>Ladakh – Om Mane Padme Hum

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The monastery in Thikse is about 18 kms from Leh. The Thikse Gompa is extremely beautiful and belongs to the Gelukpa order of Buddhism ( Monastery of the Yellow Hat ). It was re-built in 1430 AD and houses a temple `Lakhyang Nyerma ‘ dedicated to the Goddess Dorjie Chenmo. There are many beautiful, old monasteries to visit around Leh.Shey, Lamayuru, Hemis, Stok, Spituk, Phyang….where fading murals adorn the walls, wood ages gently and plaster silently crumbles into powdery dust, while time moves on..slowly..in no hurry..because time is all there is. Buddhist monastery architecture is spectacular with its earthy colours -red, ochre, teal and mustard, intricate detailing and complex layouts. It left me mesmerised.

Some spaces inside here are so old, you cannot go in for fear of them collapsing around you or being plummeted right down to the valley floor. These monasteries cling tightly to the edge of the mountain and at night, are just tiny, flickering lights that you can see from far down below. Walking up to one is no mean task either as we discovered. It’s hard to imagine the monks run up and down daily like Thomson’s gazelles.

Young Lama boys who will one day be monks. Full of curiosity once they overcome their shyness, they have no notion of the world outside, frantic, urgent, merciless. Its a simplified life.

Fragile balconies are beautiful to look at but you never know when one will succumb to the tests of time and send you down to Leh pretty quickly and heavenwards even faster. Most Ladakhi’s live in tune with the cycle of seasons. Summer is a time to work.Winter is a time to stay still. Sheltered from the rest of the country and the world, nestled in the crook of the mountains where Gods dwell, our connection with the Eternal Mystery is reinforced quite easily out here. The impermanence of life acquires a new meaning.

This is the Assembly or Main Hall. It strongly resembles the Potala Palace in Tibet. The courtyard leads to the main monastery which is 12 stories high and far above is the Stupa.

The Maitreya Buddha ( He who has not yet come into this world ) at Thikse. This exquisitely serene Bodhisattva statue is two storeys tall and you can walk up each floor and see a different part of him till you reach the top ! He is seated in a lotus position and took four years to make. It was built to commemorate the visit of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama in 1970. There is also a temple here dedicated to the benevolent Goddess Tara. Sitting on the monastery wall, gazing out at the still valley below,  I cannot imagine elsewhere in India, at this very moment, horns are blaring, traffic is screeching to a halt, people are swearing, frantically trying to carve a route home through peak hour in a city clogged with garbage, infrastructural issues, corruption, isolation, apathy and urban decay. No one who has travelled here leaves untouched. Here, all is well. Here, one understands the supreme importance of stillness. Here, one gets to live it. What’s more, you leave Ladakh, carrying it within you.

” All component things are impermanent.
When one acquires realization of this truth
One naturally releases the bonds of unhappiness.
This is the way of purification and freedom”.
– The Dharmapada
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