Tibetans preserve their unique culture.
Zadoh Mission Report
November 3, 2001
Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
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
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
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
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!