Gyalwang Karmapa visits the Garchen and its kitchen
21st December, 2012
There’s a spacious and open feeling in the Garchen this late morning as the monks filter in from the Karmapa’s talk. Plants line the walkways and new trees stand in front of the fences. Some monks are charging their mobiles at the row of plugs below the water tower, an area that is also home to a small restaurant and store. Most of the monks are returning to their tents to retrieve their bowls for the noontime meal. Inside their temporary homes, the monks have lined up their mats parallel to the door and placed their small pile of belongings at the top of their bed, just below three spacious, screened windows. The monks we spoke with are from Dilyak Monastery (Dabzang Rinpoche’s monastery) and have been coming to the Kagyu Monlam since 2004. They say that they like living in tents as it reminds them of being up in the mountains where they grew up, and they also treasure the opportunity to stay in the same place as the Karmapa.
The monks reported that the camping light hanging from the ceiling of their tent runs well on solar power, and they use it when waking up at 5am and also at night in the hours before going to sleep at 10pm. From 6 am to late afternoon, all the monks and nuns are in the Pavilion chanting. They clean their tents from 5 to 5:30pm, dinner is at six, and then they have free time until 8:30 to visit the stupa before returning to their tents. There, before they get ready for bed, the chant leader’s voice comes to them over the loudspeakers and leads the recitation of the Four Session Guru Yoga. Written by the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje, it is a beautiful practice which supplicates the Kamtsang lineage for blessings and includes the famous “Karmapa khyenno,” “Karmapa, think of me.” So as they fall sleep, the nuns and monks are physically near the Karmapa and also have him in their minds.
The Karmapa is to visit the Garchen kitchen this morning at 11am and soon his coterie of attendants and guards appears and passes through the wide navy blue gates to the dining and kitchen area. As the sangha stands to make way for him, he passes into the kitchen and along the row of tables set along its front side. They are laden with large pots of the noontime meal—local rice, red dahl, the chilli-rich Bhutanese dish known as amadasi, and the main meal: a tasty mix of transparent rice noodles, tofu, black mushrooms, potatoes, and green leafy vegetables. The Karmapa stops in front of one of these pots of noodles, takes the ladle in hand, and begins serving the surprised yet quietly delighted monks and nuns.
As he tours the cooking area, the Karmapa stops to talk to the workers. He tastes one of the round, flat breads that are served in the mornings, and looks at the bread-making area and also into the tea kitchen where tea is boiling in immense pots. The whole visit this morning is flavored by the Karmapa’s down-to-earth and very human qualities as he looks into the ways the meals are prepared and touches the hearts of those working from three in the morning to serve the sangha.