Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Royal Thai Kathina in Ladakh

Ven.Sanghasena with chief guest in front of the Burmese shrine

On October 10th the first Kathina robe offering ceremony was held in Ladakh at the Mahabodhi Campus. The Kathina ceremony is an important function/celebration held every year in theTheravada Buddhist countries of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Laos. It marks the end of the traditional three months rainy season (vassa) where the monks stay in one location/monastery for three months. At the end of this period a Kathina ceremony is held by the lay devotees to offer new robes to the bhikkhus.This was the first time that such a ceremony was held in Ladakh. Because it was a historical first event for Theravada Buddhism in Ladakh the Thai Ambassador in Delhi arranged that it should be a Royal Kathina. This is a custom that the King of Thailand offers a special Kathina robe to select monasteries in Thailand and in foreign countries. The Mahabodhi Jetavana monastery is the only Theravada monastery in all of Ladakh, thus it was selected. An official representative of the King of Thailand and theThai Government was despatched to head a delegation of twenty-five Thai people. There were a lot of formalities to be followed and a Thai monk specially trained to supervise the 'Royal Kathina' arrived a few days ahead of the ceremony to train us monks to make sure everything was 'perfect'. The whole thing went off smoothly under the skilled supervision of Ven. Sanghasena, the head of the Mahabodhi Center, who is used to handling big functions. 

The site of the Royal Kathina at the Burmese shrine on the Mahabodhi campus

The Burmese shrine

With Asoka lion capitol and Dhamma wheel at each corner

With the background of the Himalaya

Thai delegation arrives lead by a police escort(front vehicle)

Mahabodhi boys, girls and staff patiently await

Procession is lead by the official representative for the King of Thailand

Shrine with the King's photo

Pause before the shrine holding the Royal Kathina robe

Part of the large crowd watching the event

Offering the Royal Kathina robe to the monks

Reading out a message from the King of Thailand

Thai delegation observing the monks acceptance of the Kathina robe

We are offering 'pranam' to the Buddha image, not the photo of the King

Accepting additional robes and gifts

I see a skillsaw being offered

Thai Ambassador offers one million rupees as seed money for the proposed Grand Buddha Temple in the Thai style to built on the Mahabodhi campus

Ven.Sanghasena offers a gift to be presented to the King of Thailand

A gift to the Thai Ambassador

Group photo after the ceremony

Monks and nuns going on allround 'pindapat'forlunch after the ceremony

Listening to the meal blessing chant

Thai Ambassador talks with the monks

Several Tibetan Lamas attended the ceremony 

Young monks of theMahabodhi Jetavana Monastery

Young nuns

On October 13th I flew from Leh to Delhi, and then a connecting flight to Nagpur in Maharashtra where I have been conducting a few retreats and giving talks to the Ambedkar Buddhists. 
I also made a visit to the Ajanta Caves near Aurangabad
Dramatic view of the Himalaya from the flight from Leh to Delhi

With Ven. Ananda at the Ajanta Caves   

View of the famous Ajanta Buddhist Caves

The waterfall at the Ajanta Caves

OnNovember 3rd I'll fly to Bangkok to begin a two week visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Luang Prabang in Laos. Until then..

                              Be Mindful Peaceful and Wise

Friday, October 10, 2014

Trek through the Markha Valley

View from the Markha Valley Trek
Hi Friends,

As mentioned at the end of my last post, here are some photos taken on the seven day trek through the Markha Valley in Ladakh.
After the 10 day retreat at the Mahabodhi Sambodhi Meditation Center (see last post) I lead a group of six people from the retreat on this trek. We had a trekking staff of a local guide, cook and a caravan of six horses and two donkeys to carry all the camping and personal gear. We started the trek by driving to the roadhead at Jingchan where we met our guide and horses.
 I'll let the photos do most of the talking.

The first of many river crossings-the guide helps out 

A flock of blue sheep

Three of our group opt for riding a horse most of the way 

Our first night at Ganda High camp:4,400mts.

Gabriele and Petra-happy campers

View of Stok Kangri covered by clouds

 Next morning leaving campsite for the Ganda-La(pass)

 Marmots on left and right

A pause half way up

Ganda-La top: 4,960 mts;16,270ft.

Klaus fell with the horse through this rickety bridge (below)
Fortunately Klaus nor the horse was seriously injured

A blue sheep atop the mountain

After the fall from horse Klaus walks the rest of the way

 The Gompa at Skyu-second night halt

Trail meandering through the Markha Valley

Long mani wall and chorten

Third night camp at Markha village

Gompa above Markha village

Markha Valley from Gompa

Interesting landscapes

More River crossings

Horse and riders do it the easy way

A scene out of the Old West?

 Hey-whatta you guys looking at?

A small hermitage up there

Location keeps away visitors

Fourth night camp at Thachungtse;4,240mts

First Views of the

Nice rest spot

View back down valley

The saddle  dip on the ridge is the Kongmaru La pass
Our fifth night camp at Nimaling:4,740mts.

Leaving camp for the ascent to Kongmaru La
Getting closer
Looking down at the trekkers below

One person made it to the top before me

Then comes Nissanka and Klaus

Followed by our mounted team, Petra, Gabriele and Miyako

Couldn't have done it without them

The Karakorum Range in far distance-K2 could be visible at the left with binoculars

The way down

Summer flowers
Steep downhills tough for horses too

Creative trails     

Last night camp at Chuskyurmo

End of trek at Shang Sumdo

After lunch at Shang Sumdo two SUVs picked us up and drove back to Leh with a stop at the Hemis Monastery

The Hemis Gompa- the largest Monastery in Ladakh

Parking lot and monks kutis

The view down to the Indus Valley from Hemis

See you next post with the Ajanta Caves and the Grand Royal Kathina Ceremony

Until then be Mindful, Peaceful and Wise