anila, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the Lawudo Lama is constantly present, it surrounds you, it is so special, so wonderful.
NOTHING IS WASTE AND NOTHING IS GIVEN FOR DISCOUNT
Doing this retreat is completely different from what I did in the South of France. There I lived in the forest, with the animals, and didn't see anyone for months. Here we eat together and when other travelers arrive we have beautiful and precious conversations about the Dharma.
A young American, who for five months taught English in the school of Thame (two and a half hours' walk from Lawudo), came to me a few times, with a list of questions about meditation and the Dharma. We had a very pleasant, lively and enriching exchange. Some practitioners came and did a rigorous silent retreat, which is also possible. Fortunately Rinpoche advised me to speak to the people who come to Lawudo. I would have missed so much doing a tight silent retreat.
Supplies arrive from Kathmandu by small plane to Lukla, or by jeep to Karikula, and then transported by donkeys the long way to Namche Bazaar. Every Friday there is a market and once or twice a month a man from the village of Mende (just below Lawudo) goes shopping for us and brings it on him with his two yaks. This makes us aware that whatever you use, you have to be careful and not waste it. Even though the conditions are still pretty straightforward, we have it all.
BREATH AT HIGH ALTITUDE
What about the high altitude? Of course, walking at high altitudes is tiring and you have to go slowly.
In the stretch from Lukla to Namche Bazaar you have a rest day, then you proceed again to Lawudo.
Even after two months, going up from the kitchen to the retreat houses above, I have to pay close attention to breathing and one or two stops are necessary. At first I thought it was just because of my age, but it was the same for a dynamic young man. Here everything you do requires more energy.
However, just being there is a blessing and even more so sitting in the cave opens the mind and creates a feeling of peace and calm. During the month of Sakadawa, where the Buddha's enlightenment is celebrated, with the Thamo nuns I participated in the practice of Nyung-ne (a fasting and purification practice of two and a half days) and it was an unforgettable experience.
Those who love mountains, nature, simplicity and above all those who feel connected to Lama Zopa Rinpoche must visit Lawudo. It is such a precious place to stay and make a retreat. I wish everyone could go there.