WHEN THE BUDDHA STOPS SMILING

Picture from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8914083@N02/

I never quite understood and to some extent, even now, why most of the Japanese tourists that I have come across could not do without a camera and the restless finger jabs on their camera nor did I understand why a ‘laughing’ Buddha always stood beside the sofa at my home in exile.

Yet, on the contrary, the Buddha towering most of the Tibetans monasteries in exile wear a different expression.

At such an anomaly, I tend to have a sudden whim to ponder upon the days spent in Bhutan. Besides the number plates in Tibetan, there are numerous other things which, as I have said earlier, could serve as a model of inspiration to a Free Tibet or worth making an observation.

As I was in Bhutan for a short break and yes pilgrimage, my relatives ensured that I made haste to their every schedule, which surprisingly did not include waking up early, save those late dinners and gathering with various friends.  After having been through all the places pertaining to the latter, I noticed something encouraging in all of them: one, there is always someone to attend to you and two, without having to ask, he informs you on the significance of the place, which to my experience, invokes further appreciation and comprehension of its spiritual value.

The other norm, which may seem a bit annoying to those foreign tourists who have to pocket out an expense of $250 per night per person, however in my opinion, is worth the challenge, is that no one is allowed to take any pictures inside the shrines; you are stopped and asked to leave your camera behind at the entrance.

I came across a similar practice during my recent visit to Ladakh. A board reading “No Flash” visible everywhere in most of the shrines to save the centuries old frescoes from wearing down, yet, to my dismay, sometimes goes unnoticed to the tourists. At one instance, my friend Dickyi even shrugged and informed a group of Indian tourist to the board reading “No Flash” to which they instantly had to whisk away their cameras.

Being brought up in a Tibetan family, I carefully learned how to fold my hands together before the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha. Besides, I even went on to few pilgrimages with my family including Sera, Drepung and Gaden Monastery in South India. Yet one thing I very often failed to notice in most of the Tibetan temples or for that matter shrines is, many a time, there rarely is anyone to attend to you and even if there is one, hardly any information describing the spiritual importance of the place is shared unless otherwise asked, which, in my opinion, is no less to an experience similar to a museum tour save Ben Stiller.

Inside the main shrine of the Tsuglakhang temple, there hangs a slightly visible laminated sheet reading “No pictures” but still tourists loom large with countless shutter blares and flashes which thereby ruptures the peace within.

During the Little Lhasa program this year, as usual, I took our Indian friends to the temple but this time I was accompanied by Kusho (Monk) Khenrab la who very kindly enlightened us with the historical background of the temple followed by its spiritual significance, thus substantially increasing my comprehension and spiritual appreciation of the temple.

I now know why the Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara or Buddha of Compassion) in the main shrine of the temple is not facing anywhere but East.

The views expressed in this piece are that of the author and the publication of the piece on this website does not necessarily reflect their endorsement by the website.

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