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As I reflect on my trip to Ladakh, we were so very lucky. We had numerous adventures which tourists can only dream about – attending a Buddha and a King in His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, crashing a traditional Ladakhi wedding, attending a shaman / oracle and seeing her in action, as well as having tea with numerous Tulkus (recognized reincarnated Lamas). It might be difficult to replicate this pilgrimage in this lifetime. And of course there was the camel riding and other “touristy treats.” Wow! Needless to say, I’m glad I went.
So, in this post, there is a little Buddhist city known as Chemray Gompa. As we drove by it on the way to Tak Thog monastery further up the valley, I had an inkling I had been there before. It literally looks like a town on top of its hill – all the building in the traditional colors of monasteries – hence the Buddhist City designation. It is (another) Drukpa Kagyu monastery – as the majority of the monasteries we visited were of that sect. But it’s splendor is not easily passed over.
We ate lunch below the monastery and we got to see several Ladakhi families – including precious toddlers running around, exploring the stream and the irrigation canals. Afterward, we drove up the winding road to the monastery.
There were some local villagers at the monastery when we arrived, and seeing an ancient looking Ladakhi, her eyes deep and present, full of wisdom and chanting the Mani Mantra was precious. She may have been in her 50s or 60s, as, due to malnutrition and the harsh environment, Ladakhis tend to age quickly. In the states, her appearance might indicate 80 to 100 winters.
There were gorgeous murals (including these impermanence-inspiring dancing skeletons), very fresh and crisp – as if they had just been painted the day before. And at the very top of the monastery was the Guru Lhakang – the Guru Rinpoche shrine, and the paintings in there continued up the 20 ft walls and then across the ceilings. Incredible! This is where we saw the “I <heart> Drukpa” bumpersticker with His Holiness the Drukpa Kyabgon’s picture.