For over half a decade, a small group of Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoché’s students have been researching the sacred sites of Guru Padmsambhava. Our goal has been to fulfill a single overarching mission: connect modern practitioners with the extraordinary life and accomplishments of Guru Padmasambhava. The name given to the project was Nekhor: pilgrimage in Tibetan—literally, circling the sacred.
Following in Your Footsteps
Samye Translations has taken up the direction of this enterprise, and we are now pleased to share that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit. This November, Rangjung Yeshe Publications released Following in Your Footsteps: The Lotus-Born Guru in Nepal, which presents the incredible feats of Guru Padmasambhava in this Himalayan land of Nepal. This is but the first of a three-part series covering Nepal, India, and Tibet, and it is accompanied by an ever-expanding practical pilgrimage resource at www.nekhor.org
To celebrate this event, the Nekhor team organized a November pilgrimage to the sacred sites of the Mahaguru in Nepal. We followed the course of the Barché Lamsel prayer, which, as you know, forms the basis of the Tukdrup Barché Kunsel cycle of practices. This led us to five sites, all featured in Following in Your Footsteps, all places where the Mahaguru dispelled obstacles, namely: Maratika, Asura Cave & Yangleshö, Chumik Changchup, Yarinak, and Tsawarong.
Follow along as we share some of our favorite images and photos from the journey. We hope it will inspire you to connect with these sacred sites as well!
Nekhor began celebrating the launch of Following in Your Footsteps: The Lotus-Born Guru in Nepal with a pilgrimage to the caves of Maratika. This is a view looking down into the valley where Mandarava’s practice cave is hidden away.
Drupla Sonam Tsering led us through the forested hills and subterranean caverns where Guru Padmasambhava and the Indian Princess Mandarava practiced. Here they attained the siddhi of deathlessness, meeting Buddha Amitayus face to face.
Asura and Yangleshö
After a few days soaking up the blessings of Maratika, our pilgrimage continued with a visit to the caves of Asura and Yangleshö, a place said to be equivalent to Bodh Gaya for followers for Guru Padmasambhava. In the Barché Kunsel, it is also remembered as where Padmasambhava manifested as a great pandita who could bring together all the teachings of Vajrakilaya, and thus was known as Mawé Sengé, Lion of Speech.
Lama Ngawang Yeshe, who has lived and mediated here since he was a young boy, recounted the Mahaguru’s activities in Asura and Yangleshö and led us in practice.
We offered cleansing sang incense on the hilltop above the caves, then visited the self-arising Tara in stone, paid our respects to the holy remains of Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche, and finally made offerings at the lower Yangleshö cave.
The next phase of our journey led us to Chumik Changchup, the Spring of Enlightenment, where Guru Rinpoché, then known as Kyechok Tsülzang, plunged his kila dagger into the bare rock after taming four female demons. From that very spot, a stream of blessed water sprang forth, which still flows today.
We had the excellent fortune to meet Lama Rigdzin, who has been in retreat at Chumik Changchup for over four decades. With the absolute certainty that can only come from practice, Lama Rigdzin emphasized that if we pray to Guru Rinpoche from the bottom of our hearts every single day, there is no doubt he will care for us in this life, and lead us to his pure land of Copper-Colored Mountain in the next. The joy was palpable!
Our journey then brought us to Yarinak, where Guru Padmasambhava spent years in retreat practicing Vajrakilaya, the embodiment of enlightened action. Here we walk down to the site where he is remembered in the Tukdrup Barché Kunsel as Dukyi Shechen, Wrathful Tamer of Maras.
The luminous Lama Opak recounted stories of the Mahaguru’s feats here, and together we lit butter lamps, offered tsok, and prayed before a Mahaguru statue consecrated in 2016 by Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche.
On the auspicious day of Lhabap Duchen, our Nekhor pilgrims reached the last stop of the journey, following the footsteps of Guru Padmasambhava in Nepal. At the confluence of two sacred rivers known as Tsawarong, the Mahaguru tamed twenty-one Genyen spirits in the form known as Kyepar Phakpé Rigdzin, Exalted Vidyadhara.
In honor of this, we offered Barché Kunsel’s Concise Sang, a practice emerging from Guru Rinpoche’s activities and accomplishment right here in Tsawarong.
Back in Boudha
Returning to Boudha, our group celebrated the launch of Following in Your Footsteps: The Lotus-Born Guru in Nepal, released that final day of our pilgrimage!
May you too have the chance to connect with authentic places of practice and realization! May we join as pilgrims together, again and again, always following in the footsteps of the Mahaguru, Padmsambhava!
Peter Woods and Stefan Mang