Friday, August 10, 2007

You come here often?

I've often said that traveling to exotic places like India and meeting fellow travelers out of their normal daily environments can be extremely revealing. The other morning I woke at 5am to attend a Buddhist pujah (prayer ceremony) at one of Ladakh's most amazing gompas (temples) called Thiksey Monastery.

I hire a driver to take me there as it's far out in the Indus Valley. The juxtaposition of the Indus River, the Great Himalaya snow-capped range and the wandering pilgrims on the pencil thin military highway is an amazing thing to watch the sun rise to. We drive up a steep and very long drive to Thiksey, which stands like the Potala in Lhasa - a presence to be reckoned with.

I walk through the gorgeous front gates only to see a Western-looking person arguing with the elder monk (he's got to be in his 80's). Person "x" clearly has their knickers in a twist and begins to scream at the monk. Hunkering closer, my curiosity gets the best of me - why would this person scream at a man like this? The monk & I soon lock eyes.

The monk says to person "x", "You cannot enter the monastery dressed like that". He's right, every idiot knows out of respect that you don't dress like you are about to lay on a tanning bed when entering a place of holy splendor. Any Hindi or Muslim place of worship would turn you away quicker than a shooting star if you showed up dressed like this. No doubt.

The vibe becomes a little too much to bear. Person "x" continues to scream (strange overtone for a place about to have a peaceful pujah) - borderline pulling their hair out when the monk beams a huge soulful smile. The monk firmly says, "Surely you wouldn't enter your church at home dressed like that". I instinctively laugh, the monk laughs, and person "x"'s screaming rant immediately stops and then stomps off.

The elder monk and I proceed to talk about the history of Thiksey. He's awesome, courteous, helpful and smart... we easily understand each other with generous smiles and happy vibes. He's a good egg. Sheesh, there's always one cook trying to spoil the broth, isn't there?

1 comment:

zoe krylova said...

i always got a kick out of the clothes westerners would sport when we were in dharamsala. the best one was the chuba with a tank top underneath.

one time mara, travis and i accidentally wore shoes into a hindu temple. we took them off before going into any of the sanctuaries, but there was a sort of courtyard around the sanctuaries. we didn't realize that you couldn't wear them into the courtyard. a guy took our shoes (i think they were travis' shoes specifically, my memory is fading) and whipped them outside, cursing us in hindi. it was pretty humiliating!