Sunday, July 13, 2014

Europe Tour 2014

The new pagoda (Kapelle) at the Metta Vihara

Hi friends,
After the treks in Nepal I came to Europe for a series of teachings and meeting old friends.
The first stop was my first visit to Bucharest, Romania to make a short retreat at the Anahata Yoga Center managed by George Petre. He is slowly trying to make the center into a Dhamma/meditation center and has been inviting Theravada bhikkhus over the last couple of years to come to Romania. George had come to the Berlin, Frohnau Buddhistisches Haus to participate in a four day retreat with me last year. At this retreat in Berlin he had invited me to come to Romania. Romania is behind the rest of Europe in getting the Dhamma and developing facilities for retreats and inviting teachers.
I also gave an interview  at a private university to be broadcast on their  television station and talked on mindfulness at a conference at the same university.
While in Romania I was driven out to the Black Sea Coast north of Constanta for a leisure day.
I was surprised at how many people in Romania speak good English.
From Romania I went to South Germany and then Austria to meet some old friends and have a day hike in the Alps.
From Austria I took the train to Geneva and lead a weekend retreat sponsored by the Centre Bouddhique. The retreat was held in a small village in the mountains near the French border west of Lac Neuchatel.
The following photos give some highlights.

At the Private University with George (to the left) and the director of the university 
Participating at a conference on Mindfulness meditation

Giving a talk in a meditation center with George translating

The infamous Palace of the late Romanian dictator

 Countryside between Bucharest and Constanta

Gazing over the Black sea
Meeting my Sri Lankan friend, Gitan in Austria.
We stayed at Gitan's friend's house near Salsburg for a couple of days and he took us for a drive into south Czech republic and a day hike in the Alps near Salsburg.

 Bush growing out of a chimney in the Czech countryside.

On a day hike in the alps an hours drive from Salsburg

Alpine huts on top-we did not make it that far

With two monks from the Geneva Buddhist Vihara on Lac Neuchatel

The small Swiss village where we had a weekend retreat

The Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch on a clear day
(never mind the open mouth)
From Switzerland I went up to the Pauenhof meditation Center near Duisburg, Germany and conducted a four day retreat following which I went back to South Germany in the Allgau to stay at the Metta Vihara and then conducted a ten day retreat at the Buddha Haus.

 This year was a special year for the these two centers founded by the  well known German Buddhist  nun, Ayya Khema. On May 23rd they celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Buddha Haus. I was there then in 1989 for that occasion. On May 24th at the Metta Vihara a special  pagoda was consecrated. It was built specially for housing relics of the Buddha and an Arahat that were brought from Sri Lanka and Burma. This 'empowered' pagoda now serves as the spiritual focus or 'center' of the Metta Vihara. During the ceremony Bhante Nyanabodhi generously gave a portion of the relics to Ayya Sucinta
who is the abbess of the Anenja nuns Vihara which is located nearby the Buddha Haus. Next summer in June 2015 the first ordination of a Theravada bhikkhuni in Germany will take place at the Anenja Vihara.
More photos highlight the events.

Gathering at the Buddha Haus

Teachers authorized by Ayya Khema

Metta Vihara within the woods

Main building with meditation hall, kitchen and guest rooms

The alps

The tent in the distance where the Wesak celebration took place

Colorful painted flags installed for the occasion
Bavarian horn blowers played inspiring tunes

Hand carved wooden deer grace the entrance to the shrine
New sign on the Pagoda

Ayya Sucinta happily receiving a portion of the relics

The relics new home above the floor of the Pagoda

After all these functions concluded I conducted a ten day meditation retreat at the Buddha Haus from May 29 until June 8th. On June 10th I flew to India with two German friends and am currently residing at the Mahabodhi Int'l Meditation Center in Leh, Ladakh. More on that in the next posting.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Back in Nepal

On the Annapurna circuit trek near Manang
Hi friends,

Since leaving California I spent forty days trekking in the Himalaya of Nepal. This year I took along my brother, Tom, for his first trek in Nepal. We did a 23 day curcuit of the Annapurna massif including the jaunt up into 'The Sanctuary' or base camp. Though it was physically challenging, he loved it.
After a couple days of rest in Kathmandu and seeing my brother off, a Dhamma friend, Sean, from California flew in to accompany me on a second trek. This time we did a 17 day trek up into the Tsum Valley. The Tsum Valley was only recently opened for trekking. It lies up near the Tibetan border and the religion/culture of the people is 'Tibetan like' as found in the Mustang and Khumbu regions of Nepal. The area is not so developed and comercialised as found on the Annapurna and Everest treks. You don't find pizza and apple pie in the lodges there yet. There are also some very remote and secluded monasteries found up above 10,000 ft.
Before starting the first trek around Annapurna, my brother  wanted to get a glimpse of Mt. Everest so we took the Everest Mountain flight that flies by the section of the Himalaya between Kathmandu and the world's highest mountain.

Here are some highlights 

View from the Mountain flight on Buddha Air

The great Stupa at Boudhnath

With my brother near Chame

 Annapurna 3

 We choose the old wooden bridge

 It snowed on several nights

 Typical large guest house

 Nicely arranged kitchens

 Approaching Manang

 Main street Manang

 Ice lake at the foot of the Gangapurna glacier with Manang at the bottom

 Heading up to the 5,417 meter high Thorung La (pass)

Icy narrow footpaths make walking tricky

 Thorung High Camp lodge at 4,700 meters

 Yaks returning after hauling weak trekkers up to the top of the pass

 While the stronger ones trudge up on foot

The steep decent in meter deep snow 

Views on the other side-Mt. Dhaulagiri at the left

Jhong Monastery 

 Sunrise on Dhaulagiri

 Two Oxen guard the toilets

 Back to forest covered trails

Left to Right-Annapurna 1, Rock Noir and Fang  (taken from Kalopani)

 Big lodges at Ghorepani

Annapurna South 

Dhaulagiri skyline-Tom with guide and porter 

 View from Tadapani- Annapurna South (left), Machapuchre (right)

Machapuchre-The Fishtail 

Ascending into 'The Sanctuary"

 Hot Springs at Jhinadanda

A trek done well ends well

Highlights from the trek to the Tsum Valley/Ganesh Himal

Mules begin their  multi day labor ferrying supplies from Arughat up the valleys

The trail along the 4x track from Arughat

 Extending the road to cut trekking days shorter

 Taking breaks near waterfall pools for tranquil meditation and refreshing dips

 Sleeping and meditating out under the stars one night

Porters carrying roofing sheets five days up valley for new lodge construction

Manaslu Circuit goes to the left while Tsum Valley goes right

 Mt. Sringimal-entrance to the Tsum Valley

The entrance to many homes in the Tsum Valley

 Kids on their half hour walk to school
 The Milarepa Cave

The footprint of Milarepa (an 11th century hermit/saint) impressed in the rock of the cave

 From Left: Guide Norbu, porter Urgyen and Sean


Mu Gompa (monastery) situated at 3,700 meters ele.

 The roof of Mu Gompa with the Ganesh Himal as backdrop

The tranquil river under the old bridge at Domje

The nuns school/training monastery at Domje
It was their first glimpse at a 'golden lama' (their term for a Theravada monk)

Gumba Lundang ( a monastery for nuns) situated at 3,200 meters

 Nuns eat their meals outside

Peering into the Ganesh Himal Sanctuary

A hike up to the foot of the Ganesh Glacier

A parting shot

The End

By the time you read this I'll be in Bucharest beginning a six week
tour In Romania, Switzerland, and Germany. See Travel and Teaching page.