Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Holiness (Updated)

I found this as I was sorting my pictures.

Somewhat difficult to explain, but this picture gives me a lot of "feel". It's serenity, calmness and balance written all over the pilgrim's face. I'm touched.


It is probably hard for you to understand why this picture meant so much to me without sharing with you the story behind the prayer wheel and the pilgrim's journey.

While in Tibet, I saw many of the pilgrims carrying prayer wheels of different sizes and spinning them in clockwise direction every now and then. The prayer wheel (转经轮)has a sacred meaning as Buddhist scriptures are inscripted on it. By spinning the wheel once, it is as if you have recited the Buddhist scripture one time and accumulated good karma.

A pilgrimage is never easy. Those pilgrims I saw in Lhasa have probably travelled miles on foot, just to get to holy Potala Palace. Sometimes, on the deserted roads in Tibet, I saw pilgrims resting by the road, drinking butter tea from their thermos flask before they continue with their journey. And this journey would probably last many months. Very often, the whole family will be travelling together and it is not unusual to see children and babies, wrapped in arms, in the party.

The pilgrims are mostly nomads who will embark on their pilgrimage trip only during the winter season. This is because when the weather is still good (spring & summer), they will be busy farming, harvesting and grazing their sheeps and yaks. It is only during winter time, when farming activities have stopped that they will leave home to come on this religious journey.

What really moves me is the firm religious belief and peserverance of the Tibetian pilgrims. They could travel so far, and some kneeling and praying along the way, just to get to some monastry in a distance place. In life, they have already so little and yet the pilgrims will bring home made yak butter to add to the oil lamps in the monastry and offer tokens in cash to paint gold on the Buddha statues. I don't know what the Christians will say about this, but I am deeply moved by their actions and faith.

The Tibetians believe in after life and reincarnation. This is their motivation to do good and pray religiously, so that they can be reincarnated into a better life form in the next life. For a simple wish like this, there are so much to give. While I may not fully understand the meaning of all these, I have certainly been touched by the Tibetians.

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