So this is my last feel good post about Tibet. Actually South Tibet. I started with something very personal. Something that made a tiny desire of traveling to Tibet into a reality after 10 years. But I wish to close this series with what I took back with me. Portraits from Tibet. What made the land an indelible part of my memories, even more than the concepts that have wrapped it over time, were the Tibetans. I met quite a few. Quite a few others met me. Often it was just a smile welcoming me on some random street, but it was authentic & warm. How does one define authentic? Especially a smile no? In India there is a saying in the context of guests visiting the land, ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’. (Translation: Treat your guests in a super special way, actually like God). And I am not someone who gets swayed very easily, but I pretty much felt that through the 11 days I was there.
I feel there is a sense of absolute surrender that many Tibetans practice when it comes to their faith, Buddhism. And the manifestation of the Buddha here is as a statue that is often massive. Some of them over 50 feet. But the texts say that Buddha is beyond the physical form and the Tibetans too believe there were many Buddhas with a significant past (Dipamkara), present (Sakyamuni/Gautama) and future (Maitreya) representation. Buddhism says that if one has deep awareness & one is in touch with the inner consciousness that signifies Buddhahood. So the concept of Buddha (the awakened one) transcends time and can be imbued within us sentient beings too.
I don’t know if every one truly practices their faith with this wisdom but I did feel a tremendous sense of calm in my interactions with many. And joy & fun too. Lhasa is bustling with energy despite the many positions taken by the Chinese military that assert tight control. I also picked up the need for many people who I met in shops, restaurants, monasteries to want a life without disturbance. Sounds all esoteric I guess. Yes I got a glimpse of the serene, introspective, joyful side on this trip. And I totally wonder what the next one has in store.
Here are some pictures bringing it to life. (Note: Since it was advised by the guide that one shouldn’t take pictures without permission, I requested them. So they are mostly ‘into camera’ shots)
(The Prayer wheel carries within it the auspicious mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. It is meant to help in gathering wisdom while dissolving any negatives. Many people spin this on their way to work too)
(I loved her attitude when I met her. She was helping her folks at the restaurant adjacent to the accommodation I stayed in at Old Tingri. Full of life it seemed like she was running on wheels)
(Getting him to pose was a toughie. He is a monk and many times I was tempted to shoot them all without permission. Finally I mustered the courage and got his attention after failing 5 times)
(They had just stepped out after saying their prayers. And I felt just that tinge of anxiety and a lot more of ease when they walked ahead, then paused, to let me take back a memory of their kindness)
(Why am I shooting so many women? Gosh! they are so colorful with their attire & accessories. I was told that she was from Amdo which is in the Northern part of Tibet. And yes, they love to dress up)
(What I adore about this little fella is that head gear he is wearing. Did you notice it looks like the horns of a yak…the favorite animal of these amazing mountain people. Am sure he must be just as stubborn)
(When they are not debating and as they start their journey through the many stages, you see young monks working harder and longer than we could ever do)
(How beautiful they are no! Even though at the end of the shoot they asked me for money, I didn’t blink even for a moment. Because their ‘ships can go astray’ kind of smile was so utterly seraphic)
(I was in a richer part of the region when I got this picture. Here they’re carrying their hard work to the market to make a sale. I really liked the far away look of the guy leading them all & the floating clouds only added to the drama)
(I felt her face was a mirror of stories etched from the many transitions through time. Something tells me most of it were very happy ones. Some others were born of curiosity. I wish I could’ve read one.)
I hope you enjoyed the Tibet series. I will be closing it with a very practical post on choosing a travel partner & share details of the lovely people who helped me make this journey a delight. I relished every second of it. Would love to hear from you when you get your invite to Tibet.
It is believed from a Buddhist point of view that the mind is already pure and we are already a Buddha. We just haven’t woken up to that fact yet. Om Mani Padme Hum.1