Bhutan day 8

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May 5th 2011
Published: May 5th 2011
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Wheat FieldWheat FieldWheat Field

Bamboo fencing helps keep the wild boar out
Tuesday morning, we drove an hour along windy roads through a beautiful mix of mountains and valleys filled with farms growing wheat and potatoes. A long climb up a dirt track of hairpin turns, quite muddy in some spots, made us greatly appreciative of our 4-wheel drive vehicles. Water-powered prayer wheels dotted the track all the way up to a tiny village where we left the cars. From there, under a light rain, a steep but short hike brought us up to Tharpaling Monastery, a very small monastery of a dozen or so monks, including several boys.

This site is one of the special meditation places of Padmasambhava and his consort, Yeshe Tsogyel. There are images in many temples we've visited of Padmasambhava riding on the back of Yeshe Tsogyel, in the incarnation of a flying tiger. Tharpaling Monastery, along with Taktsang Monastery which we will visit in a few days, are 2 of the sites where the couple are reputed to have flown in this manifestation. Padmasambhava's footprint and Yeshe Tsogyel's tiger print can be seen in the rock above the monastery. Within the monastery, a cave room marks their meditation spot. The main temple is also quite impressive,
Tharpaling Monastery CourtyardTharpaling Monastery CourtyardTharpaling Monastery Courtyard

Colorful lettering spells "Om mani padme hum"
dedicated to Avalokiteshvara, the god of compassion. His 11-headed image is replicated in 100 statues covering 2 walls of the temple. The familiar mantra, "Om mani padme hum", speaks to Avalokiteshvara. The literal translation of this is "Om" or all that is, "mani" or jewel, "padme" or lotus flower, and "hum" or please grant my prayer. The spirit of the translation would be something like, "May all beings be happy and enlightened."

On the altar were many finely carved and colored decorative sculptures, all made from butter. Any butter can be used but yak butter is considered the best. There are no worries about the butter melting in the summer as this monastery, at about 3500 meters, never gets that warm. Indeed, we felt the altitude here more than anywhere thus far.

We've noticed an interesting phenomenon in a few temples in Bhutan. When there is a special room dedicated to a goddess, women are not allowed in that room. It is believed that the goddess will be jealous as apparently, in Bhutanese thinking, women cannot transcend jealousy. This was the case both at Tharpaling and several days ago at the temple at Dochula Pass. Of course, the
Main temple at TharpalingMain temple at TharpalingMain temple at Tharpaling

A rooster guards this temple honoring Avalokiteshvara
women in our group find this quite annoying and think the Bhutanese men are projecting!

Tharpaling is quite special in the way it is built into sheer rock face high above the valley. It is small by necessity of the site with great mystical atmosphere. We lit butter lamps honoring Padmasambhava's monthly birthday. Happily, the rain did not last. We returned to our hotel for a late lunch and quiet afternoon's nap.

Additional photos below
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Our monk guide, RinchenOur monk guide, Rinchen
Our monk guide, Rinchen

A beautiful gentle man

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