Party time at Phajoding !

Recently, as a reward for completing one section of teaching in tibetan grammar, the Principal of Phajoding (Khenpo Chimi Dorji) organised a picnic for all the monks. Lama Namgay’s mother (who is currently meditating at Phajoding for a short while) joined in as well which was wonderful to see. According to all accounts the day was a hit which ended in a strenuous game of football and many exhausted monks  !

New toilet and wash block unveiled !

Lama Namgay and Khenpo Chimi Dorji have kept this under wraps for a while but now that the building works are complete they are proud to show off the end result.

Well before the Phajoding Monstery Project was launched, Lama Namgay received a generous donation from an American friend of his (Lorraine) who was appalled at the state of the toilet block and wash area when she visited Phajoding earlier this year. She desperately wanted to see a more hygienic and inviting area for the monks however more money was needed on top of her donation to complete the renovations so he approached the Tourism Council of Bhutan for assistance. They gladly agreed to help out and over the past 6 months this amazing transformation (which can be seen in the before and after photos) has taken place. The building now includes 3 hot water heaters, 3 washbasins and 3 toilets and a place for the second washing machine too!

Appreciation also needs to be given to the Bhutanese builders whom the Tourism Council of Bhutan employed to undertake this work. They not only had to renovate the existing building but had to carry all the building materials up the mountain which was a mammoth task given that most struggle without a load ! Also during their stay at Phajoding they became part of the Phajoding family, eating with the monks and regularly joining in their football matches. They will be sorely missed by all but hopefully they’ll be back in the not too distant future !

The monks of Phajoding would like to express their sincerest thanks to everyone involved in improving their living conditions, especially before the onset of winter. Just goes to show that amazing things can happen when we partner with like-minded individuals and throw a bit of compassion, sharing and trust in the mix!

The outside of the toilet block before the renovation

The inside of the toilet block before the renovation

 

A place for the 2nd washing machine donated by Lorraine

The finished product !

Wild mountain flowers – the Beyul of Phajoding

Summer time brings not only monsoonal rains but also a burst of colour to the hills behind Phajoding Monastery. It literally becomes a flower garden as the following photos reveal. Just for an adventure about a month ago some of the monks journeyed over the passes behind the monastery and were keen to share their photos they took with Lama Namgay’s camera with you all. The mountain passes were covered in pink, yellow, white and red Rhododendrons (known in Bhutan as Etho Metho) and rare medicinal plants of various kinds. According to their account their journey took them the whole day, trekking over 7 mountain passes and past 6 sacred lakes. And what was even more interesting was that an unknown black dog guided them all the way there and back and then mysteriously disappeared and hasn’t been seen since (you can see the black dog leading the monks in the first photo).

Some of you may be wondering what is meant by a ‚Beyul‘. Well, Beyuls are hidden valleys that transcend geographical and political boundaries. Their locations are also spiritual and to fully experience a Beyul one needs to be spiritually prepared through meditation and prayer. They are said to fully exist beyond the range of our ordinary senses; a bit like parallel dimensions and multiple universes spoken about in quantum physics. From a Buddhist perspective these sacred valleys offer those who enter with the correct motivation and certain level of merit an opportunity to enhance ones understanding of the true nature of reality by deepening one’s wisdom and compassion. These hidden valleys permeate the country, and are seen as havens of peace, spirituality and a sacred refuge for true seekers and believers.

Beyuls are thus sacred natural landscapes of great bio-diversity and immense spiritual significance where many highly evolved spiritual beings have meditated, blessed and hidden spiritual treasures known as terma. Often inexplicable events occur in these Beyuls, such as the appearance and disappearance of the black guide dog and often those who are attuned to the hidden dimensions are said to perceive spiritual visions and messages. It is also said that by seeing, being in or even listening to stories about these valleys, can purify ones negative karma and be a cause of attaining enlightenment. The Beyul behind Phajoding is steeped in Phajo’s presence and many wise beings have spent years meditating in the caves hidden amongst the landscape.

It is also important though to be mindful of the sacredness of these places and keep human intrusion to a minimum in order to preserve the biodiversity and not disturb the spiritual guardians that are said to reside in such places. Being aware of the sacred connection these Beyuls have with the beliefs and practices of the Bhutanese people will ensure that they will remain powerful spiritual sites for generations to come.

Bath time

Since there are no classes on Sundays the monks have arranged to take a bath which is a real treat for them since bath time only happens every 2-3 months.This is no ordinary bath but a traditional hot stone bath where stones are heated up on the open fire for many hours and then dropped in a wooden rectangular tub of cold water which rapidly heats the water…..oh and before the stones are placed in the water the ash is rinsed off. Unlike the photo shown, Phajoding’s bath is out in the open (which is not uncommon in Bhutan) – at least the monks don’t have to worry about making a mess and since the bath is quite big, 4 monks can fit in at one time!

 

Monks carry casualty down from the monastery

Recently an emergency occurred at the main temple where a pilgrim collapsed and was unconscious. Thankfully, due to Lama Namgay’s recently acquired first aid knowledge, the monks quickly placed the lady on her side and waited for her to regain consciousness. When that did not occur they carefully placed her on a stretcher and carefully carried her down the mountain. Everything ended happily with the lady back to normal. Just goes to show how important basic first aid knowledge is –the quick action of the monks literally saved this lady’s life!