Tuesday, April 24, 2018

In the Land of the Divine Madman XI

May 23, 2003

Early start to Tahksang.  Drove into a beautiful pine forest then walked over a fence ladder into a clearing and up to a house that looked of Josie Wales.  A bow maker lived here, in this dark wood and stone shack surrounded by wooden fence posts.  

We rode for the first half of the trek, on little pack horses that weren't much bigger than ponies.  Mine was well behaved, but the others stopped repeatedly for no apparent reason.  The trail went through a forest awhile then broke into an exposed forest road.  While no horseman, I felt really good up there, at one with my animal.  At the prayer wheel, I was happy to get off the small wooden saddle covered by a single thin blanket.  The horses too seemed relieved. Exhausted, panting, they lay in the ground and rolled in the dust.  

The Japanese couple from Thimphu showed up around then, guided by a small black dog they called "Kuro."  I walked with them and Clarke, stopping occasionally to look up at the temple, majestic against the cliff.  I got a good look at the moss hanging from the trees,  Up close it looked like Tibetan writing.  

At the top was a temporary village built for the men working on the temple's restoration.  Clarke gave a balloon to a little girl and I played shakuhachi, drawing a crowd of workers of their lunch break.   We continued on a little but had to stop at the police post and wait for Dorjee and the permit.  I played shakuhachi a bit more, read Milarepa poems and basically stared in awe at the structure across the ravine.  In front of me was sheer drop of hundreds of feet.  Looking down made my balls shrivel, a vertigo certainly a side effect of Ken's death.  What was worse was watching the young workmen on break, playing around on the roofs above a certain fatal fall.  A waterfall cut the crevasse that enabled this temple to be built.  (Later I saw the falls dropping far below the temple.  Even now, I write this beside a small stream in the valley, no doubt of the same source.)  

When the permit arrived, we dropped down a shale staircase, broken in some places, into the crevasse, prayer flags between us and the drop. Passed the waterfall, the force of which turned a prayer wheel, then up the steep opposite side.  The front of the temple was an unfinished structure, and workmen pounded noisily on the roof above the main entrance.  Clarke burned a fire in a brazier which filled the narrow passage with smoke.  There were only four shrine rooms, all of which seems new with no thankhas and only a single figure in front of a simple altar with butter lamps.  These rooms were around narrow sets of stairs rather than open courtyards like in dzongs.  We sat in the cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated, definitely the best preserved room.  We read a blessing written spontaneously by Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche when he stayed here.  He describes a few geographical features of this area.  I had expected to find power here, but it was the least focused meditation of the entire trip.  I guess it was too built up and I'd expected too much.  We stopped in one final unfinished room where four deities were being sculpted.  There were wires where limbs and nails will later be attached.  There were squares cut into the chest, through which treasures will be passed to fill the empty cavity.     

Descended in a light rain.  Past workmen lugging and shaping stones.  I peed about a foot from a sheer drop, the urine hard coming since my balls were near my throat.  As I did, I heard a series of shouts and was nearly thrown over the edge by a bucket rushing quickly along a cable that brought up supplies.  Heart racing I moved on,  again followed by the black dog with a single white paw who'd followed me most of the way up.  Dropped quickly down to the cafeteria that marked the midpoint.  I sat and watched a mist come in and coat the mountain, leaving the temple the only thing visible.  Across the valley, sunlight filled a small patch, in the exact same point as yesterday and throughout the afternoon.  Yuun Kenshō?  (悠雲見性、my late son's Buddhist name, meaning small glimpse of enlightenment through the clouds.)  

Had a quick lunch and met an Indian couple from Delhi, currently on a trek.  This place had a trek lodge feel, with mountains and rain and bells rung by a water-spun wheel.  The rest of the descent went quickly, punctuated by occasional views of Tahksang.  A few women had set up blankets of souvenirs to catch tourists on the way down.  A symptom of Japanese tourism no doubt.  

I sat at the bottom, listening to a little stream and watching cows and dogs pass by.  One calf was unusually interested in me, grazing close enough to touch.

At dusk we drove up to Drukyel Dzong.  From the end of the road I looked up the valley, Tibet a mere day's walk away.  We walked around the ruins, above the ever darkening valley.  Through a gate then into the dzong itself, turning brown and quite overgrown.  At this time of day and in this light, there was an air of mystery, especially with the proximity to Tibet.  I could feel the age of the earth and just how old humanity is.  I passed through a standing gate, graffiti scratched into the walls.  the courtyard was covered in grass, trees pushing through the remaining buildings.  A group of small structures, probably monk's quarters, lay in a row of ruin.  I climbed up on a crumbling wall of the highest tower and looked for a long time into Tibet.  At the other end of the wall, some prayer flags hung limp, tattered and torn.  A meditation on impermanence.  After nearly two weeks of viewing Bhutan's splendor, a culture vibrant and alive and mystical, to finish this trip at dusk against ruins was the perfect metaphor.  

On the turntable: Andy Partridge and Harold Budd, "Through the Hill"
On the nighttable: Noel Barber,  "From the Land of Lost Continent"

No comments: