"We think happiness is what we get when attachment gets what it wants. Buddha says happiness is what we get when we give up attachment."
Since 2001 Ven. Robina been leading pilgrimages to holy sites in India, Nepal, Tibet, and most recently Burma, one of many commercial endeavors to bring in funds support her work for her teachers Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
“People are so moved by the experience; it always amazes me. Going to these holy places touches people deeply, transforms them,” says Ven. Robina.
The pilgrimages are organized by Effie Fletcher via her organization Dharma Journeys. In 13 years Effie has helped bring in over $100,000 to support Ven. Robina's work.
“The idea originally came from former Tse Chen Ling director Peggy Bennington," says Ven. Robina. "'A good way to raise funds,' she said. I asked Effie if she’d like to run them. She didn’t hesitate!”
Effie has been leading treks to Bhutan, India, Nepal, Tibet and Southeast Asia via her Himalayan High Treks for over 25 years. In 2001 she started Dharma Journeys (originally Chasing Buddha pilgrimages) to help raise funds first for Liberation Prison Project, which Ven. Robina was running at the time, and later for other charitable organizations and projects.
“I am so grateful for her efforts,” says Ven. Robina.
The pilgrimages are authentic: in India, they trace the actual steps of the Buddha; in Tibet pilgrims visit holy sites and monasteries where Tibetans have prayed and paid homage to the Buddha for more than 1000 years; and in Burma they do retreat at Bagan where over 10,000 monasteries, temples and pagodas were constructed between the 11th and 13th century.
All of the pilgrimages are led using the practices given to Ven. Robina by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, spiritual director of FPMT.
“Normally when people go on pilgrimage, they are just like tourists; maybe they take some pictures, and that’s it,” says Rinpoche. “They don't use the places to collect merit or to meditate or to get some benefit for their minds. If it’s just like sightseeing, then it won’t be that much benefit.”
“The point is to use the pilgrimage to purify our mind and collect as extensive merit as pos- sible,” says Rinpoche. “By doing pilgrimage, we receive blessings from the holy places where enlightened beings, great yogis, and bodhisattvas, have practiced.”
• Dharma Journeys
• Advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche on pilgrimage
• Pilgrimage in India: Stories and Allegories
Ven. Robina shares her own experiences on pilgrimage with students at Tse Chen Ling, the FPMT center in San Francisco, and explains the real purpose of making such a journey. December, 2008.