The tantric pilgrimage
It has been over a month since we have returned from Mustang. Our discovery was more than we could have expected, and the reward even greater. Everyone has come home happy, satisfied and filled with possibilities of a joyous future. The scholars will most likely have years of translating and studying to understand the innumerable amount of manuscripts we brought home. Similarly, we have discovered pre-Buddhist cultural artifacts which means that we will have to call in archaeologists from Lhasa. I personally do not know much about the early history of my people and so cannot comment in detail on what was found. But one thing for sure is that the caves were filled with many curious books and scrolls. It is in fact unbelievable how much was found in those caves. Even more, it is almost unbelievable how vast the cave system is. Again, I cannot give too many details since I did not spend much time in the caves themselves, but there are over 15 rooms, long corridors and at least three vertical levels. Many of the rooms were filled with important materials which talked about my culture. I believe that those caves have been used for a number of generations, before and after the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet, and protected a number of Tibetans over the centuries. Animal sacrifices seemed to have been discovered, as well as containers which some scholars in my troupe believe were filled with chang. There were death masks found, along with the bodies, which some of us spent time chanting over and providing compassion and emptiness in case their spirits still resided in the caves. In fact, one of the bodies looked as if they were a very important person. I truly wonder if we will ever know the stories of these people. But my desire for this is purely intellectual, what is in the past is in the past, all that exists now is the present moment, all that can exist is the present moment. Regardless, I look forward to speaking with the archaeologists and scholars after they spend time studying these caves.
Now, as you may remember I finished my last blog with myself helping Shelby after her terrible fall. In my previous blogs I was discussing the benefits of plants and ritual to help those get out of certain illnesses, but Shelby was different. She had hurt herself really badly in many ways. Shelby awoke some days after I completed my blog and thankfully she survived the fall. I believe that the medicine I was able to provide for her reached her quickly enough and was of the correct dosage. We are currently making our way back to the village. Shelby isn’t walking, or at least very well, but she is in good hands. I spent the first three days, while she was passed out, chanting and practicing compassion over her body which I feel also helped speed the healing. I would regularly check her pulse, ensuring that it still contained a strong life-force, and it never deviated from that. Luckily, she never became infected even though she had many cuts and breaks in her bones. As well, her mind seems healthy and well but time will tell if she will fully recover.
I am currently at home and have chosen to separate myself from the community. Playing my Dramyin helps me distance myself from what occurred back in Mustang with Shelby and reconnect with my self-compassion. Do you know the dramyin? I have been playing it since I was a small child. I remember my father pulling it out when friends came over, they would drink chang. I, my sister and other childhood friends of ours would sit around him as he performed. I remember being mystified by the way he could make that string and wood sing. After I showed interest, my father agreed to teach me and ever since it has been a refuge for me. I come to my instrument sometimes when difficulties arise in my life, to let the thoughts subside and allow my creativity to flow. This in turn makes room for my feelings. When I come in touch with myself, as if I have practiced deep ritual, I can then return to the realization of the three marks of existence, impermanence, suffering and that I am not a Self. Otherwise, it is so easy for me to distance myself from my feelings, which will then end up as projections upon the world. I don’t need that. What I need is to feel the full impact of what happened, and with my understanding of compassion and emptiness, allow the experience to integrate into my being and lessen its initial hold and manipulation on me. It is truly difficult being a doctor sometimes. When someone I care about is injured so badly, and I am the one to treat them, I find it hard not to worry, not to fear what might occur. The music playing helps. Being alone in my cave away from the community helps. It helps me ponder the feelings in my body and the next steps I wish to take in my life.
In fact, what keeps arising for me is the idea of pilgrimage. The story found in one of the sacred texts is almost unshakable from my thoughts. Am I obsessing over it because it is an escape? Or because I am being called to move on from my village for now? I feel drawn to reconnect more deeply with my religion. My heart hurts, but it wishes to know. What it wishes to know, that I do not know.
So I have chosen to begin what we in Tibet called the gnas, or pilgrimage to a sacred site. The holy Padmasambhava, early on in Tibetan Buddhist history, discovered many sacred places throughout Tibet. All the mountains in Tibet are in fact the abodes of Arya Lokesvara, no place is unholy. It is all an opportunity to understand and deepen one’s understanding of emptiness and compassion. The pilgrimage is an opportunity to reach a beyul and through that, enter the pure land. But this can only occur if I am able to perceive the ultimate reality, the ultimate reality that pervades all reality. It is here, right in front of me supposedly, but I cannot truly see it. Sometimes, when I play music, and feel the music deep in my bones, with my eyes closed, I gain visions of the world around me, as well as in dreams. I gain hints and insights, but I wish to live it more. Ever since I was initiated into tantra by my lama. So I will travel to a beyul, I will go on pilgrimage. As well, along the way I will pick up much medicine to bring back for our hospital. Perhaps then, I will make this a large and long trek away from my village. By doing so I will be able to pick up much needed herbs and minerals from far off lands. Tibet is not the largest country in the world, but because of its mountains, it definitely seems as if it is.
I must remember to go to the medicine factory, as well as to the other doctors in the village, before I leave and speak with them about which herbs and minerals are required. I know from my own supply what I need, but I wish to make this for the entire village and not only for my own needs. The medicine factory is such a benefit to this village. Ok, I must remember to visit them in the next days.
The idea of pilgrimage was also told to me by my yogi tantric lama many years ago, he said that I will know when I must go on the pilgrimage, and now I feel it. His teachings will help guide me to the right place. He taught me about the Sri-Cakrasamvara-tantra. This means that the absorbed manifestations of mandalas of the father-mother Cakrasamyara and the viras of the three cakras of body, speech and mind can help me attain mystical realizations. I believe I am now ready for these mystical realizations. Now I must remember that my yogi teacher taught me that pilgrimage is inevitably both an internal and external journey. Every movement towards my journey will aid me in spiritual accomplishment. The external places which I will journey to in fact are means by which I can more deeply explore the internal cakras and bring under control the vayus in my system to embrace the nectar and awaken to the ultimate secret reality that pervades all existence. But I believe this will happen when I finally arrive at the beyul and engage in the space where past tantric masters were able to open the inner reality of their minds and the external doors to ultimate dimensions.
This is also a travel of tantric medicine. I wish to enter my subtle body and begin to reconnect the splits that exist and continue to cause me doubt on my journey. Everything is in a state of flux, especially the subtle body and the mind, but it is my relationship to that flux which I now much work to heal. Now I can feel excitement returning to me. Yes, this is the right path for me to go on.
My travels then will be to Jalandhar. This will be very difficult, since I must traverse the majority of Tibet and enter India without the Chinese government knowing, but I trust that the way will be open to me. I must trust that the feelings of desire for me to go will be a good omen for my travels. I am sorry, but because tantra is a secret path and practice, I am unable to tell you more than what I have already in this blog. I will be back with many stories to tell, but I will only know what I can tell you after I have met with what gurus and lamas are awaiting me on my path, they will provide me greater insight into what can be made public. Be well, I shall return after a number of years.