“More the hardship, the better it is to cleanse one’s sin” is what we normally hear from pilgrims. Although true, hardship alone is not always the prerequisite. Unwavering faith with pure perception and clear consciousness is something that truly matters.
Therefore, a pilgrimage sites that does not demand hardship is no less important or scared. It is there to facilitate pilgrims who either have less time or cannot walk for long hours. However, due to certain misconceptions, such a pilgrimage site continues to remain so near and yet so far.
Tamdrin Nye in Thimphu (pronounced wrongly as Tandin Nye), situated at an elevation of about 2600 mtrs. is one such pilgrimage site that is connected by road and lies not far from the city. It is one of the most sacred spots discovered by Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal as per the prophetic instruction of Guru Rinpoche.
According to a local account, Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal spent 13 years in meditation at this place. Several imprints of Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal and other celestial beings seen on the rocks bear witness to this. Later, Guru Rinpoche blessed this place and concealed many ter (spiritual treasures). Some of these treasures had already been discovered by Terton Drukda Dorji in 17th century, and some are yet to be discovered. Thus, Tamdrin Nye is equally rich and sacred as any place of pilgrimage blessed by Guru Rinpoche and Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal. It is both holy and hilly countryside near the capital city.
It is a 20-minute drive from the heart of the city to Tamdrin Nye and it takes about an hour and a half to visit all sacred spots, including Guru Lhakhang, which is also known as the Nye wogma - the lower sacred spot. However, for those who still believe ‘more the hardships to reach the destination, the better it is’, they have an option to travel on foot either from Samazingkha(1) or through Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School premises.
Both routes are equally exciting and physically strenuous.
During my recent visit to this Nye, I made my way up the trail from Samazingkha. It was a fulfilling experience to sweat through clothes in a hot sunny day. The first monastery to reach was the Guru Lhakhang, built on a rocky cliff like Taktsang in Paro. The serenity of this place is far beyond its actual distance from the city that has things whirling around with noise, speed and distractions.
On my arrival there, I was completely taken aback by a pleasant appearance of an elderly monk at the entrance. He wore a smile that was both intense and welcoming. He was Lam Dorji, the Lam-In-charge of this monastery. I was then joined by a group of youth from Royal Institute of Health Sciences (RIHS) in Thimphu who were on their visit to offer prayers at Guru Lhakhang. Lam Dorji led us in and we followed him like a students into the class room.
|With Lam Dorji and friends from RIHS|
Once inside, Lam Dorji explained us a detailed explanation of the objects of reverence and the scared spots around them. Among the many holy relics and sculptures, the statue of Guru Rinpoche which is also the main statue in that Lhakhang is more than stunning.
“The head of this statue was offered by Guru Rinpoche himself ” said Lam Dorji pointing towards the central statue with respect. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche appeared in disguised as a Gomchen (lay monk) and gave the head of that statue to the sculptor who was not able to fit the head and complete the sculpturing.
According to Lam Dorji, the statue was scluptured by Desi Tshewang Tenzin, a disciple of Lama Marpa. Lama Marpa - the great Buddhist master and the root guru of a famous yogi Milarepa. Legend has it that the statue of Guru Rinpoche did speak in the past and thus is known as Guru Seungjoenma meaning, the Guru who spoke.
For me, that moment with Lam Dorji was like being in meditation, to be in complete silence, doing nothing but listening to him. Within a short time, he covered a range of teachings from importance to nurture a good heart to the truth about impermanence.
Finally, in a very polite tone, Lam Dorji advised the pilgrims from RIHS to be compassionate and caring health workers since they had already chosen their career as health workers. “Please treat every patient with love and compassion irrespective of their status,” he said with folded hands.
|With Lam Dorji|
We left Guru Lhakhang a piece of advice most to modern times. It was a mixture of teachings and advice by a very contented monk.
Walking further uphill towards the upper Nye was an exhilarating experience and I felt a lot more like a pilgrim. In an atmosphere that was charged with spiritual power, things have their message to convey. For instance, a tattered prayer flags that still fluttering was a reminder of the fragility of life and the importance to accept impermanence. The beauty of every spot surpassed the one just saw before it. Standing at a point with tranquil hermitages above and a busy city below, I felt perched somewhere in between heaven and earth.
The view from the upper Ney offers a good vantage point over the city below. The place there is so calm and serene that many would wish life to be like this. Tshampa Ugyen takes care of the Nye. Both of Tshampa Ugyen and Lam Dorji seem to have found salvation of samsara and lived there with inner happiness. According to them, this Nye bear resemblance to Yalung Sheri Drak in Tibet. It is known as Tamdrin Nye because when Terton Drukda Dorji visited this place, he appeared in the form of Tamdrin. Tamdrin refers to Hayagriva who is the wrathful manifestation of Avalokiteshvara. It is usually depicted in red with a horse's head protruding from his crown.
Some of the several imprints on the rocks seen distinctly are head and body prints of Guru Rinpoche, hoofmarks of Taachog Balhaha (a divine horse) a footprint of Khandroma (Celestial maidens or Dakini in Sanskrit). There are several caves where Guru Rinpoche, Goddess Tara (Jetsuen Dolma), Dakani Vajravarahi (Dorje Phagmo), Buddha Amitayus (Tsepamey), Diety Hayagriva (Yidam Tamdrin) and others meditated. Their seats and imprints are seen in their respective caves as if they were there just a while ago.
Some of the many spirituals treasures that are yet to be discovered from this holy spot are Tsebum or Tseyibumpa (longevity vase) and Sergi Legbalm (golden scriptures). The key to unlock the door to these treasures are seen protruding out from the surface in the form of rock at the entrance to the upper ney.
|At upper Nye-with my Japanese friends|
Among the many relics, one can see a ceremonial hat of Guru Rinpoche, Reldri (divine sword), Baga (female genitalia) of one hundred thousand dakinis, and teeth of Tamdrin’s riding horse, all these are seen on the face of the rock. As in sacred spots like Baylangdra, Kurjee and others, Tamdrin Nye also has a sacred passage that determines the goodness and evil in person.
There is also a huge rock that resembles a mythical bird garuda. In Buddhist mythology, garuda or jachung is the king of birds and is known as one of the incarnations of Lord Buddha. The presence of garuda in any form symbolizes all kinds of substantial attainments and further protects the beings from ill effects of nagas.
There is a drupchhu (holy water) that can cure ailments if one takes it with absolute faith. This drupchhu is said to have sprung right from Dorje Phagmo. There is an old cypress tree which is believed to have grown from Guru Rinpoche’s walking stick. From the upper nye one can also see a statue of the largest sitting Buddha in the world at the other side of the valley.
This place has a perfect setting to pause and reflect on life. The only occasional sound heard is that of damaru (a small hand-held drum) and trumpet from the isolated hermitages.
There is no best season to visit this nye. However, it is greener during spring. Blessings and merits aside, it is a joy to drive up to the hills and enjoy the scenic beauty of the capital city of Bhutan which is truly breathtaking.
Once at this nye, there is nothing to be disliked, all that comes to one’s mind is a feeling of peace and happiness. I am sure this sacred spot will beckon many visitors in future. Today, although tthe ney is no near, it remains so far for many. For me, it was a unique excursion to visit the maximum holy spots in a minimal time.
Samazingkha(1) - The midpoint between Lungtenzampa and Lungtenphu along Thimphu – Semtokha highway.