by Erik Jampa Andersson
From March 6-9th, Sorig First Aid hosted a free medical camp at the sacred place of Maratika in Eastern Nepal. Led by Dr. Nida Chenagtsang, Dr. Machik, and allopathic physician Dr. Jens Tönnemann, our team of Sowa Rigpa practitioners and students treated over 200 patients over the course of the camp, and laid the groundwork for future service and collaboration in this remarkable sacred place.
Maratika cave is one of the most widely revered and captivating pilgrimage destinations in Nepal’s sacred landscape. Located just 100 miles south of Mt. Everest, Maratika was once a part of the ancient kingdom of Zahor, where Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) spent a good deal of time in the 8th century before being invited to Tibet. It was in Maratika cave that Guru Rinpoche and the Dakini Mandarava attained the state of immortality through the union of Long-Life Practice with Karmamudra. After spending approximately 100 days in retreat (a calculation relating to extraction of wisdom wind from the 10 rLung energies), Amitayus manifested and bestowed immortality upon them through his Long-Life Vase, which remains the most sacred self-arisen object in the cave for Buddhist pilgrims.
In the Tibetan Medical tradition, Maratika holds particular significance as the abode of the Dakini Pelden Trengwa, from whom Yuthok the Younger (the father of Tibetan Medicine) received the Yuthok Nyingthik terma cycle through visionary experience. Her association with the site is further recalled in the chulen visualization prescribed by Yuthok. In one part of the practice, emanated offering rays are sent to four particular wisdom beings in their respective pure lands: Amitabha in Dewachen (Sukhavati/the Western Pure Land of “Great Bliss”), Medicine Buddha in Tanaduk (the “Lovely to See” pure land of medicinal plants and substances), Padmasambhava in Zangdok Pelri (the “Glorious Copper-colored Mountain”), and Pelden Trengwa in Maratika. As Maratika is the only one of these four pure lands to have a known physical location on this planet, its preciousness is truly exceptional.
In the Shivaist tradition, it’s believed that Maratika served as a refuge for Lord Shiva while he hid from the demon Bhasmasur. For devotees, a uniquely realistic self-arisen lingam is highly regarded as a supremely sacred manifestation of Mahadev. Historically speaking Maratika is likely to have been occupied by humans in some capacity for over 6,000 years, and its prevalence as a place of worship goes back many millennia.
After a bumpy 10-hour jeep ride on precarious roads through the remote reaches of southeastern Nepal, our cohort arrived at the convergence of three sacred mountains, each attributed to one of the “three lord protector” Bodhisattvas: Avalokiteshvara (manifestation of the Buddha’s compassion), Manjushri (manifestation of the Buddha’s wisdom), and Vajrapani (manifestation of the Buddha’s power). While most of us had expected to come upon a hidden cave nestled in the deepest recesses of the valley below, the cave systems of Maratika sit at the top of a small mountain range, opening to a vast expanse of sky above. The village surrounding the site, while remote, was bustling with an array of villagers, sadhus, monks, livestock, and pilgrims.
While rich in history, the remote villages surrounding Maratika do not have an abundance of resources. Medical care is sparsely available, with just one village Amchi serving the entire local region. This local Doctor, our dear SKI colleague Dr. Sonam Sherpa, works tirelessly along with his assistants (including Ani Regina, an allopathic Nurse from Belgium) to treat patients and increase awareness surrounding hygiene and sanitation in the local community. He reports that a large portion of the medicine and treatments offered in their clinic have to be given at no charge, since many patients live with virtually nothing in the region.
Through the organizing efforts of Sorig First Aid, which seeks to bring Sowa Rigpa and basic medical care to communities in need, our team of Tibetan Medicine practitioners offered free treatment to more than 200 patients in our time at Maratika. Many traveled from distant villages to attend the camp, including a number of patients who walked for a day and a half to receive medical care. Most were given one month of Tibetan herbal medicine as well as any indicated external therapies, particularly acupuncture, moxibustion, hormé, kunyé massage, cupping, bloodletting, and yukchö stick therapy.
|SORIG FIRST AID AND FREE MEDICAL CAMP MARATIKA 2017 – Statistics:|
|TOTAL DAYS: 2||FIRST DAY 07/03/018||SECOND DAY 08/03/018||MEDICINE AND THERAPY|
|TOTAL NUMBER OF PATIENTS||73||154|
|13 TO 18 YEARS||5||13|
|2 TO 12 YEARS||7||8|
|LESS THAN 1 YEAR||2||5|
|HEART/VASCULAR (INCLUDING BP)||9||16||SORIG MEDICINE, BLOOD LETING AND SANGBUM (cupping)|
|SKIN INCLUDING ULCERS MOUTHS)||4||7||SORIG MEDICINE AND OINTMENT|
|GYNECOLOGICAL||13||21||SORIG MEDICINE AND ACUPUNCTURE|
|NEUROLOGICAL (INCLUDING CONVULSION)||9||11||SORIG MEDICINE,ACUPUNCTURE,AND OINTMENT|
|SUPERFICIAL WOUNDS/ DEEP WOUNDS||2||4||DRESSING AND OINTMENT|
|LUNGS(INCLUDING ASTHMA)||2||5||SORIG MEDICINE|
|RHEUMATOLOGY||11||18||SORIG MEDICINE,MOXIBUSTION,AND ACUPUNCTURE,|
|TIREDNESS/LOW ENERGY||5||8||SORIG MEDICINE|
|URINES/KINNEY BACK PAIN||7||13||SORIG MEDICINE, ZANGBUM,AND ACUPUNCTURE|
|GASTRIC PAIN||6||18||SORIG MEDICINE|
In breaks from the clinic, Dr. Nida led our cohort on pilgrimage through the sacred caves at Maratika. As our trip happened to overlap with the first Guru Rinpoche Day of the new Tibetan year, we were fortunate to be able to offer a ganapuja in the main cave (one of many groups of practitioners doing the same). We sat and practiced among the many self-arisen manifestations of deities and auspicious objects, including Vajravarahi & Hayagriva in union, the Four Kings, and the Long-Life Vase of Amitayus. With flying bats overhead, resounding drums, and sang piles smoldering throughout the cave, the ambiance was wholly unique and spectacular.
Below the main cave lies the Eight Heruka cave, associated with Padmasambhava’s accomplishment of Vajrakilaya and the highest teachings of Atiyoga. Like it’s more famous neighbor, this cavern is rich with profound symbolism, including a trickling fountain of Mandarava’s “nectar” among towering rock walls adorned with self-arisen Twilight Language (the secret script of the Dakinis). The heart of the cave is illuminated by a large hole in the rock-ceiling overhead, believed to have been created when Padmasambhava flew through it after accomplishing the practice of Vajrakilaya (giant footprints on the wall leading to the opening further support this legend). This skylight is referred to as zangthel, meaning “unimpededness” or “penetrating openness,” both in reference to this famous anecdote and serving as a secret instruction on Atiyoga.
The third cave that we visited with Dr. Nida was a small cave used by Padmasambhava for sleeping and personal practice. Located on Manjushri Peak, it is accessed by a long staircase and features an open face with expansive views of the sky and valley below. To honor it’s relationship with the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Dr. Nida led us in recitation of Manjushri’s mantra before bestowing a number of reading transmissions from the Yuthok Nyingthik at Dr. Sonam’s request.
By the time we left for our return to Kathmandu, a solid foundation was set for the establishment of Sorig Khang Maratika at Dr. Sonam’s clinic. Many of us have made commitments to return for future Sorig First Aid camps in Maratika in an ongoing effort to nurture this relationship and further expand the reach of Sowa Rigpa in Nepal. Dr. Nida’s vision for the future includes one Amchi for each village, and we will continue working with the wonderful people of Nepal to bring that vision to actuality.