Coming from Nepal
Driving along a narrow muddy track through stunningly steep river valleys, following the contours as they open onto the plateau, an open boundless expanse, the Himalayas suspended above, whispy white clouds, the sky the softest blue. The road now a highway, an uneven stream of four-wheeled drives and ancient trucks with the odd car struggling along, puny impositions on the vastness.
At the monastery
Brown earthen walls, small deep openings for windows, interconnecting buildings tucked into the hillside, part of the landscape, linked by parapets and walkways, patches of color, fluttering flags.
Inside the assembly hall – dank and dark, flickering candles, the smell of incense, ordered rows of seats facing the central altar, brocaded with rich red cloth, medieval, chanting and rituals broken by bells, unremitting, sustaining.
To one side a library of knowledge surviving all, explaining how it works, the mechanics of life, seeking the sources of truth for itself and of itself, a living ideal.
Feelings of surrender, completeness, compassion –
Cleansed spirits blessed be, peace on Earth, heareth ye.
Leaving, continuing across the plateau
Space opening, and more space, broken by police check points. The military, functional and objective, a sense of impatience, an occasional flurry of concern, the odd slap of a recalcitrant local. A curious soldier tries to chat to a Tibetan boy, a lost connection.
And then the passes, highlighted by strings of flags tapering down, displays celebratory of the highest points, the surrounds strewn with plastic baggage. Every five kilometers, road signs noting the decreasing distance from Beijing, a measured response.
And the locals
Part of the landscape, flowing along in columns with their yaks and ponies, appearing from roadside settlements as we approach, clothed in reddish-brown, soiled and unspoiled.
Stopping at a traditional village to witness a harvest dance, they are chanting, moving around the circle, in a ritual of belonging.
And always the children, appearing at every stop, waiting for the handout or the photo opportunity but smiling, supportive of each other, curious of the ways of the world.
They belong here these people, there is a homeliness, a natural grace about them. The older faces are creased with sorrow and survival but their eyes are still warm and alive. And in the larger settlements they are working, at times through the night, working in unison, and singing, a soul’s lament from a begotten people, creating monuments of cold concrete to displace the tribal remnants of their past. Through all this, there is a knowing of where they come from, who they are. They will endure.
Arriving in Lhasa
Transformed and transforming, a sense of source, at the center. Some conversations in the square …
“I’m from Beijing,” said the respected gentleman, introducing himself, “and this is my wife,” he added quickly, “she works at Beijing University.”
He started chatting. He did not know why he was here.
Later, sitting alone, approached by a small boy, shepherded by his sister.
“That’s the Potala,” he stated simply, “the Dalai Lama lived there.”
“He lives now, in you,” I said quietly.
A moment of recognition, then returning to the silence.Tags: poetry, tibet