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September 28, 2006

Drepung Monastery

Click on image to play video (high speed connection advised).

LOCATION: Lhasa, Tibet
Longitude: N: 29.65°
Latitude: E: 91.13°
Miles from Singapore: 4271

A two day bout of intestinal problems has kept me bed bound and in Lhasa a little longer than originally planned. However reaching Lhasa on the first attempt from Yunnan has put me vaguely back on schedule (the initial itinerary included an extra month to allow for a second shot at getting to Lhasa via of the other three entry roads into Tibet should I have been turned back), so an extra day here and there to relearn 'Sphincter Control 101' shouldn't jeopardize the next target which is to get over the Himalayas before winter.

I was determined to visit something other than the toilet before being here, such as one of the great Gelugpa monasteries to be found close by. So yesterday I finally cut ties to the world of ceramics and ventured off on my bike in search of Drepung monastery, translated literally as 'rice heap' (a reference to the huge numbers of monastic buildings that once piled up on the hillside).

Drepung was founded in 1416 by Jamyang-Choje Tashi Phldn (say that 10x quickly), a disciple of Tsong Khapa (a renowned early Tibetan teacher and writer). Initially home to Dalai Lamas one through four before the fifth built the Potala, it eventually became the world's largest monastery with over 10,000 monks residing here at the time of the Chinese take over in 1951. Although suffering through the ages from the attentions of the Kings of Tsang and the Mongols, it was left relatively unscathed by the Cultural Revolution. Today it houses just 400 practicing monks and one of the definite impressions I had while touring the place was that I was walking around a museum rather than an active establishment of religious pursuit. The monks I did see were either glued to their cellphones or counting up the hundreds of small denomination bills that pilgrims leave wedged into the thousands of shrines and sculptures that adorn the numerous chapels. However to be fair I was told the monks have just finished their summer meditation and are 'resting' for the week before starting studies again *I tried not to look tickled!*. So apologies for the rather obvious lack of monks doing monk-like-things in the vlog. Hopefully I'll hit another couple of monasteries en route to Kathmandu where the monks are back in session, so any spectacular footage (flying monks or otherwise) will certainly allow for a follow up vlog.

More information on -
Drepung Monastery
Tibetan Monks
Tibetan Buddhism


Posted on September 28, 2006 2:46 AM