We started at the same time in the morning to visit Drepung Monastery located at the foot of Mount Gephel. This is one of the “great three” Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet. The other two are Ganden and Sera. The explanations of the guide are spot on and we are learning a lot about Tibetan Buddhism, from traditions to beliefs, prayer meanings to symbol meanings. All is very interesting for us, and more because its coming from a native Tibetan who was a monk for 4 years in his youth years.
The view of the city is amazing!
Drepung was the largest monastery in the world, and housed 7,700 monks, but sometimes as many as 10,000 monks. Since the 1950s, Drepung Monastery, along with its peers Ganden and Sera, have lost much of their independence and spiritual credibility in the eyes of Tibetans since they operate under the close watch of the Chinese security services. All three were reestablished in exile in the 1950s in Karnataka state in south India. Drepung and Ganden are in Mundgod and Sera is in Bylakuppe.
We visited the kitchen, it was unique, it had tubes to make butter tea, a Tibet special tea made of Black tea, milk and butter (people say it does not taste good but we will have to try it soon).
About 40% of the old monastic town was destroyed after the Chinese arrived in Lhasa in 1951, though luckily the chief buildings including the four colleges, the Tsokchen and the Dalai Lamas’ residence were preserved.
For lunch, we walked to a local tea house to eat Momo soup; it was absolutely delicious and great for Eitan upset stomach at the time. He thinks he is allergic to the altitude sickness pills, but he need to keep taking them to survive Everest Base Camp.
During lunch, we sat with our guide who has the ability to consume the entire bowl of soup in approximately two minutes. We have seen that for him eating isn’t a pleasure but more just a way to fuel his body quickly. He eats almost the same thing every day and probably spends a maximum of 5 minutes each day actually eating. Also we asked if he had any questions about where we live and despite his in depth knowledge of Tibet he knows virtually nothing of the outside world. He didn’t know where the US or Mexico were and had never heard of Christopher Columbus.
The next stop was the Jokhang Temple very close to the hotel, this is the place we first visited when we arrived in Lhasa but we never went inside. Tibetans, in general, consider this temple as the most sacred and important temple in Tibet. The temple is currently maintained by the Gelug school, but they accept worshipers from all sects of Buddhism. The temple’s architectural style is a mixture of Indian vihara design, Tibetan and Nepalese design.
The oldest part of the temple was built in 652. In the next 900 years the temple was enlarged several times with the last renovation done in 1610 by the Fifth Dalai Lama.
The Jokhang was founded during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo. According to tradition, the temple was built for the king’s two brides: Princess Wencheng of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. Both are said to have brought important Buddhist statues and images from China and Nepal to Tibet, which were housed here, as part of their dowries.
From the roof of the temple you can see the Potala Palace.
We then walked for dinner at a more upscale Tibetan food restaurants with most of the tour guys. Eitan was ladies’ man tonight as you can see!
Tomorrow we start our pilgrimage to Everest with our first stop, the city of Shigatse!!
Bonus Pic Of The Day: Have you heard of baby diapers? the Chinese have not. Instead, kids use this special pants with a hole on their butts. The result? poop everywhere! welcome to the third world!