Click to view panel from the Sacred Land Exhibition
on Buddhism and Ecology at Tengboche Monastery
Guru Rinpoche, who is revered in the Himalayas as
the second Buddha, stayed for three days in a
cave above Khumjung. At this time the area was
almost uninhabited, deeply forested and the
glaciers from the Snow Mountains came much
further down into the valleys. In ancient Tibetan
texts, Guru Rinpoche described these valleys as
hidden refuges that would become sanctuaries
in future times of war and famine. In fact,
it is only in the last 50 years that Tengboche has
become exposed to the outside world.
Khumbu'i Yulha, meaning " The god of the
country Khumbu" was
commanded by Guru Rinpoche to protect this hidden
valley. His sacred abode is the 19,294-foot
jagged Rock Mountain behind Tengboche, which is
named Khumbila. Although Sherpas will climb
Everest, it is forbidden by local custom to
climb Kumbila as it would disturb the protective
forces and jeopardize the safety and prosperity of
Guardian of Everest.
The 8,848m mountain, now known as Everest,
actually represents the
sacred abode of one of the Five Tseringma Sisters
of Long Life. The
Tibetan name for Everest, Chomolungma, is a
Miyo-Langsangma, the Sister Goddess of the Earth
who gives food. She rides a tiger and is very
beautiful. In her right hand is a bowl with
food and by her left side is a mongoose spitting
climbing Everest Sherpas will make offerings of
incense and hang prayer flags to ask for blessings
and a safe return.
An Icy Graveyard.
However, these days the climbers do not come to
honor the mountain
but to fulfill personal ambition, sometimes
regardless of the
consequences. Over 1000 people will try to summit
Mount Everest every year. Base camp is
polluted and over crowded. Despite recent clean up efforts,
trash and even corpses remain abandoned on the
mountain. Most people who die on Everest are
Sherpas. It is a silent and common death. By
the year 2000, out of over 150 deaths, over one
third were Sherpas.
Many think these
tragedies and unusually bad weather on the
mountain are a direct consequences of a lack of
respect for the
sanctity of the mountain.
"Tomorrow or the next life, you never know
which will come first."
--High altitude porter commenting on his job.
accidents are now one of the major causes of death
injury amongst young Sherpas.
seen from Tengboche at sunset. Courtesy of Eric