Getting It Together in Nepal
Kopan Monastery, Nepal — June 29, 2011
From Ven. Roger:
“I can’t move,” says Rinpoche. “Why?” asks the physiotherapist. “Ants! I will tread on the ants.” So starts the debate between Rinpoche and Rinpoche’s Nepalese physiotherapist, Rajesh: Rajesh doesn’t understand why Rinpoche is so concerned about the ants and treading on one or two of them while he is doing his exercises. Rinpoche gives a brief explanation on compassion. Rajesh accepts. We gently remove the ants and Rinpoche continues to do his exercises.
Rajesh has been working with Rinpoche for about 10 days now and they are developing a good relationship. Rajesh is very good at what he does and has helped a number of Westerners here in Nepal. This morning (Rajesh comes every morning at 7:45 a.m. for one hour) after the physiotherapy session finished, Rinpoche answered Rajesh’s question about the main difference between Buddhism and Christianity. Rinpoche answered in 10 minutes. And then Rajesh had to go to his next client.
There is a lot of laughter during the session (Rajesh tells the jokes and Rinpoche keeps laughing) but at the same time Rajesh definitely keeps control of the session. It works very well.
Rinpoche is also spending time checking and seeing what can be done for Khenrinpoche Lama Lhundrup. Lama Lhundrup has good care here at the monastery with his attendants and Jo, a nurse and palliative care specialist who is a student of Lama Lhundrup from New Zealand. The Tibetan doctor visits him regularly and Rinpoche is attending to the spiritual aspects of the healing: blessing water, prayer sessions with the monks, pujas, etc.
Every now and again Rinpoche says about his own situation, “This will take time … have to wait for the karma to finish … it will take time.” Since the time in the hospital Rinpoche has been saying this. This morning I asked Rinpoche, “How long?” Rinpoche said, “Can’t say, maybe six months, maybe longer.”
Last night Rinpoche circumambulated Bouddha Stupa three times by himself and then about 10 times in the wheelchair. Rinpoche always stops at the two bigger prayer wheels and turns these with effort and difficulty with his right hand – it’s good exercise! Rinpoche said circumambulating Bouddha and Swayambhunath Stupas is very helpful for the mind. Rinpoche is really keen on circumambulating: the first night it was raining, so we did so in the rain. Most of the time we circumambulate late at night as it is quiet then.
Kopan Monastery, Nepal — July 7, 2011
From Ven. Roger:
Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche with Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, July 2011. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche asks Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche, “Why did you come?”
With the cutest shy smile and deep, beautiful dimples he says, “To say hello.” (The incarnation of Geshe Lama Konchog is 8 years old and small for his age, but smart as the ace of spades!)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche says quietly to me, “I think he is a little worried about me and just coming to check.”
They chatted between themselves for an hour and looked at a short video of Maratika, the cave where Guru Rinpoche achieved immortality. The big rinpoche and the small rinpoche (did I mention who is as smart as the ace of spades?)
A few days later Phuntsok Rinpoche came to see Lama Zopa Rinpoche again. He replied this time, “No reason, just want to see.” He just wanted to say hello and make an offering. Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave the khata back with one hand carefully over the head of the smiling little rinpoche and then asked me to double the money in the offering envelope and give it back to Phuntsok Rinpoche.
The little rinpoche, smiling, asked if his friend can come in and make an offering. Rinpoche said OK. Then, this little monk – even smaller and so close to the ground! – came in and offered a khata and offering to big rinpoche. Rinpoche asked me to double the offering and he gave it back to the very small monk. The two children both smiled and left after a little conversation.
Lama Lhundrup with Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, July 2011. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.
Last night Rinpoche was doing a lot of prayers, slowly as his mouth has difficulty pronouncing the words. Rinpoche wanted to go down to spend some time with Lama Lhundrup to do prayers together and give a lung. Lama Lhundrup does not move much these days and is very quiet. I asked Kunkyen if Lama Lhundrup was OK as Rinpoche wanted to come down.
Kunkyen checked and said, “OK.”
I went up and explained to Rinpoche, “OK.”
Rinpoche started to do some preparation and then in the next minute Lama Lhundrup had come upstairs and was waiting outside, respectfully saying, “Rinpoche can’t come down, I must come up.” (Keep in mind that Lama Lhundrup’s cancer is quite advanced.)
Then proceeded a beautiful dance – the movement between two gracious lamas: one having advanced cancer, the other having had a stroke not long ago, the right side still not working. They both acted humbly, graciously and quietly; the feeling was very calm and peaceful. Awkwardly, Rinpoche tried moving his text and with slurred speech gave the lung with Lama Lhundrup sitting opposite slightly bent over, very still and quiet. It didn’t take long. And then they both parted.
July 13 2011
Over the last week Rinpoche hasn't been regular in the physio and exercise, I guess it was a bit of an experiment from Rinpoche's side but also due to business with other programs. The physio came this morning (after 1 week absence) and confirmed that generally the muscles lost their tone and this is due to not exercising them regular and many times in the day. So again it requires a lot of discipline mostly from Rinpoche's side to keep moving/training the muscles in every part of the right side ... even all the facial ones ... as over the last week even the speech has deteriorated. For a diabetic the physio says it is more difficult as the muscles become fatigued quicker, so requires more repetition for shorter periods also rest in between. And even Rinpoche can walk the 3 kms around Swayambhu much of that time can be that he becomes lazy in the way the right leg is used ... swinging it from the hip rather than bending at the knee in a forward action. So we have to have Rinpoche stop regularly rest and then start again ... working quality rather quantity.
Then the need to focus on balance and coordination ... as well as speed to react with the right muscles. All this has to be worked into normal daily actions all the time and this requires most of all Rinpoche's participation and cooperation. It is hard for Rinpoche as he is not so familiar and disciplined with physical exercise ... as well it requires more effort and repetition for a diabetic ... interspersed with short periods of rest.
This morning the physio (he is very good and Rinpoche listens to him!) came at 7-45 am (his normal time for a session) ... he expects Rinpoche to be rested in the morning ... but in fact Rinpoche has been doing prayers/meditating most of the time thru the night... so not rested ... the body is a little tired and not responding well to the exercises ... so change of strong habits ... again not easy.
Rinpoche finished a 10 day course of acupuncture a week ago and will not continue more at this time.
Khadro la is back in Nepal and is doing massage and her physio style ... similar to the physio but more aggressive! Interesting to see the similarities ... Khadro la is very confident in what she does and Rinpoche seems to respond well.
In the background we have 4 western doctors overseeing from a distance Rinpoche's progress with the blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Blood pressure is getting better (with western medication) and is reasonable now; also the sugar levels are better but using insulin injections 3 times a day.
The big challenge at present and for the next several months is the discipline with regular physio and exercise through the day, every day, so Rinpoche needs the space and conditions to do that. This is the reason why Rinpoche has not been accepting appointments. Still Rinpoche puts effort into the necessary organizational work and responsibilities which he has a lot of energy for.
Thank you to everyone for all your support in so many ways.
Rinpoche is doing well with his recovery. Now the main emphasis is on keeping a strict daily discipline of exercise, massage specializing in clearing the blockages for helping to restore normal use of the right side) and physio work. The discipline in the past has been interrupted here for various reasons ... now we need to be even more strict as we have been warned that the optimum time for restoring Rinpoche's physical condition to normal is quickly passing ... the next few months are critical.
Rinpoche has a full day of exercise etc. starting with the physio coming at 7.45 am ... there are some breaks through the day for Rinpoche to do prayers etc. ... then in the evening Rinpoche does korwa at either Swoyambhu or Bodha stupa... Rinpoche believes this is one of the best activities for purification as well as physical exercise, of course it gets interrupted sometimes due rain ... monsoon, still sometimes Rinpoche does korwa in the rain.
Our request to those who would like to visit Rinpoche is ... please not in the next few months, of course if it was just 1 or 2 visits it would be fine but many would like to visit and then the schedule goes out the window as Rinpoche will not say no... he very much focuses on others.
Thank you very kindly to everyone for your understanding,
Now it is nearly 4 months since Rinpoche had a stroke, we are doing our best in changing circumstances to keep the discipline of physio and physical exercises going as well as medication for the control of the diabetes and blood pressure. In terms of Rinpoche's progress it is slow but continues to be positive. There is more use of the right arm and leg, the arm is taking longer but according to doctors this is expected. The speech seems to be improving slowly also and Rinpoche uses chanting prayers as the exercise for the mouth rather than what the speech therapist normally gives. The difficult and complicated chanting takes quite a bit of effort but seems to be working ... and of course much more inspiring (to Rinpoche) than the normal phrases.
We have had a new leg brace made which allows Rinpoche better leg movement when walking, so now we use part of the high quality brace made in Australia (A$2,000) with the brace made here (3,200 rs ... about $35 dollars) and it seems we have a good arrangement for the next phase of development in helping the right leg. The right arm and hand is more complicated and depends a lot on Rinpoche using it as much as he can ... to retrain it, so if you get something signed by Rinpoche and you can't read it! then you know it has been signed by Rinpoche.
Thank you to everyone for all your understanding and support in so many ways,
Our problem is that inside us there's a mind going, "Impossible, impossible, impossible. I can't, I can't, I can't." We have to banish that mind from this solar system. Anything is possible; everything is possible. Sometimes you feel that your dreams are impossible, but they're not. Human beings have great potential; they can do anything. The power of the mind is incredible, limitless.
~~ Lama Yeshe ~~
Rinpoche's treatment continues here in France. The flight from Nepal was smooth, it took some days of rest after the flight to recover. The treatment is going well, especially with Khandro la's assistance. We are hoping with 4 weeks of concentrated therapy Rinpoche will make some good improvement. The main focus is on the right arm and right leg.
While in Kopan Rinpoche did give some teachings to the monks and nuns. Rinpoche kept the teachings brief (for Rinpoche) ... about 2 hours and this worked well, if it was longer Rinpoche's speech started to get tired.
Thank you to everyone for all your support in many different ways, greatly appreciated.
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