Hello, this is a link to my Ladakh pilgrimage pictures from 2008. Please enjoy. Also see the other posts about my previous pilgrimage to Ladakh.
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6/18/08 – We woke up at 3 am because we had to catch an early flight to Ladakh. It turns out, that due to the strong winds off and over the Himalayas, the only window of time to fly into Leh, Ladakh is to leave Delhi between 6 and 7 am. We were told that the flight into Leh is one of the most spectacular in the world, and IT DID NOT LET US DOWN! Imagine flying over the some of the highest mountains in the world (which is what we did), with their young, jagged edges reaching for the heavens. Oh – and Ladakh is north of the Himalayas. Therefore the plane flew across a vast, snowy landscape of sharp spines and rocky valleys. (Which I do not have a picture of… hrrumph.)
Some of the tallest peaks poked through the layers of clouds which we were just barely flying above, minimizing our feeling safe at high altitude. We began to see occasional houses in the high valleys as the plane started its descent. I saw first hand why the window of time is so slight to fly in – at one point, the plane had to traverse a gap in the rocky spires that was less than 300 (I think?) yards across. Any “mistake” by the pilots (or more commonly – an unexpected wind shear) and a wing might have clipped an edge. Whoa! Talk about splitting the uprights. (Little did I know, but this “brush with danger” would merely be a slight preview of what was to come on this journey.) And later I heard that there were apparently only a few dozen pilots in the world that were talented enough to make that flight on a regulare basis… Wow! No matter how you get to Ladakh – by danger-defying highway or by attempting to fly over the steep cliffs – you are taking a risk.
After arriving, we found out that we had the opportunity to see the Drikung Kyabgon (His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, one of the dual heads of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism). He would be departing that afternoon to go into the high country, known as the Chang Tang, where he would be spending the rest of his summer. The leader of our pilgrimage informed us that attending His Holiness is like being in the presence of a Buddha and a King. I was excited, understandably. And thankfully we did not pass up this possibly-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
When we landed in Ladakh, I could not help but notice the significant presence of the military. It makes sense when you think how close Ladakh is to both China (western Tibet) and Pakistan, but there were bunkers all over the airport and military trucks were all around the hangers and terminal. Actually it turns out that Ladakh (India) uses military personel to run their airport, which I guess saves money.
In Delhi, we were at an altitude of about 500 feet, and suddenly, in the course of a couple hours, we landed at 11,000 plus feet. Needless to say, I noticed a distinct difference in my breathing. However, the clear sky, the chilly air and the beautiful mountains surrounding the Upper Indus river valley were crisp, clean and gorgeous. (pictures)
I immediately noticed a few stray trees, similar to aspens, thin and swaying in the breeze; there were occasional prayer flags, also flapping vigorously. Inside the airport terminal, I saw something very inspiring – almost every square inch of the support beams and rafters were painted with beautiful scrolling lotuses and intricate flowery designs, in a similar fashion to what we would see over the next few weeks in the monasteries.
We quickly piled in the small SUV’s provided for us and we were driven to the Kidar guest house in Leh. The Ladakhi guide, Rinchen Namgyal was a precious trip leader. He was / is kind hearted, sensitive to our needs and able to hook us up with rare opportunities that Westerners might not normally experience (more on this later). He was also very kind and generous to me when I stayed a week longer than the rest of the “pack.”
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6/17/08 – Having gotten a few hours of sleep (they had to plug in a converter and then play with that to get the A/C going), I explored the World Buddhist Center or WBC. It was / is a beautiful sanctuary, primarily for Buddhist ordained members and pilgrims. However, in speaking with people from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it seems very challenging to get a reservation (unless you are a nun / monk or an Indian travel agent). There were many Theravadin Buddhist flavors – the shrines, the images – a strong Thai / Sri Lankan emphasis (in my less-than-skilled opinion).
The WBC has several floors of dormitories, another with the kitchen and large dining room and the first floor is entirely composed of the main shrine room and a beautifully painted entrance, with a 40 – 50’ ceiling. However, each floor has a gorgeous and serene shrine, making it easy to fall into a blissful and serene state. I was fed well, eggs, toast, jam, tea and offered more food than I could eat.
Then I was picked up by Peter again – I wondered how much sleep he got (seriously I worried about the man, he kept talking about doing all these things and forgetting to sleep) – and driven to meet my friends from the states. I was the first to arrive, hence my staying over at the WBC. I was driven to the Likir House – a guest house in Delhi named after a monastery in Ladakh. Several people were there and the pilgrimage leader suggested we rest in the air conditioning for a while and I was very glad for it!
In the afternoon, we went out – to explore Conaught Place and exchange money. The middle of the day had drivers and tuk tuks buzzing around Delhi, all honking madly and intuitively navigating their vehicles. Gazing around at the vehicular chaos, I was surprised there were not more accidents. Somehow order and rule arose in the midst of all the hubbub.
It turned out several people missed their flight in the U.S., so there were about eight of us going to Ladakh first and then the rest would join us later. At the Likir house, I did a little practice and it seemed I was “rewarded” by an interesting dream. Time started doing a strange thing to me – whether it was due to jet lag or what – I felt like I had been in Delhi for weeks, when it was more like 24 hours. Hmmm.. Buddhist jet lag?
This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. You can support Kirby’s blogging efforts by either visiting his Spiritual Astrology website or by clicking on the ads below. Thank you for visiting!
Pilgrimage to Ladakh, India; June / July 2008
By the way, this title is meant as a double entendre: I have been back from Ladakh for about a year (and been very busy with school) and it took AT LEAST a year to accumulate the merit and other resources required to go on this incredible pilgrimage.
So… as I was mentioning, I finally got the time and space to write this thoughtfully (compared to the bare bones description of my journal). From 15 June through 15 July ’08 I was on route to / from or in Ladakh India. Here is entry number one, of many…
6/15/08 – My itinerary for the trip was comical, but considering the tickets were free using mileage plus, I did not complain. As a result however, I was to fly from Dulles to London to Vienna to Delhi. Then, on the return trip, I flew from Delhi to Frankfurt to Toronto to Montreal, then took a train from Montreal to New York City and then to Washington D.C. (where I picked up my car and then drove the final 3 hours back home to Charlottesville… pant pant pant!).
Despite leaving late at 12:30 pm, we were served breakfast on the flight and then a snack, and by the time that was over, we were in London, at 12:45 am – good morning! (again…) Walked through customs only to discover the lights were out? And that I could have entered England with anything… hmm? Maybe everyone who flies in after 1 A.M. is safe…
6/16/08 – Everyone seemed very friendly in the U.K. Fascinating! I wonder if that is normal, a fluke, an unusual astrological phenomena or “(E.)” none of the above? It was interesting – I got turned around in the airport, and spoke with several strangers while I was attempting to sleep and wait. Everyone was pleasant and amiable. Great! On my flight through Vienna, I sat on the plane with an interesting character – Raniger Singh. He is a humble taxi driver from London, who just happens to speak nine languages – yes, that’s right – nine! He named off several Indian dialects I had never heard of, plus Hindi, Punjabi, English, German… Wow! I felt a little ashamed to merely speak one (what a typical Ammerrican). Need to work on my Tibetan!
My luggage did not arrive on my flight, surprise surprise (*see my itinerary). The gentlemen at Delhi airport handled things professionally however, noting what my baggage looked like and getting my address etc. I arrived in Delhi at one in the morning, which led to not having to worry about customs twice(!) [Sometimes, you hear stories of great Lamas or seriously devout practitioners having easy circumstances when they travel (I’m neither of those by the way), but I was glad to not have to deal with a rubber glove on the arrival trip!] At least in India there were people manning the booths, but I just walked through without stopping. Whoops! Of course, they could have stopped me too…
I was met at the airport by a petite Tibetan man named Peter Sonam who has a huge, kind heart (in his little frame). As his driver took us around the relatively deserted, nocturnal streets of Delhi, he told me about the plans for our trip. The tiny car we were in almost got swallowed by several enormous potholes – seriously! From a previous trip to India, I was aware of the wild drivers in Delhi, and even at 1:00 AM, in the course of 20 minutes, the driver honked his horn more than I have in my entire life. There were a few interesting places in the road where lanes just mysteriously merge and begin again later, without warning. However, compared to the last time I was here (2001), the experience was very pleasant.
I recall that in my last journey to Delhi, I was shocked and amazed at the enormous number of species / vehicle types sharing the road – cavorting camels, dallying donkeys, consecrated cows, enormous elephants, hungry humans, busy bicycles, roaming rickshaws, tiny tuk tuks – the loud three-wheeled-golf-cart-like, exhaust-spewing vehicles, titanic trucks, bursting-at-the-seams buses, coke-can cars / vans, rare, mercurial Mercedes and pedestrians. Someone seems to have cleaned up the streets in Delhi – way to go!
Did I mention the heat?!? OMG! (Now I know why people with health conditions are warned about summer time in India!) When I left the confines of the modern, air conditioned airport, stepping out into the noisy lanes of Delhi, I was overwhelmed. The humidity and heat at 1 AM was enough to make Virginia’s muggy summers pale in comparison! Think moist sauna – all night and all day – muggy, hot, humid period.
My pleasant ride with Peter Sonam and driver ended as we arrived at the World Buddhist Center, which is a diamond in the rough (see photos!). The resident monk greeted me and offered tea, as well as generously staying up to chat a little. I had forgotten it was 2 AM, or rather, my system had no bloody clue what time it was, and I may have kept him up a bit. But the beautiful and sacred atmosphere of the Buddhist Center there felt like coming home and I was glad. =^)
P.S. Note to self – next trip, take thrice as many photos – despite taking about 500, I find myself looking for images that I do not have recorded.
This post is a combination of several pieces, in case you could not tell from the title. And like usual, it is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. If you would like to, you can support Kirby’s blogging efforts by visiting www.mkirbymoore.com or by clicking on the ads below. Thank you for visiting!
I am sad to say that I am leaving a beautiful community of practitioners and budding friendships. I will probably continue to sit with them occasionally, but I will be across town, and let me tell you, it is quite a difference – living above a Zendo vs. living a couple miles away. I worry that the busy-ness of life will catch up with me over the summer. However, I will make an effort to attend. (The Sunday sessions are great – tea & zazen & chanting & walking shamatha.)
It has really been a beautiful year. My past semester went well, despite my abundant amounts of time spent on extracirricular subjects – organizing Buddhist teachings, scrounging for clients and odd jobs, teaching Metta Reiki, etc. I know I was and am affected by living within such close proximity to the Zen shrine room (I sleep right above it). There are many, many blessings that I am ever grateful for.
There was something else that was most peculiar. Starting around April 20th, a bat came to the window of my shrine room and would hang out in between the screen and the storm window (outside the actual glass window). It would sleep and hang upside down – which I guess is normal for bats. I have never been so close to a wild one in nature, and it was quite a unique experience. It was fun to be saying prayers for the benefit of all sentient beings and having one be right there! (Note I attempt to live a lifestyle of right livelihood and disciplined ethics, but I have a long way to go!) [Revision on 10/28 – last I heard, the bat was still living in the Zendo window. Yay!]
The bat came and went, off and mostly on, for about four weeks. Some of my friends practice shamanism, and they said the bat was there for me. I believe them. Of course, that does not tell me why! But, it was definitely an unusual circumstance – and there are about eight other windows it could have chosen – why the shrine room window? I wonder if it was also taking refuge, sleeping within sight of numerous Tibetan lamas and Buddhist images. And yes – you heard correctly – I had my Tibetan Buddhist Shrine set up in the house above the Zendo. There was a little competition or complementary sharing going on.
Now I am about to move out. Two doors having been open for a time and they are now closing as I discover new ones. What significance to you, if any, does a bat indicate?
In my opinion, the bat was indicating that I need to listen better, to take more time resting down – way down, possibly upside down, and that it is time to make and take the appropriate and necessary space to face my shadow. Perhaps one day, I will be able to “fly around in the dark,” without fear. (What I think I mean, is that one day I will be able to meet perfect strangers, who embody personalities, which in the past might have pushed some of my buttons, with fearlessness and graceful equanimity.)
By the way, I asked its permission before snapping the photograph. I believe it was okay to take its picture.
In closing, I am heading out of town for a couple weeks. If I do not get to post anything before then, thanks for reading, and I will definitely have a lot to share when I return – around June 11th. Have a great week!
This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. You can support Kirby’s blogging efforts by visiting his Spiritual Astrology website (and more) at www.mkirbymoore.com or by clicking on the ads below. Thank you for visiting!
I just recently returned from a visit to the D.C. area, where I had the good fortune of staying with family, who owned a number of animals (I love animals!). They had a jack-rat terrier, a little nervous older dog along with a beagle, who of course could never have enough loving, and who learned that sitting up on her hind legs gets her treats, so she is constantly sitting like that when she is not receiving attention. It is quite comical. Now on to the cats…
<As a disclaimer, I am about to project many human emotions / attitudes onto an animal. He may or may not actually have these traits.> With that said, the reason I am writing this post, is that they had two cats – an enormous, lean Maine coon, 18 pounds, and in particular, a Manx cat that was a born with a birth defect – beyond anything normal in their tail-less breed. The Manx kitty is named Lewis and he is endearingly referred to as “Half-cat.” I understood why when I saw him sit back. This cat, already from a species that is without tails, was born missing vertebrae near his lumbar region. Therefore, he has long hind legs and the ability to sit back on his tail (end), which gives him the impression of coming up out of the floor – almost like a frog and certainly giving rise to the loving nickname of Half-cat.
I say Bodhisattva for several reasons. One is that this cat is the most gentle feline I have ever come across – when you pick him up and he does not like it, he makes facial expressions of distaste first, and then, if necessary make a slight, soft meow. He is extremely gentle and if you are petting or brushing him and you stop, he will sit back and then timidly tap you to initiate more attention. His facial expressions are classic – when tired, it is obvious. Also, he seems more able to show his vulnerability – something I rarely ever observe in physically-normal kitties.
There is something else novel about him – he enjoys being on his back and having his stomach and legs rubbed or brushed. His owner believes that what I am about to explain next is unusual, due to his funny “wiring.” When the inside of his hind legs are brushed, he goes crazy licking and cleaning his paws – like clockwork – every time! It was very funny! Imagine if someone tickled the inside of your leg and you had to rub your ear every time – fascinating.
Last but not least, Lewis’ condition makes it so that his belly and torso in general are very compressed, therefore, he is round and firm. Also, the vet says that he may not live past five or six due to the compression of his organs. It is very sad indeed. I hope I get to see him soon and experience his docile friendliness. Lewis cat, may you and all beings have a higher, happy rebirth!
This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. If you want to, you can support Kirby’s blogging efforts one of two ways: visit his Spiritual Astrology site at www.mkirbymoore.com to purchase an Astrology interpretation or click on the ads below. Thank you for visiting!
I recently attended a Sunday morning Medicine Buddha practice. I might not be writing about it, except for several suprising instances / experiences. Khenpo Choepel was the Vajramaster – the person (lama) leading the ceremony. Typically, the teachers, especially when they are teaching, sit on a raised platform, commonly referred to as a throne – there are multiple reasons for this, some of which go back thousands of years to Buddhism and Tantric practice in ancient India, but I would say that teachers sit in higher positions due to the preciousness of what they are offering. [Hearing a quality Dharma teaching is a rare, precious opportunity which relatively few get to engage in with ease. And the teachers do not sit on thrones when they are not teaching Dharma.]
Anyway, the reason I am writing about this, is that Khenpo Choepel came into the shrine room, where dozens of us were already present for the upcoming ceremony. However, despite being the Vajramaster, he would not sit on the throne. This was most unusual to me, until, soon thereafter, who should walk in but Khenchen Rinpoche! Talk about a surprise and an incredible blessing!?! Then understanding began to bloom in my mind (very slowly) – as Khenpo and Khenchen commenced to engage in a brief humility contest. Khenpo would not sit on the throne, and of course, neither would Khenchen (who is technically a higher lama but was not leading the ceremony). Khenchen then sat down right where he was standing, much to our chagrin – for a high lama to sit on the [dirty] floor is very disturbing (especially in Asian cultures). There were several friendly attempts to get him to stand back up, but he would not until a pad and cushion were prepared for him near us, in a lower position than the Vajramaster. So, I think it was a tie – both Khenpo, sitting on his normal side seat and Khenchen, sitting on a decorative rug proved to be exceptionally humble!
A few of us, myself included, very serendipitously, sat close to Khenchen, and his sense of humor and an attitude of appropriate, infinite playfulness definitely shown through. Amazing! To shed some light on what I mean, at the end of the ceremony, Tsok food was passed around. Khenchen did not seem to have a napkin and the large pile came around to me, so of course I offered him one. He shook his head no.
Thinking he may not have understood what I meant, I tried again, and this time, he said, “No need.” And then he proceeded to pantomime licking his hands clean! It was perfectly zapchen and poignantly timed – it directly shattered my “Oh I have to get this right around this high lama” attitude.
Khenchen was serendipitously at the center because Spring Retreat was starting a week later and he had arrived early. Wow – I was very pleasantly surprised. Khenchen is one of my heart teachers – I first took refuge and Bodhisattva vows with him. MMMMmmmmmm…
Oh – also the TMC was recently painted. Doesn’t it look great?
This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. If you’d like, you can support Kirby’s blogging efforts by visiting www.mkirbymoore.com to purchase an Astrology interpretation and to see what else he offers. You can also click on the ads below. Thank you for visiting!
At the risk of sounding less than humble and possibly even brash and bold, I am writing this post. What is it that makes a good astrologer? I have been doing a number of charts recently, now that I am on hiatus from school, and I derive real pleasure from (seemingly) being of benefit to others, answering questions and articulating abstractions which clients are just beginning to become aware of, and in seeing how much I have grown over the past couple of years. So, just to be safe, as Mercury is retrograde, and Uranus is crossing my Natal Sun (basically re-wiring my circuitry), forgive me wisdom beings if I am being arrogant.
Here are some of the ingredients that go into my blend of Spiritual Astrology: toss in a thorough astrological background, excellent teachers and years spent pouring over many dozens of books in Western Astrology; then blend a dedicated, semi-consistent Tibetan Buddhist practice; throw in heaps of bodywork classes and experience giving and receiving hundreds of sessions; dash in several peace-building modalities and workshops; ideally, you want to season with plenty of time spent playing and resting down and finding alignment through simple somatic exercises and being in nature; and of course, most importantly, attend and allow Tibetan Lamas to touch your heart, to show you how to let go just a little bit more and how to rest in equanimity. This might seem like a tall order…
And it is. I am not saying I hold all of this together all the time – because I do not! Ha Ha! That’ll be the day. However, I have had incredible teachers and mentors and I am not afraid to tackle psycho-spiritual challenges – both within and without. And did I mention I still have much work to do!
What do I recommend? Well, first, get a session with me, Kirby Moore, Spiritual Astrologer, but, as one of the great philosophers says, (Nietzsche), “only a fool is ruled by [their] stars.” What this means is, live your life! Enjoy, play, romp, dance, sing, meditate, eat delicious food, spend time with your family (if appropriate*), work a little and laugh! Do not look at your chart daily, or even weekly (monthly is okay). Be aware of your mental state when you read your horoscope – notice any stories which you may be repeating to yourself about how your situation is doomed. Be aware that some things will always be better. Take a deep breath.
I recommend receiving an astrology interpretation once or twice a year, not more. Do not look at your chart on-line more than once a month. Instead, breathe deeply, mindfully, fully. Spend time with that friend who you just can’t seem to find the time to fit into your schedule! Quiet your mind, in whatever manner is best for you and allow the Universe to fill your chest, your lungs, your heart. Take the time to determine what it is your heart is yearning for, and then go for it! (Appropriately of course, and gradually if needed.)
Oh – and of course I would recommend going through a self care workshop, which I just happen to lead. Learn how to take care of yourself and be kind. I currently lead workshops in Charlottesville, Virginia, but if you would like to get a group going in your neck of the woods, feel free to ask me about this. It is my intention to practice right livelihood, right speech and to be in right relationship. Sincerely, with peace.
* Unfortunately, tragically, and on the rare occasion that, if your family causes you harm, consistently, then think twice about spending time with them. With this exception pending, perhaps it is best to branch out and embrace a new community. As always, I would recommend speaking with someone you trust and consider to be wise about this issue.
Thanks for reading!
As I have been prepping for my last final exam, I have had thoughts of ease and lightening up. I also just received a network chiropractice session earlier (might or might not be correlated). <Updated 3/26/10 – Life is a dance of expansion and contraction, ease and challenge, stretching and resting down. I am still doing these things.>
We are human beings, as the Metta prayer says, “I offer myself love, with all my frailties, vulnerability and beauty.” There is only so much we can change in a given week, or a given month, or even in a year. Slowly, slowly, only with patience, acceptance and gentle-loving-kindness, can we shift significant psycho-spiritual patterns. Like one of my teachers says, “Change is like water dripping on a rock. It takes time and patience.”
Take inventory of yourself – where are you? What do you want to accomplish this year? Where have you come from? Be realistic! If necessary, speak with someone who has been treading down a transformative and kind path for some time. Allow yourself time to integrate, time to settle and time to let that which needs to come to the surface to do so. Spend some time in nature. Take a nap. Be kind. Please.
This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore. Reproduction without permission is prohibited.
I had the blessing of being present for Drupon’s teachings in Charlottesville and the Tidewater area on two separate weekends.
Drupon taught on the preliminary practices for the most part, however, in Charlottesville he also gave the Bodhisattva vows and the Mahakala empowerment.
As the event organizer, I am always surprised when the lama or teacher asks me what I want them to teach. I think to myself – “I am not worthy! Why are you asking me?” But seriously, I am happy to make a request – the teacher knows what they will actually teach on when they sit in front of the audience.
Drupon taught on taking refuge and the four thoughts that turn the mind – very sound, quality, fundamental teachings which are mandatory for anyone looking to progress toward Buddhahood. Then in Va Beach, he taught on refuge practice and Mahamudra – the great seal. I would say more about this profound practice, but I know so little about it that I would swiftly insert my foot, directly into my mouth. I have heard, that in order to move toward realizing Mahamudra, one must stabilize their meditation through calm abiding.
After having organized the Mahakala weekend in C’ville, I was exhausted, to be frank. So I went to Va Beach and rested a little, walked on the beach, listened to blessed and extremely fortunate teachings and I also stayed in a gorgeous shrine room – they sure knew how to take care of us. The Sangha of Va Beach – Ratnashri Circle – are very generous, kind and connected – what a great example! Here is a picture of the bay from the house where I stayed – sunrise over Portsmouth.