Khenpo Karchung, Tango University, Bhutan 2022

Khenpo Karchung, Tango University, Bhutan 2022

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When I first met Karchung 20 years ago, he was “Rithroep” Karchung – a hermit wandering in the forests and mountains. He was open, friendly, and fascinating, so I tagged along. Though mostly skin and bones, Karchung bound through the forest with the strength of a buck, and I struggled to keep up. He knew every edible and medicinal plant and root, where to find “min chhu” (medicine water), and could see and feel nature spirits and earth energies that I could not.

He lived in forest huts and south-facing caves above the tree line. “Rithroeps” practice the six Yogas of Naropa: Inner Heat; Illusory Body; Clear Light; Dream Yoga; “Phowa” (Collection if one dies on the path); and “Bardo” (The intermediate state.)

Karchung carried all he had on a bentwood pack frame he made himself. I tried it on. It was torture.

“Here, try mine” I lifted my Kelty to his shoulders.

“It’s good, very good!”

“I’ll bring you one when I come back this spring.”

Karchung gave me his family’s telephone number in Thimphu.

That spring, I called and talked to a man who said the family hadn’t heard from Karchung in some time, a long time, had no idea where he was, and didn’t think he’d have any use for a pack.

I never forgot Karchung.

20-years later, Lopen Gembo gave me a list of the Masters we would interview for our book and film project “Living Masters of Bhutan,” and I saw Karchung’s name:

“Karchung!” I said, surprised and delighted. “I know this guy. I thought he was dead.”

“Dead?” replied Gembo, “Karchung’s our greatest Sanskrit scholar at Tango University.”

After 23 years of Mahamudra practice (Co-emergence Yoga) in the forests and mountains of Bhutan, Karchung realized that the Sanskrit words in their mantras and texts, though interpreted with many subtle and various meanings, were not clearly defined. The monks didn’t really know exactly what they were chanting and reciting. So at age forty-one, this wandering hermit went to India to study Sanskrit. Six years later, in 2017, he returned to Bhutan. Karchung has now published 10 books, including his Masterworks, Classical Tibetan to Sanskrit, and Sanskrit to Classical Tibetan dictionaries totaling over 1300 pages. Some of his other titles are : “The Golden Key”; “The Moonlight”; “Mantra Pronunciation,” and more.

Karchung was Gembo’s friend. They were classmates. Gembo called. We hopped into his car and headed to Tango.

“Karchung! So great to see you, my friend! I thought you were dead!”

“Once, I thought I might be dead too! I was alone, quiet, calm. No sounds. Not a chirping bird. Not a breeze. Was I alive? I dipped my feet in water to see if I left footprints. So here I am, still alive!”

Prints are on Hahnemuhle heavyweight (315 gsm) 100% archival cotton “Photo Rag Baryta” paper, using archival inks and archival spray coating. They have a 200-year life expectancy before any deterioration of the print will be observed when stored, handled, and displayed under archival conditions.

What is often called “Gallery Wrap Canvas” is a fine art inkjet (Giclee) print on canvas, with printed edges to wrap around a wooden stretcher frame, like a painting. With canvas prints, your print image is still the same size, but given a "wrap effect" around the edges to account for the thickness of the stretcher. Canvas can be rolled and shipped with no effect to the print. Your local framing shop should be able to mount the canvas to stretchers at a fraction of the cost of traditional framing, making for an overall more economical way to get fine art on your wall. The canvas is printed to wrap around a 1-inch stretcher (1.5 inches on larger sizes). Specifications will be provided with your order. Feel free to contact us if you need guidance with your canvas order.

John prints, titles, dates, and signs all of his photos.

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