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Gang Rinpoche

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Gang Rinpoche - Kailash

In the Buddhist tradition, Mt Kailash, which is also 18 known as Gang Rinpoche, Gang Tise ´, Kela¯sa, Meru, 19 and Sumeru, is located in Uttarakuru, a semi-mythical 20 and semi-historical region situated to the north of 21 Jambud?¯pa (Indian subcontinent). Alakananda¯is 22 said to be the chief city of

this region and Kubera 23 (also called Vessavana) is its king. It abounds with 24 yaks ? as and devas, is 80,000 leagues in extent, and is 25 at the center of the ?at world system. Lord Indra 26 (Sakka/Sakra), chief of the devas, lives in Ta¯vatim ? sa 27(Sk, Tra ¯yastrim ? s ´a) heaven which is located on top of 28Kailash. Gautama Buddha is also said to have visited 29Ta ¯vatim ? sa in order to preach to his mother where she 30was born as a devaputra.

The importance of Kailash (Figs. 1 and 2) in the Indian 33religious geography can be imagined from the fact that 34there are literally hundreds of mountains and historical 35temples within India and abroad that are either called 36Kailash themselves or have been inspired by Kailash. 37Adi-Kailash (Uttarakhand) (Fig. 3), Kinner-Kailash 38(Himachal Pradesh) (Fig. 4), Kailash Temple Ellora ¯ 39(Maharashtra) (Fig. 5), Baphuon (Cambodia) (Fig. 6), 40and

Prambanan (Indonesia) (Fig. 7) are just a few 41such examples. Uttarkuru is generally identi?ed with 42Western Tibet and the adjacent Himalayan region. 43Mt Kailash is located in Western Tibet, which falls 44within Indian religious geography. Western Tibet, 45known to the Tibetans as Ngari (called Ali by

the 46Chinese), is possibly one of the most inaccessible and 47remote regions in the world. Mt Kailash, closely asso48ciated with Ma ¯nasarovara and Ra¯kasTa¯l and located 49about 35 km to their north, is a 22,028 ft high peak of 50distinctive appearance. Four of Asia’s great rivers, 51viz., Brahmaputra (Tsangpo), the Indus, the Sutlej, 52and the Karnali (Ghagra), have their source within 53a short distance of Mt Kailash. These rivers have 54contributed to the identi?cation of Mt Kailash with 55the mythical axis mundi (“Navel of the Earth”), 56Mt Meru, the center of the universe in traditional 57South Asian cosmology. Pa ¯li literature mentions 58Kela ¯sa as one of the ?ve mountain ranges in Himava ¯ 59standing around Lake Anotatta. Mt Kailash 60( kela¯sakut? a) is mentioned as the highest peak of Kela¯sa

A. Sharma (ed.), Encyclopedia of Indian Religions, DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-1989-7, # Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

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61 range and is of silver color, 200 leagues high, and bent 62 inwards “like a crow’s beak” ([4]: II.437f). Kela¯sa is 63 often used in similes in Pa¯li

literature to describe an 64 object that is dif?cult to destroy (e.g., [2]: V.39), per65 fectly white (e.g., the horse Kanthaka, [2]: VI.490, 66 515), or very stately (e.g., an elephant’s head or a big 67 building, [2]: I.321; V.52, 53). The Buddhist text 68 Maha¯vastu mentions Kailash as the abode of the 69 kinnaras ([3]: II.97, 109; III.309, 438). According to 70 Pa¯li Buddhist mythology, a kinnara is a little bird with 71 a head like a man’s ([2]: IV.106, 254; V.456).

72 Buddhist Deities and Importance of Kailash 73 Mt Kailash has the unique distinction of being the 74 world’s most venerated place which is the least visited. 75 Each year only a few thousand pilgrims visit this 76 supremely sacred site of billions of people spanning 77 across four religions – Buddhism,

Hinduism, Jainism, 78 and Bo ¨n. The reason for this unusual fact is that 79 Mt Kailash and the two lakes are located in a bleak 80 and remote corner of Western Tibet. 81 People of Tibetan, Indian, Bhutanese, Mongolian, 82 and Nepalese backgrounds devoutly maketheir journey 83 to Kailash. Though many people come to see and walk 84 around Mt Kailash, no one has ever climbed the moun85 tain, the only exceptions being important mythical and 86 semi-mythical ? gures belonging to legends of the reli87 gions associated with this mountain. To the Tibetan 88 Buddhists, Kailash is associated with a Tantric 89 meditational deity called Demchog (Cakrasam ? vara) 90 and his consortAu3 Dorje Phagmo (Vajra-Vara¯h? ¯). These 91 two deities are not necessarily gods as such, but are 92 rather seen as personi?cations of certain wrathful or 93 passionate aspects of human nature. Demchog is an 94 awesome, colorful ?gure with unlimited amounts of 95 energy. In the images he is shown as having four faces 96 of different colors, each having three eyes. He has blue 97 skin, twelve arms, and twelve hands holding important 98 objects. He wears a crown of human skulls and a tiger 99 skinaroundhiswaist.HisconsortDorjePhagmohasred 100 skin and carries a curved knife and a skull cup. She is 101 associated with a small peak next to Kailash called 102 Tijung. Tibetan paintings depict her as

clinging tenaci103 ously to Demchog and inextricably interlocked with 104 him in sexual union. Hanumana, the monkey-god of 105 Hindus, is said to be seated at the foot of Kailash. It is 106 also said that the Buddha once inhabited the mountain 107 with 500 other bodhisattvas (enlightened beings who 108 have chosen to stay back to help others attain Nirva¯n ? a).

109Though this is not believed by all Buddhists, what is 110generallyaccepted inmodern times isthe association of 111the mountain with the Buddhist guru,

yogi, and the poet 112Milarepa( Rje-btsunMi-la-ras-pa).Milarepalivedinthe 113lateeleventhandearlytwelfthcenturiesoftheCommon 114Era, and he belonged to the Karma Kagyu school of 115Tibetan Buddhism. Legends hold that he was involved 116in a powerful competition for possession of Mt Kailash 117with a priest of

the Bo ¨n faith named Au4 Naro Bo ¨nchung. 118According to the Pa ¯li text Paramatthajotika ¯ [4], an 119important battle tookplace herebetweenA ¯l ? avakaYaks ? a 120and the Buddha, resulting in the conversion of the for121mer to Buddhism. Though historically speaking Bud122dhismenteredTibetonlyintheseventhcenturyC.E.,the 123Buddha is believed to have magically visited Kailash in 124the ?fth century B.C.E. There are many

impressions of 125the Buddha’s feet in Western Tibet, four of them being 126on the kora (circumambulation) route of Kailash. The 127peak of Kailash, appearing like the Sphinx at Giza, 128dominates the rest of the ridge standing out majestically 129like a cone and visible from a very considerable 130distance. Ma ¯nasarovara is Kailash’s inseparable 131complement in every respect. The lake is female to the 132mountain’s male, receptivity to its

activity, and depth to 133its height; and Ma ¯nasarovara’s depths and colors 134contain a mystery equally sublime. If Kailash is an 135immutabletempleandfocusforadoration,Manasarovar 136is a shifting ?uid mirror meant for contemplation. 137Lama Anagarika Govinda writes:

138There are mountains which are just mountains and there 139are mountains with personality. The personality of a 140mountain is more than merely a strange

shape that 141makes it different from others ...Personality consists in 142the ability to in?uence others, and this power is due to 143consistency, harmony, and one-pointedness of character. 144If these qualities are present in an individual in their 145highest perfection, then this individual is a ?t

leader of 146humanity either as a ruler, thinker or a saint, and we 147recognise him as a vessel of divine power. If these qual148ities are present in a mountain we recognise it as a vehicle 149of cosmic power and we call it a sacred mountain ...To 150see the greatness of a mountain one must keep one’s

151distance; to understand its form one must move around 152it;toexperienceitsmoodsonemustseeitat sunriseandat 153sunset,atnoonandatmidnight,insunandinrain,insnow 154and in storm, in summer and in winter and in all the other 155seasons ...MtKailashasbecomeasymboloftheultimate 156quest for perfection and ultimate realisation, signposts 157that point beyond worldly existence. ([ 1], 197–

158Tibetan scriptures speak of four rivers issuing from 159the world mountain: they are the Senge Khabab, the

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160 north-?owing “River from the Mouth of a Lion” 161 (Indus); theAu5 Dachok Khabab, the “Horse-Mouth 162 River” totheeast(Tsangpo/Brahmaputra);theMapcha 163 Khabab, the south-?owing “River from the Mouth of 164 a Peacock” (Karnali); and the Langchen Khabab, the 165 “Elephant-MouthRiver” tothewest (Sutlej).

These are 166 the names of the four actual rivers of the Kailash 167 region. It is one of nature’s classic improbabilities 168 that four rivers ending 2,500 km apart in the Bay of 169 Bengal and the Arabian Sea should begin their differ170 ing courses in the same unlikely region of Kailash. 171 Tibetan Buddhists call the mountain Gang 172 Rinpoche (the “Precious One of Glacial Snow”) and 173 regard it as the dwelling place of Demchog (also 174 known as Cakrasam ? vara) and his consort Dorje 175 Phagmo.Together thepair symbolizes themystic dual176 ity of compassion and wisdom which results in spiri177 tual

Enlightenment. Three hills rising near Gang 178 Rinpoche are believed to be the abodes of the Bodhi179 sattvas Man ˜jus ´r?¯, Vajrapa¯n ? i, and Avalokites ´vara. To 180 the Bo ¨n, followers of the pre-Buddhist shamanistic 181 faith of Tibet, Kailash is the “Nine-Storeyed Swastika 182 Mountain” and the mystic

“soul” of the entire region. 183 They call it Tise ´ and believe it to be the seat of the Sky 184 Goddess Sipaimen. The Bo ¨npo perform its kora in the 185 anti-clockwise direction. The union of sacred moun186 tain and the lake marks a holy site for the Bo ¨npo, the 187 two being “mother and father of the

earth.” 188 At least most, if not all, religious traditions associ189 ated with Kailash-Ma¯nasarovara consider climbing 190 Mt Kailash or sailing on Lake Ma¯nasarovara as sinful. 191 In May 2001 the Chinese government had granted 192 permission to Spanish climbers to climb Mt Kailash. 193 But as a result of

international protests, the idea was 194 given up by the Spaniards. Earlier Reinhold Messner 195 had also gained permission to climb, but he gave up the 196 idea when on approaching the mountain he felt that he 197 would not like to hurt the sentiments of those who 198 considered it sacrilege to set foot on it.

199 The Parikrama¯ and the Shrines as well as 200 Associated Deities on the Route 201 Of the pilgrimage season from mid-May till 202 mid-October, July and August are a bit wet when 203 generally Kailash stays surrounded by clouds. More204 over, “It is common practice to go by one of the routes 205 and return by another, and very frequently the pilgrims 206 observe the rule, of going from left to right, as this is 207 considered lucky and correct (sulta), whereas the

reverse is objectionable ( ulta)” ([6], p. 51). Every 209step of the sacred route encircling Kailash and 210Manasarovar has its own legend, and every rock, hill, 211and spring its own god: an outpouring of myth and 212belief which con?rms by its very abundance the pres213ence of the sacred. 214The parikrama ¯

of Kailash (Fig. 8), which is of 21552 km, begins from Darchen (“Great Flag”). In the 216pre-1959 period, Darchen used to be an important 217center of wool trade. Now it has grown into a small 218shabby and stinky town. At a height of 15,150 ft, it 219faces the vast amphitheater-like Barkha plain. The

220parikrama ¯ route is lined with reminders of a spiritual 221reality, signs left by gods, Buddhas, and holy men of 222such power that the rocks they stood upon still bear the 223imprints of their feet (called shapje by the Tibetans) 224and hands (called chakje by the Tibetans). In the 225Tibetan system,

Kailash rises in the center, four tem226ples were built in the four cardinal points, and four 227prostration sites indicate the four directions. All the 228mountains and larger rocks around Kailash bear the 229namesofBuddhistdivinities ordivinitiessubjugatedto 230Buddhism, and there are numerous

supernatural 231imprints. Three parikrama ¯ paths are well known, 232each of which is intended to be used by the particular 233kind of living beings depending upon their spiritual 234elevation: the outer and the longest one for ordinary 235human beings, the intermediate one for the d ? a ¯kas and 236the

d ? a ¯kin? ¯s, and the third and the inner one for the 500 237arahant s. There are three gompas on the kora-circuit 238of Kailash: Au6 Chuku/Nyenri on the west, Driraphuk on 239the north, and Zuthulphuk on the eastern side. 240About 4 km from Darchen, the trail climbs up over 241the southwest end of the ridge

to reach a stone cairn. It 242is bedecked with prayer ?ags and marks the ?rst view 243of the mountain’s southern or sapphire face and a 244chaktsal gang , the ?rst of the kora’s four prostration 245points.Fromthispointthetrailbendsroundtothenorth 246and enters the Lha Chu valley, where the tall Darboche 247?

agpole and the Yamadva ¯ra soon come into view 248(Fig. 9). Yamadva¯ra is known as Cho ¨rten Gangnyi to 249the Tibetans. The real journey begins from here, as the 250pilgrims pass through this cho ¨rten to receive its bless251ings and enter th

e Lha Chu valley (lit., Valley of the 252River of the Gods). Driraphuk is about 11 km from 253Yamadva ¯ra. Darboche is located about 100 m to the 254east of Yamadva ¯ra. It is marked by a tall ?agpole 255adorned with thousands of ?uttering, multicolored 256prayer ?ags and kata scarves strung out in radiating

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257 lines from the pole. Pilgrims from all over Tibet gather 258 at this sacred place on the occasion of the major 259 festival of Saga Dawa. This festival marks the birth, 260 Enlightenment, and death (Nirvana) of S ´a¯kyamuni 261 Buddha (Sakya Thukpa) and falls on the full-moon 262 day (Buddha Pu ¯rn ? ima¯) of the fourth Tibetan month 263 (either May or June). The Darboche ?agpole stands 264 some 80 ft high. On the occasion of the Buddha 265 Pu ¯rn ? ima¯, the

pilgrims ritually take down the ?agpole 266 and replace the old prayer ?ags with new ones. 267 The importance of the Darboche location is linked 268 to the sanctity of a sky-burial site (d€utrto) called 269 Drachom Ngagye D€utrto, located on a ridge to the 270 east of the ?agpole site. The whole of this rocky

pla271 teau including the sky-burial site is called the Kyilkhor 272 Teng (Man ? d ? ala Terrace) of the 84 maha¯siddhas. Guru 273 Rinpoche and the ?rst explorer of Kailash, Go ¨tsangpa, 274 are known to have blessed the site. The sky-burial site 275 was once reserved for monks and lamas. Here the 276 sky-

burial ceremony is performed when a death occurs 277 among the local people. 278 Near the sky-burial site is a rock enclosure 279 protecting the ?rst of the Buddha footprints on the 280 Kailash kora, created when the Buddha Chomdende 281 (“The Victorious One”) ?ew here in the company of 282 500 arahants.

One can continue across this small pla283 teau and descend back down to the kora trail and the 284 river, in the area known as Sershong. The valley nar285 rows dramatically at Sershong, with majestic hills fall286 ing down to the swift-?owing Lha Chu and Mt Kailash 287 appearing impressively above the eastern

ridge. 288 Chukku (Cho ¨ku) Gompa, also called Nyenri 289 Gompa, is a small ocher building clinging to the side 290 of the massive mountain across the river. It was 291 founded in the thirteenth century by Go ¨tsangpa292 GomboPel, a Kagyupa master. Perched high above 293 the valley ?oor at 16,000 ft, it

blends secretively into 294 its rocky background. The zigzag path to the gompa 295 goes up through a maze of multicolored boulders 296 carved with mani mantra. It takes about half an hour 297 to climb from the river bank up to the gompa. All the 298 Kailash monasteries were wrecked during the Cultural 299

Revolution and the Chukku Gompa was the ?rst to be 300 rebuilt in the 1980s. 301 On the kora route, stone cairns (called lapse by the 302 Tibetans) can be seen almost everywhere. The 303 Tibetans nurture a belief that dif?cult passes and 304 steep heights are the favorite haunts of gods and god305 desses, and at all such places, mounds of stones are

306raised, having a pole ?xed in the center and attached to 307it ?utter colored rags. It takes about three hours from 308Chukku to Driraphuk Gompa. 309The south-facing Driraphuk Gompa, also spelled as 310Deraphuk (16,400 ft), rebuilt in 1985, looks across to 311the north or gold face of Kailash from the

hillside north 312of the Lha Chu. On the altar, inside the Driraphuk 313Gompa is the doll-like image of a famous monk 314named Go ¨tsangpa, the discoverer of the Kailash 315route. According to the records of the Kagyupa, 316Go ¨tsangpa lived in a cave at Kailash from 1213 to 3171217 C.E. Legend portrays him

as a pilgrim-monk 318who journeyed to Ma ¯nasarovara. On his return he 319paused at the entrance to the great Lha Chu canyon to 320begin the traveller’s ritual of making tea, but the place 321was so holy not a single rock could be used to support 322his kettle, and every stone he picked up was marked

323with a sacred mantra. Abandoning his cook ?re, 324Go ¨tsangpa set off on the journey around the mountain, 325guided by a series of deities disguised in animal form. 326The entire length of the Lha Chu Valley he chased 327a female yak ( dri): cornered in the cave of Drira, she 328revealed her true nature as

a d ? a ¯kin? ¯ (“kodarma” in 329Tibetan). A d ? a ¯kin? ¯ is one of the magical legions of 330female spirits who are the keepers of mystic intuition, 331hence the name Driraphuk (Cave of the Female Yak’s 332Horn). The small temple of this gompa is built around 333a rock cave whose walls are marked with

indentations 334made by the female yak’s horns. 335From the roof of the Driraphuk Gompa can be had 336perhaps the most superb view of the impressive north 337face of Mt Kailash. As viewed from here, Kailash has 338three bodhisattvas in the shape of mountains arrayed 339by its side. The ?rst of these located

to the west is 340Chakna Dorje or Vajrapa ¯n ? i, the wrathful Bodhisattva 341of Energy whose name means “thunderbolt in hand.” 342The second one located to the east is Jampelyang or 343Man ˜jus ´r?¯. He is the Bodhisattva of Insight, usually 344depicted holding a sword, which symbolizes discrim345inative

awareness, in one hand, and a book, which 346symbolizes his mastery of all knowledge, in the 347other. The third located between the other two is 348Chenrezig or Avalokites ´vara, an embodiment of com349passionate bodhisattvahood and the patron saint of 350Tibet. The Dalai Lama, called Gyalwa

Rinpoche by 351the Tibetans, is considered to be manifestation of 352Avalokites ´vara. The title Dalai Lama means “broad 353ocean high priest.” Many religious-minded Tibetans 354generally wear an amulet or “portable shrine” around K 4

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355 their necks, containing the image of the Dalai Lama. 356 They call it “gau.” The Kangkyam Glacier descends 357 from the north face of Mt Kailash between Chakna 358 Dorje and Chenrezig, and it takes a round trip of 359 about 3 h from Driraphuk Gompa to walk up to the 360 glacier and back. 361 From

Driraphuk, the Dro ¨lma (also spelt as Dolma) 362 pass is about 7 km. The path twists across a rock363 strewn slope awash in fog. Rock cairns sprout by the 364 hundreds along the trail, raised in offering to Dro ¨lma 365 and in mimicry of Kailash. An hour’s walk takes the 366 pilgrims to Jarok Donkhang (17,360

ft). A short dis367 tance from Jarok Donkhang is Shiva-tsal, also known 368 as Vajrayogin?¯ Burial Ground (17,760 ft), a rocky 369 expanse dotted with stone cairns draped with items of 370 clothing. Pilgrims are supposed to undergo a symbolic 371 death at this point, leaving their old life behind. To be

372 reborn one must ?rst die, and here the pilgrim faces 373 Yama, the King of Death, whose judgement puri?es 374 him for the new life awarded atop the Dro ¨lma-la. 375 Pilgrims pay obeisance by cutting off strips of clothing 376 and locks of hair and adding them to the heap on the 377 ground.Some even draw a

few drops of their blood and 378 drop them on to the earth. These offerings are meant to 379 create a physical link between the spirit and this holy 380 site and to preparethe soul for its long journey between 381 this life and the next. While some believe that the 382 offerings made at Shiva-tsal earn the

spiritual merit 383 gained by dying on pilgrimage, others believe they 384 ensure a rebirth in the land of the Buddha. Sometimes 385 monksperform deathceremonies attheShiva-tsal. The 386 monk chants the holy mantras while the pilgrims pre387 tend to be dead. Right by the trail at the end of the 388

Shiva-tsal is a red footprint of Milarepa. A short dis389 tance from Shiva-tsal the trail reaches the sin-testing 390 stone of Bardo Trang. A narrow passage squeezes 391 beneath the ?at stone and pilgrims are supposed to 392 measure their sinfulness by wriggling under the stone. 393

Highabovethetrailisalargemirrorrock;itlooksredto 394 ordinary people, white to bodhisattvas, and black to 395 sinners. A little further along, the much more convo396 luted passage under the Dikpa Karnak awaits those in 397 need of a second opinion.Au7 Finally, the trail turns to the 398 east for the ?nal

ascent to the Dro ¨lma-la, and from here 399 can be had the last glimpse of the north face of Mt 400 Kailash. One of the streams that cross the trail not 401 long before the pass is said to have the ability to purify 402 the negative karma that comes from slaughtering ani403 mals. Pilgrims search the bottom of the stream bed for

small black “pills” that are held to be powerful 405medicine. 406When Go ¨tsangpa, who was the ?rst man to climb 407Dro ¨lma-la, came, he was guided up here by Dro ¨lma 408(also spelt as Dolma) herself. At the great boulder 409which marks the path, she disappeared in the form of 41021 wolves; the rock is

known as the “Dro ¨lma Stone.” 411Pilgrims reverence it by circumambulating around it, 412bowing before it, stringing prayer ?ags (called lungta 413by the Tibetans) from the top. Lumps of butter, pinches 414of tsampa, Chinese paper money, coins, portraits of 415pilgrims, strands of hair, old clothing, human teeth, 416horned sheep skulls, etc. can also be seen as part of 417the offerings made by pilgrims. Tradition demands one 418both leave and take an object

here; the strip of prayer 419?ag thus obtained becomes a lucky amulet. Dro ¨lma-la, 420the geographic high point, is the emotional peak of the 421entire kora. Indian pilgrims perform a havan here. 422Dro ¨lma-la is a stunning spectacle, stretching 150 ft 423across the summit with thick garlands of colorful

424prayer ?ags dancing in the wind. At 18,500 ft, 425Dro ¨lma-la is the highest pass on the Kailash kora that 426represents the most challenging and rewarding point of 427the circuit. The crossing over this pass represents 428a transition from the former life to a new one with all 429of the previous

sins forgiven by the compassionate 430Goddess of Mercy, Dro ¨lma. Every stone around the 431pass is considered to be permeated with the three 432qualities of the Buddha: mind, speech, and body. 433They also represent the Three Jewels: Buddha, 434Dharma, and Sam ? gha. In the middle of the pass is 435a large,

cubic rock called Phawang Mebar, upon 436which is a pyramid of stones to support a ?agpole. 437The ?agpole has many strands of prayer ?ags going 438to other surrounding ?agpoles, and around the rock are 439placed all kinds of things by the passing pilgrims, like 440clothing, horns, animal skulls, hair and

butter stuck to 441the rock, and other such mementos. The pass is a place 442for fervent prayer, mantra recitations, and readings 443from sacred texts by the pilgrims passing over and is 444also a place to look for omens. Often, animal owners 445will bring their animals over the pass to protect them 446from

slaughter and to give them long lives. 447Dro ¨lma is a female meditation deity who is a 448manifestation of the enlightened mind of all the Bud449dhas. Thisbenevolent deity is also knownas Ta ¯ra¯ (who 450carries her devotees to the other side of spiritual real451ization). Thus, spiritually passing through Dro ¨lma-la 452marksthetransitionfrom thislifetoanew one, foratop

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the pass the pilgrim is reborn, all sins forgiven through 454 the mercy of Dro ¨lma. Dro ¨lma is sometimes referred to 455 as the mother of all the Buddhas and has many aspects 456 but is most often seen as Green Tara or as Dro ¨lkar 457 (White Ta¯ra¯). In spite of Dro ¨lma’s in?nite mercy, the 458 ascent to

her pass remains a test of faith and determi459 nation. More than a few pilgrims have died on the 460 approach, where blizzards can strike almost without 461 warning and continuously rage for days. 462 A few hundred meters down from the Dro ¨lma-la is 463 Gaur?¯ Kun ? d ? a (Tukje Chenpo Tso, i.e.,

“Compassion 464 Lake” of the Tibetans) (Fig. 10). Located at a height 465 of 18,900 ft, it is the highest freshwater lake in the 466 world. Hindu pilgrims are expected to immerse them467 selves in the lake’s green waters, breaking the ice if 468 necessary. Set in a 300 ft deep bowl, the green-colored 469

lakemostlyremainsfrozenthroughouttheyear.Usually 470 thepilgrimsignoretheablutionsmandatedbyscriptures 471 and hurry past. 472 The trail down is barren, steep, and rocky, through 473 an endless boulder ?eld. It takes about an hour from 474 Gaur?¯ Kun ? d ? a to make the long 1,500 ft descent before 475

reachingthegrassy banksoftheLhamChu Khir.There 476 are the remains of a stone hut where the trail meets the 477 river. This place is marked by a huge rock topped by 478 the kora’s third Buddha footprint. Thereafter, begins 479 the ?at trail. The soft grass carpeting the ground is 480 a relief to the weary

feet, the liquid whisper of rivulets 481 and streams welcome after the dry gray dust of the 482 pass. Nomads’ black tents (known as baghur) dot the 483 green slopes of this gentler side of the kora, and their 484 yaks graze placidly by the trail. Nomads can live 485 anywhere, it seems; freshwater and grass

are all their 486 herds need, and this gives them an enviable indepen487 dence.Although the easternvalley is not as spectacular 488 as the other side of the kora, it possesses its own subtle 489 beauty. Everywhere is the sound of water, gurgling in 490 rivulets and dripping off rocks. There are routes on 491 both sides of the river. The east bank trail presents 492 a better view and less marshy ground, but it requires 493 a lot of boulder hopping and wading back across the 494 river at some point. A short distance ahead a valley 495 comes down from the Khando Sanglam-la to join the 496 main trail. This valley

provides the only glimpse of 497 Mt Kailash’s eastern or crystal face. The third prostra498 tion point of the kora is at the mouth of this valley. 499 From here Zhongzerbu where the Zuthulphuk 500 (or Tsumtul-pu, i.e., “Miracle Cave”) Gompa 501 (16,000 ft) is located about 2 h’ walk along the river.

502By this point the river changes its name to Zhong Chu 503(“Fortress River”). 504The cave at Zuthulphuk is a special site, known for 505being the place

where Milarepa and Naro Bo ¨nchung 506had one of their legendary contests. An interesting 507legend about Zuthulphuk Gompa relates to Milarepa 508and the Bo ¨npo shaman Naro Bo ¨nchung meeting at the 509spot where the gompa was later built, the former jour510neying around Kailash clockwise and the latter

anti511clockwise. Finding the argument futile about whose 512direction was the right one to follow; Naro Bo ¨nchung 513lost his equanimity and hurled an enormous boulder at 514Milarepa who nimbly caught it. To dispel doubts in 515disbelievers, Milarepa left his ?ngerprints on the rock, 516by the side of which a gompa came up later on. 517Milarepa’s meditation cave is the gompa’s main 518shrine. The miracle that gives its name to the gompa 519is at the back of the main hall. Needing shelter from the 520rain, Milarepa and Naro Bo ¨nchung agreed to jointly 521construct a cave. Milarepa would build the roof, and 522Naro Bo ¨nchung would be responsible for the walls. 523Milarepa amazed Bo ¨nchung by building his roof and 524making it ?oat in the air without any walls. Bo ¨nchung 525quit the competition, so Milarepa went ahead and 526?nished the project by adding walls to his roof and 527making the cave. Thus, it

was an easy victory for 528Buddhism. Milarepa then decided the roof was too 529high and went outside and pressed it down with his 530foot, leaving a footprint.Back inside he realized he had 531pushed it down a bit too much. So he shoved it up 532a little. All this activity resulted in his hand and head

533prints on the ceiling Au8 and the footprint on the roof. 534Inside the cave, pilgrims kneel to venerate an image 535of Milarepa seated in characteristic pose, right hand 536cupped behind his ear as if listening to an inner voice. 537After the shelter building contest, the two had 538another ?nal contest to

decide who could be the pos539sessor of Mt Kailash. The contest was a race to see who 540could reach the summit ?rst. Naro Bo ¨nchung set off 541?rst early in the morning, ?ying towards the mountain 542upon his magical drum ( damru). Milarepa remained in 543beduntiltheBo ¨npopriestwasnearlyatthesummit and

544then on a ray of the rising sun arrived on top before his 545rival. Naro Bo ¨nchung fell down in defeat and as he was 546tumbling down his drum sliced a deep groove on the 547southern face. This cleft is known to the Hindus as the 548“Stairway to Heaven.” The defeated Naro Bo ¨nchung 549begged permission to continue circumambulating 550around the mountain counterclockwise in the Bo ¨n K 6 Kailash

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551 manner. He also requested for a place to stay from 552 where he could see the mountain. The victorious 553 Milarepa agreed. Tossing a handful of Kailash’s 554 snow onto a nearby peak to the east, he offered it as 555 a dwelling place to the priest. This summit is now 556 called Bo ¨nri (the “Bo ¨n Mountain”) and on the lower 557 ?anks is the reconstructed Bo ¨nri Gompa. 558 Some of the most venerated objects within the 559 gompa are some stone relics with rangjung footprints 560 on them that are said to belong to Go ¨tsangpa, 561 Karmapa, and Milarepa. There is also a trident carved 562 out of stone

called Mile Changkha from perhaps the 563 eleventh century that is said to have belonged to 564 Milarepa. Though part of it was damaged during the 565 Cultural Revolution, the stone trident is considered to 566 be a rediscovered treasure that contributes to the 567 strength of Buddhism in the Kailash

region. In the 568 Zuthulphuk cave, the most important object is an 569 image of Milarepa made of a precious metal which 570 was supposedly created by the sage himself before he 571 died. Next to the gompa is the Changchubcho ¨rten, 572 which also belonged to Milarepa. There is a round 573 protuberance near

the altar which Milarepa had 574 declared as having the power to bless and protect. 575 Around the Zuthulphuk Gompa are vast conglomera576 tions of mani stones and huge piles of rock with man577 tras and scriptures carved on them. There are also 578 remains of several large stupas here. Above the 579 gompa

are a few small caves where hermits used to 580 live. Now they are only rarely used by nomads and 581 pilgrims but can certainly be used as shelter during an 582 emergency. The guest house at Zuthulphuk Gompa is 583 quite primitive and has only about half a dozen rooms. 584 At a distance of about 5 km to the

north of Darchen, 585 the Gyangdrak or Gyandruk Gompa is located. This 586 gompa is a branch of the Drigung Gompa (Drebung, 587 east of Lhasa). Following a vision, this gompa was 588 founded by the Jigten Sumgon of Drigung Kagyupa 589 sect of Buddhism as an administrative center for over590 seeing the multitudes of meditators sent to the Kailash 591 region. Gyangdrak was the personal residence of 592 GuyaGangpa, the ?rst Drigungpa administrator, who 593 was responsible for governing the estates donated to 594 the Drigungpa by the King of Guge to support the 595 Kailash monks. Later, when in the ?fteenth- century 596 Drigung Kagyupa sect fell on bad days, most of the 597 gompas in Western Tibet, including this gompa, were 598 “leased” to the Drukpa Kagyupa sect of Bhutan. These 599 gompas were under the control of the Bhutanese till the Chinese takeover. Like all religious structures around 601Kailash,

Gyangdrak was also destroyed during the 602Cultural Revolution. It is the largest of the Mt Kailash 603gompas and was also the ?rst gompa to be built in the 604Kailash region. Monks from the Drigung Kagyupa sect 605began the reconstruction and restoration work in 1983. 606Now the three buildings that make

up the complex 607have been fully restored. The primary structure on 608top of the hillock has the dukhang (assembly hall) 609within. The other two structures are the kitchen and 610living quarters of the monks. In the dukhang, the main 611images are statues of Guru Rinpoche, Palden Lhamo, 612DrigungKyopo ¨n, and Apchi (protectress of Drigung 613Gompa). On cho ¨rtens near the gompa entrance, pil614grims deposit tsa-tsas. The founder of the Bo

n tradi615tion, Shenrab Miwoche, reportedly stayed at this site. 616Other than Gyangdrak Gompa, Selung (Gray Val617ley), also known as Serlung, is the other gompa at Mt 618Kailash that does not fall on the main pilgrimage kora. 619It is about two miles west of Gyangdrak. This gompa, 620the smallest of the

?ve Kailash gompas, is located on 621the western side of Selung Chu. A small temple is 622upstairs, and residence rooms for monks and nuns are 623on both levels. There is a trail (partly motorable) head624ing back directly to Darchen from Selung. Though the 625summit of Kailash is visible from Darchen, the

best 626views of the mountain can be had from near the Selung 627Gompa. The trail to Selung from Gyangdrakstarts near 628the cho ¨rtens behind the monks’ residences. It climbs 629the far west ride (16,950 ft) and then descends to the 630Selung Chu. Up the valley from Selung is the route to 631Sheldra, site

of the inner pilgrimage circuit of 632Mt Kailash. From here there is a trail going directly 633to Darboche. Near the base of Kailash are the Serdung 634Chuksum (19 Reliquary Cho ¨rtens), where relics of the 635former Gyangdrak administrators were enshrined. 636Many meditation caves are also found here.

The inner 637kora followsthebase ofthemountaineast totwinlakes 638of Tso Kapala, neighboring glacial lakes said to have 639black water in one and white in the other. According to 640tradition,onlythose whohavedonethe koraofKailash 641at least 12 times can perform the inner kora and visit 642these sacred lakes.

Pilgrimage Since 1981 644Chinese government opened Tibet to pilgrims in 1981. 645Since then both pilgrims and tourists are allowed in 646groups to travel to Kailash either via Nepal or from 647Lhasa. Majority of the travellers begin their 2-week Kailash 7 K

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648 trip from Kathmandu in 4WD vehicles. Under an Indo649 Chinese agreement, a few groups of Indian citizens are 650 selected for a 26-day pilgrimage by the Government of 651 India each year and are allowed to cross over into Tibet 652 via the Lipu Crossing of Uttarakhand between the 653 months of June and

August. On the Indian side of the 654 border, these pilgrims, under the tight control of 655 a government-appointed liaison of?cer, are escorted 656 by Indian security forces, and on the Tibetan side, 657 they travel under the strict vigilance of Chinese tourist 658 guides and immigration of?cials.


660 ?Avalokites ´vara 661 ?Bodhisattva 662 ?Buddhism 663 ?Cakrasam ? vara 664 ?Gautama Buddha 665 Manasarovara 666? Man ˜jus ´r? ¯ 667? Parikrama ¯ 668? Pilgrimage 669? Ta¯ra ¯ 670? Ta¯vatim ? sa 671? Vajrapani 672 Au9References

6731. Govinda A (1966) The way of the white clouds: a Buddhist 674Pilgrim in Tibet. Rider & Co, London 6752. Fausbo ¨ll V (ed) (1877–1897) The Ja¯takas, 7 vols. Tr€ubner, 676London 6773. Jones JJ(trans) (1949–1956) The Maha ¯vastu,3 vols. Luzac & 678Co, London 6794. Smith H (ed) (1916–1918) Sutta-Nipa ¯ta Commentary being 680Paramatthajotika ¯ II, 3 vols. PTS, London 6815. Sarao KTS (2009) Pilgrimage to Kailash: the Indian route. 682Aryan Books International, Delhi 6836. Sherring CA (1974) Western Tibet and the Indian Border684land, First Indian edn. Cosmo Publications, Delhi (originally 685published, 1906)