Blessed Nepal Pilgrimage Trip 2016

by Nancy Ng

11 April 2016 - 9:57pm Comments Off

Kechara organised its first ever Chinese-language Nepal Pilgrimage Trip from 20 – 25 March 2016. A total of 18 Kechara members participated and returned to Malaysia with great blessings from many sacred power places.

According to H.E the 25th Tsem Rinpoche, pilgrimages are for us to connect with the blessed energies of places where holy beings have chosen to take rebirth, gain Enlightenment, teach the Dharma or pass away. Sites like these carry the everlasting energies of the compassionate, enlightened mind, where holy beings resided, practised and benefited countless beings. Everything they owned or used, including the area they lived or practised in, was entirely for the benefit of other beings.

When we go to these places, show reverence, make offerings and aspirational prayers, we create the direct causes to attain this same state of compassion and to gain the same enlightened qualities that these beings had.

Please enjoy this article on the Nepal Pilgrimage Trip by one of the pilgrims and a regular volunteer, Nancy Ng.

The excitement starts well before. Registration, visa arrangements, packing, and then ready to go. I am joining the Chinese group though my Chinese is hopeless. I tell myself I have been forewarned but I am eager to go now than later.

Departure Day: 20th March (Sunday)

Flight to Kathmandu was 8pm

Pilgrims were informed to be at the airport by 5pm to receive their travel packs which includes the itinerary and a prayer book customised for the pilgrimage. All were somewhat on time without much delay, everyone had been waiting eagerly for this day, I suppose. After settling our luggage wrap (yes, this is advised by the experienced Kechara tour leaders), we gathered at the airport area to perform prayers and black tea offering. Tea was represented by a large bottle of coke though. And then, we were ready for the flight, all 20 of us as two of the leaders were already in Kathmandu ahead of time to prepare for our trip. This is the standard of Kechara’s services and kindness.


Group photo at KLIA before departure to Kathmandu, Nepal

We arrived at Tribhuvan International Airport after a four and a half hour flight. Local time on arrival was 10.30pm. Vans were waiting and with swift help from the drivers, our luggage was on top of the van and we were on the way to Kathmandu Guest House (KGH), which would be our home for the next five days.

I was pleased at the sight of KGH….a simple, no frills and clean hotel.

Day 1 (21 March, Monday)

Chenrezig Chapel, Tara Chapel, Patan Vajrayogini Chapel and Mahabodhi Stupa

Breakfast at the hotel starts from 7am. We were told to be ready to depart at 9am so we each timed our own readiness. Most of us were early at the breakfast table to soak in the fresh morning air and coffee. After a hearty breakfast, we were ready to go!

Sites: Chenrezig Chapel and Tara Chapel

We walked as it was near to KGH…about a 15-minute walk through the narrow, busy, and dusty streets. Yes, out with our face masks when we walked as motorcycles stirred up dust everywhere!

We arrived at the Chenrezig Chapel. The chapel looks ancient, it must be very old. It was very crowded. People seemed to be focused on their purpose here oblivious to the crowd, making offerings, turning the prayer wheel, offering butter lamps. It was crowded but there was no pushing or shoving each other; each just waited patiently for their turn.

An exquisite Chenrezig statue takes centre stage in this chapel. As shared by our Dharma friends, there is a similar Chenrezig statue in Lhasa and Dharamsala. We made offerings, butter lamps, made strong BIG wishes to Chenrezig. Yes, our tour leaders advised us to always make BIG meaningful wishes at holy sites as it is our privilege to be here, so do not waste it on mediocre aspirations. Wish big! So, what’s mediocre and what’s big?

Well, mediocre means making wishes for ourselves, for our friends and family etc. Big means making wishes for ALL sentient beings because ALL includes us too! Pray for all who are suffering now, pray for all to meet the Dharma etc. And especially make prayers for our Guru’s aspirations to be fulfilled as the Guru’s aspirations are wholly for our benefit. Later, our tour leaders guided us through the prayers and dedication at this site.


Group photo in front of the Chenrezig Chapel.

Stunning Chenrezig statue

We moved on to the Tara Chapel which is a stone’s throw from the Chenrezig temple. There are three Taras at this chapel, White Tara, Yellow Tara and Green Tara. Tara is renowned for granting swift answers to our wishes, to our beneficial wishes of course. The statues are very well done, they look warm and humanly.

A man sits inside the area which houses the three Taras and he manages the offerings which were handed to him. An elderly lady sits just outside. She always has a smile for everyone. It is said that she’s been here for a long time. Our leaders shared that H.H. Trijang Rinpoche said that this White Tara statue came from Tibet. It must be very holy then! So all made offerings and BIG wishes at the shrine.

An important point to note: all our offerings were prepared for us by the tour leaders. They had painstakingly thought through what was required and prepared for us ahead of time. We didn’t have to think one bit, all we had to do was make the offerings together with our wishes!. In hindsight, I found this truly thoughtful as we did not have to worry if our offerings were correct or sufficient. Thank you tour leaders Jerry, Wylfred, Karen and Sock Wan!

Glorious White Tara, Yellow Tara and Green Tara

The kind lady care taker blessed us with red sindhura powder on our foreheads.

After the offerings, it was photography time! Phones and cameras were noisily clicking away. We had many wefies, thanks to Phoebe and hubby who came armed with wefie equipment. After that was our lunch time. I will share about lunch later.

Next, we departed to Patan for the Vajrayogini Chapel and Mahabodhi Stupa. This stupa was damaged slightly during the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal so it’s now under repair. It was a sad sight to see the lovely chapel surrounded by scaffolding whilst undergoing repairs. Fortunately the other buildings in the courtyard behind the chapel were undamaged so we could get a closer view there. On the walls hung Buddha’s wise words. One which I particularly like and which Jerry pointed out to us reads:

No one can save us, only we can save ourselves, we must walk the path.

There’s a shrine nearby upstairs which houses Vajrayogini’s holy statue. This is the reason for visiting Patan. Yet another Vajrayogini blessing! Then it’s back to KGH to get ready for dinner.

Traditional offerings to Vajrayogini

Day 2 (22 March, Tuesday)

Self Arising Tara Chapel, Guru Rinpoche Cave and Vajrayogini Chapel

This is very exciting. We had heard and read about the miracles at these places but to now see them, unbelievable! Off we went to Pharphing, the site of The Self Arising Tara.

The van sent us right to the site of the Self-Arising Tara. When we arrived, it was fairly crowded so we had to wait a while for the crowd to clear. Karen gathered us to share the history of this site. There are 21 Taras inside the chapel. It is said that an image of Tara appeared on a rock by itself. And that this very image became clearer and more complete as time passed. The shrine was then built to house the rock. We saw monks doing puja at the time of our visit. All of us took turns to make prostrations, and other rituals.

Self arisen Tara at Pharping

Pilgrims making light offerings to Tara

Then we were off to Guru Rinpoche’s cave by walking through a small opening between rocks. And then we saw The Handprint! It’s on a rock outside the cave. It is said that Guru Rinpoche left an imprint of his hand there and it carries many blessings. So we placed our heads and hands on the imprint many times and made a strong big wish. We also entered the cave, moving silently as some monks were inside chanting. Inside the cave, we prostrated and gave donations.

Outside the cave in the courtyard, we were allowed to light butter lamps. Remembering the benefits of lighting butter lamps as taught by our Guru, everyone was eager to do so.

Light offerings outside Guru Rinpoche’s cave

A pilgrim touching Guru Rinpoche's hand print

Then we moved further on the trek and arrived at the very holy site – Vajrayogini Chapel in Pharphing. In the courtyard, Karen and Sock Wan briefed us on the do’s and don’ts. Do make strong big wishes as this is a very holy site, do take time to soak in the energy at the chapel upstairs, don’t take photographs, and don’t chatter. We then ascended the stairs to the chapel. The chapel is not big so we had to move around cautiously.

Our tour leaders had arranged our offerings and we sat around to do prayers. Then it was audience time with Vajrayogini, who is in her form with one leg up. There was ample time allocated at this chapel for us to make circumambulations, prostrations, butter lamp offerings, meditate or just sit quietly. The caretaker, a nice middle-aged man told us that the chapel was partially damaged by the earthquake. We then made donations for the repairs and rebuilding. Sponsors wrote their names in a book and the caretaker told us that prayers for the sponsors will be made to bless them. All lined up to donate. Here again, some said they felt the energy (as they shared later).

What did I feel? I don’t know how to describe the feeling but it certainly does not feel like any place else. When we were satisfied with the time spent up here, we descended to the courtyard downstairs. Photography time!  And then we left for the day.

Wefie happily after we had a date with Vajrayogini

Day 3 (23 March, Wednesday)

Naropa and Tilopa Cave at Pashupatinath, Boudhanath Stupa and Kechara Lounge

After breakfast at KGH, we departed for the famous holy site of Naropa and his guru Tilopa – their meditation caves! It is situated at a riverbank, the Pashupathi riverbank. We were told that our Guru H.E the 25th Tsem Rinpoche meditated at this riverbank. Excited, every camera was clicking away hoping that the photo would soak in Guru’s energy. Then we saw the awesome caves beside each other. Later some said they felt the most energy here.

I can’t say that for myself. I’m not sure what ‘energy’ feels like but I certainly teared. We spent a long while at this site, taking turns to enter each cave to make offerings, prostrations, Big wishes, blessing our malas and photos of loved ones which we had brought with us, and of course photography. Just taking private moments to contemplate and soak in the air around was calming for our minds. The sound of the waters flowing in the river was serene, tempting us to jump in to wash away our negativities. The tour leaders did not rush us. When all were satisfied with the time spent, we gathered for a powerful prayer and dedication. But not before some Dharma sharing which again left me tearing. I looked around me and noticed others with moist eyes. I rejoice for the tour leaders who have such knowledge and sharing capabilities which enlightened our knowledge.

H.E the 25th Tsem Rinpoche doing puja by the river next to Naropa & Tilopa Caves in 2008

Group photo in front of Naropa and Tilopa Caves

Tracy and David inside Tilopa's Cave

Sock Wan inside Naropa's Cave

Next we departed for the Boudhanath Stupa, one of the icons of Kathmandu. It is said that this stupa holds the relics of Buddha Shakyamuni. Every day, hundreds visit this stupa, as tourists and as devotees. When we reached the entrance, the sight of this humongous stupa is awesome!

It is sad indeed that the April earthquake had destroyed the top section of the stupa, down to the level of the Buddha’s eyes. What a shame. Maybe it’s a calling for us to return when it’s repaired. Here, the first stop was Kechara Lounge. But of course, we must pay respects to the Guru’s throne, for this journey would not be possible without the kindness of our Guru. Each took their turn to offer a khata to Guru’s throne. Then we walked about the lounge which is blessed by a beautiful life-size Vajrayogini statue bedecked with jewels. Awesome! We took a group photograph here in front of Guru’s throne which later was to become our souvenir, nicely framed, compliments of the tour leaders. Thank you Karen, Sock Wan, Wylfred and Jerry.

At the entrance to Kechara Lounge, Nepal

Group photo inside Kechara Lounge, Nepal

Then we were off to the Boudhanath Stupa which is just nearby, so near that we could see the stupa top from the window of Kechara Lounge.

The tour leaders led us to circumambulate the stupa three times, advising us to chant our favourite mantra and turn the prayer wheels which surround the stupa. At the end of three rounds, we did dedication prayers to seal our merits. Then each was off on their own to circumambulate more rounds as they wished. At some point, the tour leaders guided us to enter a section of the stupa, a low section as the higher sections were undergoing repairs and not accessible. Here, some performed prostrations, made offerings, donated prayer flags etc. We were also given packets of the stupa building materials which were collected after the earthquake and advised to take it home to fill up our statues, place on our shrines or in wealth vases.  After that, we browsed the many shops around the stupa and gathered back at Kechara Lounge before leaving for our hotel.

Pilgrims circumambulating the Boudhanath Stupa

Day 4 (24 March)

Vijashwari Vajrayogini Chapel, Swayambhunath Stupa, Temple of Doors, Manjushri teaching sites

Vijashwari Vajrayogini Chapel – we climbed some steep steps up to this chapel. The frontage belies the magnificent courtyard inside! In the court yard, there are many stupas with Buddha statues and carvings. Each is in detail. It was also crowded as many had also planned for that same day to do offerings. Our tour leaders efficiently prepared our offerings whilst we surveyed the courtyard. It is easy to miss the statues on the walls, by the side, in almost every corner if we are less mindful. When our offerings were ready, we patiently lined up to enter the chapel.

Karen explained that there are four forms of Vajrayogini in this chapel; Vajravarahi, Naro Kacho, Maitri Kacho Vajrayogini (with one leg up), and Flying Vajrayogini. Naro Kacho is the form we see at Kechara. The line moved very slowly but no one was impatient. Once we stepped into the chapel, it’s cooling and the feeling is peaceful. It’s time to look around inside and observe as once we get to the front area which houses the Vajrayoginis, the movement will hasten as more people come in by the side to pass their offerings or items which they want blessed. The caretaker inside the Vajrayogini area is busy receiving items for Vajrayogini’s blessing and returning them. We also offered butterlamps. In return, something oil-like is dropped onto our palms which we smeared on our foreheads. Once we stepped outside in the courtyard again, we took lots of photos of the surroundings for contemplation in our quiet times later.

Entrance to the courtyard of Vijashwari Vajrayogini temple

Pilgrims wait patiently to make offerings to Vajrayogini

Dedication in the beautiful courtyard of Vajrayogini

Next, we went to Swayanbhunath Stupa and the Temple of Doors by van. There are 375 steps to Swayanbhunath Stupa if we take the harder route. Fearing that this may be challenging for some of us, our kind leaders opted for another route which has much less steps. From this route, we first arrived at The Temple of Doors. Here, Karen shared that inside these very doors lived 16 arhats.

Briefing at the Temple of Doors

A few steps up from here, we arrived at Swayambhunath Stupa! It’s awesome to see Buddha’s eyes on this stupa. Fortunately it was not destroyed by the earthquake. This is the second largest stupa in Nepal, after Boudhanath. There are also many stupas in the courtyard and many visitors that afternoon were walking around, taking photographs, shopping, enjoying the scenery etc. We circumambulated the stupa. Surrounding the very stupa are images of various Buddhas. It takes a trained eye to correctly identify each Buddha. Later we gathered to do animal liberation. The group bought a few cages of birds, we chanted Medicine Buddha mantra and blew on the birds before opening the cages so they could fly away to freedom, never to be caught again. Some members bought prayer flags for hanging in the stupa area. It’s a colourful sight. Then we headed to Manjushri’s teaching site.

Stunning Swayanbhunath Stupa

Long staircase to Swayambhu Hill

It was supposed to be a short walk down some stairs from Swayambhunath Stupa but for some members, it was not meant to be! We took a wrong turn and descended the wrong side, the side with 375 steps!  Halfway down, someone realised we were on the wrong path and so up again we climbed. Going down was a walk in the park; climbing up, some of us who had not hit the gym for some time almost saw stars! All made it to the top safely and after a rest, we descend the right path to Manjushri’s teaching site.

This is a fairly large courtyard with a shrine in the middle. Karen shared with us the history of this site. Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom gives teachings at this site annually. This makes the site holy as Manjushri comes to visit regularly. We gathered to do our prayers and thereafter circumambulated around the shrine, turning prayer wheels. It was not crowded when we were there so there was a lot of room to move around freely. I wonder if anyone felt the energy. I felt peace and tranquillity. My mind was not thinking of the usual samsaric issues; my mind was empty but not blank. The scenery here is breathtaking. It is said that we can see the whole of Kathmandu from here. Again time for lots of photographs.

All of us recited Gangloma and Manjushri's mantra at Manjushri's teaching site

Day 5 (25 March, Friday)

It was a free and easy day. After a hearty breakfast at the hotel and the last one for this trip, each planned for their own day. Some revisited the Chenrezig and Tara chapels as they were within walking distance. Later from the photos, we saw them making offerings at the temple. More, more, there’s never enough. Some combed the streets nearby for souvenirs. Clothes, natural soaps, shawls of all kinds are aplenty and rather affordable. The ladies were spoilt for choice on this one. Tees are a good bargain too. And yes, Dharma books are plenty and affordable. A Dharma book I bought in Kinokuniya for RM83 was selling for RS650, under RM30!

At 7.30pm Kathmandu time, we bid goodbye to KGH and left for the airport. Our flight home was at 11.30pm Kathmandu time and we arrived in KLIA at 6.15am Malaysia time.

Oh yes, I promised to share more about the meals. All lunches and dinners were well thought out by our tour leaders. They had done a food tasting before picking out the restaurants we were to eat at. How’s that for service! We didn’t have a bad tasting meal. And there was a variety too – Newari set, Tibetan set, oriental cuisine, Italian pasta and pizza and these tasted great, mind you. And lots of momos at every meal…steamed, stir fried, deep fried, chili, wonderful! Pilgrims who requested for additions or who had special requests were not denied. Thanks a million Tour Leaders.

Finally, I wish to thank our Guru H.E the 25th Tsem Rinpoche for giving blessings for this pilgrimage for without which we would not be there. I prostrate at your feet.

And thanks to all pilgrims in the group who so patiently translated for me the Dharma sharings by Karen, Jerry, Wylfred and Sock Wan. And a million thanks to Karen, Jerry, Sock Wan and Wylfred for tirelessly taking care of me, always checking on my comfort level. Thank you.

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