Thiksey Monasteries in Ladakh

Thiksey Monastery

Thiksey Gompa : was built some 600 years ago and consists of 12 levels ascending a hillside, culminating in an Incarnate Lama's private apartments at the summit. The gompa contains 10 temples; below the monastery itself are chapels and "houses" of monks stretching down the hillside. There are about 100 monks of the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism living here. After entering the main courtyard, to the immediate right and up several steps is a new temple containing a large Buddha statue. This Buddha, 15 meters tall was constructed in 1970 to commemorate a visit to Thiksey by the Dalai Lama. The statue is the largest Buddha figure in Ladakh and took four years to construct. It is made of clay and covered with gold paint. Inside, the statue is filled with both the Kandshur and the Tandshur - volumes of Buddhist canonical texts. The statue was made entirely by local craftsmen and represents Maitreya, ("compassion" in Sanskrit) the Buddha of the Future. The prophecy made of the Future Buddha is that the world will be undergoing such chaos that the Future Buddha will teach compassion to the people. Located directly above this temple is a small narrow room used as a schoolroom for local boys. Here the lamas instruct the children and some are later selected to become lamas. Traditionally, Ladakhi families donated one son to become a lama, although this practice is gradually disappearing.

Returning to the main courtyard and going up the steep steps directly across from the new temple, on the far wall will be murals of two Tibetan calendars, with the "Wheel of Life" depicted between them. The central portion of the wheel has representations of a snake, a bird and a pig, symbolizing greed, desire and ignorance, respectively. Buddhists believe that it is crucial to overcome these earthly tie in order to become enlightened and escape the cycle of death and rebirth. The whole wheel is held by Yama, a black figure who, after people's death, determines their future fate based on their deeds during their lifetime. To the right of these murals is the main prayer room which contains racks of books along the left wall. Many of these books are handwritten or painted. Recent editions are done by block printing, as was previously done in Tibet. This procedure is still used for printing the holy books; the translated word of Buddha, called the Kandshur and the translated commentary compiled by the Lamaist religious teach Bu-Ston (1290-1364 AD), called the Tandshur - a 225-volume commentary on the Kandshur. Wooden painting plates are made for each page and pressed by hand. Older and more important editions are not printed with black ink on white paper, as is usual, but with gold ink on black lacquered paper which is then decorated with Buddha figures. In a small room behind the main prayer room is a large image of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha) flanked by two smaller Bodhisattva images. On the left is the 11-headed Avalokitesvara, a form of the Buddha corresponding to the Hindu god Shiva.

Exiting the main prayer room, partially down the staircase to the main courtyard is a steep, narrow set of steps to the left. While climbing these steps, one can see several temples devoted to various guardian divinities.

Near the summit and to the right is a small temple devoted to Maitreya, the Future Buddha. The wall decorations consist of a series of small images of lamas, each placed in a separate wooden rack with thankhas behind.

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