a monastery in the Himalaya

After lunch we went to visit the monastery up on the hilltop. As the path ascended, the lines of prayer flags increased — long strands of white, red, blue, green, yellow, sweeping across the sky when I looked up, and across the rolling fields and clouds in the valley of Lho when I looked down. The story is that when the wind blows, it takes the prayers up into the sky.

The view below became lovelier with every step. Even before we got there I could understand why gompas are built on hills. The tranquility washed over me. I could see some monks on a hill below in the distance, dressed in red, building something or moving stones. As we got closer to the top, I could hear a continuous, energetic chanting. It sounded like children’s voices…and it was. It was about fifty children studying in the monastic school. Little boys and girls, all dressed in red. They were studying Nepali, English and some language of the lamas. They will all grow up to be monks and nuns. They are from the surrounding villages in the valley. They were enchanting. Beautiful smiling faces. Their recitations, though done in the carefree, spirited and vastly un-serious manner of children, were hypnotically beautiful and every bit as spiritual as the most intentioned song.

The gompa itself is exquisite. A finely crafted pagoda-like structure surrounded by other small buildings (living quarters and the school rooms). It is carved and painted down to the most minute detail — intricate designs and vibrant colors. I stood there and thought about how beautiful and saturated Asia is. I thought about what it would be like to be a monk, or one of the children studying. What a different life. So different that, when I try to imagine it, I don’t even know where to start. It is incredible that we are all human beings, but born into such vastly different worlds. Still, our lives and experiences are like delicate venn diagrams — we each exist in and know our own distinct spheres, yet there is a field of overlap simply because we all share the condition of being human, and we all live in this universe. We all eat, sleep, laugh, cry, make love. We all breathe. We all know what happiness is, what worry is, what loss is. We all cherish the sun. We all depend on water. We all seek connection, meaning, and peace. The people I saw today, though leading very different lives than I do, are all doing so to fulfill those needs, just like I am. Different paths carrying out the same purpose. Many and varied choices, small actions, behaviors, beliefs — all driven by the same things: love, curiosity, the will to live. We are many small beings, but all of the same source. All of our stories make one story. I thought of this today, surrounded by these monks and children. People, like me. Searching, like me. My family on the hill.

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