Most of us know something about the teaching and history of Buddhism and the life of its religious followers. We have seen Buddhist monks, listened to the Dalai Lama and watched documentaries. Few however have the opportunity to witness its calming rituals within the serenity of the monasteries where this international religion first started.
In a quest to deepen my lay understanding of this mystical world, I have ventured off the “road less travelled” where I have had my most enlightening experiences. I have come across little-known monasteries where tradition and heritage are very much part of their communities. A spiritual energy emanates from the pure natural environment in which these ancient monasteries rise in the hidden valleys and on the steep hilltops of Tibet, Ladakh and the south-western Chinese province of Sichuan.
It is here that you can come face to face with the drivers that have spurred so many to seek enlightenment through a monastic life, seeking the true nature of our existence and freedom from human passions by following the Buddha’s path.
Spending time in these sacred places and in the surrounding villages learning from the local monks and nuns as they go about their routine of prayers, chants and daily chores opens the door to gaining a meaningful understanding of the Wheel of Life and how Buddhists make sense of the cycle of life, death, rebirth and the suffering that they constantly seek to escape.
Sitting comfortably on floor mats listening to the monks playing the drums and humming the sutras in their deep guttural voices while young novices scurry around serving bowls of a porridge-like mixture and a cup of yak-butter milk, delivers an unquestionable sense of peace and an openness to the larger world.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama