A View to the Future of Gebchak Gonpa

Dondrub Chomtso in 2019

Gebchak’s eldest nun, Dondrub Chomtso (see a video interview with her here), passed away on January 25th. She was 91 years old, and the last nun to have lived at Gebchak before the Cultural Revolution. Dondrub Chomtso was a deeply joyful, toothless character who loved mouthfuls of sugar, and had more than 600 pages of Gebchak texts memorized from a lifetime of practice. Her devotion to the Gebchak lineage was strong and she died with an open, trusting mind. Her body was offered to vultures in a sky burial on a nearby mountaintop, according to her wish and to Gebchak’s tradition.

Gebchak nun and her niece

It is truly a new era now at Gebchak Gonpa. The remaining nuns grew up in China’s religious revival from the 1980s, within a changing value system in Tibetan society accompanying economic development. State school for children is mandatory now, and ordaining as a monk or nun is not permitted by law until age 18. Gebchak is perhaps the remotest of Nangchen’s large gonpas today. Many large monasteries have rebuilt themselves at lower altitudes over the last ten years.

Gebchak’s valley

An unexpected syndrome of modernity in Tibet is altitude sickness. Tibetans now travel regularly between higher and lower altitudes –with schools, hospitals and markets now in town centres – and many experience altitude sickness when they return to higher areas. This is true for the Gebchak nuns and lamas, and older nuns suffer especially when they are sick.

Amidst all these changes, Wangdrak Rinpoche has developed Dongtsang Ritro hermitage across the river from Nangchen town, on an ancient meditation site sacred to yogins for over a thousand years. It was developed to preserve yogic practice in Nangchen, a region that has been historically known in Tibetan as ‘Gomdé’ – the ‘Land of Meditators’. More specifically, it will serve as a base for the Gebchak lineage in the future. A 3-year retreat centre has been constructed there to train nuns from over 30 branch nunneries in Gebchak practices. Twelve senior Gebchak nuns now live at Dongtsang Ritro, and more will be based there in the future.

Wangdrak Rinpoche at Dongtsang Ritro hermitage, 2017.

Uncertainty is at the heart of Buddhist teachings, and the Gebchak community is doing remarkably well adapting and keeping firm-at-heart their dedication to lifelong contemplative training. They do this with compassion and the wish to contribute peace and positivity to the inner life of all beings on this earth – knowing the collective uncertainty we are all facing in this world.

Thank you for all of your financial support, which allows them to continue doing this. For more details on how your funds are spent, please visit this page.

As an offering in return, please see this video link of a spirited Gebchak nun talking about life at Gebchak Gonpa, and the amazing death of an old nun:

Visit with a cheeky Gebchak nun, Karma Tsultrim

Tashi Delek and may the Force be with you in the Tibetan and Chinese Year of the Metal Mouse!

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Wangdrak Rinpoche’s Australian retreats

Wangdrak Rinpoche’s next retreat program will be held in Melbourne and NSW in November 2020. Stayed tuned at http://www.gebchakrigpaharsey.org/retreats/ for the upcoming program and registration.

In memory of Dondrub Chomtso, 1929-2020

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