Wednesday, April 29, 2015

India Adventure II: Nepal Earthquake

I was online in an internet café in Dharamsala, India on Saturday uploading my last blog post when I got a message from my friend Sowmya in Bangalore, asking if I was in Nepal. (I spent most of last November and December at Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal and was planning on returning to Nepal last month.) My heart sank as I read Sowmya's next sentence about an earthquake in Nepal.

I did not feel the Nepal earthquake. Life here in the mountain town of McLeod Ganj in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh continues on as normal. 

I am in McLeod Ganj, India indicated on the map by the white circle in India. Kathmandu is indicated on the map by the white circle in Nepal.
I have been following developments in Nepal through my friends' posts and FPMT daily emails. I am particularly grateful to Venerable Sarah Thresher for her frequent updates. I remain worried about my friends in Nepal, even though they are OK.

Friends Update

Lama Dhundup, the Nepali monk who founded a nonprofit for children from rural areas of Nepal that I visited last November, is in Singapore. His nephew and the children’s caretaker are at the house in Kathmandu with the children. They are all OK. He wrote: My kids are save but we most change our hostel because very denger to stay that's hostel. Please help to our hostels kids and our Nepali.


Lama Dhundup's kids underneath their shelter. Unknown photographer.
Logha Nyima, a young Nepali monk I met in India last year who is now studying Chinese and English in Nepal, is OK.

My Israeli friend Gilad who I got to see in Nepal last year, studies Buddhist Philosophy and Tibetan language in Kathamandu. He is still in Kathmandu, putting his skills as a trained acupuncturist to use. I saw this message from him yesterday, Wednesday, April 29:


Dear Friends! sorry I cannot write you all individually. In the last few days we were out in the extremely badly hit area of Helambu, trying to assess the situation and provide relief, food, medicine and shelter to many who lost their homes and family members. every village we walked through is completely destructed with many casualties. Here are some pic's I took today and yesterday. at a remote village called Jatan which was yet to receive any help four days after the earthquake many were seriously injured, without even the slightest sanitation for their open wounds. we opened a makeshift clinic last night and treated many serious patients from the surrounding villages too and today walked down with two badly hit girls to the helicopter pad in Melamchi. it is still a mess in organizing things so we do the little we can with Phakchok Rinpoche's guidance. if you wish to help us personally then you can donate here. thanks Gilad

PS - Malamchi Bazar is the gateway town to Helambu (Yolmo), were the army sends helicopter from and takes the injured to KTM (Kathmandu Airport). Malamchigaon is on the west side of Sermathang (we were in the its west). It was also totally destroyed, but with minor casualties. Melamchigaon village Monastery sadly collapsed. The Guru Rinpoche cave survived, but all the villages from there to Thimbu are destroyed too. TarkteGyan im not sure, some valleys were hit more severely than others.

Rescue work in Nepal. Photo by Gilad Yakir.

Rescue work in Nepal. Photo by Gilad Yakir.

Rescue work in Nepal. Photo by Gilad Yakir.

Rescue work in Nepal. Photo by Gilad Yakir.

Rescue work in Nepal. Photo by Gilad Yakir.

Rescue work in Nepal. Photo by Gilad Yakir.
Sharnon, a friend from New Zealand that I met last year in India was in Nepal during the earthquake. She temporarily stayed on the tennis court at the Hyatt in Khathmandu. She was able to evacuate to London.

Lobsang, the Kopan Monastery monk who I was in a November Course discussion group with last year, is safe at Kopan Monastery. So is my friend Yonten, who works in the Kopan Monastery office.

Jasmine and the Street Dog Care team that I volunteered with in Kathamandu last year are OK. They have updates and are fundraising.

Lozang and Amy, good friends of mine that I met in Bodhgaya and spent so much time with this year are in Nepal but are OK – they are with our teacher, Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kopan Monastery.

In addition to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the abbot of Kopan Monastery, Khen Rinpoche, was at the monastery. Tenzin Ösel Hita was at a coffee shop outside of the gates of Kopan Monastery with his pilgrimage group of westerners, who have since evacuated to Delhi. (Ösel is the thirty year old reincarnation of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teacher and co-founder of FMPT and Kopan Monastery, Lama Yeshe.)

Venerable Sarah Thresher, who is also at Kopan Monastery said that Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Ösel, Khen Rinpoche, and the senior monks took full control of the situation after the earthquake on Saturday.

Kopan Monastery and Nunnery Update

Friends at Kopan Monastery had just finished lunch when the earthquake struck on Saturday. I heard some of the Kopan monks have lost family and friends, but everyone at Kopan Monastery is OK. Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s sister, Ani Ngawang Samten and everyone in Lawudo are also OK.

Venerable Sarah Thresher said that after the earthquake struck, Lama Zopa Rinpoche went to the stupa garden at Kopan Monastery where I spent a lot of time last November and December when I was there for the November course. The Kopan community did the prayers recommended by Kadrola for earthquakes, as well as a Buddhist practice called tonglen. She said that as they prayed, the earth was shaking – sometimes strongly. Then Lama Zopa Rinpoche began to teach, and gave oral transmissions for thought transformation practice.

The monks who live and study at Kopan have moved into a different building – Ri-gyab, while other monks are staying in the “tent city” that has been set up in the stupa garden at Kopan. Lama Zopa Rinpoche is staying in the large yellow tent. The nights have been cold and wet, and it has been raining.

Kopan Monastery stupa garden. Unknown photographer.

Kopan Monastery stupa garden. Photo by Ueli Minder.

Kopan Monastery stupa garden. Photo by Ueli Minder.

Kopan Monks sleeping outside. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Kopan Monastery stupa garden sleeping arrangements. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.
Venerable Sarah Thresher said most tourists have left Nepal or trying to get out. Kopan rests on a hilltop on the outskirts of Kathamandu. When you are at Kopan, you can easily see and hear planes flying overhead. She said “The noise from the airport is constant flights and rescue missions.” I cannot imagine what that must feel like, for those at Kopan right now.

My friends at Kopan are staying in the tents because it is not safe to stay in the buildings. One of Kopan Monastery’s two smaller gompas – Chenrizig Gompa – sustained damage, as did an older guest room, and some pipes broke. Ani Fran at Kopan said the Chenrizig Gompa may need to be torn down and rebuilt.

The internet also became scare on Saturday and I think the electricity was off on Saturday. It seems that as of Tuesday, April 28 the electricity and internet are working at Kopan, and commercial flights are now coming into the Kathmandu airport.

Damage at Kopan Monastery. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Damage at Kopan Monastery. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Damage in Kopan Monastery restaurant/cafe. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Damage in Kopan Monastery - basement of Chenrizig Gompa. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Damage at Kopan Monastery - Chenrizig Gompa. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Damage at Kopan Monastery - walkway around the back of the large gompa. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Damage at Kopan Monastery - inside of Chenrizig Gompa. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Damage at Kopan Monastery - Chenrizig Gompa. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Damage at Kopan Monastery - flight of steps. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Damage at Kopan Monastery - inside of Chenrizig Gompa. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Damage at Kopan Monastery - Chenrizig Gompa. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.
I heard the Kopan Nunnery is in worse shape than the monastery, but that everyone at the nunnery is OK.

Looking dow n from Kopan Monastery after earthquake, Nepal. Photo by Venerable Sangpo Sherpa.
Kopan Monks’ Volunteer Efforts

The Kopan monks got right to work on Saturday, helping with relief efforts in Kathmandu.

A note from a Kopan staff member, written on Saturday, April 25:

“As soon as we came to know about the many tragedies that had happened in the city, we setup an Emergency Relief Team. The first thing that came into our minds to do was to donate blood. We went off to the Red Cross blood bank of Nepal to check. On the way, we witnessed on the roads and heard from the radio that many people were dead. At night, all the people across the city are camped either in the road or open places. There is no light. All the medium of communication are jammed. You can feel the fear from people’s faces. Hospitals are full of corpses. Helicopters are flying all over the city. The government announced to stay away from any tall buildings or the like. It was declared five days off for all the schools across the country. It’s so creepy to see the affected area. Many buildings got cracked. Some might go down if it shakes again. People across the country are scared and tense. The government announced relief teams are on the way and international teams are arriving.

As we arrived at the Red Cross center. They were so happy to receive our help. At once, they asked us to bring people to donate. We came back to Kopan and made a list of donors. There were more than 40 people and we sent 10 of them as the first group. As first group reached the Red Cross, they told us to stay as standby. So, the first group went to Bír-Hospital and donate blood and whatever we had — medicine, bandages and gloves. The rest of the group stayed back as a backup. The mild shaking kept coming and one more strong shock came at 1:00 p.m. with rain and thunder.”

Kopan Monastery Emergency Relief Team. Unknown photographer. From Kopan Monastery School Facebook page.
The monastery continued this work the following day, reporting:

“The second day [after the earthquake] started with mild shaking around 8:00 a.m. After lunch we had an emergency meeting as we had come to know that many people were having a hard-time. We, along with our friends from overseas, decided to give any help to needed areas. A Search Team was setup and went in all directions to find out what and where we are needed.”

“As the day one, we saw all the people either on the road or open places. Most of them staying under the tents which is not water proof. Most of them asking for tents (water proof) rather than food and water. Government announced to distribute the tents but it's still stuck somewhere, and foreign add tents are not arrived yet. For the time being food, water and medicine seems ok in the valley. Most relief thing is that some people started to open their shops, so that people can buy whatever they need.

We found some Redcross rescue team are patrolling around. We met the team officer and introduced ourselves as Volunteers from Kopan Monastery. They looks so tired but became so excited to hear about our helps. We gave them our contact number and told them to call us any time for any helps. While we were waiting for others reports at Kopan, Lama Zopa Rinpoche begins to give pre-initiation teaching to monks and guests who specially came for it.

After the dinner all of us (monks and laypeople) gathered at Ri-gyab to pray for those people who deceased in this tragedy. Another shock was came during the puja. Later we found out that it was 4.5 magnitude earthquake. However, we concluded the session with extensive dedication pray around 10:30 p.m. Finally, we learned that the most affected areas are outside valley, where people can't get there easily. In this area the best help can provide only through helicopters.”

Kopan Monastery Emergency Relief Team. Unknown photographer. Photo from Kopan Monastery School Facebook page.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Activities:

Venerable Sarah Thresher reported on how things are going at Kopan Monastery.

Lama Zopa has been living in the stupa garden at Kopan Monastery day and night - leading prayers, teaching, greeting people who come up to Kopan Monastery, and keeping people positive and relaxed.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in the stupa garden with Kopan Monastery students. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.
Venerable Sarah Thresher said “You can see how Lama Zopa Rinpoche is keeping the small monks calm and focused on prayers instead of worrying. It went on like this for hours and hours with different prayers and teachings and lungs all gathered around Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

Phil Hunt, coordinator for the Animal Liberation Sanctuary, a project of Kopan Monastery, was enroute to Nepal when the earthquake struck, and made it safely to Kopan on Sunday. (All of the animals and the sanctuary are OK.) Phil posted a video of Lama Zopa Rinpoche in the stupa garden on Sunday:


On Monday, April 27 Venerable Sarah Thresher said “The very first day Lama Zopa Rinpoche told us there is no point being worried and afraid, we must pray. So we have been doing prayers to control the earthquake, prayers for the people who have died, prayers to destroy the self cherishing and self grasping minds from where the negative karma as arise that cause all the suffering. One student asked Lama Zopa Rinpoche if she should stay at Kopan or go down and help, Lama Zopa Rinpoche replied that she should stay here and pray for ALL sentient beings because prayers are powerful and even if she went down she may or may not be able to help even one sentient being.”

She  also said “Lama Zopa Rinpoche told us on the day of the earthquake that when the building started shaking violently … Lama Zopa Rinpoche himself immediately did tonglen--taking on the sufferings of sentient beings, A-L-L sentient beings, and dedicating to them every single happiness and merits.

You can join them in their prayers. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has advised doing these prayers.

On Tuesday, April 28 Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s assistant, Venerable Roger wrote this, summarizing Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s activities that day:

Lama Zopa Rinpoche taught mostly on emptiness and how earthquakes and Chöd are similar– they raise fear and you can use that. Lama Zopa Rinpoche also taught, “The earthquake came from one’s own self-cherishing mind. … So take all the blame and put it on one’s own self-cherishing. … Don’t blame outside, don’t point the finger outside to others.”

Venerable Sarah Threshere wrote on Tuesday night, April 28 that Lama Zopa Rinpoche led a “very rousing and powerful Guru puja tonight. We recited the Eight Prayers for the dead again. Lama Zopa Rinpoche made very extensive dedications.”

That afternoon while teaching in the gompa Lama Zopa Rinpoche said "Bad conditions like earthquakes are like the guru who persuades us to practice Dharma."

Lama Zopa Rinpoche leading prayers in the large gompa where I had class last year during the November Course. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche leading prayers in the large gompa. Photo by Venerable Sarah Thresher.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche will be leaving Kopan soon – his teaching tour begins in New Zealand next week.

Ways You Can Help Nepal

My friend Sharnon posted on Tuesday, April 28 saying The situation is really bad here. A killer storm from Pakistan is apparently on its way here. The village where we were staying on retreat and all the other mountain regions in the north-west have been decimated. They have no food supplies and water has been contaminated by landslides. Monsoon is coming, and then winter. Access is only by helicopter now. If those who have survived the quake are to survive the aftermath, they are going to need help. Please donate if you can. www.asia-ngo.org/en/ or www.z2systems.com/np/clients/chokgyur/donation.jsp

My good friend Amy that I spent so much with in Bodhgaya last month, sent out an urgent email from Nepal:

Email Subject Line: Help needed for earthquake. A village is freezing to death.

So little internet please apologize for this message it's garbled. I'm in Nepal. There's been an earthquake. A village is connected to monastery. They lost 98 of 100 homes. By good luck director of theHimalayan People's Project, Beth is here. She has the ability to trek life saving weather appropriate food and tents to village in less than 2 days. Food and a tent for a family cost $500 each. $50,000 will save the families. We are in a race with time and cold. lf through your workplace or individually you can help donate or raise funds please help. Aid won't reach this village in time, we've contacted governments and aid agency no help is coming.

Best Wishes
Amy

Lozang also put out a plea for help, sharing the HPP fundraising campaign, with some additional insight:

“Many people stranded up in the mountains without food or shelter they won't last long without help.”

Thame Village. Photo from HPP website.
The village Amy and Lozang are referring to Thame, the birthplace of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The village is in the Upper Solo Khumbu region of Nepal, near Mount Everest. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has asked us to help Thame. Beth Halford, who Amy refers to, is the CEO of HPP.

I have some additional updates about Beth and Thame from the Himalayan People’s Project (HPP) Facebook page:

“I have just heard from Beth, who was in Kathmandu when the earthquake struck on Saturday. She was caught by falling masonry and received a mild concussion but is otherwise fine.”

“Up until the end of last week Beth was in the Upper Solo Khumbu region, near Everest, researching further projects.  The villages she visited have been badly affected by the earthquake.  In Thame 100 homes have been lost and 20 people have died.  There has so far been no news at all from Thamo but we are anticipating a similar situation there.  The conditions at night are freezing and the monsoon rains are not far away.”

There is more news on HPP’s website:

“Nepal is a country currently living in fear. In Kathmandu people are sleeping on the streets in fear of their lives and in awful conditions.  The situation is just as bad, if not worse, in remote villages.

At the moment the international aid efforts are focused on getting people off Mount Everest and, to a lesser degree, helping people in the Kathmandu valley.  There is little being done for the people in rural areas.”

HPP is trying to raise $50,000 so they can provide each of the 100 families in Thame Village with a tent and food. The organization has people ready to go up into the mountains with aid as soon as HPP has the funds to purchase the necessary supplies. Any funds raised in excess of $50,000 will go directly to rebuilding Thame in mud term. Donate here. Note that HPP is a registered charity in the UK, and donation amounts on the HPP website appear in British pounds. You can donate in USD.

According to the FPMT blog, Lama Zopa Rinpoche has also been helping Thame Village:

Lama Zopa Rinpoche is keen to help Thame, the town where he was born [near Mount Everest in the Solu Khumbu region], in particular, two families he has connections with. And so he sent $3,500 for both families to help them with a tent and food. Through a lama there who does all the pujas for the dead of the poor families, we are trying to identify the families who now need help with food and tents. (Nobody wants to stay inside buildings.) We are going to try and focus on helping poor families in the area who have lost their homes. [FPMT International Office has established the Nepal Earthquake Support Fund to support these efforts.]

Yesterday, FPMT sent out an update saying that aid for all 100 families is being flown up to Thame. It is the first disbursement from FPMT's Nepal Earthquake Disbursement Fund.

On Monday, April 27 Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s assistant, Venerable Roger gave us information about how we can help Kopan Monastery and Nunnery:

I have asked FPMT International Office to set up a Nepal Earthquake Support Fund. This fund will begin the task of supporting Kopan Monastery and Nunnery and other effected FPMT centers in the area with any initial emergency needs, and then later on, will offer ongoing support for rebuilding. We will also use these funds to help others, as in the example of Thame.

Funds are needed to provide food and shelter to 800+ monks and nuns at Kopan Monatery and Nunnery, as well as structural repairs and renovations to the buildings at the monastery and nunnery to make them safe so the monks and nuns can move back into the buildings.

According to the FPMT e-newsletter, “if sufficient funds are raised, grants may also be provided to other carefully vetted organizations providing earthquake relief efforts. We will be providing updates on exactly how all donations from this fund are used. Already Lama Zopa Rinpoche has offered $3,500 for immediate relief in Thame for tents and food."

To learn more and offer support to the Nepal Earthquake Support Fund go here.

Stay in touch:

To read all of the latest updates and news from FPMT.org on the Nepal earthquake,


Note:


The “Discover Buddhism” course scheduled to begin on May 3 at Kopan has been cancelled because Kopan will slowly run out of food and water. Students registered for the course are being asked not to travel to Kopan.

1 comment:

  1. Swamiji Maharaj was specifically included in the tiresome tremor catastrophe in Nepal. He gave blood for the quake casualties and propelled others. Patanjali Yogpeeth has embraced 500 youngsters stranded by overwhelming tremor in Nepal. They will be given nourishment, training, accomodation and reflection till class fifth. We have orchestrated nourishment and accomodation for a huge number of individuals from patanjali yogpeeth.

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