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A Journal of Eastern Medicine, Himalayan Adventures and Meditative Encounters

Personal musings of Mark Sobralske

The Purifier and the Yogin

January 14, 2016

In 2010, as I was preparing to go to Nepal for the first time, someone asked me to bring a water purifier to Nepal for them. I thought the water purifier would be small like a Brita or something, so I said yes. I thought, I’m already taking this much stuff along, what’s one more thing!

During a cold Wisconsin January as I was getting ready in the weeks prior to the trip, the purifier finally arrived. But the box looked quite large…

And when I opened it, I found this contraption with a reservoir that I’d guess could hold 10 gallons (if Germans used gallons). I wondered how I’d fit everything and wondered if it was too late to recant and say ‘no’ to bringing this device as the purifier took up about 3/4 space in one of my 2 army-sized duffle bags.

While in Nepal, the purifier moved with me to multiple new residences and after more than a month, after no one seemed to ever be coming to pick it up, it became sort of a joke. Me and this water purifier seemed stuck together and the hip.. from Wisconsin to Delhi, to Kathmandu, and then there with me at multiple hotels and guest-houses for more than a month, there we were. No matter where I was, the tag-a-long purifier, the ever-present elf on the shelf, my proverbial shadow, followed!

Then one day, a man finally did come for it while I was working at Shechen Clinic. We stood and talked for awhile and and he told me that the purifier was for none other than for Chatral Rinpoche at his hermitage.

I was shocked that the purifier I had been dragging around was from the beginning was destined for Chatral Rinpoche! I had a lump in my throat, as I knew, in my mind, I had spent a considerable amount of time complaining about it.

I asked the man if he could arrange I meet Rinpoche, but he said Chatral Rinpoche wasn’t really seeing people anymore (he was already 98 years-young, at the time) other than close students so I didn’t push that further. 

The man told me I had done something good in bringing the purifier, thanked me, and then left with his quarry. That was that.

After the fact, I let my mind wander on the subject. I thought to myself, if I had only known it was for Chatral Rinpoche, I wouldn’t have complained so much!

I learned a few things from this experience.

1. Never tire of helping others, no matter how small the task – we never know what kind of benefit it may bring. With our limited scope, many times we have no idea what kind of benefit (or harm) our actions may bring. The smallest action might yield great benefit, depending how conditions unfold, and in most cases there are always a few conditions that will remain hidden to us, therefore it is best to  exert ourselves and do our best to guard our mind against negativity. In this case, I had no idea I was carrying something that would allow Chatral Rinpoche to drink cool, clean life-sustaining water. The opportunity to make an offering like that doesn’t come around everyday! But in my mind, I was already considering the recipient of this purifier to be just a normal Joe, an everyday person, and became annoyed with the task when it carried on for too long.

2. We should treat all beings as if they were timeless masters. My first thought was, “Oh, I should have thought about the purifier differently, because it was for Chatral Rinpoche!” It’s true I should have. But, wouldn’t it have also been good to offer the purifier to a normal person with the same degree of care?

I bet Chatral Rinpoche would have happily trucked that purifier around himself without resenting it, whether the target owner be a sage master, homeless beggar. Chatral Rinpoche displayed that type of equanimity throughout his life; with one hand, giving Dzogchen instructions to important high lamas, and with the other, tirelessly saved the lives of millions of fish from the Calcutta  markets, marked for certain death by inexhaustibly releasing them back into the sea.  

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chatral-sangye-rinpoche

Chatral Rinpoche, passed away on December 30th, 2015.

Chatral Sangye Dorje, known commonly as Chatral Rinpoche, was a mendicant master of Vajrayana Buddhism who lived so long, it seems people are unsure of his actual age with varying accounts ranging between 102 and 105.

A fascinating yogin who captured the attention and hearts of many, yet remained elusive to most, was truly the last link to the Tibetan Buddhist masters of the 19th century and his teachers included Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, the female tantrika – Sera Khandro, Khenpo Ngachung, and Dudjom Rinpoche.

To read more about Chatral Rinpoche’s life, click here.

A few links to some of his teachings in English, here.

And finally, a touching message from Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche on Chatral Rinpoche’s passing, that captures just how renowned and elusive, simple yet profound he really was, here.

Nepal Earthquake Response

April 29, 2015

Dear Friends,

Himalaya Project stands in solidarity with those suffering in Nepal following the 7.9 that struck on April 25th, 2015, 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu.

Thankfully, all of our directors, advisers, volunteers, and friends in Dolpo and Kathmandu are confirmed ‘safe’ for the time being.

In the days following the earthquake, Himalaya Project members have been very active in providing assistance in any way we can, namely through actively communicating and cooperating with the international NGO community offering up whatever contacts and information we may have in the west and on the ground in Nepal, and sharing it with anyone and everyone who needs it.

In these times, cooperation and communication are king.

The situation in Nepal was already fragile before the earthquake. Very little medical aid makes it to areas like Dolpo, Mustang, Yolmo, Manang, Langtang, and other districts in the Himalayan range north of Kathmandu.

In these remote districts, NGOs many times fill that role when the government health care system cannot.

It is for this reason that Himalaya Project exists.

By building a school for Tibetan medicine while simultaneously providing training in first aid, we seek to provide a sustainable health care solution to a community separated great distances geographically and culturally, from Kathmandu.

Himalaya Project is registered as a charitable organization that provides education, not immediate disaster relief. It is for this reason that we are encouraing our donor base, all of you, to donate to NGOs that do specialize in disatser relief.  That is what is needed now.  Donate to organizations that have vast networks of resources and personel in SE Asia and can get help to Nepal quickly.

For this first phase, we reccomend donating to the American Red Cross, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and Karuna-Shechen.

We  are all deeply touched and shocked by the images we’re seeing in the news. If you haven’t already given, please donate to whatever you can spare to whichever NGOs mission moves you the most, and of course, please  include the people of Nepal in your thoughts and prayers.

WBEZ’s Worldview Interview on Nepal Earthquake

Our director, Mark Sobralske appeared Chicago Public Radio’s Worldview to talk about the Nepal Earthquake, this Monday, 4/27.

The goal of our media appearances now and in the future in relation to the Nepal earthquake, is to spread as much information and awareness as possible to the Chicago community, while calling to action and inspire compassionate action in anyone who may be listening or watching to donate to the relief efforts.

Click here to listen to the program.

Dolpopa Youth Safe in Kathmandu

Students from Dolpo, living in Kathmandu are safe at their hostel, Action Dolpo‘s Snow Leopard Residence. They remain camped outside for the time being.

Message from a student from Dolpo in Kathmandu:

“Dear sponspors, parents and friends, we the SLR family members are in safe now after the devastating quake. Great to know that all other friends and hostel students are also fine. But sad to hear that thousands of people had lost lives and hundreds of thousand have been displaced and sad to learn that still no relief has reached in some places. We pray for them n all our heart goes for them.”

Moving Forward | The Journey Continues in 2015

March 12, 2015

2014 was a landmark year for Himalaya Project and our soon to open school for Tibetan medicine in Nepal.

Most notably, our team and supporters successfully established the lion’s share of funds needed to support our school for Tibetan medicine for the full 5 years through our successful Indiegogo campaign.

Since the campaign ended on November 26th, we have also received an additional $18,000 from private donors and two generous foundation grants.

With this strong financial base, our board can now turn its full attention towards implementation of the school.

As we move on into 2015, we look forward to keeping you informed on our progress as we make our ascent towards Day 1: the opening of our school for Tibetan medicine in Dolpo, Nepal.

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for joining us and we hope you’ve enjoyed the journey thus far.

At the Drawing Board | Processes and Action Plans for 2015

Our board of directors, advisory board, and a host of volunteers now turn our attention towards activities that move us closer to the opening of our school on Day 1, such as identifying key challenges, utilizing creative problem solving to address these challenges, and implementing effective action plans to accomplish individual tasks. Our goal is to move as effectively and efficiently through these processes as possible, while creatively and directly meeting the challenges we face, head on.

Summary of our work thus far in 2015:

Our January board meeting included an extremely active and productive brainstorming session on what needs to be accomplished before the doors of our school can open. We begain to list out all the action steps needed to accomplish before the opening of our school.

At our February board meeting, we followed up by grouping these individual items into core areas of concern. Each board member then took responsibility for a specific group of action items.  At our upcoming March board meeting, we’ll set the start / completion date for each of these individual tasks to ensure our school can open as soon as possible.

At the end of February, Mark Sobralske visited key Dolpopa in Nepal for a round of meetings to discuss next steps as a team in 2015.

Check back in next month for more news on where we’re at with our processes and action plans!

An Introduction to Your Himalaya Project Board of Directors

We’ve recently expanded both our board of directors and advisory board with new members who bring much talent and experience to the table for which we will utilize in the coming year.

Mason Stabler – Social Media Director, masters student at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine

Dylan Lott – Director, doctoral candidate of anthropology at UIC – Chicago, Mind & Life Institute Fellow

Dr. Lori Howell, Education Director, private practice practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and instructor at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine

Kenny Wong – Director, third year Philosophy and International Studies major at the University of Chicago, employed at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Mark Sobralske – Executive Director, private practice practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, student at University of Chicago

Ryan Davenport – Director, private practice practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and instructor at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine

Featured Adviser of the Month | Chime Lama

Each month, we’ll introduce to you a member of our team; either a director, adviser, or volunteer, so you get a chance to know a little more about each of our members.

This month, we are pleased to introduce you to Chime Lama.

Chime Lama is an M.A. student at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, focusing on Buddhism with an emphasis in Tibetan language, both literary and spoken.

Chime Lama’s past research experience includes Buddhist Retreat in Mongolia, 2009, as well as Mahamudra in Essence and Tradition, 2010.

Since joining our advisory board, Chime Lama has taken an active role in our monthly processeses and plans for 2015.

Later in the year, she will play an integral role in facilitating communication between our board of directors and key leaders of Dolpo, whose first language is Tibetan.

Lunch by Sunlight, Dance by Moonlight

February 22, 2015

After arriving in Kathmandu yesterday Lhakpa Dhondrup and I walked around Boudha, enjoying some people-watching, as with the 3rd day of Losar (Tibetan New Year), many people were now out and about and enjoying the day themselves.

The weather was warm and in the mid-60’s, contrary to the current sub-zero temps in Chicago, and so Lhakpa and I wandered to the outdoor cafe associated with Shechen Monastery.

At Shechen, we sat drinking coffee and eating lunch in the sunshine.  I hadn’t eaten since the previous day, nor had I slept, and so after this meal in the sun, I felt quite good.

Sitting there, my mind began to soften.

Whether it was the lack of sleep, the delicious food, or sitting next to Shechen, my vision blurred a bit with the golden light that trickled through the overhanging vegetation in the garden we were seated in, and in that momentary and welcomed absence of thought, all I could hear were the birds and the breeze.  I felt a big smile as my eyes watered some with the light.

After our prolonged lunch in the sun, Lhakpa and I went back to the Stupa to do some more people watching.  Lhakpa wanted to buy some meditation beads and so we went into to a shop.

While he was shopping, a kind fellow from Toronto struck up a conversation with me about music.  As we sat talking about our newest likes in the music world, an French woman (who later I found out worked for Karuna Shechen) came up and invited the Torontoan and his wife to a party later that evening. The Torontoan asked if Lhakpa and I could also come along and so we then all proceeded to purchase some beverages to bring to the party to share.

The party was outdoors in a seemingly secluded area of Boudha, something that I didn’t know existed.  There was a campfire and a live band while everyone danced outside under the stars and a crescent moon. The people present seemed to be a mix of shedra students, some academics, and NGO types.

I ran into an old friend, Gerry, whom I haven’t seen in almost five years.

Chatted with people from Karuna Shechen, Italian NGO workers who work on water and sanitation in Nepal, and others. The party ended up being an unexpected chance to make some new connections for the people of Dolpo.

After an enjoyable first day in Nepal, I came back to my guest house with that good kind of exhaustion that leads to the deepest sleep.

Revolution Brewing: Indiegogo Launch Party & WBEZ’s Worldview!

October 15, 2014

Annual Fundraiser at Revolution Brewing: Indiegogo Launch Party!

This month holds excitement and celebration for Himalaya Project and those we seek to benefit in the Himalayas through our school for Tibetan medicine, which will provide public health care to many, while preserving the unique lineage of Tibetan Buddhist medicine.

At the Rev Brew event, Sunday Oct. 26th, we’ll be viewing our Indiegogo short film, produced by David Schmudde, for the first time.  We’ll have a live-auction paddle-raise for a few special items from Nepal that will only be at the live event.  We’ll have live music, as well as a silent auction to boot.

No need to mention the delicious 5 beers on tap and appetizers included with your ticket.

Speaking of tickets, reserve your spot at the event online, right now by clicking here!

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Here’s Our Menu!

The party is at Revolution Brewing, so you know the brews will be great!

But did you know there will be food as well?

In order to help you rev up for Rev Brew, here’s a sneak peak at the menu, as well as the craft brews on tap for our event.

Feel free to look at the beer profiles on their beer page to decide which beer(s) you’d like to try before the event!

Appetizer Menu:

Sweet potato cakes with red pepper crema, applewood smoked chicken wings, mini pulled-pork sandwiches with honey jalapeno coleslaw

Craft Beer List:

Cross of Gold, Iron Fist Pale Ale, Bottom Up Wit, Eugene Porter, Anti-Hero IPA

We’re looking forward sharing a good time with you soon!

Himalaya Project on WBEZ’s Worldview with Jerome McDonnell

On October 23rd, 12pm CST, Himalaya Project executive director and founder, Mark Sobralske, will appear on the popular WBEZ 91.5FM, radio show Worldview!

Tune in with us to hear the interview with host Jerome McDonnell discuss Himalaya Project, our mission and vision in relation to our school for Tibetan medicine, for what is sure to be an exciting and educational program.

From Nobel Peace Prize winners and political leaders to indigenous farmers and sweatshop workers, Worldview highlights voices that go beyond the headlines. Tune in to learn more about the dynamic forces and people that make Chicago a truly global city.

For listeners outside the Chicago listening area, check your local NPR station for Worldview, listen online or visit the Worldview site anytime after airing, to stream the interview.

Himalaya Project’s Annual Fundraiser: Indiegogo Launch Party!

October 15, 2014
YOU’RE INVITED!

Himalaya Project, a local non-profit, is throwing their annual fundraiser at Revolution Brewing in support of their school for Tibetan medicine in Dolpo, Nepal. 

Through our planned 5-year school for Tibetan medicine, Himalaya Project will provide the necessary medical training thereby improving public health in an extremely impoverished region, in addition to preserving the rare lineage and practices of Tibetan medicine.

The live fundraiser at Revolution Brewing launches a further 30 days of fundraising on the crowd-funding platform, Indiegogo, for which Himalaya Project has set the goal of raising $30,000.

Tickets include an open bar of 5 beers on tap, 3 delicious appetizers, live music, and a silent and live auction.

REGISTER HERE!

Help Start the Dolpo School of Tibetan Buddhist Mecicine: Invitation to Fundraiser at Revolution Brewing

August 14, 2014
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Some of you may know about the non-profit work I do with Himalaya Project NFP in my free time. 

I would like to invite you to a fundraising event Himalaya Project is hosting, October 26th at Revolution Brewing in support of our crowd-funding, Indiegogo campaign launch.

In our 30 day, we hope to raise enough funds for our project in Dolpo Nepal in order to start a school for Tibetan Buddhist medicine.

It would be really great if you could come out in support and have a good time with us!

At the event will be a the screening of the promotional film short for our project. Ticket includes open bar of craft beers from Revolution Brewing as well as appetizers.

It will be a time of celebration of all that it has taken to get us to this point and all the good work we will do together going forward.

Click the link here: Indiegogo Launch Party! and save $10 on your entrance fee through Eventbrite.

Request to share with network:
 
I will plan on updating you briefly as we get closer to our Indiegogo launch.
 
At that time, I’ll send you all the info for you to share with your network via email so our campaign reaches as widely as possible and goes “viral” as the kids say.
 
It would be great if when the campaign goes live in October, if you could be generously share our campaign with your personal network as well as any other network you have access to such as your network on Facebook, newsletter, or other organizations’ list serves in Nepal, etc.  
 
Just the simple act of spreading the campaign via email for us would be a very generous action and would benefit our project and the people of Dolpo directly.
 
Thank you!
 
Mark

 

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