Lapchi - Buddhism Holy Pilgrimage Site



Front view of the restored Chöra Gephel Ling

Lapchi Snow Mountain is situated in the eastern part of Nepal at a height of about 4,850 meters. It is one of the 24 places in the world associated with Chakrasamvara, a deity belonging to the Anuttarayoga Tantra or the highest yoga tantra of Tibetan Buddhism.

Lapchi is revered as the speech mandala of Chakrasamvara, while Mount Kailash is the body mandala, and Tsari, the mind mandala. Lapchi has been blessed by Padmasambhava and many other great masters from India such as Saraha.

According to Yeshe Chogyal’s biography, there are 25 holy snow mountains of Padmasambhava in Tibet; Lapchi is one of them. Lapchi is also called Godavari in Sanskrit or Nyanyod in Tibetan. It means “left ear” as the shape of the cave resembles a human ear.

The altar inside Chöra Gephel Ling

In the 8th century, Yuthok Yonten Gonpo, the doctor of King Trisong Detsen, also came to meditate in Lapchi. The cave where he meditated is now known as Yuthok Phug.

In the 11th century, the great translator, Marpa (1012-1097), sent his disciple, Milarepa (1052-1135), to practice in Lapchi. He told Milarepa that Lapchi would be a conducive and beneficial place for retreat. At that time, Marpa also confirmed that Lapchi is one of the 24 holy sites of Chakrasamvara.

Following his guru’s instruction, Milarepa spent many years meditating in the snow mountains of Lapchi, especially a cave that has come to be known as Du-dul Phug (Cave of Subjugation of Mara), where he subjugated the local spirits of Lapchi. Although the dakinis had previously been subjugated by Padmasambhava in Rongshar (or Drin Valley) that lies slightly east of Lapchi, they were still very mischievous until Milarepa freed this sacred area by taming the deities and negative forces that impeded the Dharma there. Ever since, the deities protect and help anyone who prays to them with ardent devotion.

There are several widely known caves of Milarepa in Lapchi: Du-dul Phug (Cave of Subjugation of Mara), Ze Phug (Crest Cave), Bepa Gong Phug (Revelation of All Secrets Upper Cave), Bepa Og Phug (Revelation of All Secrets Lower Cave), Rechen Phug, and  Lungten Phug (Prophesied Cave of the Great Forest).

Milarepa performed many miracles in Lapchi and left behind sacred marks such as his footprints and so on. He also made a statue of himself with clay, mixing it with blood from his nose and his saliva. It is called Shang Drak Ma (Nasal-blood Image). The original statue had actually crumbled over time. However, H.H. Chetsang Rinpoche managed to remake three more statues using the remains of the original statue. One is kept in Lapchi, one has been sent to Drikung Thil Monastery in Tibet, and the third one is at Jangchub Ling in India.
 The restored Jangchub Stupa near Chöra Gephel Ling

There was also a stone from Milarepa’s cremation hearth upon which the Mani mantra of Avalokiteshvara had miraculously appeared. The stone is now kept in Phel Gye Ling Monastery in Rongshar.

Lapchi has seen its ups and downs throughout the course of history. There are four significant periods when many practitioners gathered in Lapchi to practice. In the 11th century during Milarepa’s stay in Lapchi, he attracted many disciples there. In the 13th century, Lord Jigten Sumgon sent 55,525 disciples simultaneously to do retreat in Lapchi. In the 15th century Lapchi Namkha Gyaltsen practiced in Lapchi for more than 30 years with many disciples. Dharma practice in Lapchi declined between these periods until the 18th century when Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol (1781-1851) came to Lapchi. He built Chöra Gephel Ling and the Jangchub Stupa. It was said that one day, Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol gathered his disciples and expressed the wish to build a stupa. There were so many disciples that each of them only had to carry one rock and the stupa was completed in one day. Dharma practice in Lapchi re-flourished until 1959.

Since the mid-1990s, much effort has been put into restoring Lapchi to make this holy place more accessible to practitioners as well as to improve the lives of the local people.

Milarepa

May those who have seen my face or heard what I have had to say,

And those who keep my story in their minds,

Those who have only heard of it or only heard my name,

May we all meet in True Joy’s pure domain.

~ Milarepa ~

Milarepa was born in 1052, in the village of Kya Ngatsa (a.k.a. Tsa) in Gungthang province of western Tibet to a prosperous family. He was named Mila Thöpaga, which means “a joy to hear.” His carefree childhood came to an abrupt end at the age of seven when his father passed away. Not only did his uncle and aunt seize all of the family’s wealth, they enslaved Milarepa, his mother, and his younger sister and made them do their bidding.

After having endured several years of abuse and humiliation, Milarepa’s mother sent him off to learn black magic from a lama. When his aunt and uncle were having a celebration for their son’s marriage, Milarepa evoked a curse that demolished their house, killing 35 people. The villagers were enraged and wanted to capture him. Milarepa’s mother managed to send word to him on time and to deter them, he summoned a hailstorm to destroy the villagers’ crops.

However, remorse filled his conscience and he knew that his revenge was wrong. Thus he set off  to find a guru and was led to Marpa the Great Translator. Seeing both the great potential and the negative karma within Milarepa, Marpa put him through various strenuous tasks such as building and demolishing three towers all by himself. Milarepa dutifully carried out the tasks until his back was covered with wounds, blood and pus. Still, Marpa refused to teach him. Marpa’s wife took pity on Milarepa and forged a letter of introduction to another teacher, Lama Ngogdun Chudor, under whose guidance, Milarepa began to practice meditation. However, when he was not making any progress, he confessed the forgery and Lama Ngogdun Chudor said that it was vain to hope for spiritual growth without the guru’s approval and blessings.

Milarepa returned to Marpa with great remorse and was put through more tasks. It was through all these tests that Milarepa’s past negative deeds were finally purified. He was then allowed to receive teachings and empowerments from Marpa. Later, Milarepa followed Marpa’s instructions and went on to practice in remote areas, meditating in deserted caves. After 12 years of diligent practice, Milarepa attained the state of Vajradhara – complete enlightenment. He became known as Milarepa, which means “Mila, the cotton clad one”.

Among all the places visited by Milarepa, Lapchi is probably the best known holy place. Marpa sent Milarepa to Lapchi because he knew that it would be conducive for his practice. Milarepa subjugated the Five Sisters of Long Life as well as many other local spirits and demons that  impeded the flourishing of Dharma there. The local villagers were thus able to lead a peaceful and meaningful life following the path of Dharma. Milarepa performed many miracles in Lapchi and left behind sacred marks such as his footprints and so on.

Milarepa is famous for many of his songs and poems, in which he expresses the profundity of his realization of the Dharma. He had many disciples, male and female, including Rechung Dorje Drakpa and Gampopa. His female disciples include Rechungma, Padarbum, and Tseringma. Gampopa became Milarepa’s spiritual successor. He continued the lineage which later developed  into the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

Chora Gephel Ling, Lapchi


Crossing the river

First Route
Nepal – Kathmandu to Lapchi
First Day
·         From eastern Kathmandu to Lapchi district (ending at Charikot Dolkha): 6 hrs by bus or private vehicle
·         Charikot Dolkha to Shigati: 3 hrs by bus or private vehicle
·         Overnight stay at Shigati
Second Day
·         Shigati to Suri-Dhopan: 2 hrs of walking
·         Suri-Dhopan to Manthale: 2.5 hours of walking
·         Manthale to Jagat: 2 hrs of walking
·         Overnight stay at Jagat
Third Day
·         Jagat to Gongur: 2 hrs of walking
·         Gongur to Chootchoot: 2 hrs of walking
·         Chootchoot to Lamabagar: 4 hrs of walking
·         Overnight stay at Lamabagar
Fourth Day
·   Lamabagar to below Lumnang Godavari (Lapchi winter place): 7 hrs of walking
(Note: this is the most difficult and risky part of the journey)
Fifth Day
·   Lumnang to Chöra Gephel Ling (Lapchi summer place): 7 hrs of walking

Source : Lapchi Restoration Project