Monday, October 30, 2017


Pobonka Monastery above Lhasa. One of the oldest sites in Buddhism and a mysterious place with invitations to watch several ceremonies, seeing Tibetan eagles, grand yak butter candle lit temples and hermit caves and chanting ceremonies with old & young monks

One of the younger monks at the Rigsum Gonpo Temple. He would sweep the floors, dust the tapestries and cases and arrange the prayer books and ceremonial bells and countless shrines. He followed George and I  around the temple like a lost puppy.

     The  ancient hermit priest, Palden Lhamo meditative cave with paper money and prayers glued to the ceiling, sacred prayer scarfs and offerings of fruits and candies left by pilgrims.

       The Rigsum Gonpo Temple with beautiful tapestries, sacred relics and offerings. The light steamed through the small windows and filtered into the small nooks and crannies and wonderful colors would break out and glow on the walls and ceilings

    The She-Turtle boulder temple where the morning and afternoon prayers would take place. Built in the 7th and 11th century and where the Tibetan alphabet was created.

We were invited in for a chanting ceremony where the senior priest was training the monks sequencing and timing of ceremonial songs & words. Young apprentices would circulate around pouring fresh, hot yak butter tea while being joked with (rubbing the kids heads)by the elders. One monk would display sacred ancient art and mandalas. 

      Yellow hat monk chanting, meditating and counting prayer beads in a room off the main hall. These are quick choppy little sketches done as we moved from one ceremony to another

    The large vats of yak butter candles softly lighting the main temple hall. At the end of the row is a "self arising" sculpture of sacred letter carving. The mood was calm and beautiful with several monks sweeping the floors, incense drifting through the shrines with soft afternoon daylight 

    Colored carvings of wives of Chinese Buddhist kings. We would stumble onto these hidden bas-relief sculptures as we hiked up the hills. These were scattered throughout the upper temple grounds


     Yaks wandered through the chorten shrines and short grass fields that overlook the valley of Lhasa

Tibetan "eagles" Vultures circling over the sky burial site above the temple. These bids are huge with six foot wings and look very majestic soaring in the air.

Colorful hallways emerged from darkened temple halls and monks rooms as we wandered through the multi-layered temple. Ladders lead up into the daylight through these stairwells

       Placing written paper prayer offerings into the stone cracks of sacred wall below the main temple for blessings and luck. 

      Chorten temples overlooking the Lhasa Valley. Above this temple was the sky burial site with many Tibetan eagles swirling through the skies feeding on human ceremonial remains

  These white chortens structures dot the landscape with golden spires reaching into the sky.

 Sera Monastery outside Lhasa. Monks heading to the debating yard. One of largest monasteries with acres of temple buildings and residences outside of Lhasa, Tibet. We stayed until all of the tourist buses left and we had the complex all to our selves.

George standing in front of one of the massive doors at a monks group residences 

In the afternoon the Sera Monastery was deserted with the occasional monk moving back to his residence. I really enjoyed seeing all the various colorful entryway drapes and stone showing through white-washed walls.

Just a couple of the various many doorways doors the Sera Monastery. The monks residences compounds, small temples and the occasional priests courtyards all had individual painted decorative designed double doors.

    Tibetan monks debating in the moment (a question only exists for a moment and is gone) and then with clapping of the hand it is over. The debates are over philosophy and Buddhist teaching.

 George and our guide resting in the hot sun right out of the sound of the debating monks

Sunday, October 29, 2017


Sweet little nun that asked me to walk with her as she walked through the empty alley ways of the main compound at Sera Monastery. She is holding a spinning prayer wheel filled with handwritten prayer slips. 

The tour buses have left and I had the monastery practically to myself (and a cat that followed me around). The tower in the background supports a giant tapestry during special ceremonies 

Extremely quiet and peaceful afternoon wandering up and down the passageways around the priest and monks residences at Sera. This was our last day in Lhasa and we were about to set off on a big curving tour of sacred Buddhist sites

Driving west from Lhasa we past carpets of mustard plants and small vegetable fields. The valley elevation is at about 14,000 feet and the surrounding mountains reach up to 20 thousand foot ridges. Small farming villages dot the edges of the streams and springs.

It was June and the mountains were just starting to sprout green grass and wildflowers up their flanks. The hand built stone walls have grazing herds of yak and the occasional goats and sheep. They have to be hardy to live out in this climate.

Tsurphu Monastery, and the grand landscape its located in. The mountain is filled with dozens of little hermit caves and huts with prayer flags streaming up and down the ridges and sacred shrines.

The back of the monastery where the prayer rooms and residences stack themselves up the ridge. The alley ways were starting to starting to stir with the monks readying themselves for a special ritual ceremony.

Local pilgrim with spinning prayer wheel walking in from a nearby village. Very devout and quiet group of Buddhist worshippers doing the holy kora (trek) through the compound. 

The ceremony began with a procession of the holy relics stored in special chambers in the main priests house. On this special day the objects, wrapped in ceremonial packages are paraded down the stairs and up to the temple

Two monks looking over the temple relics before they are presented in the sacred ceremony. Lots of laughing and chatter going on before the grand ceremony

Two of the many pilgrims waiting patiently on the front stairs of the assembly hall/temple. While we were in the States we were told Tibetans didn't like to have there pictures taken or interact with "foreigners". Nothing could be farther from the truth. Everyone loved getting their pictures taken and then seeing the portrait in the cameras review screen. Wonderful people.

Chorten on kora (holy trek) away from the main compound. Various shrines dot the mountain side as we make our way to a sky burial platform further up the mountain. This was our first day traveling in the country and there was a wonderful spartan emptiness and crispness to the air.

Farther up the valley we encountered a Sky Burial site. This a sacred spot reserved for the preparing the bodies of dead Tibetans and giving their bodies to the Tibetan eagles (reincarnated royal deities) . This is meant for the mortal "shell" of the body to be also "recycled" and used endlessly. I must admit it was a mite strange to be walking over the remains of what were hundreds of people.

One of the young apprentice monks polishing a bronze statue that belonged in the Dali Lamas old summer palace. There were a batch of these folks out in the grass courtyard scrubbing and cleaning 

Ceremonial drums gathered in the basement of the summer palace along with flutes and horns. I thought it was beautiful as the afternoon light streamed through the windows. Every room had a natural color scheme through the building. The windows and roof were overgrown with plants and flowers 

Large fields of mustard plants that lined the roads we traveled through. The smell filled the valleys when we would be hiking around throughout the trip.