Dzongkul Gompa
belongs to the Red Hat sect of Tibetan buddhism. This is one of the oldest sects, whereas Gelugpa;
the one which Dalai Lama heads, is the newest. I don't remember whether there were any pictures of Dalai Lama
 in the monastery, but it is my impression that all the Buddhists of the Indian Western Himalayas consider
 them selves as "Tibetan" Buddhists (even though not themselves necessarily ethnic "Tibetan")
 and also acknowledge Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, God(dess) of Compassion.

It is possible to exit/enter Zanskar via a pass that is just a few hours beyond Dzongkul. Could be interesting!

Most of the Lamas at Dzongkul Gompa were extremely friendly. Only one of them spoke a little English
so we communicated by smiling and waving at each other. In many ways you often have a more useful
 discussion in this way; you avoid all the usual crappy discussions, and communicate about the things that matter
 instead, such as "when do we eat", "when is the ritual", "can I take a photograph of this".
There's only one answer to these questions, which can be translated into "yes, no problem".
Of course you don't really know what that means, so you just have to wait and see.
 

The two small Lamas were in high spirits in the early morning.
They loved blowing in the "konkylier" for the announcement of the ritual that was about to begin.
They lost their good humor though. It's not an easy job for a little boy to be a Lama.

The small figures are made of tsampa, which is roasted barley flour, mixed with chai, and with some ghee
to provide for the burning. Instead of sacrificing humans a little tsampa is enough these days,
if prepared according to the ancient wisdom.

The senior monks sitting in serenity while a younger monk is pouring soup for them.
The head Lama is sitting on a plateau in the center, looking - to say the least - with impartial,
objective scepticism at an utterly mundane Danish guy with a camera. 

The chant/ritual they performed is called Chöd, at least that's what a Gelugpa monk informed me.
He told me it was secret. When I came to Leh I looked it up in an old book by an English guy
called W.Y. Evants-Wentz, "Tibetan yoga and secret doctrines". 
(And since it was secret, this had to be the right book!)

Anyway, it said in the book about the ritual called Chöd that it is about the Lama recognising the illusion
of the material body. And since the body is an illusion why not offer it to the demons, if those sorry ghosts
can feed on it. The lamas are blowing in a human thigh bone, beating various drums and sounding
various bells, all the while continuing their sonorous chant. The chanting took about 6 hours so it's understandable
that they needed some salt tea and soup to sooth their necks.

I found it extremely interesting for the first 4 hours or so, but then my interest gradually wore off.
No, I didn't fall to sleep, but I realized that it might need some conditioning to actually like ceremonies that long.
The old monk sitting next to me also gave the impression that he would rather watch television
after the first few hours had passed.

The test of a real sacred place in the Himalayas?
There must be some source of water. Usually this was provided for by the magic powers of the founder of the sanctuary.
 In the Buddhist tradition this is usually a highly acclaimed Lama, whereas in the Himalayan "foothills" of Himachal Pradesh
 it's usually the work of one of the deities.
If some "holy man" in India is trying to lure you to a place with out water you know he's got something cooking!

1
Back
Next
Home