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Community July 7, 2010  RSS feed

Tibetan Rinpoche visits Trinity County

BY NEIL HARVEY, HYAMPOM SPECIAL TO THE TRINITY JOURNAL

Several of us from Hyampom went to see a presentation by Gebchak Wangdrak Rinpoche at the Chagdud Gonpa Ridzin Ling in Junction City in late June. The evening was wonderful and inspiring.

Wangdrak Rinpoche is visiting the United States for the first time from his home in eastern Tibet/China. He is touring the West Coast until the end of July to offer Tibetan Buddhist teachings and raise money for the nunnery he serves as Abbot.

Wangdrak Rinpoche spoke in Tibetan. Accompanying him was a translator and Karen Harris, a Humboldt State teacher and Unitarian minister. She visited the nunnery with a film crew recently, and spoke and presented a slide show from that visit.

The nunnery, Gebchak Gonpa, is apparently the only Tibetan nunnery that is completely self supporting - not dependent on, or an appendage of, a men’s monastery. All levels of leadership are cultivated in the nunnery by the women themselves. They have their own distinct lineage.

Wangdrak Rinpoche is the third reincarnation of the founding Rinpoche who established the nunnery and his primary role is making sure the nuns have the resources they need to do their spiritual practices. He shared some amazing stories of the spiritual attainment nuns have achieved. I was once again so impressed by the Tibetans’ tremendous depth of spiritual practice, commitment and faith - all directed toward benefiting the whole world.

Gebchak Gonpa, with its 300-plus residents, is located in the Kham region, at 14,400 feet. Well above tree line, that’s the summit height of Mt. Shasta! They have a herd of yaks, which supply them with milk, butter and yogurt for eating, and dung for heating/cooking fuel. They live very close to the earth, carrying out the rigorous annual ceremonial calendar and many spiritual endeavors of a typical Tibetan practice community - three-year retreats, drubchens (elaborate nine-day ceremonies), etc.Wangdrak Rinpoche displayed so many of the characteristics of the Dalai Lama: simple, real, humorous, humble monk but at the same time modeling the best of human intentions and delivering profound wisdom verbally and directly, experientially - in such a relaxed matter of-fact way.

We saw images of the recent earthquake that leveled 80 percent of the nearest town. Lamas from nearby monasteries had vehicles and became first responders. Wangdrak Rinpoche spent the first several days after the quake helping pull people from the wreckage and comforting survivors. In the process he committed his life to supporting about 25 orphans. With elegance he asked for our monetary support and then amazingly, it seemed to me, at the end, assured us that if we could only offer our good intentions for the earthquake victims and the nuns, that alone would be a powerful gift. “They will be taken care of,” he said.

Wangdrak Rinpoche had just come from the Google campus in the Bay Area where he had been asked to give a talk. His first time to California, he was given a driving tour of San Francisco, including Twin Peaks and the Castro District. He laughed with us about his first impressions of California culture. He also said he was surprised and delighted to see the high level of dharma practice he has encountered at the dharma centers that he has visited here.

He spoke frankly about gender inequality in Tibet, how nuns face many financial obstacles and are often still considered less important than monks. He said he was grateful to see so many Western women who are Lamas (teachers) and he talked about how women have at least as much capacity for realization as men, if not more. He cited a number of source teachings in Tibetan Buddhism that originated from women masters and emphasized the power of female deity figures. He talked about the crucial importance of women’s leadership to addressing the challenges of our time, including climate change.

Teachers at Humboldt State University helped him obtain a visa to travel outside of China/ Tibet. Just weeks ago, one Humboldt student, who was teaching English in the area of the nunnery, was interviewed about the recent earthquake and the conditions there. The video, posted on YouTube, was seen by Chinese authorities, who then deported him. Another student is preparing to go take his place. Wangdrak Rinpoche spoke at length about how important it is for indigenous Tibetans to learn both Chinese and English. He feels that the key to a good future for the orphans is language training. Several of us said afterward that if we were younger we’d head to Kham straight away.

The Gebchak Gonpa has a beautiful Web site: www.gebchakgonpa.org.

Please consider making a donation and offering your good intentions, best wishes and prayers for the Gebchak nuns, the orphans and other earthquake victims in eastern Tibet.

The evening with Wangdrak Rinpoche at Ridzin Ling reminded me again that compared to so many people in the world, we possess tremendous wealth. We Americans are uniquely positioned to easily make great contributions to peoples’ lives, those far away and those here at home. Even what seem like small offerings to us, can make a big difference. May all benefit.


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