Chenga Lama on the Kangso ritual
Mingur: Tashi delek!
Chenga Lama: Tashi delek la.
Q: Shall we start?
A: Yes, sure, please.
Q: Before we start, could you please tell me a few words about yourself? What is your name? Where were you born?
A: I was born in Sermathang. Our ancestors came from Shar Gonpa (Solu Khumbu) and lived here in Tahongsa since Meme Lapchen Darpo’s time (who moved here from Solu). My father’s name is Dongba Khina and my name is Dongba Chenga.
Q: How did you learn about the Dharma? Who are your main gurus?
A: At first, we had to learn the Tibetan alphabet (T. ka kha), I don’t remember meeting a high guru then. Our teacher was Meme Lama Jamyang, who taught us the alphabet. He was from Sermathang and was widely known as Undze Lama Jamyang (undze is the master of ceremony during Buddhist rituals). Then after learning the alphabet, we read the Dorje Chopa (T. rDo rje gcod pa, Diamond Sutra) and the Sungdu (T. gzung ‘dus). That time there were no khenpos (“scholars”) like today. Now many monasteries have been built and the number of khenpos increased. We were also taught the Kamig Sumchu (T. Ka mig sum cu), Jipa Dayig (T. sByi pa dag yig), Dayig Manor Lamsal (T. Dag yig ma nor lam bzang), etc. Now I am sixty-one years old. At the time of learning the Dharma (T. chos) with Meme Jamyang, learning the alphabet, the sumchu (T. sum cu), tshatsig (T. tsha tshig), and dangyang (T. dang dbyangs) was part of our village’s culture and tradition. That time I had no idea about losum dasum (T. lo gsum zla gsum: three-year and three-month retreat), and I did not know how deep and elaborate Dharma teachings are. When I learned the alphabet and the sumcu (“Tibetan script”)I realized, that this is not enough for me, and I wish to learn more of the Dharma like dupa nyamlen (T. sgrub pa nyams len), so I went for a one-month chagboom (T. phyag ‘bum, hundred-thousand prostration). Then I learnt further practices, the kyabdro (T. skyabs ‘gro, “taking refuge”), semkye (T. sems skyed, “bodhicitta”), yiggya (T. yig brgya; Vajrasattva’s hundred-syllable mantra), completing two things in one month I continued learning more like kyabdro, yiggya, soldeb (T. gsol ‘debs), lama naljor (T. bla ma rnal ‘byor), shitro (T.zhi khro), nangdrub (T. nang sgrub), sangdrub (T. gsang sgrub), yangsa ngipa (T. yang gsang snyan pa), thinle shitrub (T. ‘phrin las bzhi sgrub), Tshetub chakki riwo (T. Tshe sgrub lcags kyi ri bo) and then further practices like Thuji Chyumbu (T. Thugs rje chen po, “practice of the Great Compassionate One, Chenrezi”). I learned Thuji Chyumbu, tshetup (T. tshe sgrub, “long life”), then I also learned shitro (practice of the peaceful and wrathful deities). After that I did shapten (T. zhabs rten) in the villages according to village custom. Then again I felt, although I learned the Dharma (T. chos) before, there are still many things to learn. I was blessed by Chatral Rinpoche when I learned shitro. I heard Rinpoche saying, that village lamas were not so well educated in the Dharma, and understood it, and then I decided to go for losum dasum retreat.
Q: How did you arrive to the decision that you want to commit yourself to such a long retreat?
A: Before, I was working abroad in Korea. I had a wish to do losum dasum in my life, but I felt I would not get a chance to do losum dasum. When I came back from Korea, the Hyolmo Gonpa was just inaugurated. During that time, my elder brother’s son, Tshiring Dorje decided to go to do losum dasum retreat and he already registered his name. I was so much interested to go for losum dasum, that I went to Meme Ngawang Tenzin Rinpoche for an audience. Then Meme Ngawang Rinpoche told me, that most of the places are already occupied, but there is still an opportunity for two-three lamas to join. I requested Meme Rinpoche to let me join the retreat this time also because I had some good friends there. Therefore, I requested Meme Rinpoche to let me join that group. Then Meme Rinpoche told me to discuss it first with my family members, and then he would finalize my registration for the losum dasum retreat. After hearing that, I felt so very happy. This is how I went for losum dasum retreat.
Q: Where was the retreat located?
A: There is a place called Drupadong, a few minutes walk above Langragyalsa (T. slang ra rgyal sa, Tarkegyang).
Q: After finishing losum dasum, when you returned to the village, how could you utilize things you have learnt? For instance, by doing shapten, divination, or teaching others?
A: If people come to me for shapten (T. zhabs rten) I would do it with the help of the lido (T. lo tho, “calendar”). Doing shapten is the tradition and culture of the village, the main ones are lucho (T. klu mchod, “offering to the serpent spirits”), lutor (T. klu gtor), at the end of the Losar (T. lo gsar, “New Year”) there is lokak kyurwa (T. lo kag bskyur ba), gyapshi( brgya bzhi; 400 offerings) and the kangso (T. bskang gso). I can perform the kangso if people come and ask me to do kangso.
Q: Would you talk a bit about the kangso ritual? When is it performed? What is the aim of the puja? What text do you use?
A: When a new year begins, we do kangso puja wishing, that nothing bad happens and hoping, that good things will come to our whole family and relatives. All the obstacles will be cleared away by doing kangso puja. It is fine, if we do kangso of Konjo Chethen (T. dKon mchog spyi ‘dus). At the time of grandparents, people used to do both Konjo Chethen and Kagyu (T. bKa’ rgyud). Both Karma Kagyü and Drukpa Kagyu, the talented ones could do this and that, I mean they could do both Konjo Chethen and Kagyu. And Jangter lamas also used to do Konjo Chethen puja, and Konjo Chethen lamas also used to do Jangter. Nowadays in the villages the lamas decided that a Konjo Chethen lama should follow only Konjo Chethen, and Jangter lama should follow only Jangter, but the talented ones could do both and other chö (practices of other lineages) as well. I am following the Konjo Chethen lineage, so at the time of kangso we do Kagyu kangso, and at the time of sangwe, we do sang geba (T. bsangs dge ba), Kagyu sang(T. bka’ brgyud bsangs). Yulsang puja (T. yul bsangs) is held twice a year, first one is on the 10th of Kartik and the second is on 10th of Chaitra yando and mando. (first 5 months is yando (T. yar ‘gro, “going up”, then mando, T.mar ‘gro, “going down”)
Q: Different riwas (T. rus pa, “clans”) have different kangso, is that right? How many lamas are needed for kangso puja?
A: The kangso is a one-day long ritual, is that right? If there is good tsharchang (T. tshar chang, alcohol offered third time at the end of the ritual), then including a gyaling (T. rgya gling, “trumpet”), nga (T. rnga, “drum”) and bupchal (T. bub chal, “cymbal”) player, we need an Undze, a Dorje Lopon and a Chopon (T. mchod dpon), we need around ten lamas. If one wants to have short kangso, five lamas can do it. But in that case we would not have a person for everything separately like gyaling, dung, etc. Still, with five lamas kangso can be completed in one day. Kangso is performed after a kyilkhor (T. dkyil ‘khor, “here the term refers to an arrangement of ritual cakes”) is constructed.
Q: How long is the kangso shapten, one or two days?
A: It all depends on jindag (T. sbyin bdag, “sponsor”), if the jindag wants the kangso to be completed in one day, then it would be completed in one day. If the jindag wants the kangso to be performed in a very elaborate way, then we would do like this: on the first day we make the torshang (T. gtor bzheng), and after finishing setting up the kyilkhor, the next day early morning we do the sang (T. bsangs, “smoke offering”). Whatever kind of sang it is: Kagyu sang or Riwo Sangcho, sang and serkyem puja need to be done early in the next morning, then mandal and only then kangso can start. If it is done in a rush, then there is no time to make a nice kyilkhor and gorken(T. sgor rgyen, “ritual cakes with butter ornaments”). It is better to perform kangso with more lamas than with less.
Q: Is there a particular text used for kangso?
A: Laso, there is a particular pecha (Tibetan book) for kangso. The Gombo Chya Shiba (T. mGon po phyag bzhi pa, Four-armed Mahakala) for Kagyu kangso, which I use now is 150 pages. This is all for Gombo Chhya Shiba’s kangso, you can see that thangka hanging on wall, that is the kangso thangka. After we completed the Kagyu kangso, there is another text to read, the Tharpa Gyaltsen (Dharma protector) and our Dongba’s kangso is Sacho Rawo (T. gZa’ mchog Rahula), which is ten pages. We do it like that.
Q: Did you meet Chatral Rinpoche during the time you were learning the Dharma (T. chos, “Buddhist teaching”)?
A: Laso, Chatral Rinpoche was same like us, when he was here in Hyolmo. He used to live the same way like we do, people now say there was a huge difference like sky and earth between the times before Chatral Rinpoche and now. When he came to Hyolmo, there were many people living here, so he talked to us the same way like ordinary people do. I learnt the shitro (T. zhi khro) practice from Chatral Rinpoche.
Q: How was your impression when you met Chatral Rinpoche first time, can you remember those times?
A: That time two-three lamas came to Hyolmo bringing Tibetan culture. I was a child then and didn’t know that one of them was Chatral Rinpoche. Later, a losum dasum retreat was arranged for lamas in Neding. Two-three times in five years, then we asked Chatral Rinpoche about our practice of Koncho Chethen (T. dkon mchog spyi ‘dus), what the reason was behind the decrease of the Koncho Chethen practice. Rinpoche told us, that some changes need to be made in the Koncho Chethen practice. And when we asked him, if it is fine to change the cho or just accept what is already there, Rinpoche told us, that he had prepared the cho for us, and the villagers should discuss it, and then Rinpoche suggested us to follow that cho closely.
Q: What were the main activities of Chatral Rinpoche, when he stayed in Hyolmo?
A: The greatest thing Chatral Rinpoche did was, that he introduced the losum dasum retreat in Hyolmo. Then there is a place with a big rock above Bemthang, where I have not been, only heard, that it is Guru Dorje Drolo’s Ne (T. gnas, holy place), where our Chatral Rinpoche had darshan of the nesu (T. gnas srung, “local protector”). And where people believe, that Rinpoche gave lung (“transmission”), I cannot remember the name of the lung. And he discovered the cave called Tongshung phugpa (T. sTong shong phug pa, “the cave that can accomodate a thousand people”). Before that we didn’t know about Tongshung phugpa, and we had no Ama Yangri solkha (T. gsol kha, prayer, libation), but Chatral Rinpoche wrote and gave us an Ama Yangri solkha chakpe(T. gsol kha phyag dpe, “prayer book”).
Q: Would you talk a bit about the sacred places around Sermathang and Tahongsa?
A: The greatest and most well-known sacred place is Ama Yangri and then Dorje Legpa, Tshering Chenga, Gosung Chhembu (T. sGo srung chen po) in Ne Pema Tsel (T. gNas Padma’i tshal, above Panch Pokhari), and then from Tempathang (Sherpa village below Ne Pematsel,) up in Thuje Chenpo. I have been to Duphu (T. Yang dak chos kyi sgrub phug), Markhu Tsho, which is considered to be a Guru Rinpoche Ne (T. gnas), I just forgot the name of the mountain where I couldn’t reach, Thongla (T. mThong la), and from Balutshok (a place where lots of dali plants grow used to make insence) to Chopudi (T. Chos poti, “the rock that looks like a Tibetan book”), Toh Baa, and then I have been in Tshokar Tshona, (T. mTsho dkar mtsho nag, Gosainkund) from Tshokar Tshona I have just forgot the name of the paati (karkha, flat grazing ground) I have in that paati, in the Dukpu Nyinda Rangjen (T. sGrub phug nyi zla rang ‘byon) of Milimchim, Do Lakhor (T. rDo lag ‘khor, Guru’s millstone), there is also the loom of Khandoma (mKha’ ‘gro thags rwa), Sangphu Ne (mKha’ ‘gro gsang phug), and then took a darshan of Guru Rinpochhe’s Usha (dbu zhwa, hat, below Milimchim), on the other side Mani Rangjen (Mani rang ‘byon, behind Lhegang), and Neding. From Neding I went to Tshiri Gonpa and then passing through Nakote I came into my home. That was all I have visited in Yolmo.
Q: These are the sacred places of Hyolmo. Could you tell me about the sacred places that you have visited besides Hyolmo, in Nepal and India?
A: In India first I went to Tsho Pema (T. mTsho Padma, Rewalsar). After having darshan of Tsho Pema I went to Kelang, from there I just forgot the name of the place where I went, and then I travelled to Dharamshala, and to Situ Rinpoche’s Gonpa in Bir, and then went to Lumbini in Nepal, where we were doing accumulation of Muni Muni for two days. I have been to Dorjeden (T. rDo rje gdan, Bodh Gaya) twice, once during Kagyü Mönlam and once during Nyingma Mönlam. I have a wish to go to Dorjeden once again. I took a darshan of Tsachogtong (rTsa mchog drung, Kushinagar), and the place where they say the Buddha was given the yogurt, I have been to the place Khorngaden Sangpo (T. ‘khor lnga sde bsang po) Sarnath, in Varanasi, I visited many sacred places in India, but I can’t remember all their names, because I did not note them down that time.
Q: Thank you for telling us about your memories. Are these all the sacred places that you visited in Hyolmo, Nepal and India? Could you tell me about your jindags besides the people of Sermathang and Tahongsa?
A: I don’t have much support, Tahongsa and Sermathang people are all jindags as well as lamas themselves. In Kathamandu also there are not much jindags of mine. I mostly accompany other lamas and sometime I take other lamas with me.
Q: Now my last question for you is the following: what do you think about the future of Hyolmo temple villages? Do you think the young generation can continue to preserve the tradition and culture of Hyolmo?
A: Young people go abroad to Korea, Japan, America, Taiwan. People all became selfish and just run after money. I cannot see who will do cho in the future. In my time we were competing for going to retreat and beating the nga (T. rnga, traditional drum). I don’t know if people stay in retreat secretly or not, but I don’t see a lama who can perform all the tasks regarding cho and does chyaboom (T. phyag ‘bum, hudred-thousand prostration), it’s been a long time. There are more monasteries now and more monks go to study in these monasteries. Some teach the juniors, some of the monks get high degrees and become khenpos. However, I think we should stay in the village in the future. And the lama has to take take care of everyone in the village, the living and the dying, because village lamas have all these responsibilities. I have a bad feeling, because I don’t see the future of the Dharma, also because the temples were destroyed by the earthquake, but somehow people are giving priority for rebuilding their temples. Reconstruction is slow because of economic problems and also because giving priority to building stupas and temples first. I really hope that all will be good everywhere in Hyolmo and I wish for everything and everyone to be blessed.
Mingur: Laso thujeche for giving me time, thujeche!
Chenga Lama: Thujeche, I also thank you. I am very happy about what you are doing. Hope to talk to you in the future again. Thank you!