Last summer I had the incredible good fortune to be brought by my friend Vic to meet his teacher, Lama Karwang, in a remote village in what, if you find it on Google Maps, will be called China, but previously was known as Tibet. Lama Karwang has never published in English, and has never been outside his country. He was imprisoned by the Chinese for twenty years, when they entered Tibet, destroyed almost all the monasteries, and imprisoned all the highest lamas. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was able to escape; Lama Karwang and many others did not. Of the lamas who were imprisoned at the time, I believe Lama Karwang was the only one still living. That is no longer the case. Lama Karwang died last week. My friend Vic was able to go and pay his respects. Here is his report:
Thousands of people passed the body of Lama Karwang today. Monks, high lamas, nomads, lay people, and many many small children. The body is still in the lotus position, still warm after 8 days or more, still no sign of deterioration. It is quite amazing.
The people who come take a circuitous path (a circumambulation) around his house and finally come around the last corner to view the body directly behind an open window. A bit shocking for some.
The monks attending the alter in front of the window and dispensing precious substances have remained very stoic but compassionate throughout.
Near the end of the day, after everyone, sister-in-law to Lama Karwang passed through. Sister-in-law and her husband, one of Lama’s many brothers, was the only one out of many family members and devotees who agreed to take Lama into their home after his release from 19 years in a Chinese prison. All the others were afraid of the potentially hazardous and potentially horrendous repercussions from the Chinese authorities as a result of their affiliation with him had they taken him in. Perhaps a healthy, well-founded fear.
Soon after they took him in the brother died and since then sister-in-law has taken incredibly excellent care of Lama Kharwang. It seems that she has absorbed many of his qualities as a result of being with him and attending to him for so many years. She too embodies a higher consciousness.
Sister-in-law is getting very old, and seems very frail now. She cannot walk without assistance and has horrible arthritis in her hips. So when she made the circumambulation around the house it was a supreme struggle. She was accompanied and assisted by her daughters and granddaughters and followed by many women old and young.
What took most people about a minute to get around, took her 20. When she finally made it around the last corner almost all the women were weeping. She then made the supreme homage and prostrated 3 times in front of the body, sharp pain, her own body shaking and quivering. Tears streamed down the faces of most of the 8 stoic monks.
Sister-in-law didn’t bat an eye as she took the blessings and the precious substances and slowly, very very slowly made her way back to her chair and with her prayer beads began once again to say mantras.
Lama Karwang’s sister-in-law:
There has been a hard steady rain all day yet nomads and monks from Markam and Xining and Golok Tuk are arriving to pay respects, view the body, offer khatas and receive blessings, precious pills, and bits of fabric from lama’s clothing. Maybe a thousand nomads and monks today so far by 1pm. Slipping and sliding and some falling on the way up the steep, now sleek muddy hill that leads to the house.
Just before his passing Lama Karwang was said to have uttered this: “Whoever comes to this place and recites the Mani Mantra and thinks of me will become quickly enlightened.”
Tomorrow Khangsar Rinpoche will arrive. He is one and the same with Lama Karwang, considered the very same reincarnation of Yudra Nyingpo. He will be the third lama to attempt touching Lama Karwang’s heart with a dorje and thereby wake him from the current deep meditation so he can proceed to the higher realms.
Most people who visit leave rather shaken or crying after seeing the body. Most who come have never met Lama Karwang but because his body remains so intact and in the lotus position and warm the word is rapidly spreading and he will probably become legendary among Tibetans. Many more will come tomorrow. This phenomenon happens here, but very rarely.
Maybe after Khangsar touches the heart with his dorje tomorrow the body will collapse. Then a cremation will most likely take place after which will be the search through the ashes for relics.
Strange events are happening and have been somewhat common through time but the Tibetan culture is rapidly changing due to the influx and politics of the Chinese. These events will cease as the Tibetan culture falls away. I am so fortunate to see this extraordinary way of life. Material objects are not cherished but kindness is. The most important questions concern where the mind is and the depth of one’s compassion. Therefore the Tibetans are easily overrun by the huge numbers of automatic rifle carrying Chinese military. Outnumbered 20 to 1 they wouldn’t stand a chance even if they could bring themselves to fight. So instead they pray for their oppressors because they realize the karmic effects of brutal and senseless violence for the perpetrators. The lamas see the Chinese authorities as suffering. The nomads and lay Tibetans are generally just frightened and confused. The more radical ones self-immolate in public.
As the Tibetan language, the heart of the culture is outlawed in public schools, Lama Kharwang will have been one of the last of the adepts. How fortunate for a spiritually poor individual like me to experience this. Still, the end is near.
And… as predicted thousands more monks and nomads came today, some from far away to see the phenomenon for themselves.
Khangsar Rinpoche also arrived as promised from Chigtul, about a 4 hour drive, in order to, from my understanding, try to wake Lama Karwang from his deep meditation so that he can continue on to his next incarnation.
Hundreds of nomads and monks lined the winding, deeply pitted dirt road that leads from the main road past a few nomad dwellings to Lama Karwang’s house. They all waved khatas (traditional long scarves usually designated with auspicious symbols and given as a respectful greeting or offering) as the retinue of cars passed. At the end of the drive he was escorted directly into a private room where he received khatas and gave blessings to a few monks and I was also allowed in. When I knelt next to him he said he always remembers me by my nose and I was able to force a chuckle. Through the years he has given me many blessings and teachings and empowerments (an empowerment is a ritual including verbally and mentally transferred allowances, a kind of lubrication, for one’s mind to accept a deeper understanding of the teachings. In my case they don’t seem to work with any sudden profundity but over time I have noticed subtle changes in an ability to understand certain ideas and concepts about the nature of things. Only however on an intellectual level so far and not as true understanding.). He also gave me an antique wooden bowl trimmed in solid silver that was given to him at his ordination as a reincarnate when he was a child by his own teacher and handed down from a long lineage of Dzogchen masters. Then he gave me the mala from around his neck. Tibetans come from the heart. There are stories of masters who live in remote and barren huts or in caves or hollows who are sought after for their wisdom. Since it is traditional to make offerings for the always more precious gift of deeper understanding, these hidden yogis are apt to have been given extremely valuable items in exchange for teachings. Of course the truly evolved ones have no use for gold or silver or anything material and so they simply give the item to the next available person. Although he is not in need for anything material Khangsar is like that. That’s why I have the bowl.
Khangsar is said to have left thumb prints and footprints in solid rock, to have snatched a jeweled rock from the air, to have discovered Termas – treasure items and scriptures/teachings left by past masters that would apply to help future understanding, usually pulled from rocks or as appearing from thin air. These events usually take place in the presence of numbers of people in order to dispel any notion of hocus pocus. I personally have never witnessed such a thing and am just reporting what I have read and been told.
Khangsar had a talk with Sister-In-Law, Lama Karwangs’ caretaker for the past decades, about how to view the idea of death. He spoke about levels of karma and the fact of impermanence inherent in every thing. Then he cried. Sister appeared to listen and observe without any outward sign of emotion.
Soon after that Khansar Rinpoche was escorted to the body where a sort of throne-like chair was waiting for him. Monks and nomads, lay Tibetans and children crowded around. I hoped that I wasn’t going to have to pee because there was no way to move through a thousand or more people sitting cross-legged shoulder to shoulder. Sometimes these rituals can go on for hours.
Khangsar chanted a refuge prayer which everyone joined in on. Then he chanted a mantra that multiplied his offering potential by billions, then made the extensive symbolic and mental offerings after which everyone joined in on many recitations of the purification mantra. After that he made a hand gesture and went into a meditative state. It was very quiet, no one moved until after about a minute two crows flew low overhead making lots of racket.
Khangsar chanted a prayer to dedicate all our merit, all the good and positive things we have done from the past, what we have done just now in the present and all the future goodness we inspire, and from all the buddhas to be given to all beings. He gave it all away with the deep intention to inspire peace and happiness for others. And since he is of an actualized view that we all share a common conscious and connected essence, the merit he just gave away never gets lost, never dissipates. The effects of all those positive actions remain forever.
Then he said a prayer for an auspicious outcome for Lama Karwang and for everyone before abruptly departing.
Lama Karwang’s dead body never moved, no rainbows, no strange cloud formations or signs of any kind. I stayed with the body meditating for a couple of hours afterward trying in my own way to connect with him – using part of his own teaching to me where I simply ask to merge his wisdom mind with mine, which is like a clear cloudless sky as vast as all of space. Then to simply observe. A gentle and subtle sense of bliss usually ensues. Thoughts come and go. Sometimes there are spaces between the thoughts and this time the meditation was really no different.
At the end of the evening Lama Karwang’s body was the same. Nothing changed. Nothing on the outside anyway.
The sun was shining all day and strange cloud formations and rainbows started happening around noon. A hundred or more nomads raised long thick poles along a line about an eighth of a mile long on a steep hillside above Lama Karwang’s house. Then another series of poles and flags along a parallel line around a throne. This is in preparation for the cremation tomorrow.
Several people captured video of various colored balls of light shooting through the sky, and around the sun.
Monks spent most of the day meditating in front of the body.
The most exotic incense odors are pervasive along with chanting from hundreds of monks. It is a delight to the senses. It is good to be alive even with the knowledge and constant reminder of impending death.
With the rotation of this earth and its spiral around the sun, which moves around the center of our galaxy at 490,000 miles an hour and takes 200 million years to make one orbit. The local group of galaxies cruise through space at 1,000 kilometers per second. We have never been in the same place and our lifespan is less than a flash. I am amazed and thrilled to be alive. What a freakin’ miracle. Billions of trillions of miracles all happening at once to make a single intelligent life, a very frail existence that is not ripped apart by the incredible forces of the universe. We are protected. There is definitely a compassionate aspect to our existence.
Lama Karwang was almost always laughing and was awed by existence. He diligently opened himself to the transformation from human ignorance and the forces of ego to learn deeper truths and then pass them on in a most effective way to others.
I don’t know if there is more than one lifetime. He seemed pretty confident about it and that we would meet again. I hope so.
So far it’s been quite a trip.