So, on that Saturday, June 6,2009 at 11:35 A.M. It happened that I posed this question towards His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche:
"I don't see myself traveling to foreign countries for pilgrimages. But the thought has been in my mind to see the institute as a pilgrimage site. Would it be worthwhile or contain any merit to commit to doing full prostrations, say from the gate to the stupa, or am I daydreaming a little too much?"
It was barely a week later on June 12th, I received this reply. Dear Tymothy, Below is Rinpoche's response to your question:
"It would be excellent if you came to our center. It is true, it is a pilgrimage place. All the blessings in the world are contained within the stupa. Whatever blessings you can imagine, they are in this stupa. You are right; there is no need to go far away. You are perfectly right. Yes, you should certainly do these prostrations."
Uh oh, was my first thought. I hadn't anticipated such a positive, enthusiastic and reassuring response from Rinpoche, dang. But, right then and there, I tentatively committed myself to doing this pilgrimage.
Why would I want to do such a thing? Could I do such a thing? How would I go about doing this prostrating pilgrimage? I had seen people prostrating at the temple and had seen pilgrimages on documentaries, so I had a vague idea of what it was about. I thought I should learn a little more about them. Here is a letter I found on line:
The Amitabha Practice.
(Dharma Samudra, Padmasambhava Center. SAMAYA GYA GYA GYA Having been told to write this by the Dharmakaya Buddha Amitabha, it was composed during the eighth month by the Tulku Migyur Dorje at the age of twelve. ) "
"BY PRACTICING ON THIS, MAY ALL SENTIENT BEINGS ACHIEVE THE PERFECT TRUE-NATURE STATE OF THE LAMA, MAY THEIR HIGHEST ASPIRATIONS BE FULFILLED FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL SENTIENT BEINGS."
~SEVEN LINE PRAYER~
HUNG OR JEN YULJI NUB JANG TSAM
HUNG: On the northwest border of the country of Uddiyana
PEMA GESAR DONGPO LA
On the pistil of the lotus
Hands over the head in a gesture of prayer, OM MANE PADME HUNG HRIH, touch forehead, throat and heart, OM MAI DEWA HRIH, down to my knees, OM MANE PADME HUNG, come up, get your feet under you, stand up, take the three steps forward, look ahead a little bit. Since it was cow country we also had to be on the look out for their dear little offerings scattered here and there along the way. When I mentioned the lack of the third person being most inauspicious, it started to show towards the middle of the afternoon. Our route consistently went up the hill, getting steeper and steeper as we began our approach to the Hung rock. Every time we caught up with the cart, we had to move it forward up the hill, park it someplace and then walk back down to begin prostrations back up the hill again. So we were walking up the hill pulling the cart, then walking back down, prostrating back up the hill over and over again. Which meant, we were dong the route three times! Our rest periods became a little longer, but we enjoyed the experience all the more the closer we got to the Hung rock, where our camp would be. We had brought flutes, a small drum, conch trumpet, finger cymbals with which we played music to the world around us and sang songs to the creation we were passing through. Once while crossing a small arroyo I visualized it being a glacier water swollen stream and that we were circumambulating Mt. Kailash in Tibet and wishing I really was touching the cold water to my face. Slowly we made our way up the hill, sometimes seeing cars passing by way above us on the driveway. The last little push was up a particularly steep slope that emptied out onto the driveway. We were pulling the cart up this, got to the edge and suddenly there was a vehicle coming down the hill! What were the chances we would get to the same spot at the same time? They stopped for us and we proceeded across the roadway, pass the Hung rock and finally, parked the cart. I remember their look of disbelief and astonishment that they should come upon such a sight while visiting Garchen Institute. Leaving the cart by the truck we went back down to our last stopping point and continued our prostrations. Finally, finally, we prostrated ourselves to the base of the Hung rock! Taking our portable altar, Kuan Yin, the two malas and the the two Kuan Yin bracelets our of the offering basket, I put them on top of the monument, lit some incense and gave thanks for our having made it up the long, long hill.