Rick’s path leading to the Earth Treasure Vase for the Himalayan Roots

A continuation from the article in the April 2024 newsletter

My pilgrimage begins
In retrospect, I recognize that eleven years ago during my first travel to Nepal I had sown the seeds for that which is emerging now. I’ll share some accounts of my time there, pointing to the deep connection and gratitude I feel to the Himalayan land and the Tibetan tradition. It is from this love that the aspiration to steward this Earth Treasure Vase was born

I am twenty-three years old and I find myself in Kathmandu, preparing for a 3-week trek called the Annapurna Circuit in the west of Nepal. Little did I know that those 3 weeks would be a key to unlock deep held memories, inner knowings and a path of destiny and purpose that continues to reveal itself today. I was quite oblivious to all of that when I flew to Nepal, living my life prior to that as a young upcoming editor in the Dutch entertainment industry, having just finished an internship for the talent-show X-Factor, later I would work for the Voice of Holland, it would take me many years and much suffering to truly fully shift the gears.

(Together with my German friend Johannes, before the start of our trek.)  

We are into the second week of the Annapurna Circuit Trail. After one week of navigating the jungle-like forests we have reached the long-awaited mountains. Upon arrival in Upper Pisang (3300 meters) I drop my bag in our lodge and feel drawn to walk-up to the local gompa (small Tibetan monastery). It is dusk, the time for prayer. I enter and stand in the middle of a dimly lit incense-filled space, with the sound of silent mantra’s circling around and a handful of other trekkers sitting along the side in meditation. I have never meditated before. After some moments of indecision and awkwardness I decide to join the foreigners and find a place against the wall to sit and close my eyes. A warm feeling comes over me. Gentle tears drip down my cheeks. A local monk taps me on my shoulder and hands me a warm cup of salty butter-tea. I feel welcomed. I start to feel strangely at home. (Rick high up in the Himalayas.) One week later, at the other side of the Thorung La Pass, in Muktinath, my newly made Croatian friendTena and I are wandering the temple complex. In the back of it there is a small wooden building with a transmissive statue of

Padmasambhava. The mountains around it are filled with prayer-flags. Tena and I take space and time to be in silence, we have fostered a very beautiful, intuitive, spiritual connection over the past days walking together.

After a while she comes up to me and says silently, ‘’I received a message for you. We have been here together in a former life as young monks. The words that want to be shared with you are… Just Remember.’’ I don’t know what to say. I am twenty three, I am in an upcoming career in the entertainment industry, I have never meditated, I don’t believe in past lives and I just came here for a fun back-pack trip. Yet, underneath those reactions, something is stirred in my heart. A sense of mystery, of possibility, perhaps of a memory deeply buried within the own well of my consciousness?  (The statue of Padmasambhava at Muktinath)

Bodhgaya & Lama Zopa
With a heart filled with gratitude, wonder and hunger for this spiritual path opening up, I travel to Bodhgaya in India. I land in Root Institute, a meditation center connected to Kopan Monastery. During the Kopan Course I met Lama Zopa Rinpoche, a well-respected teacher in the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and a reincarnation of the Lawudo Lama. The Lawudo Lama was a contemporary of Charok Lama, who transmitted the Earth Treasure Vase practice to Cynthia. The Lawudo Cave Hermitage is nearby the cave of Charok Lama. I visited Lawudo many years ago, when I knew nothing about Charok and the treasure vases yet…  

I was intrigued by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, he was the first high Tibetan lama I had met and his arrival and teachings at Kopan had made a lasting impression on me. During my time at Bodhgaya, Lama Zopa serendipitously was there too for a solo-retreat. Most evenings he would come out and invite the students present at the institute to join him in an evening circumambulation of the Bodhi Stupa around the famed Bodhi Tree where Siddhartha realized enlightenment and became a Buddha (an awakened one). These were very moving evenings, where we walked at a slow pace during dusk into the darkness lit up by all the butterlamps and other light offerings, reciting mantra´s and making offerings ourselves, led by Rinpoche. There was something about Lama Zopa that made me feel that there was very little, if at all, a sense of self alive within him. He seemed to be giving his life fully for the benefit of all beings.

Even though I have had difficulty with his traditional presentation of the Buddhist teachings, which made me not fully enter into the path the Tibetan Gelug tradition offers, I have come to see and understand that I had met my first true spiritual teacher.

Rick welcoming Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Root Institute or Kopan Monastery.

It was during the months of the Rains Retreat in Thich Nhat Hanh´s Community Plum Village (France) in 2022, where I was deeply considering my response to the call of my heart to request this vase. Over a period of several weeks Lama Zopa showed up in my dreams regularly. In one of the dreams I am with Lama Zopa who is preparing himself for a ceremony with an Earth Treasure  Vase. It is just me and my dear friend, Georgina, together with him in the room. Lama Zopa´s physical body is unmoving and stiff, it reminds me of the inner state of Tukdam (meditative absorption at time of death). His face is young, alive and expressive. The atmosphere is very intimate, sacred, like a deep bond together. Six months later, in April 2023, very unexpectedly, I learn from Georgina that Lama Zopa did enter the final state of meditation at the time of death.

Later I interpret the series of dreams in October-November 2022, signaling me to request the treasure vase, as Lama Zopa´s last advice for my life before he left us. A big blessing to receive, an affirmation of my life-path unfolding by someone who many people believe to be a fully-awakened realized being. The next summer I learn from a newly-made friend from Sicily, Claudio, that he had been told by another lama that Lama Zopa had buried an Earth Treasure Vase on a special hill close to Palermo. Interestingly enough, it was in Palermo that we initiated the Earth Treasure Vase for Italy in March 2022. It was that specific trip that catalyzed the vision for the treasure vase for the Himalayan Roots.

The land starts to speak
Back to the land that starts to speak. Lower Mustang. A year later I return to this region. This time alone. I had tried to blend back in, into my old life working in the entertainment industry and partying hard in the weekends. I found myself more than once with a deep sense of ‘’home-sickness’’ towards Nepal, an unexplainable and undeniable yearning to go back. I did the inevitable.

One afternoon I sat at a ruined, though still functional, little gompa, on a hilltop of a tiny village called Tiri. Tiri sits at the edge of the Kali Gandaki river. It is the first village that is part of Upper Mustang, walking further up into the mountains from there, will lead you eventually to mysterious Lo Manthang, the capital of the former Kingdom of Lo, which was constructed in the 15th century and is culturally and ethnically related to the people of Western and Central Tibet. At the time I was there, visits were restricted and only allowed with a special permit, as to preserve the medieval earthen walled city.      

(The view from Tiri Gompa, below you see the village of Tiri and the Kali Gandaki river.)

The sun was slowly setting, the wind was catching up, it was getting chilly. I decided to walk the sand path down, but was stopped in my tracks, something in me told me to stay. With resistance I stayed standing, listening and then my eye got fixed upon a special glittering small rock with beautiful carvings, it looked like a crystal. I picked it up and returned to my seat in front of the gompa, overlooking the valley, changing color and shape now with the changing time of day. I closed my eyes and felt a presence coming to sit next to me. Tears welled up, together with an indescribable sense of intimacy. An image arose in my mind of a young Tibetan Buddhist monk of perhaps sixteen years old. It felt viscerally real. We sat there together for a good while, at some point I had the sense that he was telling me that he is me in my most recent past life. He came to welcome me to the land, to say thank you for returning and that he wishes to be seen, to be recognized by me and to be allowed in as an ally.

The next couple of days I continued to roam the land in Lower Mustang, in solitude, sitting at cliff overhangs, on rocks, in or around gompa’s, overlooking the vast landscape, the shifting, shaping forms in light of the rocks and mountain walls. It was timeless. Existential and very special. Yet at the same time so natural and familiar. My ‘’meeting’’ with the young monk had opened the door of ancient memory widely, after it had being put on the latch the year prior. I would spend parts of my time tearful, somehow recounting on different layers and levels, how I had roamed these lands before. I felt deeply at home. To return after so many years to the land and culture where my spiritual path started and this inner door so widely opened, while carrying an Earth Treasure Vase for this land, feels like a special opportunity to give back humbly with a gratitude-filled heart for all I have received and continue to receive from my time spend there.

Remember why you came here.
Remember your life is sacred.
We hold a prayer for the Earth, for the ones yet to come
May you walk in beauty and remember your song…

– Peia

The beauty of Lower Mustang, view on the village of Jharkot, Nepal.


Monday Mindfulness Meditation