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.