Monday, July 3, 2017

Staying In Likir Monastery One Of The Most Humbling Travel Experience!


Our very first experience of staying in a Monastery was in the land of Lamas "Ladakh," home to stunning monasteries. Each monastery is more beautiful than the other. We chose the offbeat yet beautiful Likir Gompa. The abbot of this monastery is the younger brother of the 14th Dalai Lama- Tenzin Choegyal. The monastery is home to around 120 lamas and the school teaches around 30 lamas. It was an awesome experience to stay in a centuries old Monastery and we also had amazing views of the Himalayas from our room.


Staying in Likir Monastery is not your average touristic experience. It was humbling to live among very young Lamas even if it was just for a day. The rooms are very basic but comfortable and make you realize how much you exactly need to live. There is a common bath with running water. Hot water is not provided. We got to experience the austerity lifestyle monks live. The Lamas live in a common dormitory. We stayed, dined and lived with them. Remember if you are here, you are staying in a Monastery and not a hotel. Be humble and grateful for the Monks share their food with you.



Apart from the classes, they have morning and evening prayers which we were encouraged to attend. An interesting thing that we observed in the Monastery was that a Lama takes a chair and is surrounded by others in a circle and shoots some of the most challenging questions about Buddhism. The one to answer the most challenging questions wins a lot of respect. The process is one of the best ways to learn Buddhism.



Among many things we enjoyed the calm and quite atmosphere that the Monastery offers. It reminded us of our school days when they used to ring a bell to let us know it was lunch time. If you choose to stay here kindly respect the rules and remember this is a religious place. Smoking, alcohol and playing loud music is prohibited respect the sanctity of the place.


We joined the Lamas for lunch in the monastery kitchen and were served dal, rice and mixed vegetables. A very simple but delightful and filling healthy organic lunch. The young lamas served generous quantities and were happy to serve even more. After lunch we cleaned our plates and left them back in the kitchen.


Post their classes the young lamas enjoy their play time. Though they do not have great sporting equipment but that doesn't seem to deter them. They have a gala time and seemed to enjoy with whatever is available. A gift of football and tennis ball brought immense joy on their faces and they were elated. Even then they never labelled it as one person's gift but they knew that the gifts belonged to all and were happy to share. These small little gestures can put the brightest of smiles on their faces. They also have a common TV room which can be accessed at set timings.


It was great to take leisure walks around the Monastery and catch amazing views of Likir village. Right next to the Monastery, a small trek path leads you to old Likir that houses many chortens. The views from here of Likir, her fertile green farm lands and the dark mountains in the backdrop are simply breathtaking.



Travelling exposed us to a lot of different cultures. We met a young Israel solo traveler who had spent two months in India and had one more month to go. From her experience, we understood that Israelis love to travel to India and Himalayas seem to be their second home.

We headed back to the monastery to join the lamas for their evening prayers. After elaborate prayers at around 8 pm as one big family we sat down to have freshly made atta tigmo (Tibetan bread) topped with local herbs. This was served with spinach soup. It was a very healthy and wholesome dinner and tasted very good. The kids also seemed to love this as we saw them dig into it. We saw a child as old as 3 sit by himself and have his dinner. This moment we reflected on our personal lives and realized how fortunate and blessed we are. At this age, we were spoilt with choices of different food by parents and grandparents. It was an emotional moment and it is so unfortunate that we are no grateful for what we have. These young lamas who are far away from their families and living a very simple and basic life taught us the most important lesson of life- to be content with what we have. Their smiles were from the heart and they found joy in the most simplest of things.



The monastery charges only Rs.700 for stay and food per couple and these proceeds are utilized to feed and cloth the lesser fortunate. However, the visitors are free to donate how much ever they could to help them.

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