Kunsang Yeshe was a famous yogi and tantric master of the Nyingma tradition who lived 1865 – 1946 in the Mount Everest region of Nepal. For the last twenty years of his life he lived in his Lawudo cave, meditating or giving teachings and spiritual advice to the people of the Solo Khumbu region, attended by his wife and two children. (www.lawudo.com www.fpmt.org/teachers)
The Lawudo Lama’s present incarnation is Lama Zopa Rinpoche who was born in Thami, Nepal, in 1946. At the age of three he was recognized as the reincarnation of Kunsang Yeshe, the Lawudo Lama. Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Thami home was not far from the Lawudo cave, in the Mount Everest region of Nepal.
Here is a short life story of the Lawudo Lama Kunzang Yeshe whose present incarnation Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. The text is based on a biography called “Garland of Devotion” written by Lawudo Lama’s attendant Nyowang Chopel at the request of Lama Thubten Yeshe and is in the traditional style.
The Khumbu valley is about 10 days walk north east of Kathmandu, and it’s main village is Namche Bazaar. The country is divided into two main valleys. Lawudo is situated in the Thami valley, which runs north west towards Tibet, and was the home of Lama Kunzang Yeshe, also known as the Lawudo Lama. He was a ngagpa Lama, a layman, having a wife, a son and a daughter. His son was also married, but his daughter Karzang became a nun and took care of him.
The Lawudo Lama had taken many initiations and teachings from the great Lamas of the region. In order to look after his family he would travel on foot to Tibet as many as thirteen times per year to buy provisions which he would trade for food in Karikola village to the south of Namche. The Lawudo Lama had many obstacles to his Dharma practice, but he would always say that these were a help in accomplishing that practice.
In Khumbu there are three old monasteries. One of them, situated above Thami is called Dechen Khorlo, and it was below this monastery that Lawudo Lama decided to build his retreat house after returning from a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya. He put together all the necessary provisions and wished to stay in that place for many years in order to follow the advice given to him by his precious Lamas, and to perform the different retreats. After completing the dwelling, however, he looked up to the mountain and saw a large rock that the locals called Horse Body. “If there is a landslide, this rock will fall and hit my retreat house” he thought, so he went up the hill and built a wall to stabilize the rock. As soon as this was finished, however, he became very sick due to the powerful spirit landlord who dwelt in that place, and decided it was better to move elsewhere.
Nearby, on the other side of the river, there was a greatly blessed place of holy beings called the Magnificent Cave of Attainments, which was a stomach-shaped cave known to the local people as Lawudo. The Lawudo Lama went to this place and dug out the earth to find a beautifully shaped cave with various auspicious signs. Therefore he declared that it was a self-created cave given to him by Padmasambhava himself. Such a cave was mentioned in a very secret terma (text) of Padmasambhava. Leaving his wife and family in his old home near Thami, he then moved to the Lawudo cave.
There, the residues of his previous illness returned very strongly. He couldn’t move his body or articulate speech and for six months he needed the help of his daughter Karzang to go outside. Eventually, the main sickness was pacified, although he could not walk without experiencing great pain in his feet. Thus he was to spend thirteen years on one seat, without going anywhere, meditating day and night with great energy. He also gave transmissions, commentaries and long-life initiations to his disciples from Khumbu. The Lawudo Lama believed it was his protector that had made him sick so that he had the opportunity to do many Dharma practices.
On the twelfth day of the first month of the Wood-Bird year (March 1945), the Lawudo Lama commented to his attendant Ngowang Chopel that he may have caught a cold. That day there was a landslide and the nearby water spring dried up, along with the tree of the local protector deity.
On the thirteenth day at midnight, Nyowang Chopel heard the sound of many girls crying in front of the Lama’s cave. He thought the Lama was scolding his daughter and went to see, but there was no-one there and everything was very quiet. Thus the Buddhist deities of the ‘white direction’ were showing various signs of sorrow. Thus the ignorant people had doubts, but after his death, when they saw and heard the signs with their own eyes and ears, their minds changed and Lawudo Lama became a great object of devotion.