The Adventure in Yachen Gar (July 2011)

yachengar-1It was an impromptu decision to visit Yachen Gar in July 2011. I happened to be in between jobs, i.e. having resigned from my previous job and had a 3 week break before starting a new role. The original plan was to go on 9 July 2011 with a Dharma sister, but was shelved because her leave was not approved and I was not brave enough to venture there alone. Later, I managed to gather 3 others and the plan to go finally took shape on 16 July 2011. I was still a little hesitant because my travel companions other than a venerable whom I know, rest are mere acquaintances. But my wish to see Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche, whom I had not seen since Dec 2009 and the place where he lived and practiced motivated me to go ahead.

yachengar-2So a group of 4 of us took off from Singapore Changi Airport to Chengdu on 16 July 2011.

In Chengdu, we bought coach tickets for Ganzi departing 17 July 2011. The coach had an overnight stop in Kangding, a place which to me feels like Otaru, Hokkaido en route from Chengdu.

We arrived in Ganzi on 18 July 2011 in the evening. Then we had to arrange for transport to take us to our destination, Yachen Gar the next day.

yachengar-3As I was forewarned, pilgrimage trips are often never without trials. Our journey to Yachen Gar was not without obstacles. Our first attempt to reach Yachen Gar was stalled by the local police, who for some unknown reasons disallowed us to visit the monastery. Not deterred, we tried again the next day and finally made it there with the blessings of our kind Guru Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche and triple gem.

As the monastery is located more than 3000 meters above sea level, some of us experienced altitude sickness. Quite thankfully, I handled it pretty well with only slight breathlessness and mild headache.

At the monastery, I was amazed by the vastness of land, beautiful mountains and rivers and also the little kutis that are homes to the Sangha members. Viewing all the breath taking natural sights were therapeutic for me, an urban dweller in a small city state. In Yachen Gar, although it was summer when I visited, the temperature differed vastly between day and night. It was very cold in the morning and at night and hot in the afternoon.

At the monastery, I stayed in a container structure (my abode) shared by 6 others and was very near to where Rinpoche stays and also his sutra hall. It was very convenient except for a long walk to the toilet. In my abode, there were mattresses laid and also thick blankets provided to keep us warm for the chilly nights. At night, it was cold but another spectacular sight awaited me. I was to sleep under a blanket of stars every night! I began to forget the cold and admire the starry night from the glass window until I dozed off each night. A sight that I never get to see in brightly lit Singapore.

I stayed in the monastery for about 4 days.

My daily routine began at around 6:30 am from when I woke up was as follows.

yachengar-46:45 am: I would dutifully walk to the mani stupa, which is about 200 meters from my abode to do circumnambulations.

7:15 am: Breakfast at the dining hall next to the sutra hall.

After breakfast: Morning Dharma talk at the sutra hall or chanting at the main sutra hall. It happened that on my second day there, which is also the day when Lama Achuk Rinpoche entered into paranirvana (something that I knew only after I left Yachen Gar), all the Sangha members and lay devotees were chanting the Vajrasattva mantra for Lama Achuk Rinpoche. I did not have the good fortune to see Lama Achuk Rinpoche but was glad to have chanted for Lama Achuk Rinpoche together with so many Sangha members.

12 noon: Lunch at the dining hall.

After lunch: Own free time to do activities such as circumnambulating the Padmasambava Mountain, attending Dharma talk, chanting at the main sutra hall or doing prostrations in the Guru’s sutra hall.

6 pm: Dinner at the dining hall.

8 or 9 pm: Back to my abode.

yachengar-5Yachen Gar is truly a place where people have strong faith and are diligently gathered. I saw so many people who are so positive in their outlook despite owning so little and are so diligent in their practice. It renewed my faith and inspired me to put in more effort in my practice of the Buddha Dharma just like the people in Yachen Gar.

I was also very blessed to have met many kind and helpful people, lay and ordained people included, who really went all the way to make me feel at ease and also showed me around the place. Else I would be quite lost as the monastery is huge and not easy to navigate for newcomers. I am also grateful to the chefs at the kitchen who prepared nice meals when we were there. I cannot help but felt that the meals were specially prepared for us to suit our palate.

Not forgetting the kindness of my Guru who despite his busy schedule still set aside time for us. He cleared my doubts about my practice and also gave valuable advice on a host of issues.

yachengar-6The day before I left the monastery, a rainbow appeared in the sky in front of the sutra hall, very auspicious I thought. In the evening, many Dharma friends came to bid us goodbye, they gave us many precious things and I was so touched. Because we had to leave the monastery at 4 am, venerable and I moved to sleep in the sutra hall so as not to disturb my roommates. That night, I could not sleep, the sutra hall was colder than my abode but I guess I was too excited after the heart -warming farewell and had so many thoughts that night. At 4 am, 25 July 2011, we left the monastery. A sky full of stars greeted me in the chilly morning and I even saw a shooting star, really amazing because I had never seen one before.

I do not know when I will visit Yachen Gar again, there are so many unforgettable and fond memories and I hope to return someday.

Just a final note of thanks to Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche, his students, the 3 chefs in the kitchen, and many others whose names I do not even know but their warm and kindness I will never forget.

— By a disciple from Singapore —

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