Tibetan Monastery Pokhara Nepal Lama Puja

Connecting with my Buddha Nature at a Lama Puja in Pokhara, Nepal

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Crimson and saffron robed Tibetan monks shuffled into Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Tibetan Monastery and sat cross-legged on brocade cushions stretched in a double row down the center of the hall. Adolescent monks-in-training slid giant drums down the polished parquet floor to their older counterparts, while others took up ancient-looking metal horns that telescoped out to take up half the width of the room. As the monks tuned up their instruments I sat in half-lotus position with my back against the wall, arms stretched out with wrists resting on my knees and thumbs touching forefingers, marveling at the dissonant din.

A split second later, on some silent cue, the cacophony ceased and the monks began throat-singing, a specialized form of chanting that allows them to produce multiple pitches simultaneously. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as their guttural chants, accented by synchronous drumming, ah-ooga horns, crashing cymbals and tinkling bells, swelled to fill the small room. From the tips of my toes to the crown of my head, my entire body vibrated.
 

Can’t see the above YouTube video of the lama puja at Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling (Dragyling) Monastery at the Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Settlement in Pokhara, Nepal? Click here.

During a previous visit to the monastery I had been invited to return for this lama puja, a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony of honor, worship and devotional attention that attempts to replicate the Buddha’s experience of Enlightenment (insight into reality). Many items of a symbolic nature sat upon the altar and were scattered around the monastery, including intricate yak butter sculptures that take months to carve. As water is a necessity of life, seven brass bowls of water were placed on the shrine directly in front of the Buddha to show respect and reverence for life. Because of their short life span, flowers symbolized impermanence and Samsara (the cycle of birth, death and rebirth), candles symbolized enlightenment and the sense of sight, while incense was used to show that Buddhist teachings can be spread across the world just like the fragrance of incense. To show gratitude and the interdependence of all things, fruit was offered. Bells indicated when to begin and end puja but also demonstrated the beliefs of cause and effect and karma.

Ancient Buddha statue carried out of Tibet during the war with China in 1959 now graces the altar at Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery

Ancient Buddha statue carried out of Tibet during the war with China in 1959 now graces the altar at Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery

Yak butter carving and seven bowls of water sit in front of Buddha on the altar

Yak butter carving and seven bowls of water sit in front of Buddha on the altar

Yak butter sculptures take months to carve

Yak butter sculptures take months to carve

Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery

Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery

Monks relax at Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery

Monks relax at Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery

Cymbals used in puja

Cymbals used in puja

Bells and ancient scripts used in puja

Bells and ancient scripts used in puja

Drum and horns used in puja ceremony

Drum and horns used in puja ceremony

Monk shows me one of the larger drums

Monk shows me one of the larger drums

Bells and other items used in a puja ceremony

Bells and other items used in a puja ceremony

Altar at Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery

Altar at Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery

Buddha sits behind glass on altar at Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery

Buddha sits behind glass on altar at Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery

Carpeted platforms were monks sit during puja and daily prayers

Carpeted platforms were monks sit during puja and daily prayers

Closing my eyes, I let the sounds carry me inward to a place of pure peace. Some time later the monks stopped chanting as suddenly as they had begun. They gathered their robes about them and filed silently out the door as I checked the time; four hours had passed in a split second. Untangling my legs, I stood and wobbled for a few minutes while I came fully back into my body, then headed out for the hour-long walk back to Lakeside in Pokhara, floating all the way.

29 Comments on “Connecting with my Buddha Nature at a Lama Puja in Pokhara, Nepal

  1. Hi Katy,

    My wife is studying Buddhism and attends a Temple here in the USA
    We are traveling to India and Nepal at the end of March through April
    We woul like to arrage for a blessing for our marriage while we are in Nepal
    I believe this is one of the Temples we will be trvelling to.
    Do you have any contact (email or tel) so I can contact this Temple and seeif they can do this for us.
    We are not looking for a “marriage ” ceremony more a blessing
    Thanks
    Peter
    Indianapolis USA

    • Hi Peter: This is Barbara, the owner/editor of the blog. You addressed this to “Katy,” who I believe is just another person who commented on my article. If you will email me directly at barbara (at) holeinthedonut (dot) com, I will provide you with a contact name and email.

  2. Love all your pictures. I hope to go to Nepal one day. I love the Buddha statue. What is in the bowl the Buddha is holding? Are those flowers??

    • Hi Katy: If I recall, they were dried straw flowers. Other times, I’ve seen bowls of fruit or other food items that the faithful leave.

      • So Amazing! I love all the different colors of marigold strands. I am going to get a tattoo of the buddha on my right arm this weekend. I have a lotus and a hamsa hand on the left arm. I have practiced yoga and meditation for a while now and it has become a passion of mine . It definately keeps me calm, grounded, and focused. Having the Buddha on my body forever will represent a part of who I am and I am excited for people to see it. :) Happy New Year!

        • Hi Katy: I’ve never really considered getting a tattoo, but a Buddha is one of the few images I’d consider. Just feels so right!

    • Thanks Deb – I have to agree about the butter sculptures. And they were Yak
      butter to boot!

  3. I’m amazed at those intricate butter sculptures – do they never melt?

    • Hi Heather. The DO melt, as soon as the weather turns hot. But they re-carve
      them every year. They are quite astonishing in their intricacy.

  4. Aren’t the colours superb. Beautifully captured expereince of the serenity and calm of Buddhism. It feels like you are really enjoying life in Nepal, which is fantastic.

  5. Barbara,
    What great pictures and descriptive words. Of course, your video ties this brightly colored package all together. Happy New Year to you!

  6. I was totally with you there, what a wonderful experience. I don’t think I’ve ever had a spiritual experience of that sort, but I can absolutely imagine it now!

    I love the colors too. It’s took me years to realize how wonderful it is to be surrounded by color and happiness rather than “good taste”!

  7. The colours are so incredibly rich. Gorgeous.

    And at the same time, my Western brain is saying “garish”.

    (Well, it’s wrong). ;)

    • I know, Mike! I am continually blown away by the colors in Asia. Happy New
      Year to you!

  8. Hi Barbara,
    Your post reminds me of an experience I had in Bhutan. Out of no where, when the monks started singing in varying pitches, I felt quite hypnotised. I’m serious! And this, I later learnt, was just a training class for younger monks who had just joined the monastery. It was amazing that such traditions are still preserved. Thanks for the post! :-)
    Priyank

    • You are so welcome, Priyank. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your
      thoughts. Glad to know that I’m not the only one who feels transported by
      the pujas.

  9. Pingback: Tweets that mention Follow as she experiences the Buddha’s experience of Enlightenment in Nepal! -- Topsy.com

  10. You are certainly ‘finding your home’ aren’t you? What a lovely experience!

    • Ottsworld: I DO feel like Pokhara is home, strangely, more than any other
      place on earth.

  11. What an incredible post — full of rich detail and sumptuous scenes. I haven’t been to this part of the world yet, but feel you’re taking me there.

    • Ruth: That is the highest compliment I could ever hope for from you; thank
      you so much. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and sending you wishes for a
      very Happy New Year.

  12. Pictures from monasteries are always so appealing, that beautiful Chinese red and that saffron orange and those complicated patterns with bits of blue — these are especially lovely. Yummy goodness for my eyes this morning.

    • Thank you Pam! Sending you a big hug and wishes for a wonderful holiday
      season, as well as my personal gratitude for all that you do with Passports
      with Purpose. I think there will be special places in heaven for you and
      everyone else who devotes so much time and effort to PwP.

  13. To have your body vibrate from the chanting monks should be experienced personally, I’m sure. But your text and photos do an excellent job of capturing the moment.

    • Hi Donna: I actually think those big long horns had something to do with the
      vibration. They were so deep and resonant that they made the whole room
      vibrate. It was definitely an experience of a lifetime.

    • Hi GlobalButterfly: As a Buddhist, I treasured this opportunity to attend
      the puja. The more I learn, the more I want to know and frankly, I learned
      more about Buddhism in Nepal over the past four months than in the last 10
      years in the U.S. It is, as you say, an enchanting philosophy.

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