Day 15: Tengboche Monastery

Photos coming soon.

Route: Tengboche (3867 meters)
Distance: 0 km
Total Distance: 100.65 km
Time: NA, exploration day in Tengboche

A full index of my 11-part Trekking in Nepal video series, journals, and pictures can be found here. Images featured in this post and more can be found at my Nepal Flickr Set.

In the morning we said our pleasantries to the Germans from the night before and saw them off. I spent the rest of the morning washing some clothes and laying them out to dry, which I was informed would take 3 days to dry in tis altitude. I moved them by the fire that night. Steve read from The Dharma Bums.

The clear skies soon became overcast with drizzle and then rain. We walked back to the Tengboche Monastery in time to watch the afternoon chanting session.

We had poked around the previous day, so our faces were known. I had wanted to spend an extra day here to fully explore the monastery, the largest and oldest of its kind in Nepal. This day would become one of the most interesting to me of the trip.

The main arch over the ground’s entrance had some very intricate and colorful sculpture work that seemed to combine Hindu and Buddhist deities.

We met Nyingma, a 24 year old Buddhist monk who had been living and studying at the monastery for 10 years. His plan is to spend his entire life here. Nyingma also showed us around, something I don’t think he had to do. He was a really nice guy and his favorite colors are red, yellow and blue. We spent a lot of time in the main room, looking at the painted murals, drums, seating place of the Lama, and other curiosities in the room. He graciously answered any questions we had.

For 3,000 Rupees ($44 US), we were allowed to video tape. The price is usually more, but we were young and not part of a huge professional crew that sometimes show up.

The monastery actually burnt down in 1989 and was rebuilt. The fire was very destructive and the monastery lost many important scriptures. The heat was so intense it even cracked the stone footprints said to be left by Lama Sanwa Dorje, a 16th century monk who predicted a monastery would be built here. In 1923, his reincarnation, while a boy, founded it.

Around 40 monks live on the premises and study Nyingmapa Buddhism, which is Tibetan in origin and the oldest of the four major Tibetan schools.

The main room had a dark atmosphere that was filled with a kind of dark red hue. The colorful murals and paintings spread from walls to ceiling. The walls depicted stories about the life of Buddha and were painted in Kathmandu and carried up.

The main centerpiece was a large statue of Buddha with two smaller ones flanking. The large center on represents the present Buddha, the right future Buddha, and the left past Buddha.

We even tried on the ceremonial hats and improvised a “walk like an Egyptian” sort of dance that amused Nyingma. We peaked into the upstairs chamber that held the scriptures and followed to another upstairs window looking out towards the front. Nyingma and another monk used large shells to bellow out over the village and sing chants for a few minutes. Very interesting.

Nyingma wandered off and so did we eventually to the next door gift shop (!) and informational building. I bought a couple things for gifts, but held off as I can all this cheaper in Kathmandu.

I also noticed the prevalence of several large black dogs roaming about the village. It seemed on had territory around our lodge, and another held the monastery. They sported battle wounds but were friendly. Nyingma told us they sometimes fight. I now refer to the monastery as the “Temple of the Black Dog.”

For more information you can visit the official Tengboche website.