|We have previously discussed our friend, Mynak Tulku Rinpoche, who fled Tibet during the troubles and now resides in Bhutan. He recently visited his former monastery in Tibet this summer as he was allowed a visa by the Chinese authorities. Mynak Tulku went to dedicate the restoration of the monastery meeting hall to which The Elephant Story and Sara Story Design offered a small helping hand. He recently told the author about the passing of Tashi Dondup, the oldest monk of their Tibetan monastery, at the age of 92. He was popularly known as Dura Lagan (old lama of Duratshang) or Gen Dondup (teacher Dondup).
At the age of 10, Dura Lagan showed his determination to better himself by riding a horse for an entire day to join the monastery. Initially, Buddhist novice monks receive a basic education learning to read and write. They advance to studying Buddhist mantras which is then followed by more refined Buddhist studies such as dance, making mandalas or sand paintings and playing religious instruments. When Dura Lagan was in his late twenties, he helped Mynak Tulku practice Tibetan Buddhist dance rituals. They are shown together in Tibet in 2016.
When Dura Lagan was in his early thirties, the plague of the Chinese Cultural Revolution spread to Tibet. His Buddhist monastery was destroyed by rabid Red Guards and he was forced into a labor camp where he toiled under harsh conditions for fifteen years.
Amazingly, Dura Lagan managed to recite his prayers in bed while in the labor camp where many perished under the harsh conditions. He attributed his long life and good health to having recited the prayer to the Green Tara over three hundred thousand times. The mantra is thought to offer individual protection from the spiritual dangers of greed, hatred, and delusion - the three factors that cause individual suffering. In Dura Lagan's case, his mantra may have thwarted the hatred of the Red Guards toward anyone who was not a Maoist.
When the Cultural Revolution ended in the late 1970's, he returned to the monastery as it was being rebuilt from the ruins. Following that, he devoted himself to meditation in the simple hut shown below.
In August, Dura Lagan was able to meet Mynak Tulku on his most recent trip from Bhutan to Tibet to participate in prayers in the re-built monastery meeting hall and give his last rite wishes for what he viewed as his impending passage.
After forty years of meditation, Dura Lagan passed away at midnight on October 13, 2018. He remained in his meditative state for a considerable period of time. The last meditation, which is called Thugdam, only happens with a very limited number of monks who have lived a life of mindfulness. He is shown below six hours after his passing. Three days later there was no visible decay though his body had begun to atrophy. The monks decided his meditation was completed and it was time for his body to be laid in state until the auspicious day chosen for the cremation.
Nine days later on October 22, he was cremated in the stupa built by the villagers in front of his meditation hut.
Immediately as the cremation began, the cloudy Himalayan skies opened up and sunshine appeared to the amazement of the many monks and villagers gathered to pay their respects. Dura Lagan had departed to his next life.
At the time of this writing, four monks are praying for 49 days. Together with relatives and the help of devotees, they are making preparations to build a stupa to celebrate Dura Lagan's life once his ashes and mud from the cremation are placed in the river about 10 kilometers from the monastery. (From the author's experience, fish are rarely eaten in Buddhist Mongolia because of river burials.) Dura Lagan's relatives and devotees are raising funds to create a small stupa which will be enshrined in his meditation room. If anyone is interested in participating in a small way, you can join The Elephant Story in this spiritual endeavor.
For some years, many of us have been practitioners of meditation as it does much to bring focus and cause the mind to escape the pressures of daily life. On the other hand, what better way to prepare oneself for the passage to the next life. If you ever suffer from sleeplessness or jet lag, the greatest burden is the realization that you will feel terrible the next morning from your insomnia which heightens the worry. Practice meditation rather than being troubled about not sleeping and either you will fall asleep or be rested with a clear mind following meditation. Maybe meditation is the optimum first step to the "Big Sleep."
A brief video below shows the awe on the faces of the monks when the sunshine broke through the clouds as the cremation began. It was an auspicious day and an auspicious event.
|Cremation of Tibetan Lama Dura Lagan