|Long way 'round
I watched the man chant in a melodic way, hands clasped in prayer. The sun beat down upon his brown wrinkled face. He wore tattered gray clothes, threadbare shoes, a small white rag on his head to gather his sweat. For some reason his forehead looked rubbed raw and covered in dirt. Tibetans swung their manis as they walked the Jokham pilgrimage route. The man finished chanting and fell to his knees, and using smoothed blocks of stone tied to his hands, slid forward until his forehead touched the stone floor. Ahh, secret revealed. A moment passed, then he gathered himself back up and stood. A 90 degree turn, 3 strides, a turn back, and the chanting resumed.
|Granpilgrims, manis a-swinging
The Lhasa scene reminded me a bit of Thamel, Kathmandu in Nepal. Souvenir shops hawking prayer beads, cheap swords, demon masks, buddha figurines, and whatever else a tourist could possibly want lined the streets endlessly in both directions. Except, unlike Kathmandu, the people walking the street weren't just monks or tourists or locals.
|Om mani padme hum
One image stayed in my mind. Many of the Tibetans looked tired from their journey, it was not an easy trip for a beaten-down farm granny. But as we left the Potala palace, we happened upon one old lady who was making the rounds, shuffling slowly but surely. She asked for money, and my conditioned reflex of saying No short-circuited my brain. I waved her off. But unlike every other begger or tout that asks for money, she gave me the nicest smile I could imagine and just continued her walk. I realized in a beat that giving alms to a pilgrim is far different than giving money to a beggar. She would use it for her journey, to buy water or food or transportation home. As she shuffled away, turning the prayer wheels and twirling her mani, I wanted to run back up and give her something.
|Thank you for the smile