Sunday, 13 November 2011

Buddhist Bothering

I'm starting writing this on friday (that is, today) but seeing as I'm also absolutely knackered I don't know if I'll be motivated enough to finish this all today. We'll see.

So! This week just keeps getting better! Seriously, so far probably the best, at least for this year. I'm counting from last friday, guess we'll see how this weekend goes. Aaaanyhoo, as good a way as any to round off an amazing week is with a two day (during school) trip to a Tibetan Buddhist (Vajrayana) monastery. Well, works for me.

Angie stepped up to the post of travelling companion/bus buddy.
This is not the back of her head.
Yeah... the bus journey was fairly horrendous. Nobody's fault, just that the bus had the misfortune to be one of those that causes anyone unlucky enough to sit in it to feel instantly nauseous. However at least I was holed up next to Ange, so our incessant conversation proved an effective distraction.

1000 Buddhas
When (at last) we pulled in, we were greeted by some very yummy home(monk)made tomato soup. On finishing that, our guide-nun promptly ushered us into the main temple to take part in evening prayer. I can't remember the name of the mantra they chanted or I would find a recording, but the prayer lasted in all forty-five minutes. After fifteen of these, all the lights dimmed in the room and the chanting stopped. The nuns and monks meditated, the only light came from the Buddhas which were still illuminated in the shrine.

We retired to the living/sitting/general purpose room, for some nun interrogation and lots of tea. Our guide-nun was very helpful at clearing up some issues we had come across with Buddhism in the classroom which our teacher, Mr Francis, had not been able to answer (no failing on his part, just to do with the many subtle ins-and-outs of Buddhist philosophy/morality and largely matters of opinion).

People sort of drifted in abd out between the main room (and discussion), kitchen (containing tea!) and the rooms upstairs. I must have gone up to bed at about twelve; everybody with whom I was bunking had already been in about an hour but there were still plenty of people about from the other dorms. As we had spent most of that day on the bus, the main reason for crashing this early was the 6am optional prayers scheduled next morning. You hear the word 'optional', and wonder that why, as there was any choice in it, did anybody want to attend anything that was, after all, at six in the morning! The answer, simply, is that we were taking time to go to a Buddhist monastery, and we figured if anything is worth doing, it's worth doing properly!

So yeah, we didn't take any photos actually durning the morning prayers etc., but afterwards;

Ange and I ran out into the garden for some serious camera-clicking! This was at about half past seven as we grabbed a spot of breakfast once we'd exited the temple. I think we felt like just running around a bit and recording everything- funny how meditation puts you on a bit of a high.

Enjoy this photo... of my open mouth. It's nothing unusual ;) .

This, incidentally, was our temporary home. Angie going inside after out little expedition. It's quite colourful. And really very cosy (but you can probably tell that from the photo of our discussion earlier!^ go up, up, up!).

When we got back in, Ange and I packed out stuff and unmade our beds. Then we scrambled downstairs and found the rest of everyone preparing to be taken out by the Buddhists, as we found out when we got there, to meet their local Yak. This proved a big hit and, finding the feed evidently not satisfactory enough, went on to promptly eat Megan.

I thought this was quite funny. Nose eating... eating... and oooooh it's attached to a Yak!

Megan was GONE at this point, by the way.

We headed back and were told there was half an hour in which to strip beds, pack and load stuff onto the bus before a third bout of meditation (this time, supervised). Being very well organised (for a change), I basically grabbed my stuf and sheets from my bed and hurried downstairs to sniff out the laundry.

Down there, I bumped into Ben, Martin, Kenny and Sam all running around trying to do the same thing. Finally we located a lay Buddhist in the kitchen, who was immediately assaulted, questioned and cajoled into leading us to the laundry building (we fail to understand simple directions).

Having ceremoniously dumped everything in a basket, we ran round to the front of the complex to put our bags in the bus. The bus driver was nowhere to be seen, so we quickly gave this up as a lost cause and went back inside.

It was now that a very important incident occurred. As we were running through the front door, Martin turned round and said something along the lines of;
"Do you play chess?"

Now would be a good time to mention that I'd been eyeing the chessboard in the smaller sitting-room ever since our arrival.

Now ensued the Most Epicest game of chess. We were a bit short for time as the bus was leaving at two so the teachers were doing their best to get everything we had yet to do/see in. Due to this, we were sent running somewhere every five minutes, completing whatever tour/meditation/eating we were supposed to be doing, then sprinting back round the complex and into the sitting room to play on for another ten or so minutes of Intense Chess.

N.B. Chess akes for an interesting focus of meditation. (Mine consisted primarily of; "Dammit, I'm stuck! Now how do I beat him...!")

I think the outcome was prettymuch as good as it could have been. Stale-mate. Although I reckon that Martin would disagree, he was so close to winning... so close! =D

One chess break came when everyone was let loose wielding their cameras within the temple, pre-meditation. Buddha impersonations were practised to perfection (reclining and otherwise).

Our nun talked us through a quarter hour of meditation. I tried to video it but irritatingly enough my camera decided it would switch itself off one and a half minutes in. Needless to say I was not amused. The mediation itself was bizarre, partly in that when we finished, everyone I spoke to felt though it had lasted only a minute or two. Something must have been working...

Mrs Montgomery bought people hot chocolate at the Tea Room, which was invaded before lunch. I had forgotten my money (left in bag, left in bus- genius) but this actually ended up working out quite well, as the cake everybody seemed to be buying, whilst looking utterly delicious-and-mouthwatering... also was incredibly sweet and filling.

Like many others, Ben found himself in the unfortunate predicament of being unable to completely dispose of his. There was roughly a third left, which Melson and I swiftly disposed of. Believe me, even a sixth of that was filling enough (though I had tried a bit of Rosie's earlier... never say no).

A holiday would not be a proper holiday without the traditional experiencing of the local public conveniences... (whilst waiting outside for Claire; "Melson! Beth! Point to the toliet sign!")

They passed muster. 'Nuff said.

There was a tree just inside the garden on which there were hundreds of prayer-ribbons. The idea is someone adds one and thinks of a wish/prayer for someone else, or even just people in general. When the ribbon falls off, somewhere that prayer is thought to have come true.

I think all agreed that this was a pretty sound idea, and handily enough there was a box full of spare ribbons by the side of the path.So we all rummaged around then did some hanging ourselves...

One of the last things we did was to visit the Stupa. Stupas traditionally keep relics of the Buddha inside, and thousands of mantras above the small room inside. People can have their relatives placed in there for three days, before or after cremation, the idea being that the karma/spirit/whatever you want to call it of a person is unwilling at first to leave the body, and the positive mantras permeate the room and the spirit inside is helped on it's way.

There was also this small shrine on an island in the centre of a pond. People have left hundreds of small offerings on it, anything from stones, to coins, to hairclips, to statues.

Left to right; David, Torquil, Angie, Fraser and Steven.
Just before we set off back home, I took this shot of them all beneath the soon-to-be main entranceway. For anybody wondering, their spelling Y.M.C.A.... and Steven is an exclamation mark.

Phew! That took three days of intense typing!

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