Kopan Gumba is at Kapan-1, Boudha, Kathmandu. Located on the border of Budhanilkantha Municipality and Gokarneshwor Municipality, Kopan monastery is one of the scenic spots of Kathmandu. As this place has a beautiful view of Kathmandu, it is becoming a good destination for religious and domestic tourists. This monastery is a member of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). This association was once considered as headquarters, which is an international network of Gelugpa Dharma Centres.
Forgetting worldly worries and meditating brings spiritual happiness. This spiritual happiness can be felt whenever you visit this monastery. Kathmandu’s Kopan Gumba is especially popular with foreign tourists. There are different places to eat, stay and meditate. Visitors believe that a trip to this gumba helps in increasing the energy in their body and mind. People from different backgrounds and ethnic groups join this monastery to become monks. Even the young children are sent to this monastery by their parents where they are provided formal education in different subjects like math, English, science etc.
This monastery was founded by the members of the FPMT – Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Jopa Rinpoche in 1970 for study and meditation. Before that, in 1967, they established a monastery in Solukhumbu. That is why it has been shifted to Kapan where many children are also given free Buddhist education. It was named as Kopan Monastery because it was built on the hill of Kathmandu.
Kopan Monastery is especially famous for learning Buddhism. Many western foreigners who visit this gumba enrolled themselves in the course. The first mediation course was held here in 1971. The spiritual programs offered in this monastery mainly provide knowledge about the series of Buddhism, Lam Rim teachings, principles of Tibetan Buddhism, vegetarian diet, and guided meditation. There are two institutions – atop Kopan Hill and Kopan Nunnery.
The spiritual courses train a mind regarding the concept of birth, karma, death and more. The 5 days, 10 days and even month-long courses are available here. The lamas also provide the short courses on Thangka paintings, Buddhist principles and philosophy, Tibetan medicine and so on. Foreigners visiting this gumba take the courses as per their interests and some spend 5-10 days whereas some spend more than a month devoting themselves to their studies. As a result of the flow of the students, the monastery was unable to handle all of them. So, many tents were built for their stay. But today the monastery can accommodate many students together because of the addition of the extra rooms.
Kopan monastery is a perfect place to get rid of the noisy life of Kathmandu and its pollution for a few moments. Be it for Kathmandu residents or foreigners, this monastery never fails to captivate them with its green and serene environment. More than 200 visitors travel to this destination mainly on Saturday from 10am to 4pm. One of the main reasons behind a huge crowd on Saturdays is because this monastery is not open to the public on the weekdays. The Gumba administration argues that visitors are barred from entering on weekdays to avoid hindering the lamas.
Kopan Monastery consists of a large garden and a library. A garden is lightened up in the evening by using solar lights. Likewise, there are also very standard and affordable restaurants from where good views of Kathmandu valley can be seen while enjoying the tasty meals. During special occasions like Buddha Jayanti and more, devotees climb up the hill and get to the monastery to perform puja, pay homage, and receive blessings from Lamas. In the past, this monastery was open to everyone, every day, but because of the huge crowd, now the entrance number has been restricted. So, the environment is peaceful where you can get the aura of beautiful things.
Phulbari monastery is another famous and beautiful monastery that resides just above the hill of Kopan Monastery. One who visits Kopan Monastery can also pay a visit to the Phulbari Monastery. It takes around 1 hours to get there. It will be like short and exciting hiking. Between these two monasteries, there lies another gumba known as Vajrayana Monastery. Phulbari gumba is the perfect destination for those who want to get the glimpse of Thangka paintings and the beautiful interior designs. The building of this monastery was designed by an American Buddhist monk. The design of this building is based on the mixture of eastern and western architecture. The paintings here are mainly in pastel colors rather than vivid, which shows the arts and architecture of Tibetan Buddhism.
There are several ways to reach Kopan Monastery. One of the most fascinating routes is by walking all the way from Bouddha. The walk starts from the east of Bouddhanath and passes through the Phulbari Gumba. After a few minutes of walking, the route meets Chuchepati’s road. Then, you can see the glimpse of the monastery from its downhill.
As an alternative route, you can also take the route of Chabahil by turning left at Chuchepati. There you can see a famous statue of Pasang Lhamu (the first Nepalese female who climbed Mt. Everest). And then, you will reach the Chabahil ring road and pass through the Gopi Krishna Cinema Hall. If you don’t want to walk a long way, you can also catch the local buses to the base of the hill, where the monastery is located. Hiring a taxi is the best idea as it only takes a short time. Besides these, hiring a motorcycle, mountain bike etc. are other alternatives.
Overall, this monastery is one of the best destinations to get the sensation of peace and beauty. You can go for a day hike in Kopan and Phulbari monastery, and practice meditation with those Lamas around there.
-By: Kusum Kharel for Land Nepal