Sitting outside JiyunSi Tibetan Buddhist temple in Lashihai, painting colors on the scroll while waiting for Eric (our Canadian visitor). Monks approaching me to chat- a mutual curiosity.
A lady counting prayer beads, chanting under her breath, came over to watch me paint. She didn't say anything, but nodded and made cooing sounds of approval.
Later, after she walked away, I asked someone who she was, and they told me that she was the mother of one of the monks, visiting him on site.
A van pulled up, parked nearby. Monks started running back and forth with huge piles of blankets, carrying cardboard boxes, shouting and waving a framed portrait of an older Lamaist. I asked what was happening, and one responded that some of the monks are "moving upstairs."
I asked why, and he gave me an answer that I didn't understand. Most of the ones I asked, told me they lived downstairs. When asked what was the difference, they couldn't explain. When asked if there was division by age, one said, "no."
Together they dragged giant empty steel vats across the stone floor in unison, which created a low humming, droning buzz… echoing through the trees.
I asked what it was for, and they answered: “For garbage!”
When Eric returned, he was happy to announce that he met a guy from Shenzhen at the temple, someone who came up to him and started speaking English.
The man said that he wasn't Buddhist, but he was volunteering there because his wife was Buddhist, and she said that there would be no love if he didn't try doing this thing. He signed on to do six months, but admitted to Eric that he didn't think he could ever be Buddhist.
"All this stuff on the walls… Buddhism is so complicated! I just don't get it," he said.
I thought he should try Daoism or Zen Buddhism; those are much simpler versions of similar philosophies. Tibetan Buddhism is super-complicated. It's flowery, ornate, grandiloquent. Sometimes I see Dongba as her more relaxed, flexible, moderately anarchic cousin.
Eric said that when he peeked inside the temple, where young monks were playing drums and trumpeting long metal horns and chanting, one monk had a balloon and was letting it deflate loudly, mimicking the holy horn-blowing in a hilariously comical way.
To see website chapter on the scroll, check here: Roads to Heaven