Gaden Relief Projects

Helping Tibetans preserve their unique culture.


Zadoh Mission Report
November 3, 2001

By Zasep Tulku Rinpoche

Dear friends,

I would like to share my report of our visit to Zadoh, Tibet in August 2001. We made lots of progress since last year when we started Zadoh Jamseng health care centre.

We had wonderful trip to Tibet. Everything went so well, better than what I would have thought. My friends Dr. Robbie Chase, Michele Davidson, Lana Weber, Andy Wells and I arrived in Beijing after an eleven hour flight from Vancouver, British Columbia. This year, once again, we did not have any problems with the Beijing Airport customs and immigration people. I could not keep myself from worrying about what they were going to do with my blessing pills and photos of Buddhas and money for the health care centre and monastery. But we went through the green light. When we got out of the airport building we found a van waiting for us. I bargained for a 300 yuans trip from the airport to Harmony hotel next to Beijing railway station. Pat Hilly, our Dharma friend from White Rock B.C., arranged hotel rooms for us. We enjoyed staying at Harmony Hotel. Thank you to Pat Hilly for her kindness.

The next day I phoned my cousin and aunt in Yushu. I found out two of my uncles, Tulku Tsewang Dechen and Karma Drupgyud, were in Xining. They returned from Kathmandu via Lhasa. On August 3rd we flew to Xining. My uncle Karma Drupgyud and Yanga, a relative of mine, greeted us at Xining airport and offered us kadars (scarves). It was so nice to see them at the airport; we felt very welcome. I always feel very happy whenever I am in the Xining area, because Kumbum monastery, the birth place of Lama Je Tsongkhapa, is not very far from there. Kumbum has changed a little bit since last year. The number of visitors and pilgrims is increasing each year. I noticed there is a new Tibetan hospital at Kumbum run by the monastery monks and doctors. I saw four young lay Tibetans who wore western dress doing full prostrations around the edges of the monastery; one of them spoke very good English. I feel very happy and proud when I see young Tibetans practise Dharma.

On August 5th we traveled by bus from Xining to Yushu and our journey took 27 hours. It was a long and hard journey. It was hard because some people smoked in the bus, it was packed with people and bags and the seats were hard. I found it is very hard on my lungs with five or six people smoking in the bus, especially with the windows unable to open. We had to wait for a long time when they changed the tires four times during our trip. Otherwise I enjoyed seeing the mountains, big sky and beautiful grassland. I love seeing the countless yaks and sheep grazing on the hills and in the valleys. We were going higher and higher every minute. One of the highest mountain passes, called Tala, is located between Golok prefecture and Yushu prefecture. When we got to the top of the pass everyone in the bus shouted, "So -So-So-" meaning "increasing, increasing goodness" and praised the gods. Andy told us we were at 15,200 feet above sea level. Not far below the pass we saw ranchers camping and grazing their yaks, sheep and horses.

We were very tired when we arrived in Yushu city at 7:00 pm. My cousin Abo waited for us for five hours around the bus station. Abo's family welcomed us. Soon after we arrived in Yushu, my brother and two doctors and a young man from Zadoh arrived. The mayor of Zadoh sent these people with a van for us. We got the travel permits to Zadoh the next day. It was so nice to have our own car; there were no smokers and we could stop where we wanted. We had a lovely picnic at Tsechuka valley next to the famous rock of the Ling Gesar the Great. Gesar was a Tibetan warrior and he was known as an incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. Gesar used this rock as a target for his bow and arrow.

Our homeland is very beautiful. I was joking with Robbie, Michele, Andy and Lana and said to them "My homeland is the best and it is one of the most beautiful places in Tibet and in the world." Lonely Planet travel guidebook says people have not yet discovered the beautiful area of Zadoh. So far there are very few individual tourists, and few whitewater rafters have been there. The Zadoh area is the source of the famous Mekong River. Zadoh is located in the middle of the beautiful Tangula mountain range. Most people are ranchers and they live 13,000 feet above sea level. The nature around Zadoh is fantastic. I love nature and every time I go there I say to myself, "Why am I not living in our beautiful homeland?" It is a good question for me. Zadoh area is a Pure Land for nature lovers, hikers and photographers. Some of the rocky mountains are covered by snow year round. According to our tradition, all the big mountains are holy mountains; they are the home and the body-mind of the great spirits. They all have names like Mt. Zagyal, the king of the rocks, Mt. Maryak, the great red one, Mt. Tsomen, the sea of medicine and Mt. Shankar. These mountains are awesome; they are the home of the real wildlife of Tibet. There are snow leopards, big horn sheep, deer, Tibetan grizzly bears, wolves, foxes, badgers, rear mask deer, river otters and rabbits, groundhogs, thousands of pikas, and so on. There are lots birds such hawks, vultures and bone-eating vultures, ravens, cranes, geese and ducks, magpies, swallows, doves, owls and many other kinds of birds. There are gold, jade, copper and many other minerals in our homeland.

Our homeland is rich in herbs such as Yar Tsa gunboo (caterpillar fungus). That is a very expensive herb used in Tibetan and Chinese medicine. I was told this medicine is a tonic and there is a big demand for it in the oriental herb market. The month of June is the harvest time of this herb. It is like a gold rush; thousands of people come to the Zadoh area to harvest and buy it. If you are not a local person, you have to obtain permits and pay taxes in order to harvest it.

Zadoh area is the homeland of the Gegyal and Drungpa people. We are Khampas of the eastern Tibet. We believe the greatest lamas, yogis and yoginis of all Tibetan Buddhist tradition come from Kham. Khampas are warriors and proud people with thousands of yaks, sheep and horses.

We arrived in Zadoh on August 8th and were welcomed by Mrs. Donche, the mayor of Zadoh, and other officials. The officials were waiting for us about 5 miles away from Zadoh on the highway. They gave us Kadars (white scarves) and three small cups of drinks for each person. That night the city officials offered us a big dinner at one of the restaurants in Zadoh. They thanked us for coming to Zadoh and bringing Dr. Robbie Chase and organizing the Seva eye camp in Zadoh.

On August 9th we had a productive meeting with the officials in Zadoh. Zadoh city agreed to provide space and electricity for the eye camp at the Zadoh county hospital. Zadoh officials and the health department requested that Seva pay the cost of bringing blind people by truck from Damzung and Mukzung in the remote northwest frontier of Qinghai Province. It will cost about 8,000 Yuans ($1,000 US). Seva agreed to pay the cost of bringing these people. I offered to pay the cost of bringing one truckload of blind people from Dakdu.

On August 10th Dr. Robbie Chase, Michele, Andy, Lana and I set up a temporary clinic at Zadoh county hospital. We gave medicine to people in Zadoh city, Jamseng health centre in Yol Nin Gar, Dechen Chokor Ling nunnery and Chepu village. We studied the people's health and visited their homes and did family genograms. We found so many people have the same kind of health problems. The most common physical problems are knee pain, hip pain, muscle cramps, rheumatism, arthritis, swelling of the feet, headaches, high blood pressure, body numbness, dizziness, chest pain, heart pain, shortness of breath, and kidney and bladder stones. Some people suffer from stomach problems, gall bladder problems, appendicitis, gall stones, etc. Some people have diabetes and some have TB. Some children suffer from bleeding in their ears, and some older people suffer from depression and sadness. We gave thousands of Tylenol, and drugs for high blood pressure, pills and medicine for warts, etc.

We worked very hard. A steady flow of people like the Mekong River started coming to our residence from 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. I translated for Dr. Robbie and at the same time did my Lama duties. I gave away thousands of blessing pills, hundreds of blessing cords and more than 500 photos of Buddhas and deities. I also did lots of MO (like I Ching) for people. We were extremely busy; there was no time for rest or going for walks. After everyone went to bed I found a little bit of time for myself, but by that time I was gone beyond and I said to myself, "I must go to bed. People will start coming at 7:00 a.m." We were all very happy to be in Zadoh, to have the opportunity to offer our services for people. I was very happy and proud that I could translate for Dr. Robbie, giving medicine and doing my Lama duties at the same time. I felt it was very important for me to give blessing cords and blessing pills to people and do MO for people because it is our tradition and we don't want to lose our wonderful traditions. I want to pass on these traditions to the younger generation.

We had a chance to visit Zuru monastery and Dzogchen monastery during our busy schedule. It was so nice to see these Temples even though there was no time for us to do retreat or meditation. We felt it was more important to help the sick people in Zadoh than for us to do meditation at these monasteries. We would like very much to do some meditation at these monasteries in the future. We had a lovely lunch at Dzogchen and tea at Zuru.

The construction of Jamseng health care centre was completed on August 5th.The construction and design of the clinic are very good. Everyone was happy and satisfied with the way it was built. Jamseng health care centre is located on the bank of the Mekong River, an hour and a half southeast of Zadoh city. Jamseng is built on the ancient site of Yol Nin Gar castle. There are beautiful mountains and juniper trees around Jamseng. About 7000 people live in the Jamseng area. Jamseng is the first health care centre ever built in this area.

We arrived at the village of Yol Nin Gar on the 12th. The people of Namsey county gave us a big reception. They offered sage and juniper to the gods and they were waiting for us for hours. Close to 50 horsemen and more then 15 guys with motorcycle welcomed us. The nuns from a nearby nunnery played monastic music on an instrument that looks like a straight soprano sax. The village heads gave us kadars (scarves); so many people came to me to get blessings and say, "hi" and "thank you." Everyone was very happy. The villagers offered us a big dinner. We were treated like kings.

The official blessing and opening ceremony was done on the 13th of August. It was a big day for many of us. I did Medicine Buddha Puja with some monks from Tashi Lhapug monastery and Zuru monastery. Some nuns and our friends joined us. It was a very beautiful Puja. I felt the blessings of Medicine Buddha were already there and more blessings came down from the pure land of lapis lazuli light. We invited head lamas from the monasteries and nunneries, and of course the politicians and officials of the city of Zadoh and heads of the village of Namsey and Yol Nin Gar. There were close to 75 guests. The mayor of Zadoh, Mrs. Donche, and heads of the village and I gave opening speeches. I thanked the Zadoh Jamseng health committee, officials of Zadoh city and village heads and gave a special thank you to Dr. Laydar and my brother Jamdak who worked very hard. Mrs. Donche thanked us for coming all the way from Canada and the US to set up the health care centre and bring medicine and funds for our people and she said our work is purely for the benefit of the society. We did a ribbon cutting ceremony. It was a very moving ceremony and a very exciting and happy atmosphere. Many, many people came up to me and gave me Kadars and we all congratulated each other. My brother Jamdak and my family and relatives were very happy and proud.

Dr. Pawo Agnok works for Jamseng. He is a well-known local Tibetan doctor and worked as a doctor for over 30 years. Jamseng health care committee is organizing obtaining basic equipment such as solar panels, a woodstove, medicine cabinets, chairs and tables, etc, They will buy Tibetan medicine from Yushu prefecture hospital. I was able to leave some money to buy this equipment and medicine for the winter. We need funds for buying more medicine for Jamseng. Now that Jamseng is open, more people will be traveling to Jamseng in the winter months, because people get sick in the winter and the winter is long there. This is just the beginning of Jamseng. I would like to ask people not to think, "Now we've got the health care centre in the Zadoh area so things will be fine." I will be traveling to Zadoh with Dr. Robbie Chase and some physicians in summer of 2003. We are going there as a team of healthcare workers to help people, not as a tourists. We need to raise funds for Jamseng. We need all sorts of medicine and equipment. Michele Davidson would like to organize eye doctors to go there.

On August 14th we were invited to camp a three-hours hike away to examine the condition of a sick woman and her family, because she was too weak to walk or ride a horse. Dr. Robbie did a family genogram and gave medicine. We had a great hike and I felt good seeing these people. On August 15th we traveled to Pal Dechen Chokor Ling Nunnery. Dr. Robbie examined the health of some of the older nuns there. Then on August 17th we traveled by horse to Chepu, the homeland of my grandfather. We had a wonderful four-hour horse ride. There we stayed at the home of Chema and Gabo with their four children. We gave presents to the family. Dr. Robbie gave sunglasses and a small pocketknife to their youngest son Tsering. He was so happy that he got a knife from a far away land called Janata. His mother told us that he was so excited that he could not sleep that night thinking that he got a knife that he always wanted. We had a lovely time with them. We stayed in the tent and ate Tsampa (barley flour), yak meat, yogurt and yak cheese. The view from their tent is awesome. You can see most of the mountains around Zadoh, including Mt. Maryak, the great red one and Mt. Shankar.

On August 18th we went up to Mt. Maryak, the great red one to offer prayer flags, juniper and sage. There were about 50 local people waiting for us to go up to the mountains with us. They were wearing their best dress and riding their strongest, wild-looking horses. We made offerings and it was a rainy and cloudy day but magical. On our way back we visited many homes. Dr. Robbie examined their health and gave medicine and I did MO and gave them blessing pills, blessing cords and photos of Buddhas and HH Gyalwa Karmapa. By the time I finished doing MO and giving blessings it was late evening. Jampa and I traveled in the drak with our horses and could not see very much, but the horses knew their way back home. We arrived safely at Chema and Gabo's home at 9:30 p.m.

On August 21st we set up a temporary clinic at Zadoh county hospital again and we saw around 40 patients that day. While we were in the Zadoh area we saw a total of 300 patients and we gave away medicine worth more then $1800. We also gave drugs to Dr. Urgen's hospital in Yushu city.

Life is transient and our time in Zadoh almost over. On August 22nd Dr. Robbie Chase and Michele Davidson traveled back to Yushu city and Lana, Andy and I traveled towards Tashi Lhapug monastery to the west by jeep. Three hours later we arrived at my cousin Karma Tenzin's home. There was a reception everywhere we went this year. We had a lovely lunch and then traveled to the west, but we could not travel by jeep; there was too much mud on the mountain pass. So we waited for our friends to organize horses for us. Three hours afterward, seven of us traveled on horseback. We camped out that night at the home of a wonderful family called Gamsten Tsang. I had a wonderful dream that night. In my dream I saw lots of beautiful pictures of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche my root Guru and pictures of deities and Dharma protectors. I was very happy when I woke up. I thought, "My root Guru is happy and he is giving permission for me to bestow initiations at Tashi Lhapug monastery."

The next day around 2:00 p.m. we arrived at Tashi Lhapug monastery. There was a big welcome and reception organized by the Lamas and lay people around Tashi Lhapug monastery. They set up big and small tents for us. The Lamas and monks made a procession to greet me. They were holding Dharma umbrellas and banners and blowing conch shells, big horns and beating the drums. The head Lamas first greeted us with kadars; then all the monks came and welcomed us. Tashi Lhapug monastery was rebuilt in 1980. It is located on the bank of the Mekong between the big mountains. There are mountain spring waters and waterfalls around the monastery. The natural setting -- land formations and wildlife -- around Tashi Gompa is great. Tashi Lhapug monastery is most conducive to monks doing their long-term retreats. It is also a great place for lay people to practise meditation. Tashi Lhapug was consecrated and blessed by the Fifth Dalai Lama, the great one.

August 24th was a magical day at Tashi Lhapug; the clouds, sun and rain came by all day. The head lamas of Tashi Lhapug and representatives of people who live in the area had important meetings that day. I gave donations to the monastery from Canada. The lamas of Tashi Lhapug requested me to give the initiation of Maha Vairochana in the summer of 2003 and they asked me help them rebuild their school of contemplation and philosophic studies. I promised that I would do my best to raise funds for rebuilding the school before year 2003. I felt very honoured by the lamas asking me to help them. I am happy to do that. Tashi Lhapug is far away from Zadoh and the poorest monastery in the Zadoh district materially, but spiritually Tashi Gompa is great. The monks practise hard and study very hard. I really would like to help them.

On August 25th I gave Chittamani Tara initiation at Tashi Lhapug monastery. Two head lamas and 45 monks and almost 200 lay people attended the initiation ceremony. It was another big day for us. I felt I was in a trance state during my own self-initiation and while I was giving the initiation. I felt everything went so fast and I had so much energy. We made tsog offering at the end of the initiation. We were leaving the next day, so I was giving blessing pills and cords to the monks and lay people until 10:00 p.m. and the next day up to our departure. At almost midnight six young monks come to our tent requesting me to give Lung (transmission) prayer and Mantra of one particular deity. While I was at Tashi Lhapug monastery the monks and lay people gave me offerings and money to pray for them. It is the Tibetan tradition to make offerings to a lama, especially if you haven't seen him for a long time. The lama should not refuse their offering, otherwise they feel sad, but I did not want to leave with their offerings, so I gave it to Lochog Rinpoche, a lama and doctor, and asked him to buy medicine for the poor people during long winter months.

On August 26th we left Tashi Lhapug with mixed feelings of a little sadness as well as accomplishment. When we were leaving, snow came down above the monastery. I felt good. My grandfather always said it is a good farewell by the spirits of the mountains if snow comes down when you arrive and leave your homeland. We traveled by horse for 8 hours that day and in the evening we reached my cousin Karma Tenzin's home. The next day, on our way back from Tashi Lhapug, for the first time we visited my brother's home. We could not stay longer than two hours there because we spent all our time in Zadoh and the other areas. On August 28th we left Zadoh for Yushu city.

We had a wonderful and successful trip. My friends Andy, Lana, Robbie and Michele are great travelers. We always appreciated each other's friendship and I would like to thank them for coming with me this year. Special thanks to Dr. Robbie and Michele for their hard work, setting up the clinic and Seva eye camp in Zadoh. Thank you to Andy and Lana for your help and for bringing clothes for children. I am sending my special thanks to the people of Gaden Relief and Zadoh health care committee in Canada and all the supporters of Zadoh health care in Canada, the US and Australia. Young people who are studying Tibetan medicine and lamas and monks send their thanks and gratitude to their sponsors in the west.

Seva eye camp was a blessing for the people of Zadoh. Seva doctors restored sight to blind people in Zadoh County. The people of Zadoh showed their gratitude to Seva. According to Dr. Chondal Tenzin's report, the Seva doctors were buried in piles of white scarves expressing the people's happiness at the end of their eye camp in Zadoh city. Michele and I approached Seva in Vancouver in November 2000 to organize an eye camp in Zadoh. We worked with Alexa in the states, and Mr. Tashi Tsering from Nangchen, Tibet visited Zadoh in July. He organized an invitation letter with Zadoh officials for the Chinese visa for Seva doctors in Kathmandu. Seva doctors and a team of 9 people led by Dr. Chondak Tenzin and Dr. Narayan arrived in Zadoh on September 12th. Some of the doctors came from Lhasa and Yushu. Zadoh officials gave them a very welcome reception and worked along with Seva doctors. Seva and Jamseng health care committee organized transportation to bring blind people into Zadoh from far north. According to Dr. Chodak Tenzin`s report, Seva doctors saw 600 people in three days and carefully examined their eye conditions. They operated on 133 cataract patients and 5 patients with minor diseases. Dr. Chondak Tenzin hopes Zadoh officials will continue to conduct eye camps on a regular basis and call the doctors from Yushu. My brother Jamdak and Dr. Laydar said Seva doctors are like Bodhisattvas; they worked everyday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Eye surgery was completely free. I am very thankful to the Seva doctors and Seva eye service society. My special thanks to Michele Davidson, Alexa in the states, Mr. Tashi Tsering in Nangchen, Tibet, Mrs. Donched-la, Mayor and Governor of Zadoh County, Dr. Laydar, Dr. Pie Tri Jee who was a very sweet and kind man and to my brother Jamdak. This Seva eye camp in Zadoh is the first eye camp ever done in Zadoh. I hope there will be many more eye camps set up by Seva around Tibet. Good Luck for Seva!

Many Blessings,
Zasep Rinpoche