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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Sakya Monastery and the Princess in the Land of Snow


I’ve been wanting to visit Sakya Monastery since the last time USk Seattle sketched there in 2019. The bright yellow and red former Presbyterian church in the Greenwood neighborhood in north Seattle was established in 1974 by the some of the first Tibetan Buddhists to come to America. 

When China took over Tibet , they forced Tibetan Buddhists to comply with Chinese rule. Many Buddhists including the Dali Lama fled. The Rinpoche of the Sakya order also fled with his wife and family, trekking over the Himalayas, while being pursued by the Chinese Communists. They eventually landed in India. 

While there they met UW Professor who convinced them to come to Seattle under a Rockefeller Foundation grant. The wife of the Rinpoche, Jamyang Sakya, is still alive. She told the story of her life in Tibet in the book, “Princess in the Land of Snows”, co-authored by former Seattle Times reporter Julie Emery. 

She became one of the first females allowed to become a lama, preach teach Buddhism and grant inititiations and is held in very high esteem in the Buddhist community. 

While I sat in the shade sketching on that warm May afternoon, two women emerged from the side entry and crossed my path. Although I didn’t confirm it, I’m sure one was Jamyang Sakya, the Princess from the Land of Snow walking under the beautiful Seattle summer skies.