Our Buddhist Pilgrimage to Lawudo, in the Heart of the Himalayas
The magical Lawudo Monastery
Lawudo is located in the Himalaya mountain range, in the Solo Khumbu region of eastern Nepal. Lawudo is the place where the former reincarnation of our beloved Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche (the spiritual director of the FPMT), Lama Kunsang Yeshe, also known as the Lawudo Lama, meditated for many years in a small cave. He blessed this place with his pure Dharma practice. Those, who were lucky enough to visit Lawudo, often say that merely seeing this place can open even the stubborn hearts to the Dharma.
Our pilgrimage to Lawudo, which lies 4’000 m above the sea, was guided by Ven. Robina Courtin, who is famous for her direct and energetic style of presenting the teachings of the Buddha. She is able to explain even the most complex topics in a clear and practical way.
Our trip started at Kopan
Kopan is the first and main monastery of FPMT. It is surrounded by the beautiful hills of the Kathmandu Valley. Our group of over 30 pilgrims quickly realized that we were connected in a special way through our common goal.
After two days of enjoying Kopan and Ven. Robina’s precious teachings, we headed to the airport early in the morning. Full of curiosity we boarded a tiny airplane, which brought us to probably the most breath-taking airport in the world – the famous Lukla. Here you will find no streets and you will hear no cars – the only means of transport are your own two feet.
At almost 3’000 m above the sea the air is much thinner, which makes one’s hike even more challenging. But we hardly noticed the difficulties – we were full of enthusiasm and the mountain landscape was becoming more spectacular with every passing hour.
Our main focus however was not the landscape, but the spiritual experience. We circumambulated stupas and dedicated our merit to all living beings.
Ven. Robina reminded us that the physical difficulties on the way were helping us to purify our negative karma and to give up our attachment to comfort. Her daily teachings inspired us and were moving us to the core. With this attitude we hiked for three days, until – almost out of breath – we received the warmest welcome in Lawudo from Ven. Ani Samten-La (the sister of Lama Zopa Rinpoche) and Sangay-La (Rinpoche’s brother).
The presence of the Buddhas and yogis is almost tangible at this magical place. The location could not be more perfect for a 6-day retreat, in which Ven. Robina summarized the entire Graduated Path to Enlightenment (tib. lamrim). Ani Samten-La’s team was tirelessly caring for our comfort and cooked for us with much skill and love.
Arriving in Lawudo after 4 days battling altitude sickness was spiritually moving, especially going straight to Rinpoche’s cave to meditate. (Jeff)
Another highlight was the snow, which surprised us one morning by turning the entire landscape around us into a white fairy tale.
Most of us found it very hard to leave Lawudo behind. We were parting with this special place full of inspiration and gratitude for the kindness of our hosts and for the unbelievable depth and clarity of Ven. Robina’s teachings. Two days of trekking down under the hot sun allowed us to admire the mountains one more time and to contemplate the teachings and experiences from Lawudo. Before we knew it, we were back in Lukla and on our way to Kathmandu.
We spent the last two days of our two-week journey in the lavish luxury of the Hyatt Residency – the wonderful hotel in Boudhanath, next to Kathmandu’s Great Stupa. It was nice to relax a little bit more with our friends, before we all had to part and go our way.
The pilgrimage left none of us unchanged – we all had an unforgettable experience and gained deep insight – each in our own unique way. The friendships we developed across time zones and continents will hopefully last for a life time. We finished our journey grateful for this wonderful experience – may it bring benefit to all sentient beings.