Reflections from Kathleen
Kathleen working with students at the Siddhartha School...
and enjoying their creations
In Dharamsala, I felt as if I was in another realm -- geographically because of the location of our hotel (high above the city and with a perfect few of the Namgial Monastery and the residence of the Dalai Lama and spiritually because of the sense of the sacred that seemed to be very real in Dharamsala. We were all at the monastery for the celebration of the Dalai Lama's birthday and experienced it in different ways. I watched some of the dances, music, and speeches by dignitaries and then did a cirumambulation around the grounds that was incredible -- prayer flags everywhere, shrines, beautiful colors of text on rocks, etc. And most wonderfully the day was very misty, so that at times, the mist rolled in and pieces of the landscape and shrine disappeared and reappeared -- quite primeval and wonderful. In any event, the day of celebration was remarkable and we were very much a part of it.
Today, in Ladakh, we went to two monasteries -- Hemis and Thiksey. Driving there itself was an experience because the landscape is so unlike anything I've every seen. The mountains are the driest one could imagine and yet where the land is irrigated it is green and lush with the landscape patterned with stone walls, terraced fields, the vertical shapes of the Poplar trees and the neutral colors of houses and roofs. The monasteries are situated on high flat spots set against the mountains -- built in seemingly impossible places. The architecture is relative simple, the decorations are brightly colored, and there is generally a courtyard in the center with various temples on the sides of the courtyard. There is much to describe but one of the most amazing things has been the opportunity to experience the art in the temples -- it is difficult to describe the power of the paintings and objects we are seeing. After our many discussions of the wrathful deities, Avalokiteshvara, Tara and other deities, it is amazing to see the images on walls, as huge sculptures, small objects etc., and to see them in space in which they are an integral, real, and lively part of the sacred traditions and practice of people here. I am in awe of how wonderfully peoples beliefs' are expressed everywhere -- in the landscape, in the monasteries, local shrines, people's yards, along the roads -- and with such beauty and seeming integrity.
Tomorrow we'll go to the Siddhartha School for a visit before going on to Alchi and then Lamayura where we'll spend the night.