On November 28, 2010, accompanied by my entire family, I returned to my home village of Samagaun in Nubri, northern Nepal, for the first time in 26 years. I hadn’t been back since I was 18. Mingyur Rinpoche, Tashi Lama, Chime-la and others walked, while my grandfather Lama Tashi Dorje, my mother, Lhabu-la, and I flew in a helicopter. This was a most moving experience for everyone. The village community was overwhelmed to see their lamas again. They were of course happy to see Mingyur Rinpoche and myself, but were especially excited to see Lama Tashi Dorje, who is their root guru and is like the Dalai Lama for them. He is 93 years old and had not been to the village for many years.
I lived in Nubri until I was 12 years old, in a house that now looks quite tiny and primitive. Nubri is a very special place, a sacred hidden land blessed by Guru Rinpoche himself. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and many other great masters have visited there. His Holiness the 16th Karmapa advised Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche to recite the Vajra Guru Mantra in that area one billion times. Therefore, in 1962 Tulku Urgyen visited Nubri and organized the Vajra Guru Dungdrub—the accomplishment practice of reciting the Vajra Guru Mantra one billion times. Both monks and laypeople participated in this practice. After lapsing for some years, this noble tradition was revived in 2007, and is again carried out enthusiastically by the entire village community.
I had two purposes in visiting this year. The first was to reconnect with the village and strengthen the local dharma practice. I particularly wanted everyone to meet grandfather. Because my whole family went, all the villagers came out to see him. It was an extremely emotional time for everyone. Personally, I was very touched by the village people. Their culture is still intact, and the practice of Buddhism very strong. Many powerful practitioners are there, and particularly among the young I found a sincere desire to carry on the ancient traditions. The village has a ngakpa monastery of about 70 ngakpa monks who live with their families. In this way, entire families engage in the Dharma, ensuring its strength for generations to come. Mingyur Rinpoche and I are both supporting this monastery and its venerable practices.
My second reason for visiting Nubri at this time was to participate in the inauguration of the Gauri Shankar School. This school is a joint effort of the Government of Nepal and the local community, led by Ula Jigme Lama, Nubri’s hereditary head lama. Originally opened by the Nepal government in 1966, the school has been supported since 1997 by a non-profit organization called SEEDS, which was founded by the American anthropologist Geoff Childs. Ula Jigme began seeking additional funding for the school in 2002, and in 2004 a hostel was opened for 20 children. In 2006 Ken Nogochi from Japan established the Seven Summit Sustainable Organization to provide support for school expansion. Building of a new, larger hostel, classrooms, kitchen, dining facility and bathrooms began in 2009, along with the construction of a water supply system. All of this construction was completed by November 2010, and the school inauguration was held on November 28, 2010. The school now goes through Class 5 and has 72 students, with 45 living in the hostel facilities.
Many gatherings with village people, a pilgrimage to sacred sites in the area, a party with speeches, food and drink, and many other village style activities enlivened this year’s visit. The experience was so wonderful for me that I am planning to go again.
After I returned from Nubri, I gave two days of teachings to about 70 young people from Nubri who are studying in Kathmandu. These teachings were requested and sponsored by the Nubri Youth Development Council and were held in their meeting hall near Swayambhu.