A Tale of Two Monks

December 16, 2012

in Nepal


Lama Thubten Dorje and Genchoedar Lama

Our first monk is steeped in Tantra. He wants to teach us mantras and meditation and tell stories of Padmasambhava (not to mention the Yeti). He knows all the deities painted on monastery walls and gives us advice for passing smoothly from this life to the next. He chants in deep, resonant tones and started blessing his food before eating on the first day. Now the whole group waits for his chant at every meal before starting to eat. I am suddenly not alone in my pause before eating.

Our second monk is schooled in Sutra. His teachings are more pragmatic and less esoteric than the heavy ritual of Tantra. He talks of compassion and an open heart and seeing every difficulty as a welcome opportunity for practice while our group is thoughtful and rapt. He has arranged Tibetan education for 7 of his nieces and nephews and is respected in family and community for his thoughtful nature and compassion.


Lama Thubten Dorje

Lama Thubten Dorje (our first monk) was a last-minute addition to our group. Due to the remote geography, no phone service, and an ailing father, the monk we had planned to have as our teacher was unreachable and not able to join us at the beginning of the trip. Lama Dorje is a senior monk at Kopan, and joined us as our teacher for the first 6 days. Then he wanted to see Tsum and we enjoyed having him, so he continued with us for the remainder of the trip. Lama Dorje is ~62 and has been a monk for more than 30 years. He joined the monastery because he realized we are all going to die, and he thought he could learn from Buddhism. He is now a fully-ordained monk, meaning he has taken 253 vows. Each day, he led meditation sessions, opened and closed with ritual Tibetan prayers and held with a deep stillness in between. (Video of Lama Dorje chanting the opening prayer for our daily meditation here.) Outside of meditation, he is more cavalier than you might expect, telling us stories of the Yeti, riding a motorcycle in Kathmandu, and joking easily. He has a mantra for every purpose and is educated in Tantra, the swift esoteric ritualized path to enlightenment.

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