The day before I went up to Nagi Gompa was quite special because I had the opportunity to meet privately with my Buddha dharma teacher, Tolkpa Tulku. Tulku indicates that he was identified by elder monks as the reincarnation of a deceased master that has chosen to be reborn to carry on the teachings. Tolkpa Tulku told me that he was found at age nine and has been at the monastery ever since. I was hoping to meet with him so that I could ask for guidance as to how to spend my time while at the nunnery. This was my first 1:1 with him since I first met him in 2010 and I was a bit nervous. He knows I’m a yogi and I was pleased and relieved when he expressed his support and encouragement to not only keep up my Ashtanga practice, but to continue to focus on the complementary aspects of Ashtanga and Buddhism. He told me to practice more often and with greater intensity while at the nunnery – with the emphasis on meditation (check out my blog titled “Ya Gotta Show Up” and you’ll see why I was pretty thrilled to receive this instruction…).
The next morning I started the day early with walking meditation around Boudhanath Stupa and then hired a car to Nagi. My driver’s name was Krishna, which I took as a good omen. I arrived at about 11am and made my way up the hill to find the place quiet except for a few laborers working with two nuns on restoration of the sidewalk in front of the main hall (continued 2015 earthquake recovery). I found a spot on one of the long benches under some trees and had a seat. Along came a smiling woman who turned out to be from The Netherlands. She had stayed at Nagi the night before and invited me in with her for lunch. There I was greeted by Ani Gyantara. Another nun was working alongside Ani-la and it was clear that they share a close bond. I took to thinking of her as “Ani-too”.
There was an old woman there that I’ve seen every year. She’s a bit hunched over with long gray hair, missing teeth, deep wrinkles and wearing lay person’s clothes. She’s mute and often seems a bit confused. A young Nepali man was seated on a bench and took out a device to take the old woman’s blood pressure. He gave her some medication and they all left. (I would learn over the course of my stay that the old woman lives in a small hut just down the hill from the nunnery and has a bit of a drinking problem. She comes to puja every morning and evening, always wondering around the hall, babbling a bit under her breath and sometimes picking up a broom and sweeping the floor. The nuns treat her like part of the family, so to speak, and only the younger nuns seem to be distracted at all by her random intrusions).
During lunch a little nun came in and passed out candies – smiling from ear to ear. There are many young girls here now, in part because they were orphaned by the earthquake and also because the nunnery began accepting and educating children some years ago. Some of them will grow up to become nuns and some, of their own volition, will opt out. I think they generally stay to about 16 – 18 years of age. Ani-too brought the girl over and told us that it was her 6th birthday. Maiike, my new Dutch friend, and I sang her happy birthday bringing huge smiles to her cute, round, pink-hatted face.
After lunch I returned to my spot on the bench. I’d been sitting for a while when one of the nuns working on the sidewalk motioned me toward the side door of the main hall. Then I saw Ani-too poke her head out the door looking for me. I followed her down a narrow dimly lit hall past a few closed doors to the kitchen. I would later learn that her name is Ani Sonam. She was to become quite special to me. She stopped just outside the entrance to the kitchen and opened the top door of a small refrigerator/freezer. She took out a key and said, “you use if need hot water”. At first, I thought she meant for bathing, and then it dawned on me she meant for drinking. Then she led me up two flights of stairs to my room. The door was cloaked with a Tibetan cloth – something I’ve noticed in many monasteries – it was quite a lovely addition to the entry way. The room was a sweet surprise. It was small with windows across the back a simple foam mattress with a wood nightstand and a framed photo of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche over the bed. He’s the current head of the lineage and my teacher’s teacher, so it felt comforting to see his smiling face. Then, to my great content, I noticed a gold Buddha in a wooden hutch along the side wall of the room. I felt right at home….