Opulence and Sacredness: The Tibetan Buddhist Monastery at Sherabling

This trip has turned out to be about mountains, and sacred places, and people.

Self thinks nothing she’s seen in her life can equal the grandeur and majesty of the snow-capped Himalayas.  Or the beauty of the Kangra Valley.  Or the warmth of the people she’s met in Dharamsala and Bir.

Then there are the temples, everywhere she looks temples —  Buddhist as well as Hindu.  And the old Anglican churches, too.

Today she visited another Tibetan Buddhist monastery, the one at Sherabling.  She and her host happened to arrive while the monks were saying their prayers.  Imagine, if you will, stumbling into a vast hall filled with chanting monks.  Can anything equal the power of the human voice, multiplied a hundred fold, echoing off walls decorated with Tibetan script and paintings, all overseen by a gigantic statue of a serenely enigmatic Buddha?

Here are pictures self took today at the Palpung Sherabling Monastery:

The Buddha in the Monastery at Sherabling. Self is sorry that this photo doesn't quite capture the sense of scale. The altar is at the back of a huge prayer hall.

Relaxing After Prayers

Imagine, if you can, entire walls filled with depictions such as this . . .

The courtyard of the monastery at Sherabling: the monks are leaving the prayer hall and proceeding to their rooms.

When all the monks had dispersed after prayers, self suddenly heard a gong being beaten, from some upper floor of the monastery.  It went on and on and on and on, and her heart almost stopped, the sound was so un-earthly.  Later, she learned from an information booklet procured by her kind host from the monastery front office that there is actually a CD recording of the sacred monastic chants this monastery has made famous and, of all things, it was even awarded a Grammy for “Best Traditional World Music” at “the Staples Center in Los Angeles on February 8, 2004.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Kindness of Strangers

It is raining, this morning, in Bir.  The rain began last night.  Self had a big bowl of soup and two servings of pudding for lunch, so she thought she might just do with soup for dinner.  But the minute she emerged from her room, her hosts did, too, and before she knew it, she was seated with them in the dining room and eating a full dinner of lamb curry, lentils, salad, chapatis, and so forth.  After a few minutes, we were joined by a young Frenchwoman, who comes once a week to teach French to the Colonel’s wife.

The Frenchwoman, whose name was Marion, was also teaching French to the monks in the nearby temples.  “What is it like?” I asked her.  “It is like teaching little children,” she said.  The woman had been a psychotherapist before.  Self found out only afterwards, when dinner was over and everyone was getting up to go.

Tomorrow self bids adieu to Bir; her hosts are driving her to Amritsar.  Self thinks how lucky she is:  everywhere in India, she has encountered only nice people, especially in Dharamsala and Bir.  And now she is going to get to see the Golden Temple, which self knows only from the bloody stand-off between Sikhs and the Indian Army, decades ago.

When self was flying over from the States, her seatmate happened to be an Austrian woman who was on her way to an ashram in Amritsar.  At that time, self’s plans were to meet up with Mrinalini and go with her to Bikaner and Udaipur.  Self was curious about Amritsar, and her seatmate told her that this was her fourth trip to the temple.  She returns every year, and always stays about a month.  Now, as it turns out, self, like the Austrian woman, is going to Amritsar after all.  Strange symmetry!

Self is so glad that she got to cool her heels in Bir.  The Colonel’s Resort is lovely —  a working farm, where they grow almost everything that is served to their guests.  And the food is so delicious.

Lucky self.  Lucky, lucky, lucky!

This morning she skyped with the husband, for the first time during this trip.  He got take-out from Lobster Shack and was plannng to see a movie tomorrow, maybe even another one on Sunday (before or after the Superbowl).  We ran through the list of movies showing, and he asked which ones self wanted to see.  Self knew already because she’d looked at Eric Snider’s blog last night.  She ticked off her top three:  “The Grey,” “Haywire,” or “The Iron Lady.”  She doesn’t like to see scary movies, so she told the husband that he might want to see “Chronicle” (This movie only earned a B- from Mr. Snider, but even then, it ranked better than the Daniel Radcliffe I-am-no-longer-Harry-Potter-see-my-range movie, “The Woman in Black.”)  He said he’d probably end up seeing “Underworld.”

The husband also told self that he had looked up Amritsar on the web.  He said it looked simply amazing.  “It’s a very holy place to the Sikhs,” he said.  Something like Mecca is to Moslems.

So now, self too goes on the web and calls forth pictures.  Wow!  It really is golden, the temple. Not only that, she had no idea how huge it was.  (But everything in India strikes self as simply tremendous: from the Himalayan mountains to the deep valleys to the monasteries and temples.  The roads and highways, in sharp contrast, are exceedingly narrow.  And when one considers that this is a very large country, with so many people, self wonders why they don’t consider widening the highways — most of the time, self traversed highways that were only one lane in either direction)

Here, self is constantly thinking of Ying, with whom she saw Angkor Wat.  Ying’s mother was Indian, and she told self that their next trip together should be to India.  Now, whenever self sees a temple, she goes inside and converses silently to Ying.  See this, Ying?  I did it, I really did it!  And you are with me, now, in India, in spirit.

Somewhere she read that the Governator was in Delhi for a Sustainable Development Summit.  Now she reads a headline:  “Arnold did not get to see the Taj Mahal.”  How absolutely hilarious!  That’s you and self, Ahr-nuld.  That’s you and self.

But, this will not be self’s last trip to India, she is sure.  In fact, she wants to bring the family here, as early as next year.

Stay tuned.

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