Home > Meditation, Nepal, Tibet, Travel > All Roads Lead To the Kopan

All Roads Lead To the Kopan

My first few days in Kathmandu were spent recovering from illness. It was at this point I swore I would never eat meat again, a vow which I have upheld to this day. I was feeling sufficiently rested as we embarked upon a week long, ‘Introduction To Tibetan Buddhism’ course at the Kopan monastery. The complex is located on the hillside of the Kathmandu valley overlooking the ever increasing sprawl below. It is an active Tibetan monastery of the Geluk lineage, and is highly regarded as an education centre for Monks, Nuns, travellers and all those interested in the Dharma. In fact, it is so popular that the Chinese government block access to the Kopan website from within Lhasa. Restrictions on religious practice are an everyday fact for Tibetans; it is an offence to carry a picture of the Dalai Lama and no high Lamas are allowed to teach within Tibet. It was therefore a shock to arrive in Nepal and see huge pictures of His Holiness and Tibetan flags everywhere! Objects the Chinese deem contraband were now everywhere to be seen, sitting in their rightful places within monasteries and people’s homes. It felt, well……rebellious!

I was a little nervous on arrival at the Kopan, more for Hazell than myself. Buddhist teachings have played a part in my life from a young age and I have practiced meditation for a number of years; I am in no way a seasoned practitioner, but I have a basic knowledge of the topics and experience of sitting in silence for extended periods. I love my girlfriend and she is a constant source of inspiration, but silence and sitting still are not top of her list of attributes. You can take the girl out of Splott…….My concern was heightened by the daily schedule:

5.45AM – Wake       NOBLE SILENCE
6.00AM – Tea NOBLE SILENCE
6.45AM – Meditation NOBLE SILENCE
7.30AM – Breakfast NOBLE SILENCE
9.15 – 11.30AM Teaching NOBLE SILENCE
11.30AM – Lunch NOBLE SILENCE DURING EATING
2.00 – 3.00PM –  Discussion Group
3.30PM – 4.00PM Teaching
5.00PM – Tea
5.45PM – Meditation
6.30PM – Dinner

7.30PM – Meditation NOBLE SILENCE UNTIL FOLLOWING LUNCHTIME

I was also going to find it tough, and the prospect of complete silence and no meat (even if I wanted it), certainly made me feel a little claustrophobic. Plus we were sleeping in different rooms, so no comfort was to be found in pillow talk.

We exited the Gompa after our introduction from the main teacher, Venerable Namgyel. This also marked our first period of ‘nobel silence’, which was to last until after lunch the following day. ‘Nobel silence’, entails no communication of any sort; no talking, whispering, body language, sign language, eye contact or semaphore. The first twenty seconds of silence went swimmingly, then behind me I heard a faint, ‘Carl, Carl’. ‘For once I have a socially and religiously valid reason for ignoring her’, I reasoned. ‘Carl, Carl, I need my toothbrush. It’s in your bag.’ ‘Patience is a virtue of all the Buddhas’, I reminded myself. But then Buddha didn’t have a Welsh girlfriend. It was going to be an interesting week.

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