The most difficult washing machine delivery in the world – OK then; one of the most difficult!

Many of us who have the luxury of owning a washing machine don’t really think much about the whole purchasing process unless there’s a hiccup, and even those are usually quickly resolved. We walk into a white goods store, chose a machine that meets our needs and within a few short days or even hours, the machine is delivered and installed without our having to lift a finger. Well, except maybe to point out the spot where we want it to go! If we’re lucky we’d have been offered free delivery and even a buy now pay later interest-free option to take care of the financial burden.

For the monks at Phajoding, however, who recently received a generous donation for the purchase of these washing machines, the similarities with our process end after the selection.

Lama Namgay recently took these photos of the mammoth effort required to deliver and install a washing machine at Phajoding Monastery. As they say a picture speaks a thousand words – Enjoy!

Picking up the 2 washing machines from the store (the easy part!).

 

The washing machines are dropped off at the bottom of the trail to Phajoding Monastery. Hiking up the trail usually takes a fit person 3 hours with nothing to carry.

 

The monks take it in turns to carry the washing machines up the steep mountain trail to Phajoding. Each washing machine weighs in at approximately 45kg! It takes them over 5 hours to reach their destination.

 

We made it! All the monks are there to greet the washing machines and their bearers on arrival. 90% of the monks at Phajoding only saw a washing machine for the first time this year!

And just when the monks thought that their lives were about to get a whole lot easier… wood needs carrying up the mountain to build the shelter that will house the 2 new washing machines.

The laundry is nearing completion and the washing machines are already in use.

 

The end result.

 

A BIG thank-you must go to Lorraine from the USA for the purchase of these washing machines. Your ongoing support, encouragement and generosity towards the humanitarian need at Phajoding Monastery is greatly appreciated by everyone. Let’s hope that the monks have recovered from all their hard work and won’t be needing another washing machine for a very long time.


An account from a recent tourist

Phajoding Monastery is on the ‘Druk Path Trek’, a popular 6-day trek between Paro and Thimphu. There is a large volume of tourist traffic during the peak seasons and as a result Lama Namgay has the opportunity to interact with many visitors from all around the globe, which he says is a wonderful way for him to learn about other cultures and to share his knowledge of the history of the monastery and the Phajoding Monastery project.

The trek climbs to altitudes of over 4000 meters and occasionally trekkers experience the side effects of altitude sickness and have to descend quite quickly. This happened to Dom from Denmark recently but as you will see this unfortunate event turned into a positive encounter for all concerned.

This is what Dom had to say about her recent experience…………..

Hi everyone, my name is Dominique but everyone calls me Dom for short. I live in Denmark. In Danish, “Dom” means ‘stupid’. You can imagine the look on the Danes faces when I introduce myself. I am Malaysian, born in Singapore but grew up in Malaysia and now live in Denmark. I am working as a mechanical engineer for an oil drilling company in Copenhagen. Besides working, I enjoy hiking, biking, photography, reading and listening to music.

I arrived in Bhutan on the 20th September and started the Druk Path trek four days later. The plan was that Phajoding camp would be the last stop on the trek and for one night only. Not according to plan as I ended up spending 2 nights there and getting to know Lama Namgay and the wonderful work he is doing with the Phajoding Monastery project.

Here is what happened……..

Since the first day of the trek, I had a fever due to the unexpected temperature differences between the days and nights. I was not prepared for the very low temperatures at night in the camp. In addition to the fever, I had pain from my knees due to an injury many years ago. I love trekking and have been on different treks in Nepal, USA, England and Austria, but this time, I was not fully trained for this trek. I was testing my own stamina – it was a real struggle of mind over body. 

I did not mention anything about my condition to Kencho (my guide). Kencho and the trekking crew had noticed that I was suffering from cold at night and on the fourth day; he suggested that we should skip the highest camping site which was above 4000m and descend down to Phajoding which meant that we had to walk an estimated 7-8 hours over a distance of 21 km to reach Phajoding by sunset.

It was no surprise that after we reached the highest point at Simkotra Tsho (a lake at 4110m), my head started to spin in all directions, nausea set in and my knees felt like they were being crushed under the weight of my body. I was dragging myself every step of the way with the only reliable aide I had – my faithful walking stick.

Finally we reached the camp after more than a 9 hour walk – I was completely exhausted. While I was sitting in the camp I decided that I would like to get down to Thimphu the next morning since what I needed the most was a warm shower and bed!

While dreaming of a hot shower and waiting for Kencho, Lama Namgay walked towards the camp. I went to stand up but I could not, my whole body had decided to go on strike!

Dom :“Kuzu zangpo” – (in sitting position)

Lama Namgay: “How is your headache?”

Dom: “Not too bad thank you.”  

(the truth is – please can you chop my head off, it is killing me!)

Dom: “After the shower I will be ok.”

(are you serious? You can hardly stand up and you want a shower!)

Namgay: “Here is the key for the toilet.”

Dom: “Thank you”.

Dom: (talking to herself) “Yes, I definitely will stay and won’t rush off in the morning. Such kindness and sincerity.”

Kencho was now walking towards the camp.

Kencho: “Dom, I have permission from Lopen (we did not know his name at this stage) to turn on the heater and use the toilet, wait a while and you can take your shower.”

Namgay: “It’s a bucket shower.”

Dom: “No problem, thank you.”

The bond between us: Kencho, Namgay and myself had begun from the kind offer of a warm bucket shower!

Here I am with Lama Namgay and his mother Norki

At night, we discussed various topics of Buddhist philosophy. Starting from how to measure compassion? (by kg), how can the hell realms expand (to accommodate more bad people)?, how karma works? (pre-paid with compound interest), how to love your enemy? (you kidding me!). I learnt a lot that night and realized that my view was highly moulded by the materialistic world and based in the quantifiable and that this was not making me happy.

I am not a Buddhist – like many others, when I am fine, I don’t believe in anything but when I am in a crisis, I believe in everything – I will pray to Buddha, Jesus, Allah and even the lizard on the ceiling at home. However, the conversation was the most inspiring conversation I have ever had.

In the morning, Lama Namgay showed me around the monastery and I was extremely shocked by the state of deterioration of the living conditions of the monks and how little they had to protect them from the cold. None of the monks have enclosed shoes; they were playing football without any shoes! Lama Namgay explained the situation that they were in and that all of these young monks came from extremely poor families – many do not have any parents.

I took many photos of their dire situation for the Phajoding Monastery project, which, by the way, I think is an amazing initiative and told him and Sasha (who has so kindly offered to help him with the Project) that they are free to use these photos to promote the cause. I am also going to help to raise awareness and support for the project where ever I go.

Many friends asked me why I chose to go to Bhutan. The reason is simple. After 8 years living in Europe, with experiences working in 11 different countries from the Far East to the Far West; I realized that holding onto Eastern values and trying to fit into the Western culture had brought about a clash within me in terms of life values. While trying to integrate into the modern, materialistic world in the West; I was struggling to hold onto my bearings. 

I diligently followed the code of conduct in the professional world. I became more efficient (ruthless), more sophisticated (cunning), more confident (arrogant) and more independent (self-centered). I am now living in Denmark which is (according to a survey) one of the “happiest” country’s on earth based on standards of living but I was not content and I needed to know why.

I am so happy that I made the journey to Bhutan. I came here alone and left with a few good friends. I met Lama Namgay who then connected me to Sasha and the wonderful project that they have started. I have discovered the formula for happiness i.e. Happiness = Simplicity + Kindness…… (money is important but it’s not everything). I certainly found happiness at Phajoding! The monks have nothing materialistically but they seem to be happy. Lama Namgay and Sasha have explained to me that this is what they want to share with others. They also want to promote a sharing culture based on compassion and trust so everyone’s needs (as opposed to wants) are met. I get it and I’m happy to help them in their cause so everyone becomes happier.

While I was back in Singapore and Malaysia after my trip to Bhutan I showed the photos of Phajoding Monastery and the monks to all my friends and family and briefly introduced them to the Phajoding Monastery Project. I was grateful that everyone was so supportive of the Project and freely gave me money to support the monks at Phajoding. My friends and family have not lost the value of humanity despite the fact that everyone is so busy and stressed due to the pressures of modern life…….. I can feel that the kindness has come all the way from Bhutan and touched those in the Far East……. I feel so proud of them. 

I urge everyone who reads this article to please support this worthwhile project. It is the least we can do to make a change for the well-being of others and the survival of such a precious cultural site.

Dom

(Managing development: The Royal Government of Bhutan is currently in the process of developing an eco-campsite area at Phajoding to be located adjacent to Phajoding Monastery in an area of 4.35 acres. The proposed facilities include a camping area, toilets, kitchen, dining area, waste bins etc. All facilities will be built using local materials and traditional designs. The area in and around Phajoding is an important water catchment area for Thimphu so it’s important that the increasing tourist traffic is managed in a way that has minimal impact on the environment).

Incense making

Recently some of the younger monks went into the hills behind Phajoding to collect juniper (Shup) and other plants used in incense making to burn during the pujas (prayers). The smell of juniper is said to be the incense of the heavenly realms and the monks burn the dried bundles of Shup in order to purify the air of any negativities ahead of a puja or arrival of an important guest. Shup is found in groves on the alpine slopes above Phajoding and its trunks, branches and leaves are all utilised. The monks also collected rhododendron species know as Yaksuma and Balu in addition to other incense plants such as Pangpoe and Sulu.

These plants are then dried and mixed manually and stored in sacks. These incense plants are normally collected after Thrue-bab (also known as ‘blessed rainy day’) which falls in September and marks the end of the monsoon season as these plants are said to be the most aromatic at this time. According to Bhutanese beliefs, bathing early in the morning on this day will also rid one’s self of disease, bad luck, and bad karma.

In the photo below the monks have laid out their vast collection of Shup and other plants to dry before bundling them all up and storing them for the wintertime and it looks like one of the younger monks has grabbed Lama Namgay’s mobile to take a photo of him taking a photo!

In Bhutan some of the commercially sold incense use recipes dating back over 700 years and incorporate flowers, bark, wood, leaves, fruit, and roots that are all collected within Bhutan. Some special ceremonial incenses use 108 natural ingredients that is an auspicious number in Buddhism. Many of the plants used in incense-making grow above 4000 meters – and that makes Phajoding perfectly situated for the growth of such plants. Apart from the monks, yak herders and families who live high in the hills behind Phajoding collect these plants to sell onto incense-makers in the towns, as a way of supplementing their income.

This obviously raises the conservation versus poverty reduction issue. There is a need to strike a balance between the two in order to sustainably manage Bhutan’s natural resources while at the same time supporting the livelihoods of those who depend on them for their economic survival.

The Royal Government of Bhutan in partnership with its development partners is actively encouraging the sustainable use of natural resources by the local people through many community-based initiatives throughout the country. The local people are taught to manage and thus benefit from the management and use of natural resources within a ‘rights-based’ framework.

This approach empowers local people by increasing their sense of ownership; while at the same time building their knowledge of sustainable resource management. The result is that the environment is preserved and the livelihood of the local community is secured.

To support and strengthen this approach, Lama Namgay and Khenpo Chimi Dorji are seeking ways of introducing an environmental awareness program into the curriculum at Phajoding Monastery.

Buddhist words of wisdom from Lama Namgay

Recently, Lama Namgay has been posting some buddhist words of wisdom on the Phajoding Monastery Project’s Facebook page. For those who are not on Facebook we have decided to share these words with you.

On Compassion:

Dear friends,

„as we are all human beings, we all have potential to live with compassion. the true compassion is cause of real happiness. the true compassion is wishing other beings be happy and be free from suffering like how we are wishing for ourselves. but many in our world have lost their happiness due to a lack of seeing their inner gold of compassion.

everybody has potential to have pure compassionate for all the sentient beings but we are poor of compassion because we fail to realize that we have already the gold of compassion within us.like someone who has gold under his house is poor until he realizes he has the gold under his house.the more we try to practice compassion the more we will become rich in happiness.

so friends, lets try to make effort to live with compassion“. Namgay. Tenzin.

On gaining happiness:

Dear friends,

„All the things and beings in this world are just combined things. I will talk about a car because I admire cars!! For example: A „car“ which we call a car is made up of many things coming together like the steering wheel, the engine, the glass windows, the seats and the body. But our mind grabs onto that car and wants a car because we think that it exists inherently as a whole thing by itself, that’s why when we have nice car we are happy and when we lost it, it makes us unhappy. Similarly, our mind grabs very tightly to our self – the „I“ as if we exist inherently. But if we investigate deeply, there is no „I“ we just named ourselves „I“ but really we are all things combined like head, legs, eyes, hands, nose and ears etc……..so all the things which are combined are impermanent/changing and empty of inherent existence. So the nature of everything is emptiness in reality as everything is made up of many parts and causes which result in the creation of everything. So where is “I” now – it is not really there is it? In this way if we think of everything like this then we will not grab or want many things in this life (like bigger house, nicer car, beautiful dress and clothes) so our mind will be happier thinking in this way. If we don’t think like this our mind will want more and more which makes us unhappy if we haven’t got or lost it. So to be happy we need to think about that everything is made of parts and results from many little causes and conditions so a car is not really a car and a chocolate is not really a chocolate“ Namgay.Tenzin.

 

Welcome Dawa !

Dawa Tshering has recently joined the Phajoding Monastic community. Dawa has made the decision to become a monk at Phajoding Monastery since his mother has decided to become a nun at a nearby nunnery. Dawa has 2 sisters and 1 brother who are being cared for by his stepfather.

Dawa and his mother, who is also staying with him at Phajoding for a few weeks until he settles in.

Dawa comes from the town of Paro in Western Bhutan. Paro is the location of Bhutan’s only international airport and also the Dzong (see below) which some of you may recognize as the one used in the movie “Little Buddha”.

This is what little Dawa wrote:

“ i went to school until i am class 5 and then my father was dead accidentally. when my father was cutting the big tree and unfortunately the tree fell on my father and he dead there. after that i left the school. after being few years with my mother, my mother decided to go to be at the monastery so i also thought to join to the monastery. that’s how i came here to phajoding. it is nice place and everyone here is so kind to me. i am 13 year old. hello my name is Dawa Tshering”.

We wish you all the best Dawa and look forward to hearing more updates from you in the future !