Tawang valley in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh is wrapped with a hulking mountain range which always seems to cast special magic on the mind of travelers. The entire valley is a patchwork of stunning mountain ridges and vast fields – so beautiful that every moment you find yourself awestruck. And when you are not being enthralled with its natural beauty, you are captivated with the Buddhist prayer wheels of Monpa pilgrims wearing a traditional black-yak-wool overcoat.
Well, there are many reasons to visit Tawang, but the prime reason why it stands above the crowd is that it is home to the world’s second largest monastery – something that makes Tawang exclusive, and culturally rich.
Located at 10,000 feet with a commanding view of Tawang River, Tawang monastery is one small city in itself. It is an ideal epitome to some 500 monks, many of whom are small children. Their sole place of refuge in the monastery premises where they learn and follow Buddhism.
During my visit to this monastery and a small conversation with a senior monk, I found that in Buddhism they believe that a child is capable to follow ‘Lamahood’ when he is mature enough to walk on the path of compassion – which, in reality, is the very essence of their religion. The conversation was soon accompanied by a small incident which further validated the belief and left me inspired to practice compassion and love in my own life.
I don’t remember his name but the message he left me with was something indelible. As I stumbled upon his cute novice face and started with my routine photo shoot accompanied by questions like where he came from and what he’s learning in the monastery, we found a spider crawling on the floor.
I have seen kids generally foreboding and running away in fright in such situations, wanting someone to kill whatever is causing them distress. But this little fellow went from carefully catching hold of this spider and releasing it away from us, with an arresting smile on his face. When I asked him why he did so, he struggled a bit to put this forward and said: “because we are humans and we are meant not to harm others”.
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” Ibn Battuta
For a kid of his age and in an atmosphere away from his parents, following a forced routine – showing such love and compassion for others, in my opinion, was a tall order. But I guess that’s what monastery teachings and the knowledge they infuse in you are all about.
I’ve often heard Buddhists talking about wisdom and compassion but witnessing such a small child practicing it with such innocence was simply overwhelming. What do you think? Let me know in comments.