Tuesday, September 28, 2010

To the Temple of the Divine Madman.

Our morning in Punakha continued with a visit to Chimi Lhakhang, a monastery dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley who is affectionately known, in this part of the world, as the Divine Madman.  I love that moniker!

Lama Drukpa Kuenley was an acclaimed Buddhist master and in some sense, a cultural icon, who lived in Bhutan in the 15th century who is mostly remembered for his unconventional and at times outrageous methods of teachings....usually with strong sexual overtones and inclinations that were in complete disregard of the social norms of his time.


Under the guise of uncontrolled lust and apparently thoughtless womanizing, one of Drukpa Kuenley’s greatest gifts to his devotees was....children. Through children, the gift was life itself.  Thus, the monastery that is dedicated to his memory is popularly considered as the *temple of fertility* because the Bhutanese believe that Lama Drukpa Kunley's blessings give birth to life.

Chimi Lhakhang is perched on the top of a small hill that is surrounded by nine khas or villages. Two of these villages flank the pathway that leads up to the monastery.

As usual, we were deposited by the roadside and followed Tenzing. Where would we be without Tenzing? Lost, that's where :-)

Tenzing led us down a small, narrow dirt path, in between houses and shops. I had heard about the painted penises on the sides of buildings but up until today, I had not seen any but oh....there were plenty to see on this walk. Oh my.

The paintings are a reflection of the affection and devotion that Bhutanese have for Lama Drukpa Kuenley.They do so to ward off evil spirits and promote fertility.









At times, the path was nothing more than a *river* of well trodden rocks.  I, the ever so klutzy one, paid special attention walking on the rocky stretches of the path.





The dirt path wound its way through fields of red rice. 


















It is harvest season and there were people out in the fields cutting down rice.  A cut tree log provided a flat to thresh the rice plants against to free the grains from the spikelets. No need for fancy equipment.

The path took us, through the rice fields, into a green valley.  In the far distance, a river wound its way through the cleft between the mountains.

It was short walk to the base of the hill the monastery sits atop.  As I looked up the hill, I realized it was a bit of a climb.  Oh my lungs.  Will I make it without huffing and puffing to death?  Only one way to find out but I would take it slowly.


As I got started on the climb up, I crossed path with this woman with a young girl strapped to her back.  You can't tell from the picture but she was so friendly and was more than willing to pose for me.  She flashed me a wonderful smile and I managed to capture a picture that I just absolutely love!


I slowly trod up the path, up the hill to the monastery.  Except for Merle, I think I was the last to arrive.  So sad.

I made my way to enter inside the courtyard.  I have no idea what was going on with me on that visit but after we got back to the van, I scrolled through the photos on my camera and realized that I had not taken a single photo....with the exception of the opening shot for this posting....of the monastery.  Maybe it was because I didn't receive my blessing from the monk because at Chimi Lhakhang, the monk happily blesses you with a wooden phallus when you enter the temple.... most certainly, a very unusual blessing. *wink*.

But luckily, I did have a small enough piece of mind left to shoot some video so here it is....Chimi Lhakhang.



Inside the temple, it was the usual displays of statues, lamps, bowls of holy water except for a collection of wooden phalluses....quite a few of them in fact.   For the Bhutanese, this temple is THE place to come pray for children.....childless couples coming to receive a fertility blessing or couples coming to seek protection for their.  Apparently, many Bhutanese will vouch that their prayers will be answered.  Nobody knows exactly how and when the tradition of seeking fertility blessing started in Chimi Lhakhang but the power of faith keeps it alive.

Aside from all the fertility blessing stuff,  Chimi Lhakhang is a traditional Buddhist monastery and there were plenty of monks of all ages wandering through its grounds.  I found out that novice monks, living and studying here, have to spend 8 years receiving their monastic education here before they can *graduate* to studying in any of the monastic colleges in Bhutan. 

Since I was the last to make it up to the temple, I didn't want to hold everyone else up so my visit was extremely brief.  I left a small token in the donation box and left the temple.  With my shoes back on, I scurried to meet back up with the rest of the gang.

Next on the agenda. Lunch at a restaurant in one of the villages we walked passed on our way up to Chimi Lhakhang.  After that walk, I was definitely hungry and ready to eat!!