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6/21/08 – Day Seven – As I wrote in my last post, I was feeling kind of sick. So, considering I appreciate alternative, home remedies, I asked the guest house family if they had any garlic, and they gave me some. Then I slept with it in my mouth overnight… and… Yieck! People’s reactions the next morning were pretty funny, but I felt 10 times better (no more sore throat). Yes, I did have Dragon Breath, but it was well worth it!
Wow! In looking over my journal, this was a full day. We visited two monasteries, a field of burial stupas / reliquaries and an ancient palace. I am going to break this down into multiple posts – that way you can enjoy all the pretty pictures more! This post will include both monasteries – Stakna and Tikse. Stakna is named as such, meaning Tiger’s nose, because, from a certain perspective, the hill that it is built upon looks like its name. [More on my fascination with the Tibetan / Ladakhi languages and their naming impetus later.]
Remember how I mentioned the bridge going to Hemis Monastery seemed narrow. Ha! Just cross the bridge to Stakna (in a vehicle) and you will feel that the previous day’s bridge was luxurious! I’m pretty certain this bridge had been a pedestrian’s path until someone realized, “Hey! We could squeeze a car on here!” We had to pull in our mirrors, and only one car could be on the thing at a time – seriously I was concerned about our single car. There were many fresh prayer flags from the Buddhist holiday celebration previously, all waving vigorously in the breeze.
The monastery (Stakna) had beautiful, crisp frescos and murals painted on many walls. Like Hemis, this monastery (and most that we visited across Ladakh) had the four Dharma Kings (Guardians) painted outside the entrance to the main shrine room. At Stakna, the figures were imposing, vivid and life-size, and the full colors embraced us. In fact, looking back on the photos today they seem a little too perfect – that’s because they were! Stakna is also a Drukpa Kagyu gompa (like Hemis), and we encountered many prayer wheels in the courtyard of the monastery, which continued to be the trend.
There was a Guru Rinpoche shrine room along with a room with many smaller Green Tara statues in it. In Tibetan Buddhism, according to my limited knowledge, Green Tara is a feminine emanation of the Buddha and she represents protecting disciples from fear, in particular the 8 Great Fears. She might compare to Kuan Yin or the Mother Mary in other traditions. There were 21 Taras (statues) along with paintings in the Tara shrine.
At Tikse Monastery, we had to climb many steps to get up the main level of the monastery, as the parking is far below it. This is one of the few Gelugpa monasteries in Ladakh, and it was definitely impressive. As we went into the Maitreya shrine, we were greeted by a huge face of the statue (see photo).
This statue is about forty feet tall, sitting in the lotus position. Therefore, most of the statue was below us, and if you went to the edge and looked down you could see the magnitude of it. We tended to do a little bit of practice – saying prayers – at each monastery we went to, and I’m pretty sure we did some practice in here. It definitely felt special to be in the presence of such an inspiring, magnificent and uplifting statue.
We also visited the protector shrine. Unfortunately, or maybe it is best not to, photographs are forbidden in most protector shrine rooms. Not to ruin the mood, however I have a funny quote written in my journal – someone commented that, at Tikse, “there was the best view [from the latrine] while urinating.” I must admit, the mountains were quite breathtaking and spectacular.
So I will report on the Shey Palace and an enormous field of burial stupas in my next post. Thanks for reading!