A ground search for a monk who went missing from Sravasti Abbey last week has been suspended by the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office.
Geshe Tenzin Chodrak, whose birth name is Dadul Namgyal, went for a walk on the evening of Nov. 7 on the abbey’s 300-acre property and did not return.
Namgyal officially joined the Buddhist abbey earlier this year as its first male resident teacher. Known as Geshe-la, he has been a monk in the Tibetan tradition for more than 40 years and had been leading the growing monk community at Sravasti.
He chose to reside at Sravasti after recently retiring from Emory University’s Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-based Ethics. For the past 13 years, he also served as senior resident teacher at Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta and was senior translator and interpreter with the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, where he helped develop a science curriculum for Tibetan monks and nuns.
The monastics noticed his absence when he did not appear for a puja, which is a community prayer, and a search began immediately.
Search and rescue crews used dogs, drones and a helicopter to search for the missing monk, but Sheriff Glenn Blakeslee said his office has exhausted reasonable efforts and is now relying on the public for help.
He said if anyone hears, sees or knows anything relevant, they should call the sheriff’s office at (509) 447-3151. Laminated posters have been posted in the forest off the Abbey property where hunters and hikers may see them.
In a video, Ven. Thubten Chodron, founder of the abbey, said Namgyal had a jacket, winter shoes, warm socks and a hat when he went for his walk. Blakeslee said the terrain is slick from rain, but it hasn’t gotten into freezing temperatures yet and snow is mainly at the higher elevations.
Volunteers are continuing to search for the monk, including a professional tracker who is posting videos of his efforts on Facebook.
Buddhists from around the globe are offering prayers and holding special services for Namgyal, including Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta and Maitripa College.
On Friday, Ven. Sangye Khadro offered guidance to the Sravasti Abbey community on how Buddhists can use the Dharma to best work with their minds and grow during this time.
“It doesn’t help to let the mind get carried away with unhappy thoughts and worries,” she said. “It’s better to accept the situation, and you can always do things on the spiritual level. We can always do prayers and practices and meditations, so there’s things like that we can do which are much more productive and much more helpful than useless worries and fears and anxieties.”