Tibet’s Monasteries

Monastery on Hill 2 PCAfter the general post I wrote about Tibet, I thought it would be a nice follow to do something on the many monasteries that are found in the Roof top of the World. It’s amazing but every which way you turn, there’s a monastery somewhere in sight or a sign leading to a monastery – why, there’s even a monastery up the way to Mt Everest!

Everest monastery view PC

Needless to say, they’re all rather old but old is gold.  Not only are the monastery artefacts interesting but also the monks and nuns themselves.  They exude an incredible calm, just like the facade of the monastery itself!

Nuns Drepang Monastery PC

Like these nuns that my friends and I came across in Drepung Monastery.  They were happy to have their picture taken, smiling and leading us gently into one of the monastery rooms to see.  Not all monks and nuns are like this happy pair – in many of the monasteries visited, the monks and nuns didn’t like to have any pictures taken and neither did they allow us to take pictures of the interior of the monastery rooms.  Most of the time, one ends up with pictures of the backs of the monks, like this!

Monks at the Monastery

Yet, this pair was happy for us to wander around their side of the courtyard.  What’s their secret to zen?!  They have such beautiful smiles and seem to accept what the world dishes out to them.

Monk Drepang Monastery PC

One of the great things that happened during our visit to Drepung was that we were privy to be part of a local festival that had the monks’ debating!  A rare occurrence indeed and one that fascinated us.

Monks Debating

Our guide mentioned that engagement would be between a Defender (normally a novice) and a Questioner (normally a more experienced debater).  There is a lot of hand clapping and gestures but we were told that there are rules and processes in which the debate is held under and this keeps the debate in order.

I would have liked to have been able to linger a little longer to take in the sights of the ‘treasures’ of some of the monasteries (like Potala), but monastery officials don’t allow it.  In the case of Potala, you will be told that you are only allowed 20 minutes to cover a particular room or section – and no photography in the interior.

I’m not sure this will change and time soon, but one can only hope.