This household, and I think this whole Labrang region, is very spiritually inclined. Wanma Dun Drub, Samtso’s herder brother, recites his chants like a monk with the scriptures in front of him every morning before he goes off to the tend the herd. ______________, her dad, prostrates daily and is chanting with his beads nearly every time I see him. He also spends time carefully making Tsampa pellets for offerings. The women, too, chant and it is they who tend to the alter. There is a special shrine room, behind a closed door. Outside, drying every afternoon I see little brass cups, a ladle, and an icon that are carefully cleaned. I think the offering in them might be alcohol, as upon entering the gathering room after a day out, I smell spirits.
There are many monasteries located throughout the area, as well as nunneries. Big D is revered, not for leaving, but for being peaceful. The fact that he left is a matter of confusion for both Tibetans and some inquiring Chinese. Aside from propaganda, which is a serious business here, the vast majority of people have no contact with people who have any facts. Thus, the stories and fears vary from the reasonable to the preposterous. The middle way has been mentioned once, only.
The Chinese young woman (age 22) I met at the Xiahe airport immediately asked Samtso, when we got in the cab, something to the effect of “how could you follow the Big D, when he left this country (China), and wants all Tibetans to disclaim China?” Oddly, she was willing to come for an adventure to this Tibetan world by herself. She told me she was looking for peace. Women traveling alone are rare. In fact she is the first I have encountered. She had been to Australia, and wanted to travel to the U.S., but her parents would not allow it, as everyone in America has a gun. (I am guessing what news China allows in: our riots and war invasions. What else?) When in Australia, Big D was coming to speak, but she had been warned not to attend the huge gathering that that news garnered. There were Chinese spies everywhere, they would take her picture, and she would not be allowed back home.
Extracting myself from the throngs in the street with whom I had witnessed the veiling of the Thanka, I sought refuge in, what turned out to be, a very busy Restaurant Hotel Nirvana. Samtso and Kamu, baby on back, met me there after circumambulating the monastery. We indulge in treats and internet, then trundle off to the main hall at the monastery, where blessings for that part of life after this one, but before the next are being chanted. The molmn (hope/wish/intention) is that one will be born a human in the life when nirvana is finally attained, and all are awakened. This event It is packed to the gills, but we managed our passage, which was the point of our visit. This is when I discovered pushy Tibetans. Holy Smokes! They are something else!
Because of the crowd, coupled with the fact I have not a clue as to what I am doing, nor where I am going, I try to stick close to my group. As it turns out our visit was a simple pass through the building, in one door at one end, walk the length of the building, prostrating in the middle, and out the other side. Easy, and no problem if we get separated. But I’m not taking any chances. Close as I stick to Samtso, little Tibetan women, strong as little bulldozers, shove their way in front of me, pushing, pushing. The most bumptious of them, this itty bitty thing, just tosses me aside like I am used kleenex. I regain my position in line to pass her prostrating less than a minute later. Like, what is the rush???
Toward the our end goal, Samtso indicates it’s OK to take a photo, so I reach in my pocket for the little camera and find a hand! A warm hand. And it sure isn’t mine. Heavens knows what it is doing there; I gently remove it.
Kind of a haiku, eh?
A warm hand in my pocket
Not belonging to me
I gently remove it
Well, all this was good training for my day to come. Indeed.