Everest 3.0: Puja Blessings from Lama Geshe

Today was a day of blessings and memories. In the picture above, Lama Geshe is tying a protection cord around my neck. The red cord, which is called a sungdi in the Sherpa language, has a special knot that Lama tied in it. At the end of the blessing ceremony, each climber presented Lama Geshe with a kata (blessing scarf) which Lama then put around our neck and then he tied the sungdi around our necks. I have almost the exact same picture from our Puja in 2008 for Mt. Pumori except that my hair is pink. 🙂

Lama Geshe also wrote our names on a special card. We are to carry the card when climbing for protection on the mountain. If we reach the summit, we are to take a picture of ourselves with the card and send it back to Lama. I told Lama Geshe my Buddhist name, Tsultrim Mig Gya, and he smiled in the way that he smiles and then he wrote my name on the card.

I became a Buddhist by participating in a Refuge ceremony in 2005. During that ceremony, I received my refuge (Buddhist) name from my teacher, Moh Hardin. My name translates as Discipline Great Vision and is said to be my path.

We also all received a runung (Sherpa language). In Nepali, they are called a buti. This was very, very special and the first time I have received one during a Puja. The runung is a small square of material that contains mantras, prayers, and something from Tibet that Lama brought with him 22 years ago. The material is tied shut with green and red string tied in a special way. At base camp, we will sew another piece of fabric around the runung so we can attach it to our sungdi to also wear while climbing (actually to wear all the time…24/7…I am still wearing my sungdi from Pujas in 2010, 2014, and 2015).

Climber Smurf was also in attendance. In the picture above, he’s waiting on the table for the Puja to begin. Lama Geshe smiled at him. After the Puja, I shared my blessed kata with Climber Smurf so he could experience it as well.

Beside Lama Geshe, there were butter lamps burning and bowls of water as offerings. If you look carefully, you can see a picture of the Dala Lama and other Lamas behind the butter lamps.

The air was also thick with the smoke from incense burning. The incense was placed on the stove that heats Lama Geshe’s home. In the stove, they will burn dried yak dung. They usually start the dung burning with a combination of small sticks and a bit of kerosene. The yak dung is collected from pastures and pressed into paddies, sometimes with a bit of grass or straw. It’s a common and renewable fuel source that’s used here in the Khumbu.

We will have another Puja in base camp. Lama Geshe checked his calendar and said that April 28 was an auspicious date to have that ceremony. The Sherpas, already at base camp, had a mini Puja before they started working on the mountain. They will join us on April 28 for our whole team Puja. In the picture below, Lama Geshe is telling Dendi, the date for our base camp Puja.

The Puja marks a transition towards the climb and I always feel better moving towards the mountain once we’ve spent this time with Lama Geshe. Lama was very sick last year and I am so grateful that he recovered so I could receive his blessing once more.

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