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Tibet - Buddhist culture in Tibet (heart of Tibet) 5/5

Buddhist culture in Tibet: I found it very different to what I thought it would be. Not real expectations, but rather a surprise that came. Especially compared with my experience of the Buddhism in Ladakh and some other places of the Tibetan refugees in India. In Tibet all the religion had been very much regulated by the government and there are specific numbers of monks allowed in each monastery. Sometimes I wonder, why would you want to become a monk here? The older ones, who were monks before, are of course predestined to it, but probably the most watched as well. And the younger ones? I think for some, it is their way of showing devotion to their country and culture, for others the struggle with the Chinese rule. In some remote areas it sometimes become the only way to escape the routine and learn, how to read and write (like a shepherd boy I met in Indian refuge in Dharamsala. After 6 years of being monk, he left to exile and being lucky - he is now in McLeod Ganj.) Most of the monks I met around Tibet were living normal life, focusing on material pleasures and dreams of a comfort life, rather than trying to progress on the way of the enlightenment. I guess it shocked me more, because of experiencing Tibetan refugees abroad, longing for their country and hanging on traditions with almost sacred devotion.

Also my feelings about many monasteries were quite mixed. The strength of old tradition, retreat centers and real masters are now much rarer and in general quite hidden to the outside world. Mainly kept in the remote regions, where even Chinese influence has a long way to go. Most of the places in Lhasa I found a bit more as tourist attraction then the place of a real devotion. I definitely liked Sera Gompa - the very lively place and in some remote parts very devoted. But the Ganden Gompa (50km out of Lhasa) is my most favourite place of all Tibet. Absolutely stunning place, where you easily become overwhelmed with a feel of “real” monks and monastery life. Partly restored, but with many ruins still stretching around. They are the leftovers after heavy artillery shooting, which is still well visible and years of ignorance to this national heritage. Many pilgrims are passing through and also some foreigners. But they usually fast track it. After the midday, when they finished a quick tour through the monastery and is time for them to get back on the bus, there is nobody left. Also most of the pilgrims leave with the last busses to Lhasa, leaving sometimes around 2pm.

In my eyes the real life of the Buddhism in Tibet is done/practised by its ordinary people. Not by monks, but by the ordinary people. It is them, who shows the strong devotion and carry on the tradition and the traditional culture. Monks and monasteries are often too influenced and restricted by the Chinese rule, spies, …. They represent poor fragment of what the religion used to be before.

But the pilgrims, travelling from one part of country to another, that is a different story. Practising traditional ways, turning their mani wheels, building stone cairns as they pass and chanting mantras. They are the real religious and cultural inheritance of Tibet. With them the Tibet lives and dies. They are the most enriching experience, the real heart of the Tibet.

Thinking of some vivid example and touching memory of the Tibetan life, I would like to share the one of an old women walking her rounds with a small dog and turning a huge praying mani wheel. Little dog(Tibetan palace dog race) is circling the wheel by her side, making as many rounds as she does. It always comes to my mind, when I think of some beautiful example of devotion. And in the Buddhist believes it’s even good for the dog, for its karma ;)

"With the tigers" - Lhasa - house paintings

 “A tear had dropped for country ruled and crushed.
Tied with the tradition, but riding on a modern horse.
The country where spirit floats and body dies and
where the happiness holds hands with pain.
The tear had dropped for country and its people.”

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