Chief Mark Wedge of the Carcross Tagish Nation, left, with Gangteng Rinpoche of Bhutan.
During his June visit to Whitehorse, Yukon, Gangteng Rinpoche of Bhutan received a special invitation from the people of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation to join them for their traditional solstice celebration. Tibetan Buddhist group Vajra North hosted Rinpoche in Whitehorse.
The Carcross/Tagish First Nation’s relationship with Tibetan Buddhist masters began in March 1977 when they welcomed His Holiness the 16th Karmapa to their territory an hour and a half south of Whitehorse. Since then a deep connection has been fostered between Vajra North and the First Nations people of the region. Over the last three decades the latter have often traveled to Whitehorse to honor visiting lamas, but it was not until Gangteng Rinpoche’s recent visit that Buddhists once again traveled to the land of the Carcross/Tagish Nation.
Sponsored by Vajra North, Gangteng Rinpoche came to Whitehorse this summer to bestow an empowerment and teachings based on Medicine Buddha. For a comparatively remote and sparsely populated area of Canada, a large gathering of about fifty people participated. When the Carcross Tagish people heard news of Rinpoche’s arrival, they extended a warm invitation to the lama to join them for their June 21st ceremonies.
Together with fellow Vajra North sangha members, Cheryl Buchan accompanied Rinpoche and his attendants to the celebrations. She reflected afterwards, “The people of the Carcross/Tagish Nation received Rinpoche with great excitement. It was many decades ago that a Tibetan lama actually visited the land and so they were deeply honored by his presence, and likewise Rinpoche was struck by their warm-hearted joy and welcome.”
Gangteng Rinpoche participates in a ground-breaking consecration at the site of the Nation's new Potlatch House.
Rinpoche participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Nation’s new Potlatch House. Beautiful sacred ceremonial dances were performed as well as other rituals, including the lighting of the sacred fire and traditional gift exchanges. Some sangha members participated in the sweat lodge. At one point in the ceremony the elders took their positions in the cardinal directions and they invited Rinpoche to represent the East.
Many felt the powerful meeting was truly positive and empowering for all who had the great fortune to attend. As time passed between the Elders and Rinpoche, it was evident that there were essential key points of resonance between both spiritual cultures. Rinpoche commented on this in a talk he gave on the day, mentioning four main commonalities: strong respect and connection to the land and environment, caring for the people and culture of one’s community, honoring the elemental spirits of the land itself, and finding healing and wisdom in a spiritual path.
Speaking at the solstice celebrations, Gangteng Rinpoche also provided a context related to Medicine Buddha, pointing out that the most potent and best healing of all is through spiritual practice, a message that many diverse faith groups can embrace.
A child offers Gangteng Rinpoche a handmade rattle as a gift.