Asia | China | Tibet – Monasteries and more

Asia | China | Tibet – Monasteries and more

The amazing introduction into Tibetan monasteries in Shigatse was only that – an introduction. The monasteries in Tibet are innumerable and luckily a lot of them have been restored after the destruction and havoc brought on by the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution.

Having some people on our organised tour (no, no, don’t get all upset – it’s either getting on one of those tours and not getting to Tibet, at least not from Nepal. And as everybody has the same problem, it’s not your “average guided tour” kind of people. We were 9 and had loads of fun actually…) that had taken out the longer trip which included the guiding in Lhasa, the rest of us got lucky and could tag along with them to visit some more monasteries.
First Drepung Monastery, just outside Lhasa. Another composition in white, gold and brown, interspersed with the red of the monk robes… A very impressive one, with a beautifully colourful Assembly Hall, a lot of monks, young and old, and an old and faded Mao painting on one of the outside walls of a storage building…
We’re inthe hall of one of the chapels right now, enjoying the ambiance of this amazing monastery, while David is making the most out of his picture fee (you can actually take pictures in most of the monasteries, but you have to pay a ‘picture fee’). This chapel is painted all over in bright colours, with a dominating red on the 30 or so pillars. Inside the chapel itself a monk is bashing a gong, while at the same time chanting prayers, which allows for a strangely comforting background to being here. I could all too well imagine this sound facilitating meditation and prayers…

Tensing, our guide, explained about buddhism, the meaning of the swastikas and the paintings on all the walls. One of the godesses has 1000 eyes, to see all the suffering in the world and take it on and make life better. Buddhism is mainly based on the 4 truths: life is dukkha (suffering) – suffering is caused by cravings – cravings should therefore be abandoned – the abandonment of cravings leads to enlightenment. Fear that I’ll never get any further than to realise that some of my cravings and desires do cause me suffering, but that’s it. Guess that enlightenment is not my destiny…
As for the swastikas, they have nothing to do with nazis here, just a buddhist expression of ‘ongoing’ things – have come across what we know as jewish stars as well -over here they are mainly used as friendship symbols and have no connection with judaism whatsoever!

The afternoon saw us in yet another monastery, Sera, where the monks were having one of their debating afternoons.
They all gather in the shadow of the trees in one of the courtyards and in small groups (2,3 or 4 monks) one of them will ask another monk a philosophical question, accentuated by much arm waving and stamping. The other has to answer quickly and, if the right answer was not given, be corrected thorougly with more hand gestures.
A fascinating sight, even though we didn’t understand a word of what they were saying and I had to keep myself from taking too many pictures. A quick stroll around the monastery revealed some very colourful paintings on the rocks, another beautiful Assembly Hall and very friendly monks.

But there is more to Lhasa: the Chinese taking over control over Tibet, does have one good aspect – there are plenty of very good chinese restaurants in town.
With 4 of the more adventurous of the group, we headed to one of those that only have chinese menus…and just looked around and pointed at what was brought to other guests and looked good…an amazing good meal with duck, spicy soup, some truly spicy beef with chillies ensued and off course a lot of fun in trying things out!
Good thing David only got sight of the huge ugly frogs once we were heading out of the restaurant…

Category : Asia | China | Tibet , Uncategorized