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Lama Geshe

November 12, 2011

in Nepal

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Lama Geshe and a wall of signed photos from Everest summiters grateful for his blessing.

Lama Geshe is an Everest-area legend. Foreign climbers and local Sherpas come every season to take his blessing before attempting to climb the dangerous summits of nearby peaks. His receiving room is plastered with signed photos of famous climbers holding the blessing card he had them carry to the summit.

Lama Geshe first left his home of Pangboche when he was still young to travel over the Himalayas and study in Tibet. He earned a Buddhist doctorate, the highest academic achievement available in a monastery, then fled the 1950’s Chinese occupation. Eventually returning to his village, he and his brother settled down and took a single wife — a practice common in Sherpa culture and permitted by the Nyingma sect of Buddhism. Now over 80, Lama Geshe receives a stream of visitors seeking his blessing. He is widely respected and is one of the highest-ranking lamas in the region.

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The village of Pangboche sits at more than 13,000 feet and is home to one of the oldest monasteries in Nepal (orange building).

I’ve met Lama Geshe five or six times, sometimes with a group, sometimes solo. It is always a pleasure. Something about this old man elicits happiness in my heart. When I walked into Pangboche this fall, however, I was feeling rather sad. Lama Geshe had a stroke last year and spent weeks in a Kathmandu hospital. I never knew the prognosis, and I hadn’t seen him since his health failed.

When I strolled into our lunch spot, however, my head Sherpa Dawa was grinning and  excitedly told me, “I’ve seen Lama Geshe! He looks very good! He’s walking around his yard, and he’s fine!” Dawa shares my fondness for Lama Geshe and we always visit together, so off we went to pay our respects and see how he was doing. With the exception of some residual leg pain, he does indeed appear to be fine and was his usual smiling self. He touched his head to my head, a profound blessing, and we sat down to talk….

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