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In the title I mention “a bit delayed.” Perhaps it has taken this long for me to have quality down time and who knows, maybe I am complete in my processing of the Pilgrimage – but I doubt it (two years later). In the post where I left off, we had just visited Stakna and Tikse Gompas (monasteries). And then, that long busy day continued and in this post I will mention the Stupa Burial Field and the Shey Palace.
6/21/08 continued… After the monasteries, we stopped at an enormous field of stupas. There may have been hundreds, literally, and they were in varying states of decay (a direct reminder of impermanence). Apparently this enormous stupa field was our equivalent of a graveyard – just for monks and lamas. The one pictured here was in good condition and we were told that it had just recently been the crematorium of a high lama. However, I was not about to find out if that were true or not!
One of our group members, who I wrote about in a previous post, you guessed it – the one who considered marathons to be a WARM UP, well he went jogging off into the distance, disappearing over sand dunes and then reappearing as a speck in the distance. Apparently the altitude (14000 ft) eventually had an affect – he continued running but when he returned he was breathing hard.
For me it was a good day. How could I tell? Well, when you are a Buddhist practitioner and you come across two of the largest Buddha statues you have ever laid eyes upon, both in the same day, it ought to be a pleasant experience. This is the picture of Buddha Shakyamuni’s head, which was easily taller than I by itself. I think this statue was 12 meters tall – like the previous Maitreya Statue, you could look down over the edge and see the statue’s lotus sitting position down below.
The palace had been ransacked apparently (a while back), and the thieves had cut a hole in the back of the statue’s head – hence the screen being there. Otherwise we were able to walk about the statue and the Buddha’s attendants had statues themselves in the corners – Shariputra and Maudhgalyayana. In this shrine room there were a couple of local Ladakhi’s speaking with a monk, and according to our guide, the monk was doing a divination for them.
The shrine in front of the Buddha statue was gorgeous. There were little piles of food and candy, flowers – you name it. See below. The Palace was large but we were only allowed to enter two rooms, and then walk around the roof. I thought it was special that the upper portion of the stupa, on top of the palace, was either solid gold or gold coated. It turns out most stupas are like that. Well hey – you learn something everyday!