Tengboche Monastery

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May 21st 2006
Published: July 25th 2006EDIT THIS ENTRY


I can't believe this helicopter was able to touch down on such a narrow landing patch.
The next morning, a helicopter landed right in front of the teahouse where we stayed. I was amazed that the chopper could land on such a tiny landing strip. It was just a flat stony area next to a picnic table. There was little margin for error; the slightest gust of wind could blow the chopper into the huge ravine just below.

An American tour group was in the helicopter. They flew in from Kathmandu for the day just to see the Tengboche monastery and the mountain scenery. I wish I could do that, but at $1,800, that’s a little steep for my budget. We talked to the helicopter pilot (who was trained in Omsk) for awhile. He mainly flies tourists from Kathmandu to the mountains, but he also frequently picks up sick people, mainly hikers suffering from AMS (acute mountain sickness-altitude sickness), as he was going to do after he finished with this group of tourists. The previous day, he participated in the recovery of the body of a lone German hiker who disappeared in April. We saw the missing posters of her in Namche. Apparently, this poor woman fell down a ravine.

Before setting off to our next overnight stop of Pangboche, we visited the famous Tengboche monastery. I stepped in a huge pile of yak poo as we entered the monastery grounds. Actually, it would be more correct to say that I sank into a huge pile of yak poo. I tried to scrape it off my hiking boots at every step, but was not very successful. Oh well, at least you have to take your shoes off before entering the monastery!

A monk unlocked the temple doors for us, so we could see the beautiful murals in the shrine rooms. These painted murals are one reason why Tengboche is so famous. There is also a huge collection of Buddhist scrolls at the monastery. I think that many of them are older texts taken out of Tibet.

There are currently about 60 monks in the Tengboche monastic community. The monastery is well-funded, probably because it is so famous and receives donations from a lot of visitors.

Interestingly, the abbot of Tengboche has banned animal slaughter in his area. Any yak or buffalo meat supposedly comes from animals killed in Namche and carried up the trails by porters. Considering that Namche is 3-4 days walk from the end point of our trek and the meat is probably not refrigerated on the way up (though it is colder here), we decided to avoid eating meat until we descend down to Namche again.

Now for a brief history lesson…Tengboche monastery is part of the sacred hidden valleys mentioned in ancient Tibetan Buddhist texts, which are places of refuge in times of war and famine. Buddhism was established in this region about 350 years ago. Legend has it that Lama Sangwa Dorje foot left an imprint in the rock, which can still be seen in Tengboche.

Construction of the Tengboche monastery began in 1916. It took the local Sherpa community three years to build. It was the first celibate monastery to be built in the Khumbu area.

The monastery was destroyed twice, first in 1934 by an earthquake and then again in 1989 by fire caused by an electrical heater. The new monastery was consecrated in 1993. New wall paintings by the famous Tibetan painter Tarke-la adorn the shrine room. These paintings depict the Bodhisattva lives of the Buddha. These stories were told by the Buddha to explain essential teachings in a way that everyone could clearly understand.

Tengboche is a fascinating place that gives you an idea of how the Tibetan Buddhist monks live. With the Chinese destruction of so much of the traditional Buddhist life in Tibet, this is a great place to learn more about their spiritual beliefs. I only wish my photos could do this place justice. The photos inside the monastery did not come out as clearly as I would have liked, but I hope they show how beautiful and elaborate the murals are and what the inside of a Tibetan Buddhist temple looks like.

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


Murals inside the monasteryMurals inside the monastery
Murals inside the monastery

The mandalas on the ceiling and art on the walls are particularly beautiful here.
Wheel of lifeWheel of life
Wheel of life

The wheel of life represents the continuous cycle of birth, life, and death in which all beings in the universe participate. This cycle can only be escaped through enlightenment.

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