Leh Ladakh

First group of pilgrims lands in Ladakh

ADC: With wrinkled face and grey hair, Lham Tenzin, 65, for the first time boarded a flight from Bagdogra airport, West Bengal, on August 26.

Excited and nervous, he anxiously looked underneath his seat adjacent to the window.  Feeling the window glass he asks, “How do I open the window?” while his seatmate break into a laugh.

As Lham and six other pilgrims land at the Indian military base camp in Ladakh, the morning sun, which breaks through rugged mountains, welcomes them.  It was the first sunshine the team saw after they boarded the flight from Bagdogra.  As the thin air from snow-capped mountains hit their faces, Lham from Wangdue says, “It reminds me of the chill at the Dochula pass.”

The team was the first of Bhutanese pilgrims to arrive in Ladakh’s Drukpa Kagyu monastery, Hemis, which will host the fifth Annual Drukpa Council (ADC) from today.

Built on top of a hill, surrounded by dry and rocky mountains, Hemis monastery is decorated with flags depicting dragons, the symbol of Drukpa lineage.  Inside are the monks, nuns, lay people, volunteers and pilgrims, gathered by a karmic connection.

Founded by His Holiness, the twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa Rinpoche, the spiritual head of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage, ADC is a congregation of Drukpa Kagyu masters and yogis, where they discuss and exchange teachings and, pass down unbroken lineage to young masters and disciples.

Lham Tenzin and his group, of which many are females, will attend the opening of the ADC today. “My strong devotion to see His Holiness brought me here,” said Lham Tenzin, even though he seems lost on a foreign soil. “When I saw the rinpoche on television for the first time, I was spiritually motivated to see him in person.”

Like him, Sonam Doenkar from Gelephu left her yarn and loom to receive blessings from His Holiness.  For the mother of seven, who survives on the sale of locally woven clothes, work this time was still secondary. “We’re uncertain what’ll come next; death strikes any time,” she said.  Surviving on a single kidney, Sonam Doenkar said she is expecting a blessing of longevity from the rinpoche.

While, 59-year old Pema Lhandon has come to pray to be reborn as a man in her next life. “Life in the form of woman is taken for lust and enjoyment,” she said. “From His Holiness, I’ll seek a refuge to be reborn as a man.”

Along with the team, more than 40 monks from the central monastic body and Bhutanese delegates, represented by one of the member of parliaments, will also attend the ADC that ends on September 6.

By Tenzin Namgyel, Ladakh

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