Thrangu Monastery Richmond

There have been many times this year when I’ve thought “I can’t believe this is my job,” and yesterday afternoon was one of them.

Thrangu Monastery Richmond

A colleague and I visited Thrangu Monastery on No. 5 Road, Canada’s first traditional Buddhist monastery, and it was an extraordinary experience.  The building was finished in 2010 and stands three storeys high; strings of prayer flags bouncing in the wind invite visitors in from the front gates and towards the refined and colourful structure.

Thrangu Monastery prayer flags

Inside, we met Rabjor, a monk at Thrangu who also manages the office.  He was a small and instantly-likeable man dressed in traditional garb – a red and orange robe, a dark maroon shawl thrown around his shoulder, and sandals.

Rabjor at Thrangu Monastery Richmond

Because of this rather timeless look, it was just a bit odd to hear him say “Yes, I take care of our PR!”  Buddhism may be thousands of years old, but it has certainly kept up with the times.

Thrangu Monastery Richmond

Rabjor is from Nepal, and used to teach in a school there founded by the monastery’s leader, the Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche.  Since the 70’s, he’s been travelling the world, teaching and raising funds for the Shree Mangal DVIP Schools, which provide “education for the forgotten children of the Himalayas.”

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

Rabjor taught many of the school’s 900 children, some of whom come from areas so remote it takes them five or six days to walk to areas with bus access.  Thrangu Rinpoche has various non-profits around the world, the Canadian branch being the Vajra Vidya Foundation.

The spiritual leader of the Karma Kagyu lineage (one of the major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism) is His Holiness the 17th Gywala Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje.  He was born on June 26th, 1985 to a nomadic family in Eastern Tibet.  That’s right, he’s YOUNGER THAN ME.  He was recognized as the 16th Karmapa at the age of seven through a prediction letter.

17th Gywala Karmapa

The Thrangu Monastery in Richmond is open to everyone, with no fees, but donations suggested (they are inclusive of everyone, regardless of economic status).

Their teachings include meditation, Buddhist philosophy, and Tibetan language classes, with weekend programs held almost year round.  Every Sunday, you can join them for a demonstration of the creation of sand mandalas (here’s an incredible time-lapse of the practise), and there’s also a library and souvenir shop.  Personally, I found it remarkable just to stand in the prayer hall, a space that’s calming and visually magnificent.

Thrangu Monastery Prayer Hall

It’s a space of colour, light, paintings, and symbolism, all culminating in the golden, jewel-like Buddha seated at the far end.

Thrangu Monastery Buddha

Thrangu Monastery buddha

Every last corner and space is decorated, yet the effect is one of complete unity rather than overdone chaos.  It’s a photographer’s dream.

Thrangu Monastery Prayer Hall

Thrangu Monastery Prayer Hall
The north and south walls are each made up of 1000 little shrines, each of which contains a singular golden Medicine Buddha.

Thrangu Monastery Prayer Hall medicine buddhas

Standing next to the shrine where people make offerings (in any form, Coke and Mountain Dew included), Rabjor spoke to us about the Six Perfections in Buddhism, which are mastered on the path to enlightenment: Giving, Morality, Patience, Diligence, Meditation, and Wisdom.

Thrangu Monastery Prayer Hall

He stressed that diligence is a necessary aspect of all the Six Perfections, and must be practiced constantly.  The one that really got me, however, was the first: Giving.

Thrangu Monastery Prayer Hall

Lately, I’ve found the news headlines to be particularly disheartening and horrific, the kind of news that can smother one’s sense of optimism.  Hearing Rabjor speak of practicing kindness and generousity to others without expecting anything in return was like much-needed oxygen, and I was grateful for it.

Thrangu Monastery Prayer Hall

A sincere thanks to Rabjor for taking the time to show us around the monastery, and for answering all of our many questions.  If you live in the Greater Vancouver area or are just visiting, I highly recommend a visit to Thrangu, and if you’re interested in supporting a child who attends the Shree Mangal DVIP School, you can click here for more information.

Thrangu Monastery Prayer Hall

Feeling awed and ever so calm, I went to find some lunch.  I opted for sushi at Osaka Today, a long, narrow, and busy restaurant in Blundell Centre on No. 2 Road.  I ordered the Gomaae ($3.95), Grilled Salmon Cheek ($4.95), Kamakaze Roll ($7.95), Red Snapper Nigiri ($1.25), Saba (mackerel, $1.50) Nigiri, Octopus Nigiri ($1.75), and the cold Zarusoba Noodles ($6).

Osaka Today

The gomaae was the most sesameiest (it’s a word now) of any gomaae I’ve had in Richmond.  The sauce was thick, coarse, and sweet, and at first I thought they’d completely overdressed the poor spinach.  Then I thought “No, this is fab and I love it!”  This won’t be for everyone, but it’s certainly for me.

gomaae

The grilled salmon cheek came next, and I think we can all agree that salmon cheeks are not the prettiest of things to arrive on a plate.  Essentially, it was  a salmon head split in half, with its front fins protruding like wings.  Homely yes, but also TASTY.  The meat was juicy and flavourful, and there was more of it hiding in there than you might think.  It came with a mild, sweet soy dipping sauce.

Salmon cheek (salmon kama)

The Kamikaze Roll was very good – high quality sushi rice with tempura prawns, spicy tuna, avocado, lettuce, and tobiko.  The sliced rolls were placed in a spicy mayo sauce, which added further flavour and satisfied my desire to have mayo with everything.  It had just the right amount of heat, and the prawns added the perfect crunch.

Kamikaze roll

The nigiri (what a bunch of beauties, hey?) were good, though there was just a touch too much wasabi in them for my liking.

nigiri at Osaka Today

Of the three, I most enjoyed the tako (octopus).

nigiri at Osaka Today

The cold, buckwheat zarusoba noodles came with a dipping sauce, crunchy bits of tempura batter, and pureed daikon.

zarusoba

zarusoba dipping sauce

The noodles were still chewy – cooked just long enough – and while this is an incredibly simple dish, it’s one that would be wildly refreshing on a hot, midsummer’s day.

zarusoba

Though the service was a little rushed, I was very impressed with my meal at Osaka Today, and thought it was an ideal follow up to an afternoon spent chatting with a Buddhist monk.  Here are some more pictures from the monastery – a place everyone should consider visiting.

Thrangu Monastery

Thrangu Monastery

Thrangu Monastery

Thrangu Monastery prayer wheels

Thrangu Monastery

Thrangu Monastery

Thrangu Monastery

Thrangy Monastery mandala

thrangu-osaka-today42

thrangu-osaka-today28

Thrangu Monastery

 

Osaka Today

8180 No. 2 Road, Richmond BC

604-277-2711

Cash and cards accepted

Vegetarian and vegan options available