Tibetan Pilgrim
On Pilgrimage in the Land of Snows: Visiting the Sacred Sites of Tibet

 Mount Kailash

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Je Kumbum (Chinese name: Ta 'er Si) 6 Aug 2004

Well, arriving in Xining we took a bus and then a shared taxi out to the birthplace of Tsong Khapa. A tourist trap? Yes. But I have to admit that there is the most uncomfortable feeling to the place, very unwelcoming. It seems to get the strongest around the temple built over the place where Tsong Khapa's afterbirth was thrown. The legend says that his mother had a stupa built there originally. Now the stupa, which is a three story silver chorten is surrounded by a temple. It is a very wonderful structure really. But when you go inside you are shoved around by tourist guides shouting out grossly inaccurate stories about Tsong Khapa and the meaning of the various thangkas and statues, or scowled at by monks in charge who want you to leave your money and go. I wanted to do some practice there but I contented myself with circumambulating the building and reciting Migmetsewe's or Manjushri mantras. What to do?

We did meet a very nice monk there though, obviously an exception to the rule which demand scowls rather than smiles. He took me around one morning when Ray was in bed sick with a Kum Bum fever. I enjoyed that because we went very early in the morning and got to go behind the tourist barriers to see things. He also introduced me to some younger monks who were very interested in meeting a westerner who had given up everything to be a Buddhist and who had a good education and had done long retreat. He also showed me a Drolma Temple that had been built from the donations made by a monk there who works as a doctor of Tibetan medicine. He gets a lot of money from his work and instead of using it himself he donated it all to make this temple and lives just in a very poor and simple room. He said that this proves that there are still some true practitioners left! Wonderful story! The rest of the temple complex is full of wonderful old buildings and early in the morning before the buses arrived I walked around and appreciated it all. But the weird sensation of the place was inescapable and Ray and I were rather glad to leave.


Text Copyright © 2004 Christine Skarda