This is an account of a visit by Lady Diana Mukpo and Acharya Mitchell Levy to Surmang in 2002.
This was a magical trip for everyone in our party. We were all overwhelmed by the exquisite beauty we found in Tibet and realized that, in many ways, the source of the natural wholesomeness and wisdom of Tibet Buddhism is its land and its people. It truly felt like a process of ‘going back home.’ Meeting the people of Surmang Düdtsi-til was like going back to the hometown of our family lineage. Lots of smiles. big-hearted people, welcoming us with open arms.
We were invited to participate in the discussion about the training of the twelfth Trungpa Tulku. During this discussion, the most appropriate place for training the Trungpa Tulku was discussed. It was agreed at this meeting that Surmang itself was the best environment for training the Trungpa Tulku over the next five years, in order to be sure that the Trungpa Tulku receives all the teachings of the Surmang tradition. In fact, when it came time to choose a person to communicate this decision to the father of the Trungpa Tulku, the responsibility fell, by unanimous consent, to Lady Diana. This truly felt as if we had all come full-circle. We were fortunate enough to receive the benefits of the eleventh Trungpa Tulku’s decision to come to the West and plant the victory banner of Dharma in North America. Now, we had the opportunity to both be involved in the decision of how to train the next Trungpa Tulku and offer our ongoing support in this process.
We challenged ourselves, at the beginning of this trip, to offer to the people of Surmang a taste of the teachings of the eleventh Trungpa Tulku in the West by manifesting, to the best of our ability, the wisdom and presence of the Shambhala lineage. Whether we rose to that challenge is a question that can only be answered by the people we encountered. However, everywhere we went, we were offered graciousness and respect. Both Lady Diana and the Lamen were invited to give Lungs to the monks and villagers of Surmang. From our point of view, this was a mark of the bond created by the Shambhala lineage and the Surmang Kagyu lineage.
Ashoka Mukpo was recognized, at the age of two months, as the Ninth Khamnyon Tulku by the sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa. Many people from Karma Gon monastery came to see Khamnyon Tulku throughout our visit. Watching the slow process of trust and appreciation that slowly evolved was extremely rewarding. This monastery has been without its abbot for many years, and it was wonderful to be part of these meetings.
It became clear to everyone in the party that the people of the district of Surmang Düdtsi-til endured extreme hardship due to the fact that their abbot, the 11th Trungpa Tulku, was forced to escape, and came to the West. There has been no major teacher in this area for the last ten to twelve years, which means there was no source of funding for either the district or the monastery. The need for rebuilding and the ongoing nurturing of this community of lay people and monks is very clear. The Mukpo family is committed to this, and plans are now underway to coordinate with previous efforts to restore Surmang Düdtsi-til. The first of these efforts include rebuilding the shedra for educating the monks at Surmang as well as planning a school for lay persons in the Surmang district.
Our visit to Sechen Monastery was another important highlight of the trip. This return visit of Sechen Tulku (Gesar) was met with great excitement and fanfare by the people of Sechen. Sechen Tulku conducted a lung in the courtyard of the Monastery and his visit to the new Shedra and the lay school was quite moving. The graciousness and dignity which he demonstrated during the visit had an impact on both Sechen as well as the traveling party.