Khenpo Tsering is the present abbot of Surmang Dutsi Til, which was the monastery of Chogyam Trunpa Rinpoche. Khenpo is planning for the grand opening and consecration of the new Shedra in Surmang, Tibet for the summer of 2017. Khenpo expressed his great appreciation to Conscious Journeys for serving as a bridge between the east and west.
Pilgrimage to Surmang
In the summer of 2013, Jerry Colonna, a trustee of the Naropa University and board member of the Tibetan Village Project, said “I want to take Judy and Chuck Lief to Tibet on a Conscious Journeys Trip as a birthday gift to Judy. She had “introduced me the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and I am grateful for that.” We embarked on a two-week journey to Surmang, a small Tibetan village at an altitude of 12,200 ft. It is located about 80 km east of the town of Jyeku, in the region of Kham (now part of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai Province). The primary purpose of this pilgrimage was to have an audience with the 12th Trunpa, Chökyi Senge.
Traveling Through Kham
We started our journey in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, China’s southwestern province, and a major hub for all Tibetan areas. We drove through mountainous areas and past the many monasteries in Kham on our way to Surmang. Kham is one of three historical regions of Tibet and it covers a land area largely divided between the present-day Tibet Autonomous Region and Sichuan province. Along the journey, we visited an orphanage that is supported by the Tibetan Village Project. We also visited a Bon Monastery near town of Draggo (Ch:Luhuo) and a monastery school near Manigango before driving to Surmang through Jyeku.
Judy and Chuck Lief’s Tibet Trip
Judy Lief is a Buddhist teacher, author, as well as a senior student of the Tibetan master, The Ven. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. On this pilgrimage, Judy brought with her, The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, a three-volume set of books containing teachings given by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche from 1973-1986. Judy Lief both compiled and edited these precious teachings. Historically, this book is important as Chögyam Trungpa was forced to escape from Tibet in 1959. Trungpa Rinpoche spent his life teaching the dharma to Western students. Judy, along with her husband Chuck Lief, brought these teachings back to his monastery in Kham as a gift. Chuck Lief is presently, the President of Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado (founded by Chögyam Trungpa in 1974). Throughout this pilgrimage, Chuck spoke about how important this Tibet trip was to him and shared stories of how he used to serve Trungpa Rinpoche as a cook, Chakzo (business manager) and a travel assistant.
Meeting the 12th Trungpa Tulku
Being able to meet and have an audience with 12th Trungpa, Chökyi Senge is a dream for many of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s students in the West. Chuck, Judy and Jerry experienced many moments of joy, laughter, tears and an instant karmic connection with the present Trungpa. Judy’s offering of the Profound Treasury books as well as many of the Shambhala pins to 12th Trungpa, was a very profound and memorable experience for all. The present Trungpa Tulku was also very curious about students of Chögyam Trungpa. (Trungpa Rinpoche created a vast dharma network in the west, which now includes some 160 Shambhala Dharma Centers around the world).
Our itinerary also included a visit to Shechen Monastery, former home to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and where Sechen Kantrol and Khenpo Gangshar trained and taught Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Shechen Monastery is now being rebuilt and expanded with support from Karuna-Shechen, a support group led by Matthieu Ricard. Matthieu is a French monk who studied with Dilgo Khyentse and is author of many books including “The Monk and The Philosopher.” Matthieu also supports many community development projects in other parts of Tibet, Nepal, and India. Along our journey we briefly visited the nearby Dzogchen monastery, which is one of the two primary monasteries of the Nyingma tradition.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche (one of the sons of Chogyam Trungpa, and the present holder of the Shambhala lineage holder) had also previously visited Surmang and the Trungpa tulku. His supporters as well as the Konchok Foundation have been raising money to build a Shedra, (a monastic college) at Surmang Dutsi Til. When we visited Surmang, the Shedra was about 90% complete, but was short of funds. Because of Chuck and Judy’s first hand experience in Surmang, they were able to mobilize resources and raised over $175,000 with Konchok Foundation’s board. The Shedra project is almost complete and the grand opening and consecration is scheduled for end of July, 2017 in Tibet. Conscious Journeys will work with the Konchok Foundation to organize a trip for those who wish to participate in this pilgrimage back to Surmang in summer 2017.
Conscious Journeys is a Tibetan owned and operated social enterprise Travel Company that was started by the Tibetan Village Project (TVP). Conscious Journeys develops a unique community-based tourism product, provides authentic travel experiences and creates market access for local communities.