Between 28th October and 12th November 2010, a walking pilgrimage to Aja Ney, a holy place of Guru Padmasambhava in Eastern Bhutan will be led by Kyabje Khamtrul Rinpoche Jigme Pema Nyinjadh.
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Located at an altitude of more than 3,500 meters above sea level the sacred hidden place attributed to Guru Rinpoche is a three-day walk from Mongar dzong. Its gorges and mountains are dotted with Nyes (sacred sites).
The history of Aja Nye dates back to 850 AD when, according to legend, Guru Rinpoche knew that the demon King, Khikharathoed, exiled from Tibet, was trying to settle in Aja. After suppressing an evil spirit whom he had chased all the way from Tibet at the Gomphu Kora Nye in Trashiyangtse Guru Rinpoche traveled through Tormijangsa, crossing several gorges and mountain peaks to reach Aja.
At the site, Guru Rinpoche subdued many local evil spirits and demons but found it difficult to suppress Khikharathoed. According to religious interpretation, Khikharathoed escaped from the wrath of the Guru and moved to Khempajong in Kurtoe where he established his demon kingdom.
It is believed that Guru Rinpoche spent more than three months hiding sacred Nyes to be rediscovered in the future. Among the several sacred spots, the most popular site is a small cave on the bank of Aja Chhu where Guru Rinpoche meditated for three months. Depicting proof of the attainment of perfection, the last letter “Aa” in the Chokoey alphabet was miraculously imprinted in white on the reddish-brown rock in the cave after Guru completed his meditation.
Thus, the cave derived its name Aja from the 100 Aa printed on the inner wall of the cave.
“Today, though not all the letters are visible, those printed boldly can still be seen,” said the prinicpal of the Zorig Chusum Institute in Trashiyangtse, Lam Kezang Chophel, who has considerable knowledge of Aja as he was born and grew up in Yarab, a day’s walk from Aja.
There is also a spring water (Menchu) near Aja Chhu believed to have medicinal values. People frequent the place to bathe in the pungent smelling spring for medical purposes. It is believed to have a curative effect on 18 diseases such as tuberculosis, bodyache, ulcer, and whooping cough.
Located in the same vicinity is another stream called Awa Chhu. Legend has it that the stream that falls from the rocky cliff came into existence after Guru’s walking stick was implanted in the rock. The stream falls on a rock basin forming a pool, where it is believed the Guru had taken bath. The pool accommodates nine people and a bath in the pool is believed to purify a person. All visitors sincerely take a dip in the pool which is also believed to be warm in winter and cool in summer.
There also exists Tsa Awa Doti, a kind of grass considered sacred and believed to have medicinal values. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche planted the grass.
The place holds a host of other religious sites and symbols including Guru’s foot prints, body prints, the print of his seat, prints indicating the subjugation of evil, Khando Dowazangmo’s foot prints, 108 retreat caves of Guru Rinpoche, and the foot prints of Lam Karma Jamyang who discovered the hidden sacred sites. They are located in mountains, bamboo groves, meadows, gorges, and dense forests. It takes a minimum of three days to complete visits to all these Nyes.
“It will still be incomplete if one doesn’t visit Phuning, considered the heart of all the Nyes in the area,” said Lam Kezang. This place is a day-long walk from Aja and houses various religious sites attributed to Guru Rinpoche. Located at an altitude of 4,500 meters, it is also a meditation centre for learned Bhutanese lamas. There is a small monastery built by Lam Sonam Zangpo.
“All the Nyes are miraculous and the moment you get there your spiritual senses are heightened as if you are in a heavenly abode,” Karpo, a staff of Mongar dzongkhag who visited Aja Nye several times, told Kuensel.
According to Namthar (religious history), all the sacred Nyes of Aja were discovered by Lam Karma Jamyang, a disciple of the Ninth Karmapa. Guru Rinpoche had actually prophesized that it would be discovered by the Ninth Karmapa. Old age, however, had deterred him and he had instead instructed his disciple Lam Karma Jamyang, the incarnation of Jetsuen Jampelyang, to reveal the Nyes.
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