Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche Suggests: The 2014 Stupa Pilgrimage Story by Lama Kathy Wesley

KTDstupapilgrimageheaderToday, I’m writing to let you know the story behind the 2014 “East Coast Edition” of the KTD Stupa Pilgrimage.

Some of you may remember hearing about our 1st Annual KTD Stupa Pilgrimage in June, 2013. During that trip, 22 people from all over the United States traveled by pilgrimage bus to seven different Buddhist relic monuments (called “stupa” or “choten”) throughout the Southwestern US.

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The 2013 Stupa Pilgrimage

As I began planning the 2014 trip, I asked our pilgrimage’s spiritual guide, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, for advice about where to go and what to do. Surprisingly, he gave me this sheepish look and said, “would it be all right if you did the pilgrimage on the East Coast next year?”

To hear my beloved 90-year-old guru ask *me* if I minded moving the 2014 pilgrimage East was humbling – to say the least. “Of course!” I answered. “Tell me what you’d like for us to see.”

Then, he outlined a pilgrimage – much the same way he outlined the 2013 pilgrimage – that would have us “headquartered” at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra for three nights, and would include 12 stupas – 12! – at four different dharma centers in upstate New York.

As I considered Khenpo Rinpoche’s words, it all made perfect sense. For years, Khenpo Rinpoche has been calling Karma Triyana Dharmachakra “the Bodhgaya of America,” relating KTD with the sacred place in India where the historical Buddha, Lord Shakyamuni, attained his enlightenment. KTD is the place where His Holiness the 16th Karmapa blessed the land for his “seat” in North America; it’s where we built that seat, with its magnificent Main Shrine Room housing the 11-foot-tall Buddha image that is one of the finest on the continent; it’s where His Holiness the 17th Karmapa came and blessed his students, and said he felt as though he had come “home” again.

Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and Lama Kathy Wesley; photo by Tanya Bissig-Schroeder
Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and Lama Kathy Wesley; photo by Tanya Bissig-Schroeder

So, to house the pilgrims at the chief pilgrimage spot in America, and lead our tour from there was fitting, and inspiring to consider.

Responding to Khenpo Rinpoche’s advice, I quickly contacted the dharma centers he’d suggested for our pilgrimage, and got enthusiastic responses. The centers wanted us to come, and were willing to do whatever we needed to make that happen. (See itinerary below)

We were able to arrange our pilgrimage using some of the suggestions folks had asked for after our last trip.

We plan to have shorter drives between stupas, as well as planning 3-hours visits at each stupa, so we can concentrate on what Khenpo Rinpoche said was the main purpose of pilgrimage – to accumulate merit through making offerings, reciting aspirations, and performing circumambulation; and to accumulate wisdom through practicing meditation.

We also will have an opportunity to meet several lamas, and will have two sessions to create stupa-shaped tsa-tsas (small reliquaries) to take home.

Now we have announced the pilgrimage, inviting everyone to come along.

It would be lovely to have you along; hope to see you there!

May we dedicate this pilgrimage to the long lives of our teachers, the longevity of His Holiness Karmapa’s dharma in America, and our own growing appreciation for (and practice of!) the dharma. May all beings benefit!

— Lama Kathy Wesley

So, here’s a look at the schedule for KTD Stupa Pilgrimage 2014, East Coast Edition:  

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Special stupa in KTD Shrine Room
Thursday, May 15: Arrival Day Arrive by air at Albany; stay at airport hotel that night. (Some folks may wish to fly into other airports; they will have to arrange their own transportation to KTD. And still others will want to drive directly to KTD.)
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That evening, two orientations will be held: one at the Albany airport hotel, and one at KTD.
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Kagyu Thubten Choling
Stupa at Kagyu Thubten Choling

Friday, May 16: Day One

Morning: 28-passenger bus (similar to our bus last year) will pick up pilgrims in Albany and bring them to KTD. Once they arrive, there will be teachings at KTD, followed by prayers, meditation and circumambulation.

After lunch, pilgrims will go to Wappingers Falls NY to Kagyu Thubten Choling, where they will spend 3 hours visiting their stupa overlooking the Hudson River. (This will be a stupa similar to the one in Questa, where one can meditate inside the stupa.)

Stupa House at Karme Ling
Stupa house at Karme Ling

Saturday, May 17: Day Two

Morning: We go to Karme Ling Three-Year Retreat Center.

We circumambulate the two small stupas there, visit the 5-Buddha Family Shrine, and (hopefully!) see Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, and have lunch.

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Padma Samye Ling, near Karme Ling

Afternoon: We go to Padma Samye Ling, near Karme Ling, where there are 20-foot-tall versions of all *8* of the stupas associated with Buddha’s life.

Sunday, May 18: Day Three 

Making Tsa Tsas; photo by Nathan Tice
Making Tsa Tsas; photo by Nathan Tice
Morning: We visit the stupa at Ogyen Cho Dzong, located about one hour north of KTD, where we make offerings and recite dedications for the tour.
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Afternoon: Pilgrims will return to airports (those going to Albany will return on our bus), or remain at KTD (if they wish).
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