Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery/Pure Land (x4), Tibetan Healing, Tibetan Incense, Rhododendron Forest, Lawudo, Wisdom

Nearly everyone who starts with Tibetan incense thinks of it in terms of it’s thick stick, extruded style; but over time (years for me), it’s possible to make some geographic generalities about the Tibetan incenses that come from Nepal, Bhutan and the area in China called the Tibetan Autonomous Region. From the latter area we receive the style’s most traditional and thus transgressive blends, in that we can usually guess from the scents that animal products have been used in many of the blends. However this is far more unlikely when it comes to the small groups of Bhutani and Nepalese incenses. Incenses from Bhutan often have a spice blend that stays close to a certain style, in fact many could be determined just from the almost plastic-like feel of the sticks and the variations on red/pink coloring, many of these are far less likely to break even at longer lengths. When it comes to Nepalese and Indian Tibetan scents, there’s certainly a range of different scents, but from monastery to company, you tend to find a great deal of repetition over time. No matter what style of Nepali incense, whether it’s the highlanders with heavy evergreen content, the plainer sandalwoods, the tangy or herbal woods, the Medicine Buddha/Agar 31 combinations, if you sample far and wide you’ll tend to notice more similarities. To some extent this has acted to put a restraint on my purchasing of Nepali incenses, as in so many cases I’m not finding a lot of new blends, rather than variations on scents I already know.

With Nepali Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, the similarities even come down to the packaging. The style and fonts of all four Pure Land incenses are nearly identical to that of three of the Mandala Trading incenses (The Earth, Ribo Sangtseo, and Tibetan Peace). I’m still not quite sure if this is a commanality in a certain Tibetan motif or the products of a different printing company (or both), after all this case is as similar as the Red Crystal incense packaging is with the Boudha company’s. However unlike the latter comparison, the actual incenses themselves differ quite a bit in strength and individuality between the KGLN Pure Lands and the Mandala Trading scents, with the latter having much more distinctive and interesting scents.

Unfortunately (and if you’re harshed out by negative reviews this may be where you want to disembark) I was terribly surprised to find the Pure Land line to be so dull and nondescript. Pure Land Healing might be the dictionary definition of the inexpensive Nepali wood incense, the type that leaves a black ash residue as it burns and a mild, airy, inconsequential aroma. 25 different ingredients that end up smelling like poor quality cedarwood or juniper? I was  really wondering if I was missing something here as this is a scent that really doesn’t offer much more than what the random campfire might exude.

Pure Land Inspiration has a little more personality but I’m not sure it’s one most Western users will gravitate towards as the result is a mixture of strong sour and bitter tones. It might have the heaviest rubber/tire like hit I’ve ever found in a Tibetan incense, a scent that is almost unbearably astringent. Of course incenses like this might be called invigorating, given what seems to be a high quality of lemon or even straight camphor wood, but the mixture of these elements with rubber tire like scent falls short of balance.

Pure Land Meditation has the lowest smoke level of all four incenses in the range, yet ends up smelling like a combination of the previous two incenses, with the dull woodiness of the Healing and a slighter version of the sour scent found in the Inspiration. Again, it’s difficult to really parse anything whose elements add up to such a restrained whole and while I detect some resinous undernotes (myrrh, guggal?), they’re too low in content to add to the bouquet.

Pure Land Relaxation is marginally the best of this group, although its spice and wood blend isn’t something that’s likely to leap out at you. While it doesn’t seem like the base is any higher in quality than the previous three, at least the elements interact to produce a scent that doesn’t leave me edgy or reaching. It may be damning with faint praise to say that this was the only incense of the Pure Lands not to end up in my give away batch, because I would think further comparison with other Nepali incenses may not leave this in as much of a favorable position.

Fortunately KGLN incenses improve a little outside this line. The small package Tibetan Healing does have a lot of similarity to the Pure Land version, but seems to have a bit more aromatic strength to it. There seems to be a bit more juniper in the mix as well a hints of a slight cherry tobacco mix that helps to give it some personality. But it’s likely it succeeds more in comparison to the Pure Lands than other incenses because repeated burning tends to bring out its more generic qualities.

Tibetan Incense exhibits one of the line’s most distinct personalities, in this case an unusual coffee-like blend mixed with fragrant leaves, however while these herbal hints seem to imply something a bit more original, the base is still that airy, cedar heavy, black ash producing wood that I tend to associate with lower quality scents. And overall even if this has some distinction, it’s not one I necessarily find pleasant, perhaps because I’m not totally convinced coffee is a good incense scent, but in that case your mileage might vary.

Rhododendron Forest is a scent very much like the Maya Devi Rhododendron Anthopogon and at least in an incense like this you’re going to know whether you like it or not as the scent is definitely right out in front. Thus the incense could be a good introduction to this sort of slightly evergreen scent, somewhere between floral and leaf. Of course the base tends to accentuate the more campfire like woody scents associative with this whole line, but in this case it’s little different from any Rhododendron incense.

I only ended up with small samples of the Lawudo and Wisdom incenses, which are packaged in Lokta boxes similar to the Dhoop Factory line. However, given the rest of the Nunnery’s incenses I didn’t expect that further sticks would bring any more revelation to the table. Lawudo is heavily campfire-like with what seems like a mix of cedar and juniper berry. There are some similarities to the herbal aspects of the Rhododendron Forest and a coffee like scent similar to the Tibetan Incense, implying that either my nose was growing dull to these scents or only picking out a few different directions. By the time I got to Wisdom I just felt like I was dealing with another  very inexpensive wood incense with a slight herbal tang and little distinctive personality.

So before I close this up I want to make some comparisons to other Nepali incenses that you’re likely to find much more assertive. For example, many of these ingredients and blends can be found among the Dhoop Factory line but with much more aggressive personalities. Both the Alpine and the now-called Vajrapani are going to check off a lot of wood, campfire and evergreen boxes, but with these you’ll also be able to detect the needles and green flair that are absent in the KGLN blends. Dhoop Factory’s Ganden will have some sour similarities to a couple of the Pure Lands as well as a heavy campfire like middle, but you’ll also be left with the subtleties of the herbal mix as well. While it’s more difficult to go one to one with Stupa’s Shanti Dhoop trio, it seems like there are a lot of similar blends and with Stupa you’re also usually getting a bit more power, perhaps a better ratio of quality ingredients to base. And of course with Mandala Trading and the Yog-Sadhana “trio” you can sense Nepali/Indian-Tibetan incense at its most distinctive.

And as a final note, as part of the trading circle I received an incense that originated with this Nunnery that I would have easily classified as an excellent incense and tried to match it up with new packaging, but wasn’t able to, which implied to me that there might have been some ingredient changes in the mix somewhere.



  1. Terra Renee said,

    January 10, 2016 at 9:04 am

    I read this, but I still ordered some Lawudo and Rhodedendron Forest (coils, because they last longer) and I loved both! I like the campfire smell, and it just seems so beautiful and smooth when burned in coil form. It lasts hours, as well, and that just fills the entire room with a campfire scent.

  2. william said,

    July 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    glenn someone sent me some information on lama chodpa incenses and it says the monks that make it pray over it for a year before it’s sold to the public.

    as powerful as it is i’d have to believe it.

  3. william said,

    July 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    mike if could would you mind listing a few tibetan incenses that are like the lama chodpa, lah yak, red crystal and shambala? i’d like to track down as many as i can if possible.

    i do find those as burnt rubber tire but not sure if you do also. kind of checking to see if we both agree on what burnt rubber smells like. they do seem to have a common aroma.

    • Mike said,

      July 23, 2010 at 2:12 pm

      That’s a bit of a tough question since it has been various lengths of time since I’ve smelled any of those. And there have been some switcheroos with Red Crystal, as there’s now a New Red Crystal. The one I think of as Red Crystal, the really thick tan colored sticks aren’t what I’d describe as having a tire type of smell, in fact they’re pretty sandalwood heavy iirc (or at least they used to be). So I might be able to help better if I know which one you’re using. One of the Bhutani incenses I’ll be posting a review on next week favorably reminds me of the old Red Crystal, so I’d look for that review, although there’s very few Bhutani’s (including that one) that smell like tire to me, it seems to be a largely Nepali/Indian Tibetan thing.

      As to Lama Chodpa, I can’t specifically remember one from the other, but my memory tells me they’re all generally at the top end of the Nepali scale in my opinion and fairly different from any other blend (although come to think of it I may very well have noticed “tire” scents in them). The Stupa Shanti Dhoop trio had some crossovers though, so I’d check those out.

      As to Tshi Lhunpo Lha Yak, I remember that being a pretty standard Nepali scent, not even terribly far from the Shing Kham Kun Khyab and the Local incenses in that group (although not identical mind you). I do notice it has some similarities to the Shambhala as well (these all strike me as mild but heavy in inexpensive wood content). Some others roughly (that means I’m guessing since it has been a while) in the same area are several in the Lucky stable (made by Dr. Pasang Yonten) like Windhorse or the Original Healing. Mandala Art & Incense Kalachakra. Menri Incense. 1 or 2 in the Natural Arogya quintet. Most of the Shechens (although not so much the top Red line which is the most deluxe. Tibetan Yak. Again, buyer beware on any of these suggestions. 🙂

      • william said,

        July 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm

        i don’t have the “new red crystal” just the red crystal. i’ll check out the ones you mention here and i already have some of those.

        the lama chodpa relaxation really rocks. i have the lama chodpa meditation too and that’s very nice. something like the smell of a cigar with some chocolate cake mixed in.

        thanks again mike.

    • glennjf said,

      July 23, 2010 at 2:30 pm

      Hi William.

      The current ORS reviews for Lama Chodpa and Relaxation mention a couple of similar incenses, the current Red Crystal review does not. Lah Yak does not appear in the Incense Reviews Index at this time. Have a full read through of the Lama Chodpa review as there may be information in there will assist you. hope this helps.

      • glennjf said,

        July 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm

        Further reading myself of the Lama Chodpa Review and I’m adding Lama Chodpa “Flower Incense” to my wish list 🙂

        • william said,

          July 23, 2010 at 3:40 pm

          whoops!…i made a mistake when i said the monks prayed for a year…it’s 9 days they pray and NOT a year… sorry about that.

          i hit the wrong reply button a couple of times so my replies might not be in order.

          • glennjf said,

            July 23, 2010 at 4:35 pm

            William, the information is quoted in full at couple of places around the net, Beth’s Nub Gon Monastery incenses page for one.

            Lama Chodpa Incense is produced through the efforts of a charitable society called the Friends of Nub Gon Monastery (named after the Nub Gon monastery in Kham, Eastern Tibet). FNM is a non-profit charity formed between the monks and lay people of the village with the intention of easing tensions and social concerns and working on projects of great importance to the surrounding community.

            Lama Chodpa is natural Tibetan incense, 100% organic and free of chemicals, pesticides or additives. the herbs are grown and blessed at the Monastery. The incense is hand made to the exact specifications of a ancient recipe with Tibetan tradition being strictly adhered to during the process. Using the purest possible ingredients (the mandated proportions of medicinal herbs), to the artesian process where the carefully dried ingredients are individually ground (using a mortar and pestle), the incense is blended by hand, mixed into a paste which is squeezed into 5 or 8 inch lengths and then dried by the sun.

            The sticks are then hand packed in protective tubing, enveloped in screen printed hand-made paper and wax sealed using an auspicious sign seal of Tashi Jong (auspicious happy valley). There is no ecological damage associated with the production of our incense. The life process of nature and local ecology is constantly kept in the highest regard in all decisions from sustainable harvesting through the final stages of production.

            All the ingredients used in this incense are blessed; one ingredient, however, is the object of a 9 day blessing ceremony for 12 hours a day by 150 monks. After the 9 day blessing, it is placed in a Dharma protector room to be blessed once a day for an entire year by a Meditation Master before being used in the incense.

            I’m also having a spot of bother situating some of my replies lately, appears I’ve caught your bug 😉

            • william said,

              July 24, 2010 at 2:23 am

              thanks for the headsup glenn and i’ll check out the review!

  4. william said,

    July 23, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    thanks mike.

  5. william said,

    July 22, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    when i mentioned lama chodpa i meant to include “relaxation”.

  6. william said,

    July 22, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    interesting post mike and always glad to read anything about tibetan incense.

    you mentioned the “pure land inspiration” has a rubber tire scent. i find the Lama Chodpa and Lah Yak have a scent i’d say is like rubber tire and or burnt rubber for lack of a better phrase but if the shoe fits. they are kind of hard to describe.

    i also find the Red Crystal and Shambala to be along the same line but alittle weaker. i absolutely positively love all four though and are probably my most favorite. is the pure land inspiration like the ones i mentioned? if so i might get some.

    • Mike said,

      July 23, 2010 at 8:01 am

      A lot of Tibetan incenses have that scent, particularly the ones that use inexpensive woods at base (I’d guess a lot of it is juniper wood), but it’s not always unpleasant and always depends on the scent as a whole. Honestly, I’d just pass on any of the Pure Lands for the reasons I mentioned towards the end.

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