Skip to main content

Temple visit

It was strange day to visit a lamasery. Lhasa has been closed off and there were reports of gunfire and worse in the Tibetan capital. It was a surreal time to be marching past trinket and incense stalls with Buddhists buying up big to worship at Yonghegong.
A friend of mine coined the expression the llama face after the South American animal's habit of pouting and humpfing to show both discomfort and unhappiness. Many of the lamas we saw knew this face as they shuffled about attending altars and avoiding eye contact. I asked one about a photo and his besuited friend helpfully moved him out of the frame.
In one side temple an exhibition promised the whole history of Buddhism, but gave a random collection of dusty statues. The centrepiece depicts an older incarnation of the dalai lama who wore a wispy beard and had eyes that followed you around the room.
Still, it's here in Beijing that many Buddhists come to worship, bending low as the burn incense between their palms unaware of the smoke and mirrors politics around them. I made an offering of a mandarin at an altar and said a small prayer. While we watched a monk scolded a naughty child for running over a prayer rest. Feeling bad, he went over to teh altar and grabbed a piece of fruit and offered it to the child. He seemed to be keeping his karma up just in case.