HIMALAYAN JOURNEY (Summer 2017)
"Inaccessibility and isolation has protected Zanskar (a remote region on the border of Tibet in the Northern Himalayas of India) from cultural change. Today, it is the last place on earth where the original Tibetan Buddhist way of life still exists.
The journey of your life awaits you. Join Geshe Lobsang Yonten, a Tibetan Monk who was recruited by the Dalai Lama to help preserve the Tibetan language and culture as your guide. Recently, a film made about Geshe Lobsang, "Journey from Zanskar," by the Academy Award nominated director, Frederick Marx (Hoop Dreams) and narrated by Richard Gere, has been shown at film festivals all over the world. The DVD is available through the Metropolitan Art Exchange.
Our journey begins in Delhi, where Geshe Lobsang will greet us at the airport and take us to a Tibetan guest house for rest the night of your arrival. The following day, we are wisked off to the airport to travel to the Ladhadaki capital of Leh. At an altitude of 11,000 feet (3524m) Leh was an important stopover on trade routes along the Indus Valley between Tibet to the east, Kashmir to the west and also between India and China for centuries. The main goods carried were salt, grain, pashm or cashmere wool, cannabis resin from the Tarim Basin, indigo, silk yarn and Banaras brocade. We are delivered to the Asia Guesthouse, where mint tea and a delicious Ladakhi meal awaits us. We rest for one day to acclimate ourselves to the high altitude.
Ladakh (The Land of High Passes) was once a part of Tibet, and is now a region in the northern highlands of India. The Himalayan Mountains dominate the landscape around its capital, Leh. The principal access roads include the 434 km Srinagar-Leh highway which connects Leh with Srinagar and the 473 km Leh-Manali Highway which connects Manali with Leh. Both roads are open only on a seasonal basis. Although the access roads from Srinagar and Manali are often blocked by snow in winter, the local roads in the Indus Valley usually remain open due to the low level of precipitation and snowfall which makes for an fabulous hiking journey.
After a leisurely day of rest, we travel to the ancient palaces and monasteries in and around Leh en route to Zanskar. We will visit Alchi Monastery, mainly known for its magnificent and well preserved 11th ad 12th century wall paintings, all in Indian style. We visit Hemis Monastery, the largest monastic institution in Ladakh belonging to the Drukpa Lineage or the Dragon Order of Mahayana Buddhism, (where it is believed that scrolls exist about the Lost Years of Jesus.) Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje (1161-1211) and one of the most celebrated yogis in the Himalayas came to Ladakh in the 13th century and established the Drukpa Lineage here. Gyalwa Gotsangpa meditated in a cave on the edge of the mountain above Hemis Monastery, where a mediation center named after him was established.
62 kilometers outside of Leh is Likir Monastery, a repository of various old manuscripts a collection of thangkas, old religious and domestic costumes and implements. A huge Jupiter tree, one of the few remaining of its species stands majestically in the courtyard.
Lamayuru Gompa (Monastery) lies 157 km from Leh. Legend has it that Lamayuru Valley the area was once a clear lake in the time of the Shayamuni Buddha. Each year a masked dance is hosted where monks from all over the valley join in. And on to our final monastic destination, the home of our host, Geshe Lobsang Yonten, is the 1000 year old Stongdey Gompa in Zanskar, a flourishing Buddhist monastery in the Jammu and Kashmir region of northern India.
The gompa was founded in 1052 CE by Naropa's disciple, the famous translator Lama Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097). It was taken over by the Gelugpa about four centuries later and became dedicated to Je Tsongkhapa.
It is the second largest monastic institution in Zanskar, with a community of about 60 Gelukpa monks. Every year the Gustor Festival is held on the 28th and 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar. There are seven temples in all. The Tshogs-khang is decorated with exquisite painting including some with deities on a black background outlined in gold. Upon arrival at the Gompa, the hospitality of the resident monks will be most welcome. The monks offer butter tea and invite us to their 1000 year old temple to witness a TIbetan blessing ceremony. The Stongdey monks have built a school for the Tibetan children of the area to keep the Tibetan culture and language alive, just as Geshe Lobsang works tirelessly to continue in the school in Manali. We will meet many of the children educated by these monks. We also have a the honor to meet the resident artist monk of Stongdey who has made by hand all of the furniture and collectibles, in the Tibetan style, of the monastery in this past fifty decades.
Zanskar is one of the last remaining original Tibetan Buddhist societies with a continuous untainted lineage dating back thousands of years. Zanskar, ringed by high Himalayan mountains in northwest India, one of the most remote places on the planet. We will pass by Nun and Kun, the third and fourth tallest mountains in the world. We will come within meters of a glacier.
The spectacular monasteries built into the sides of the mountains that we come across while trekking are surrounded by naked lunar hills. The various peaks are surrounded by dramatic landscapes. The climbs and dips past ancient fortresses, wide meadows and braided streams leave you totally exhilarated. The view from the peaks are spectacular: tall, snow covered peaks fall away endlessly on all sides. The Zanskar trek thus forces you to define the world silence.
After Stongdey, we begin our trek back by bus to Dharamsala, to the palace of the Dalai Lama. We will visit Norbulingka, the artist's colony and Gyuto Tantric University, the home the Karmapa, the head of the Kagyu branch of Buddhism. We will visit the artists creating their thankgka paintings, weaving their wall hangings and creating a White Tara or a Green Tara for the Dalai Lama or the Karmapa. The gardens of Norbulingka are filled with serenity and tranquility.
The satisfaction and fulfillment of this experience is unparalleled. As a little reward for our tireless efforts, Geshela will take us to the Taj Mahal and the pink city Jaipur.
You will talk about this profound experience until the end of your days. There is nothing to compare.......
Dates and Cost of trip to TBD....
Stay tuned for a description of our trip in Autumn of 2016 to the Aegean and Turquoise coasts of the archaeological and historic arts of Turkey and Catalan Spain in summer 2016.