Pilgrimage to Wisdom:

An Experiential Journey into the Feminine

October 26th – November 14th, 2019

Overview

Please join Tergar International and Sacred Path on this transformative journey through Nepal and Tibet exploring the feminine in Himalayan Buddhism. Co-led by Tergar Instructors Myoshin Kelley and Antonia Sumbundu, as well as Buddhist scholar Justin Kelley, this trip includes visits to locations central to archetypal, historical, and contemporary manifestations of the feminine within Himalayan Buddhism. The trip includes:

  • An intimate space to contemplate and reflect on the the power of the feminine both within our experience and our surroundings
  • Daily reflections by Myoshin Kelley and Antonia Sumbundu, bringing to life the locations, people and written materials with which we will engage
  • Historical and philosophical context by Justin Kelley about the role of the feminine within the emergence and evolution of Himalayan Buddhism
  • Rare exposure to female practitioners and communities within the region
  • Daily guided contemplative and meditative practices offered by the pilgrimage leadership team, as well as masters who we encounter

Program Details

Intention and Approach

Intention:

As with all Sacred Path pilgrimages, this program embraces the native environment and cultural surroundings in a way that facilitates growth and transformation for all involved. Through a variety of pedagogical techniques (outlined below), participants will engage in an experiential learning process that uses geographical, historical, philosophical, and theological ideas in order to highlight the diversity of manifestations of the feminine in this region.

Approach:

In the spirit of Tergar International’s commitment to integrated learning, this program incorporates a variety of teaching, contemplative, and relational methods aimed at maximizing our time together. They include:

  • Teachings: Throughout the program, Myoshin Kelley and Antonia Sumbundu will offer dharma talks about the feminine; various local teachers will provide teachings on this topic; and Justin Kelley will contribute historical and philosophical reflections that will provide context for our journey. Additionally, there will be ample time for dialogue with the leaders throughout the program that will help elucidate the material and spaces we encounter.
  • Contemplation/meditation: Each location will include periods of meditation, as well as short readings that will help create a contemplative environment.
  • Relational methods: In order to create a safe container for everyone involved, the program teachers and guides will facilitate active-learning exercises, such as writing/journaling, small group work, interviews, and more. Often the stimuli of these locations can be overwhelming and the intention with these exercises is to provide spaces that help participants’ digest their experience.

Leaders

Tergar Instructor: Myoshin Kelley

Myoshin Kelley attended her first meditation retreat in 1975 at the age of 20. Through the ensuing years she has received dharma instructions from several renowned Buddhist meditation masters in the Theravada, Zen, and Vajrayana traditions. She has practiced extensively with the Burmese meditation masters Chanmyay Sayadaw, Sayadaw U Pandita, and Sayadaw U Tejaniya. In the early 1990s Myoshin received meditation instruction from the Soto Zen master Hogen Yamahata. Her desire for long-term meditation practice has taken her to Burma on several occasions.

In 1994 she accompanied her husband, Edwin, to the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA, where she was trained as a meditation instructor by Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzburg. Since then she has been teaching meditation in a number of places throughout North America. In 2003, she was appointed the teacher in residence at the Forest Refuge, the long-term practice center at IMS.

Myoshin was introduced to Vajrayana teachings in 1993 and met Mingyur Rinpoche in 1998 when he first visited the US with his brother, Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Since then she has practiced with Mingyur Rinpoche in North America and Asia benefiting from his skillful, lucid instructions on the profound teachings of Mahamudra. She moved to Minneapolis in 2010 to help support Mingyur Rinpoche in his worldwide vision and leads programs internationally and locally.

Tergar Instructor: Antonia Sumbundu

Antonia Sumbundu was first inspired to become a meditator after seeing a segment from The Lion’s Roar, a film about the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, but it was in 1988 after attending a talk by the Dalai Lama that she began practicing formally. Antonia’s first Buddhist teacher was the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. Following his death in 1992, she studied with a variety of teachers, including Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Chokling Rinpoche, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. In 2002 she met Mingyur Rinpoche, and began to receive teachings from him.

Antonia was already a meditator with a keen interest in the clinical application of meditation when she began studying psychology. While chairing the Danish association for Cognitive Based Therapy, Antonia met Dr. Mark Williams, a renowned clinical psychologist and researcher in the field of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and began a long and productive collaboration with him. Antonia was one of the first psychologists to be trained in MBCT, and since then her work has focused on training professionals in MBCT and exploring the unique characteristics of MBCT supervision. She holds a Master’s degree in MBCT from Oxford University, and is an Associate with the Oxford Mindfulness Center.

A mother of two, Antonia lives in Denmark and has been involved with Tergar since its inception in 2009, as a leader in Tergar Copenhagen, as a facilitator, and now as an Instructor. Antonia continues to play a key role in the training and mentoring of Tergar group leaders throughout Europe.

Buddhist Scholar: Justin Kelley

Justin Kelley  grew up on a farm in rural Massachusetts. In 2005, after graduating from Tufts University and working a short stint in land conservation, he picked up and left for India — the fantastic land of yoga and meditation. He had high expectations before leaving, imagining levitating yogis in remote caves, but these were quickly replaced with something more profound: a way of life in which everyday activities were imbued with spirit; a world in which people embraced their religious and/or spiritual faith. This lead Justin to spend the next ten years living in India, Nepal, and southeast Asia, immersing himself in the cultures and studying Tibetan language, Buddhist philosophy, and various meditative practices. In 2015, he returned to the US and entered a doctoral program in Rice University’s Department of Religion with Dr. Anne C. Klein, professor of Religious Studies. Academia surprised him by providing applicable insights into the historical and philosophical developments within religion, which help him navigate his personal beliefs. His research interests include meditative and philosophical systems in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, phenomenology, and contemplative studies.

Throughout the years, he has taught courses on Buddhism and meditation in universities, high schools, dharma centers, and more, as well as designed pilgrimages for organizations such as Tricycle Foundation, Tergar International, and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. These journeys incorporate his three loves—indigenous Buddhist cultures, education, and personal transformation.

Overview

This pilgrimage will explore three forms of the feminine, all serving as inspiration for our exploration of how the feminine arises within ourselves and our world.

Transcendent feminine:

  • These sacred sites will expose participants to the fully enlightened, transcendent form of the feminine. Specifically, we will visit a series of temples dedicated to Vajrayogini, including the Vajrayogini temple in Sankhu; Guheswori Temple in Pashupatinath; and Vidyeshvari Temple in Swayembunath.

Historical feminine:

  • These sacred sites are associated primarily with Yeshe Tsogyal and include her cave hermitages in Terdrom, Samye Chimpu, Drak Yerpa and Yarlung Sheldrak, as well as her birthplace in Yeshe Lhatso. These spaces are intended to invoke inspiration and reverence for her dynamic expression of the transcendent feminine.

Contemporary feminine:

  • These individuals and communities are living expressions of the feminine and provide deep inspiration. They include: Sarasvasti (Chatrul Rinpoche’s daughter), the nuns at Nagi Gompa and Arya Tara School (Ani Choying Drolma’s nunnery), and living female masters in Terdrom, Shugsep, and elsewhere in Tibet and Nepal. These visits will provide opportunities to interact with living female practitioners on every level of the path—from novice nuns to realized masters.

Detailed Itinerary

Boudhanath Stupa (Kathmandu)

Our adventure begins at the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. Claimed by many to be the oldest Stupa in the world, this location is filled with vibrant history and mythology–a perfect place to begin our journey exploring the feminine. This period will include opportunities for us to orient both as a group and within ourselves, aligning our intention with the profundity of the locations we will visit.

Sankhu; Pashupatinath, and Swayembunath

Using Boudhanath as our home-base for the first few days, we will venture out to locations within the Kathmandu Valley that represent the transcendent feminine. These locations include: the Vajrayogini Temple of Sankhu, famed as as being a spontaneous manifestation of Vajrayogini, as well as the periodic abode of the great translator Marpa; the Guheswori Temple in Pathupatinath, which is dedicated to Vajrayogini in the form of Vajravarahi and considered to be the navel through which the umbilical cord that nurtures the Kathmandu valley run; and the Vidhyesvari temple of Swayembunath, which is located on the shore of the Vishnumati River and serves as home to the principle deity of the great Mahasiddha Maitripa.

Sankhu

Pashupatinath

Nagi Gompa

Sitting high above the Kathmandu Valley on the edge of the Shivpuri National Park, Nagi Gompa Nunnery houses over one-hundred nuns who are trained in Buddhist philosophy, meditation and various forms of creative expression. The community here is as vibrant as you will find in the world and we will have time to interact and practice with nuns of all ages, asking questions about the practice and the significance of the feminine in their lives.

Pharping

Succinctly describing Pharping is a challenge as its historical and contemporary significance is so rich.

Of particular historical significance is that in Yanglesho (one of two primary cave dwellings in Pharping), 8th-century Buddhist master Padmasambhava and his consort Shakyadevi practiced for many months. Here, they both mastered the third level of a Vidhyadhara, Mahāmudrā, through the practices of Heruka and Vajrakalaya.  Furthermore, in the Asura cave (the second of the two cave dwellings), Padmasambhava is credited with subduing the twelve demonesses of Tibet and bounding them by oath to serve as protector deities of Tibet, which they have upheld ever since.

Today, the greater surroundings of Pharping serve as a vibrant practice center for all major lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. In particular, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, one of the sons of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, oversees a retreat center near the Asura Cave, which houses eight monks in three-year retreat. Pharping also served as the primary home in exile of the late Dzogchen master Chatrul Rinpoche. While in Pharping, we will visit with his daughter Srasvasti who is renowned as a great Dzogchen master in her own right.

We will also visit the nunnery of Ani Choying Drolma, which houses over one-hundred nuns who are being trained in both secular and religious subjects, as well as dance, music and other forms of creative expression.

Lhasa

Aptly called the abode (sa) of the gods (lha), Lhasa sits at the epicenter of much of the historical developments within Tibetan Buddhism. Masters from each era passed through this space in service of establishing and/or further solidifying their teachings/lineage/school. The initial focus of our time here will be on acclimatizing to the elevation (roughly 12,000 feet above sea level), allowing our bodies to adjust and prepare for the coming adventures.

During our time here, we will visit the famed Jokhang temple, seen by most as the most sacred shrine of Tibet; the Potala Palace, which was the historical seat of the Dalai Lamas; and the Barkor, which continues to serve as the epicenter of both spiritual and commercial life in Lhasa.

Terdrom

Located roughly 85 miles to the northeast, Terdrom is home to an important hermitage of the eighth-century Tibetan meditation master Yeshe Tsogyal. This is the space where she allegedly took refuge and practiced various essential tantric practices with Padmasambhava.

Padmasambhava is also said to have hidden various treasures in Terdrom, which has attracted practitioners from all over Tibet, including twentieth-century female meditation master Drikung Khandro. During our time here, we will visit with the existent community of nuns, as well as  a natural hot spring, literally soaking up the blessings of this powerful location.

Drak Yerpa

Drak Yerpa is home to a series of breath-taking cave dwellings that have housed practitioners from all the major lineages of Tibetan Buddhism since the time of Yeshe Tsogyal and Padmasambhava, who spent months here perfecting tantric practices. This location is considered one of the most important in the early development of Tibetan Buddhism.

Drak Yangdzong

Associated with the Buddha-body of Padmasambhava, Drak Yangdzong is a cave that sits just to the south of Lhasa. In this location both Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal are said to have hidden treasures.

The entrance into the cave is not for the faint of heart and requires ascending a steep wooden ladder through a small crevice and dropping down into the cave through a narrow opening. Participants will be invited to attempt to enter the cave, but certainly will not be required.

Samye; Samye Chimpu; Yeshe Lhatso

Samye monastery is said to be the first built in Tibet during the eighth century and since its construction, it has served as a vibrant center for study and practice. Padmasambhava, King Trisong Detsen, and the famous Indian scholar-monk Santarakshita teamed together to build this monastery in service of establishing Buddhism in its totality in Tibet.

In the mountains above the monastery, Samye Chimpu is the cave location where Padmasambhava, at the request of King Trisong Detsen, opened the mandala of tantric Buddhist teachings and began teaching his twenty-five root disciples, including the famed female master Yeshe Tsogyal. Still home to countless dedicated practitioners, many of whom are in life-retreat, Samye Chimpu is a deeply inspiring location.

The birthplace of Yeshe Tsogyal, Yeshe Lhatso sits at the base of the mountains surrounding Samye monastery and is home to a small, but active community of nuns who continue to practice in the legacy of Yeshe Tsogyal. The power of this physical space is palpable.

Yarlung Valley and the Crystal Cave

The Yarlung valley serves as one of the oldest Tibetan settlements and is claimed to be the location where the Tibetan people originated. In turn, there are countless sacred sites throughout the region, including the famed Tsechu Bumpa Chorten, or the stupa of the vessel of longevity, the cave of the Milarepa’s famed disciple Rechungpa, and much more.

Nestled into the sharp cliffs surrounding the Yarlung Valley, the crystal cave (Sheldrak in Tibetan) remains one of the most sacred locations in all of Tibetan Buddhism. Upon arrival in Tibet, it is said that Padmasambhava meditated here, evoking the power necessary to quell the demons that occupied the Tibetan plateau at the time. This site is said to be the manifestation of his qualities of enlightenment. Also of highest importance is the secret cave of Yeshe Tsogyal where she practiced for many months and hid various treasure texts, including the biography of Padmasambhava, the Pema Kathang, which was later discovered by the fourteenth-century treasure revealer Orgyen Lingpa.

MIndroling; Sakya; Nyalam

As we begin to make our way westward, towards Kathmandu, we will visit two profound locations associated with the formation of the Nyingma and Sakya lineages. First, Mindroling monastery, one of six heart monasteries within the Nyingma lineage, was founded by Terdak Lingpa in the sixteenth century. Along with male masters that have resided here throughout the centuries, Mindroling has a vibrant tradition of Jetsunmas, or female meditation masters, that includes the contemporary Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche. The first in this lineage was Jetsunma Mingyur Paldron,–the daughter of Terdak Lingpa–who was renowned during the seventeenth century as a premier expert on the Nyingthik Yabzhi. During our time here, we will consider these women’s lives and reflect on how their lives inspire us today.

Founded in the eleventh century, Sakya monastery is the site where Khon Khonchog Gyalpo founded the Sakya lineage. Known for its grey (kya) earth (sa), this valley has produced numerous profound practitioners in Tibetan Buddhist history. These practitioners came in both male and female form. Of particular note is the life and teachings of Jetsunma Chime Tenpai Nyima who was known as the pre-eminent master of the Vajrayogini teachings during the eighteenth century and became one of the principle teachers of the thirty-third Sakya Tridzin.

Finally, on our descent back down to the Kathmandu valley, we will visit a cave of the patron saint of Tibet, Milarepa. Here, in Nyalam, Milarepa is said to have spent over ten years in meditation retreat. Today, there exists a body imprint where he sat in meditation, as well as a small monastery surrounding the cave, which houses monks that look after the cave-shrine.

Program Fee

  • The program fee is $5,950
    • Single supplements require an additional payment of $1400 (due with final payment)
  • The program fee includes:
    • Accommodation throughout the program (from October 26 – November 14, 2019)
    • All meals (beginning with dinner on October 26 and ending with breakfast on November 14)
    • Transportation within Nepal/Tibet
    • Visa and permit fees for Tibet
    • All site entrance fees
    • All wages for local guides
  • The program fee does not include:
    • International airfare
    • Visa for Nepal
    • Travel insurance (recommended)
    • Miscellaneous items, including, but not limited to: souvenirs, snacks, alcoholic beverages, etc.
    • Donations to local organizations and/or individuals

Payment Schedule

Payments are to be made based on the following schedule:

  • Deposit: $1,000, due at registration
  • Payment #2: $2,000 due by April 29, 2019 (180 days prior to the program)
  • Payment #3: Remaining payment of $2,950 due by July 28, 2019 (90 days prior to the program)

Cancellation Policy

In the case of cancellation, payment will be refunded based on the following information:

  • Cancellations made 180 days prior to the program will receive a full refund of any payment made to date, minus 50% of the deposit.
  • Cancellations made between 179 – 120 days prior to the program will receive a full refund of any payment made to date, minus the deposit.
  • Cancellations made between 119 – 60 days prior to the program will be subject to a penalty of 50% of the total course fee.
  • Cancellations made on or after 59 prior to the program will not receive any refund.

Physical Safety; Travel insurance

This trip will travel through locations well above 10,000 feet, with the highest location being Terdrom, which is over 14,500 feet. On many days, we will also be walking upwards of eight miles. In turn, participants must be physically fit to participate in this program. We also recommend each participant visit a travel specialist to discuss preventative medicines for elevation and infection.

Sacred Path highly recommends purchasing travel insurance that includes emergency medical coverage as well as evacuation and repatriation services.

The following companies can help you find coverage that best suits your particular needs:

Arrivals and Depatures

The program will begin and end in Kathmandu, Nepal allowing for easy arrivals and departures.

If you are interested in arriving early or extending your trip, there are plenty of add-ons that you can easily include. Once registered, please send us a note that you would like to discuss options and we will help you craft the ideal itinerary.

Please plan on arriving in Kathmandu on October 26th no later than 12pm local time and departing the morning of November 14th.

FAQs

Do I need a visa?

  • All visitors to Nepal (minus the immediately surrounding countries) are required to procure a visa. Once registered, we will send information for the application process.

What will we eat? Is the water safe?

  • Throughout the program, you will be provided nutritious and hygienic vegetarian meals.
  • Filtered and/or bottled water will be provided throughout the program.

Do I need vaccines? Will there be medical facilities available should I get sick?

  • Sacred Path strongly recommends visiting a travel medical specialist prior to the program. We cannot make medical recommendations of any kind.
  • If you should have a medical emergency during the program, Sacred Path staff will provide access to the best medical treatment available and assist participants should they desire to return home early.

Where will we stay?

  • Hotels and/or guest houses throughout the program will be the best available in each location. Sacred Path prides itself in the strong relationships it has with local businesses.

Can I keep in touch with my family and friends during the program? How can they get in touch with me in the case of an emergency?

  • Sacred Path will provide contact information for participants to distribute to their loved ones to use during the pilgrimage in the case of emergencies.
  • Most of the accommodations we stay in have wireless internet services that allow you to connect to the internet via mobile device.

How much money will I need?

  • All food, lodging, and transportation (within the prescribed itinerary) is covered. In turn, you will not need much extra money. There will be ATMs available throughout the program to withdraw local currency. Credit cards are accepted at larger shops and hotels. We recommend contacting your bank to inform them of your travel plans so that your cards are not frozen.

Can I choose my roommate?

  • Yes, we will do our best to match you with the person of your choosing. Please specify this in your registration questionnaire.

How can I offset my/our carbon footprint?

  • A portion of the proceeds generated will be donated to The Arbor Day Foundation to offset the group environmental footprint. If you are interested in doing so for your personal footprint, take a look at their presentation of how to contribute and make a difference!