UPDATE 2: Lama Geshe Suffers a Stroke

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If you have ever climbed in the Himalaya, you probably were as shocked by this headline as I was to receive the news. Lama Geshe suffered a stroke around September 20, 2010. He was flown to Kathmandu, paralyzed and in poor condition. He has since undergone an initial surgery and seems to have improved some. He is now responsive and resting.

Lama Geshe, 79, lives in the Nepalese village of Pangboche with his wife and family. He is the highest ranking Buddhist Lama in the area. Almost every climber to the Everest region visits him to receive a blessing before their climb. For many climbers and trekkers, this is one of the highlights and life long memories of their visit to Nepal.

If you do not know Lama Geshe, this is what makes him so special: his smile, his gentle touch, his soft laugh, his aura that made you feel as if the world was in good hands. You simply feel better no matter your woes by just being near him. He conducts pujas where climbers receive his blessing for a safe climb. Many Sherpa will not touch a mountain without his blessing.

This is how I reported one of my visits:

The ceremony is very detailed. First he takes a thin yellow or red string (a sungdi) and places it around our necks. Then we give the silk scarf (a kata) to his daughter with an offering in it. He says a brief prayer and the scarf is placed back around our neck. For many, he offers a gentle head bump to “seal the deal”.

We move to the bench and sit quietly while he does the same ceremony with all the other climbers and Sherpa. The Lama then begins to chant prayers for our safety and permission to climb the mountain while tossing rice into the air and occasionally ringing a small bell. The entire ceremony lasts about 20 minutes. Today he must have blessed over 100 climbers and Sherpa.

I am always touched by this ceremony. In the quiet moments, I reflect on why I am here and what this means to me.

The family has established a fund to help Lama Geshe. Please use the secure “Donate” button below to make a one time donation that is fast and secure. This will take you to PayPal’s safe and secure web site to enter your personal information.

Your donation will be sent directly to Lama Geshe’s son, Jigme Sherpa, who will serve as Director of the fund. 100% of donations will be utilized to benefit Lama Geshe and his family. Jigme is currently a Junior at Nazareth College. He has taken an emergency leave this semester and is en-route to Kathmandu to care for his Father.

Update 10/5/10

Lam Geshe suffered a Chronic Subdural Haematoma. This update from Lama Geshe’s on Jigme who returned to Kathmandu from his studies in the US:

Hello Everyone,

My father is doing better day by day. Now that he is conscious he always talk about returning back home in Pangbohce.  He have always loved the mountains and the fresh air that you can feel there. He also wants to eat food that is grown in the Khumbu valley. We have convinced that he will be able go to Pangboche as soon as he is physically strong enough to live in Pangboche.

I am very happy with the doctor who operated him and the hospitals service. The name of the doctor is Upendra Devkota and he in best neuro surgen in Nepal and is popular in South Asia. After the surgery my father is doing very well. People who have seen him before and after the surgery can not believe how he has improved. Everyone, including my family thought that he would die and taking to the hospital would be of no good.

Today, Rob Casserely, a doctor from UK and also a climber who is a friend to my father came to pay his visit at the hospital. Even though he was sad about what my father had to go through, he is happy that how things are in control and is confident that he will recover.

I think my father will be here in Kathmandu for at least 5 or 6 months. But this is the best for him even though he wants to go back as there are no health facilities and other services that may be required to help him get better.

I pray that he recovers fully and be able to bless many more climbers, Sherpas and other people.

Thank you all for your support and care,

Jigme Sherpa


Update 10/13/10

Lama Geshe has been discharged from the hospital and is living in a rented apartment in Bouddha. He will most likely be in KTM for couple of months. The stitch on his head is taken out and he has started doing physical therapy.



Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer’s Advocate. He is climbing the 7 Summits starting with Mt. Vinson in November 2010 to raise $1 million for Alzheimer’s research. You can read more on his site.

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