Sunday, March 24, 2013

Inside the Drepung Monastery, Tibet

Drepung Monastery, Tibet

Our group became subdued as we entered the dark halls of Drepung monastery.  Most of the people here, as you might expect, were Tibetan Buddhist monks and their followers who made offerings and prayers.  Some of the people were spiritual pilgrims who had come from very far away.  Perhaps it was the majestic scenery outdoors or the altered state I experienced inside the building, but I felt like a spiritual seeker rather than a tourist.

Inside, monks came to collect the excess offerings of yak oil and white scarfs.  They were polite, trading smiles with us.  I wonder if they were as curious about us as we were them.

We were allowed to take photos only in certain locations if we paid a fee.  Given the dark lighting, a few of these images are fuzzy, but they accurately capture my experience in the moment.  I was a little fuzzy, too.  The dark and quiet inside was illuminated primarily by large containers of burning yak oil.  Some of the spaces were open (like below), but much of the space felt like a maze with narrow, one-way-only hallways.  Combine the burning oil, the heavy aroma of incense and the many spiritual pilgrims in the narrow hallways and you have even less oxygen than 'normal', which was already lower due to the altitude.  I found myself dizzy-headed and mildly claustrophobic.  A couple of times, I had to put my head between my knees.  Yet I persevered!

One of the young, stylish pilgrims mentioned in my last post, making a yak oil offering

Yak oil lamp

We saw spaces for prayers and chanting, the Dalai Lama's study room, the kitchen with giant copper teapots for making tea for the monks, and various depictions and busts of important historical figures.

After wandering the dark halls, we exited to the intense sunlight and color, color, color!  The door pull below is one of my favorite photos.  I love the combinations of color, patterns and texture.

Door pull

Building post decorated with the colors of Tibet

Another favorite image, from a doorway

My next post, in a day or so, will be brief but stunning with some of the most amazing faces.


La Tea Dah said...

I enjoyed this post. Your descriptions and feelings melded well with the pictures you shared. The ancient, the colors, the spiritual trek --- all interesting and thought provoking.

Rosemary said...

Such an interesting journey - indeed, spiritual.

Teafan said...

Your photos are show such an intimate experience here.

Ginger said...

Steph, This was very interesting. Thank you for sharing. Do the yak oil and white scarfs represent anything? Or are they just the things that are always offered?

Marilyn said...

The colors just sing out to me. What an experience and adventure.

Steph said...

Hi, Ginger - The Yak oil is related to the Yak being incredibly important to the Tibetan way of life historically, and still today for the people who are nomads (there are a number of these folks). The Yaks provide work, their hair is used to make the tents, the dairy is used for milk, cheese, etc., and sometimes the yaks are eaten. The yak and the nomads' lives are very intertwined.

The white scarves are offered to the monks for blessings. I've read that white represents the pure heart of the giver. We received them when we first met our tour guide in a welcoming ceremony.

Thanks for asking!