NYEMA Projects, Inc.

Seven Weeks in Tibet:
A Summer in Nangchen with Lama Norlha Rinpoche

Getting to know the nuns of Kala Rongo

From top to bottom:
Gena (l) and Bari (r) with the
 "Cave Ani" at Kala Rongo.
Bari's room at Kala Rongo Monastery.
View of valley village across the river.
Nuns in tent.
Nomad tent.
Milking a yak.

Over the course of the next five weeks, Rinpoche went back and forth between Kala Rongo and Korche bestowing blessings and teachings, while several nuns from Rinpoche’s monastery in New York—Samzang, Jinzang and Yangchen—conducted the business of running all of these many projects. My camerawoman, Gena, and I mostly stayed at Kala Rongo, focusing our camera on the daily activities there. During that time, I would come to know many of these nuns, and to hear firsthand about how their lives have been transformed, both by having Kala Rongo as their home, and more profoundly through the range of opportunities to study and practice the Dharma that has been given them.

I would watch as day in and day out the younger nuns tirelessly hauled mud and climbed ladders to build the new retreat. I would be led by a group of nuns up a steep mountain to reach the grazing area for the monastery’s yak herd, and return the next day with the milk for Rinpoche’s tea. I would climb the cliff leading to the cave of a nun who has lived and practiced there for seven years, and visit the nomadic home of another nun who will begin 1,000 nyungne practices this fall at Rinpoche’s request. I would join the local people gathered for the Khenpo’s “100-Day Teaching,” a periodic series of public teachings that makes clearly evident the impact of Kala Rongo on the local population. And all the while, I had to keep reminding myself that only 14 years ago, this thriving community was just empty land on the side of a mountain.

Further reflections from the comfort of home

As I sit here now, back in the comforts of my Greenwich Village apartment, I am swirling in the news of the fire that has destroyed the main monastery building containing the shrine room and the guest quarters that were my home there. It was the building that established Kala Rongo, created with the nuns’ own hands on the ground designated by Lama Norlha Rinpoche and Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche to be the center of the new monastery. It is devastating news, of course, but I am heartened by what I have been privileged to learn first-hand: that with their seemingly boundless energy, their uncomplaining willingness to accomplish what is asked of them, their unyielding devotion to Rinpoche, and of course the kindness that has been bestowed upon them by Rinpoche and the supporters of NYEMA, it will be rebuilt.

I will be writing my check again at Losar, this time with the memories of this journey and the faces and voices of these individuals fresh in my head. I humbly request that you consider doing the same.

May this be of benefit to all beings,

Bari Pearlman

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