Tibet: Om Mani Padme Hum

Time to revamp an older post: the 2010 Tibet adventure. More photos and stories added.

Tibet was a tough trip. With only 60% to 70% available oxygen at these high altitudes, especially the nights were more like a nightmare. Four hours sleep and the rest of the night struggling to find oxygen. The Tibetan high altitude pills didn’t help too much. The highest point reached was at 5, 248 m.

I arrived in Lhasa with a small Air China plane coming from Kathmandu. The view from the plane was impressive.

The entire chain of Himalayas covered in snow can be seen. Mt. Everest was on the left side of the airplane. All the passengers from the right side of the plane moved and even jumped over the passengers from the left side, to have a better view of the highest peak of the world (8,848 m). The shift in weight repartition, made the plane to tilt to its left side!

Kathmandu to Lhasa Air China flight

Mt. Everest aerial view – Air China flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa

Tibet

Tibet

Tibet Without the Dalai Lama

You cannot introduce in Tibet any book about the actual Dalai Lama, no photos or Tibetan flags. You have to join a tour in order to visit Tibet. The Chinese army is very strict and have a strong presence. The old times when the monks and the people were happy are long gone. Becoming a monk in Tibet is discouraged.

Tibetan prayer flags

Tibetan prayer flags

The Tibetan prayer flags photo has been exhibited in Toronto in 2014.

Lhasa – the “Place of the Gods”

At an altitude of 3,490 meters, Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world

Places of interest in Lhasa are the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Sera Monastery.

Jokhang Square, Lhasa

Jokhang Square, Lhasa

Tibetan smiles

Tibetan smiles

Barkhor

Barkhor market

The Potala Palace

The Potala Palace is the former residence of the Dalai Lama. With  more than 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues the palace is really impressive.

The Potala Palace

The Potala Palace

The White Palace

The White Palace

“The first time I stepped onto the rooftop of the Potala Palace in Lhasa in 1985, I felt, as never before or since, as if I was stepping onto the rooftop of my being: onto some dimension of consciousness that I’d never visited before.” – Pico Iyer

Jokhang Temple

The Jokhang Temple is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet.

Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Temple

 Wheel of Dharma

Wheel of Dharma

The pilgrims in Tibet are very, very devoted. Old or young, some carrying small children on their backs, the pilgrims are doing “kora” (circle a temple clockwise) while spinning their “prayer wheels” clockwise as well.

Tibetan woman and child Barkhor Square

Tibetan woman and child – Lhasa, Barkhor Square

Some are coming from far away in the buses. Others walk kilometers, alongside the roads, always with the “prayer wheels”.

The pilgrims prostrate themselves by lying face down on the ground while extending their arms and “sliding” with wooden pallets attached to their palms until the body is perfectly extended. The prostration can be repeated up to 108 times.

Tibetan pilgrims - Jokhang Temple, Lhasa

Tibetan pilgrims

Monk discussing with pilgrims

Monk discussing with pilgrims

Sera Monastery

Sera Monastery is one of the “great three” university monasteries of Tibet.

Sera Monastery monks

Sera Monastery monks

The highlight of Sera Monastery was attending the monks debate. In a courtyard, dozens of monks meet to have free discussions.

Sera Monastery monks debate

Monks debate

One monk stands up and one to four or more monks sit on the ground in front of him. The standing monk starts the ritual with a karate like movement. His left hand holds the “rosary” around his upper arm, he lifts the right foot and with the right hand stretched in front of him, the monk jumps over to the sitting monk. If the palm of his right hand faces downward, he is agreeing with the topic of discussion. If the palm faces upward, he disagrees or he insists his point of view is the correct one. Quite a spectacular show to watch!

Ganden Monastery

The Ganden Monastery lies in a natural amphitheater. The views are spectacular form the top of nearby mountains. Same as Sera Monastery, Ganden is an university monastery.

Ganden

Ganden

Ganden Monastery

Ganden Monastery

Ganden pilgrims

Pilgrims at Ganden Monastery

Monks ceremony

Monks ceremony

Monks ceremony

Monks ceremony

The Burials

The traditional way of burial for Tibetans is through air or water burials.

  • The Air Burial: the dead body is dismembered and the parts are left on the top of a mountain for the birds to eat.
  • The Water Burial: the dead body is dismembered and the parts are thrown into the river for the fish. That’s why Tibetans don’t eat fish.
Water Burial place, Tibet

Water Burial place, Tibet

Gyantse

Gyantse fortress, the Palcho Monastery and the Kumbum – the largest such structure in Tibet, are the main attractions of Gyantse.

Gyantse fortress

Gyantse fortress

Palcho Monastery

Palcho Monastery

Palcho Monastery Kumbum

Palcho Monastery Kumbum

Shigatse

Sakya Monastery in Shigatse is known for its collection of Tibetan murals, sacred Buddhist scrolls and books.

Shigatse

Shigatse

Sakya Monastery hallways

Sakya Monastery hallways

Rongbuk

Rongbuk is the highest monastery in the world at 5,000 meters (north side of Mount Everest).

Rongbuk

Rongbuk

Rongbuk was the last stop before ascending to the Everest Base Camp and the highest place to sleep. The feeling being without enough oxygen was horrible, especially at night. It was like the devil was taking out my soul…

The accommodation was in a mountain guesthouse, the Thingri Snow Land Hotel. Very basic with a room temperature of +5 degrees C.

Rongbuk Monastery hotel rooms

Thingri Snow Land Hotel: rooms and washer

Rongbuk hotel shower

The shower and toilets

Everest Base Camp

Next morning everything was fine and after 8 km of trekking I was able to reach the Everest Base Camp with a clear view of Mount Everest. Very impressive and it feels so close and easy to climb.

Everest Base Camp

Everest Base Camp

Om Mani Padme Hum

“The mantra Om Mani Pädme Hum is easy to say yet quite powerful, because it contains the essence of the entire teaching. When you say the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics, and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience. , the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom.” – Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

The Itinerary

The route I used in Tibet: Lhasa – Gyantse – Shigatse – Sakya – Rongbuk – Everest Base Camp – Zhangmu – Kathmandu.

What I tried

  • Being blessed by a monk while he was talking at cellphone (!) The blessing consisted of being “hit” on the back of my head with a leather shovel.
  • Trying everything “yak”: yak meat, yak butter tea (very strong taste), riding yak.
Yak tongues and steak

Yak tongues and steak

Tibetan Soup

Tibetan Soup

What I didn’t try

  • Bungee Jumping from 160 m
  • Viagra (available without prescription)

“Tashi Delek!” (All the best)

2 Comments on “Tibet: Om Mani Padme Hum

  1. Terrific report. I wanted to go there when the earthquake hits the other side of the mountains in Nepal. Finally the trip was cancelled.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *