A Day with the Monks

Tripoto
21st May 2016

Monks are coming out after a prayer session

Photo of Monks are coming out after a prayer session by Ayan Das

Moonlight on Spiti Valley

Photo of Moonlight on Spiti Valley by Ayan Das

A little monk offering tea to everyone

Photo of A little monk offering tea to everyone by Ayan Das

Key monastery from Key village

Photo of Key monastery from Key village by Ayan Das

The little monks on a break from the prayer

Photo of The little monks on a break from the prayer by Ayan Das

Sunset from Key Gompa

Photo of Sunset from Key Gompa by Ayan Das

My favourite place

Photo of My favourite place by Ayan Das
Photo of by Ayan Das

The Roof of the monastery

Photo of The Roof of the monastery by Ayan Das

The road towards Kibber

Photo of The road towards Kibber by Ayan Das

Spiti River

Photo of Spiti River by Ayan Das

Absolute bliss

Photo of Absolute bliss by Ayan Das

The Gompa from below

Photo of The Gompa from below by Ayan Das

The main entrace of the monastery

Photo of The main entrace of the monastery by Ayan Das

Key monastery school

Photo of Key monastery school by Ayan Das

Kye village

Photo of Kye village by Ayan Das

Chilling out on the roof

Photo of Chilling out on the roof by Ayan Das

The old gompa

Photo of The old gompa by Ayan Das

The window of the old gompa

Photo of The window of the old gompa by Ayan Das

Main prayer hall of the gompa

Photo of Main prayer hall of the gompa by Ayan Das

with a tiny feet

Photo of with a tiny feet by Ayan Das

Monks on the way to their stay

Photo of Monks on the way to their stay by Ayan Das

From Kaza to Key

Photo of From Kaza to Key by Ayan Das

~A Day with The Monks~

Me: How do we find the happiness?

The Monk: Forget about any spiritual practices. In our day to day life, greater the calmness of our mind, greater the level of peace of mind and more we enjoy a happy and peaceful life. Meditation helps in a great way to train your mind and to achieve this calmness.

Me: How do I know what type of meditation suits me? Stabilizing or Analytical? Which will help me more to achieve this?

The Monk: You should practice both. Stabilizing type will help you to achieve the calmness whereas analytical type will help you to channelize your thoughts in a proper direction.

Me: Can I ask you a personal question? (Being a bit more curious)

The Monk: Sure. Go ahead.

Me: Have you experienced the void while meditation? Do you see the world as an illusion as Buddhist believe?

The Monk: I would love to but I haven’t achieved that level yet.

This is one of the many candid conversations, I had with the Buddhist monks during my one month stay in Himachal. The one of the main reasons, I chose Himachal as the destination of my first solo trip in India was to get familiar with Tibetan Buddhism, their culture and their people. So, I planned my stay in few Buddhist monasteries around Spiti region and Key Monastery was one of those. The experience of staying there became one of the highlights of my trip due the time I chose. It was Buddha Purnima then.

Photo of A Day with the Monks 1/13 by Ayan Das

Monks coming out from the main prayer hall

I arrived at Kaza one day before Buddha Purnima and decided to head straight towards Key monastery. The place was already crowded with the locals and the people around the villages in Spiti and the monks were busy in a prayer session. On inquiring, I got to know it was a special day for them as one of their lamas was getting retired and someone new was taking his place. So, there was a big arrangement of lunch for everyone there. I was anyways hungry after my long journey and a meal would save my life that time. I wasted no time and grabbed a plate.

Photo of A Day with the Monks 2/13 by Ayan Das

The main entrance of the gompa

Once the lunch was over and visitors started to leave, I was shown a room for my stay by one of the lamas in the monastery. There was only one young couple from Austria who were staying at the monastery as guests. Me and Praveen joined them. I met Praveen on the bus from Kalpa to Nako and since then we were travelling together. Later in the afternoon, we were joined by one French couple who initially came to visit the place but decided to stay over for one night.

Photo of A Day with the Monks 3/13 by Ayan Das

The old part of the monastery has a dark alley and a series of narrow steps which will take you to the old prayer hall and HH Dalai Lama’s room where he rested during his visit in the year of its millennium celebration. A monk guided me to show me around. The old gompha has a collection of idols, many paintings and old Tibetan manuscripts which were recovered from Tibet and brought back in India

Photo of A Day with the Monks 4/13 by Ayan Das

Mesmerized with the view of Spiti river and the high mountains from the roof of the monastery

One of my favorite places in the monastery was its roof where I spent a lot of time during my stay. I used to sit there to read a book, sometimes to meditate or chit chat with other travelers or to feed the crows. With Spiti river flowing at one side and the snow covered peaks beyond that, the roof offers a majestic view of the valley.

Photo of A Day with the Monks 5/13 by Ayan Das

The Trident and the deaadlocks

I was surprised to see the trident on the roof of a Buddhist monastery as according to Hindu mythology, it symbolizes the weapon of lord Shiva, the god of destruction. So being curious, I asked around what is the significance of that. A monk told me a story of a Hindu tantric yogi who came there long time back and invited the Buddhist sages for a debate. To honour him, they built those tridents later and the black wires symbolize his long deadlocks (jata).

Photo of A Day with the Monks 6/13 by Ayan Das

The monastery is filled with many young kids in red robes running around everywhere. They are the little bundle of joy and their energy keeps the place lively. During my stay, I had a chance to interact and play with them. I realized that the only difference these little monks have with other normal kids is the red robe. With the purest of hearts and the widest smile on earth, filled with joy and energy, they are the most treasured gifts to the society. The good thing is that nowadays they are taught science and languages beside Tibetan religion. It is necessary to send at least one young boy from every Tibetan family to these monasteries but now a days many parents do not agree and even they do it has become difficult to keep the boys in restricted to monastic life as they are very easily get exposed to the luxury of outside world. The debate is still going on whether it is right to send them to monasteries at such early age leaving them extremely vulnerable.

Photo of A Day with the Monks 7/13 by Ayan Das

A young monk serving tea

I was roaming around the monastery around 6:30 pm when I was called upon by a monk to have dinner. Yes, that is the usual time to have dinner at key monastery. The kitchen is the warmest place there and whenever I used to go inside the kitchen someone would definitely tell “Aiye aiye baithiye, chai pijiye” (Come, have a seat and take tea). The meal is generally a basic one consisting of Rice and Dal unless it is a special occasion. Buddhism believes in simplicity and that is reflected in their way of life.

Photo of A Day with the Monks 8/13 by Ayan Das

Moon light on the Spiti valley

After the dinner, there is not much to do at the monastery as all the monks leave by that time and divine silence ascends everywhere. We had the last tea of the day and continued chatting for some times. I then went up to my favorite place, the roof, to enjoy the glorious colors of sunset at Spiti valley. The stillness of that place was so infectious that I almost lost track of time.

Photo of A Day with the Monks 9/13 by Ayan Das

Moon light on the Spiti valley

After the dinner, there is not much to do at the monastery as all the monks leave by that time and divine silence ascends everywhere. We had the last tea of the day and continued chatting for some times. I then went up to my favorite place, the roof, to enjoy the glorious colors of sunset at Spiti valley. The stillness of that place was so infectious that I almost lost track of time.

Photo of A Day with the Monks 10/13 by Ayan Das

Monks chilling out on the terrace

Photo of A Day with the Monks 11/13 by Ayan Das

The road towards Kibber

A Day of a Monk's life:

During my conversation with many monks I became aware of the daily activities of a monk in these Tibetan monasteries and that mainly consist of taking care of the monastery compound, preparing food, serving food and tea and daily prayers to God. Monks are involved in all kinds of religious services and administrative tasks, on behalf of individual study and the monastery community. Their daily lives start in the early morning and ends in the evening. Religious study and services are the main theme of the monastic life. Young ones go to the nearby school where they are taught Tibetan language, Hindi, Science, grammar, literature, sutra chanting and prayers. Only a few talented monks enter a scholarly religious life and advance to religious fulfillment and rest do the normal jobs. Most of the monks in these monasteries are more concerned about sutra chanting and remembering and reciting the prayers rather exploring the deep philosophy of Buddhism. So, if you are expecting to get a reply on your so far unanswered spiritual questions or discuss about the different aspects of the religion, you have to look for an old Buddhist scholar.

Photo of A Day with the Monks 12/13 by Ayan Das

Key Gompa from Key village

About Key Monastery:

Key (Kye, Kee or Ki ) monastery is considered to be the oldest and the biggest Buddhist monastery in the Lahul and Spiti region. Located at an altitude of 4,166 meters in the Spiti valley region, it is the home for almost 300-400 lamas.  History says that Key Gompa is said to have been founded by Dromtön (Brom-ston, 1008-1064 CE), a pupil of the famous teacher, Atisha, in the 11th century. This may however, refer to a now destroyed Kadampa monastery at the nearby village of Rangrik, which was probably destroyed in the 14th century when the Sakya sect rose to power with Mongol assistance. Nevertheless, it is believed that the monastery is at least a thousand years old. Repeated attacks and earthquakes in this region resulted in frequent renovation and reconstruction work which in turn has given rise to irregular box like structure. The monastery is a wonderful example of the monastic architecture that came into prominence during the 14th century because of the Chinese influence.

How to reach and Where to stay:

Key is around 12 km north from Kaza and can be reached by both HRTC buses and cars. There is only one bus that ply from Kaza to Kibber and makes a stop at Key monastery at 5 pm in the evening. I reached Kaza in the morning and didn’t want to waste whole day there so took a cab which was going back to Rangrik after dropping me at Key.

Photo of A Day with the Monks 13/13 by Ayan Das

The accommodation at Key monastery is very basic one with shared toilets. They charge only Rs. 250 for each bed and the food which includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and of course unlimited tea.

The blog was first published on www.ayanonearth.com