Meditation Cave Overlooking Lake Jerutso

Above is a photo of Jackie standing outside the meditation cave where Tenzin Namdak spent four years with Bön master Gangru Tsultrim Gyaltsan Rinpoche. The journey to the cave was one of many experiences in Tibet that brought home the Bön teachings of change and impermanence. We had intended to go to Muro Ri, the spot where Tenzin Namdak was nearly executed by a Chinese soldier as he lay wounded. Instead we were given permits to travel to Lake Namtso, the highest salt-water lake in the world, more than 400 miles east of Muro Ri.

By telling authorities that we wanted to make a kora, or circumambulation, of a sacred lake, we were able to get a permit that allowed us to visit Tenzin Namdak’s meditation cave. Lake Jurutso is a small lake on the north side a the indescribably beautiful and vast Lake Namtso, a sacred lake. It probably would have taken at least a week or more to complete a kora around it. Harvey was ill and stayed in Lhasa so it was just myself, John, the driver and guide in an SUV and the rest of our entourage — the cook and driver — in a truck carrying camping supplies and food for all of us. I felt like a queen on safari. Our guide and drivers were as enthralled with Lake Namtso as I was.

Our guide takes a photo of our crew, tourists in their own country.
The Changthang Plateau

Driving through the expanse of the Changthang on the north side of Lake Namtso, it was quite clear the nomadic life was dwindling fast. The Chinese have forced many nomads to abandon herding for the unfamiliar life of the towns and cities. We occasionally saw antelope bounding across the barren plain or yaks grazing on patches of grass. The Changthang is the very definition of vast, and I suddenly understood why the Bön teachings use comparisons to space, openness and sky.

Asking directions at a yak-hide tent near Lake Jarutso.

We arrived at Lake Jurutso after stopping several times to get directions from locals — they all knew it as Tenzin Namdak’s cave. We set up camp and set out for the cave.

The 15,000-foot altitude slowed my hike to the cave. When I rounded the headland and saw the cave I felt an indescribable thrill to be in this sacred place. This added to the breathlessness from the altitude. It was basic and practical, with all one might need to for a life of contemplation and asceticism. The serene view of the lake and Mt. Ponse across the water invoked a sense of calm. Yongdzin once said all he wanted was to stay in the cave and meditate and I could certainly see why.

Jackin in front of the meditation cave

The cave itself will be covered in anther blog, so back to the journey. We were resting after our hike to the cave when a local Tibetan from one of the few nearby houses showed up with a cell phone. He had called the authorities and determined we did not have the proper permits to be there. We were ordered to leave immediately, which we did as soon as we packed even though it was near dark. Unable to find water and a suitable place to camp once we were outside the prohibited area, we ended up driving all night. We drove off the Changthang and finally set up camp in a ravine with a creek where we had camped on our way to the plateau.

Campsite by creek on the road to Lake Namtso

Camping in Tibet means finding a water source and open land, a combination hard to find on that part of the Changthang.  We shared our camp site with the picas and burrowing owls who also thought it was a good location.  

Picas on the Changthang Plateau

Return Home

Follow the Book