A call from heaven – that’s Tibet to me, writes Urvashi after her recent journey together with Anuragi to the top of the world. (You can view the three slideshows of photos taken by Anuragi in fullscreen mode.)
There is a song I often sang: “I am on the top of the world, looking down on creation,” and, geographically, Tibet is on the top of the world. Writing about this journey feels very overwhelming because I want to live and relive those moments again and again!
It’s the middle of April 2017 when Anuragi tells me that our permit to visit Tibet has been granted. We both are like children making lists of the necessities required for traveling. Then it’s off from Delhi to Kathmandu, obtaining the travel permit, boarding the plane to Lhasa. I feel my body completely relaxing, my eyes hardly blinking and am sitting with folded hands throughout the flight. The moment we land, I feel a strong energy powering me; I feel being led to clear the immigration formalities, to collect the baggage, and in no time we are out of the airport, under the clear vast sky, moving towards the sacred land to touch and feel the soil with love and gratitude.
On the drive from the airport to Lhasa city I am spellbound. Sky, clouds, mountains, plantations appear like my best of friends and I am greeting them with tears.
It had been suggested to take the arrival day easy and become friendly with the high altitude. With the immense excitement of having arrived in Lhasa, we listen to our hearts rather than to the suggestion and go out to take a stroll to Bakhor Street and Jokhang Temple (the most sacred temple for Tibetans).
Our travel plans were well coordinated with a local travel agency, who had been informed about our interest in visiting monasteries in Central Tibet. Hence our journey took us from Lhasa to Tsurpu Monastery, Nenang Monastery, Namtso Lake, Reting Monastery, Drigung Til Monastery, Tidrum Nunnery, Ganden Monastery and Drak Yerpa.
The next morning we venture out to visit the summer palace, Norbulinkga. The place is so beautiful; gardens with flowers that are unique and perhaps flowering only in this paradise! The rocks and stones are fascinating. The experience to walk here is like vipassana. Every step in those surroundings brings me to here and now.
On the third day, we visit Potala Palace with a throbbing heartbeat… Our guide is very well prepared to let us know the history of this place and I am living those moments of history which our guide narrates. We are so fortunate that an elderly monk meets us and takes us to the Stupa to the 13th Dalai Lama. This Stupa is located on the lower levels of Potala Palace and only very few people are taken inside. The place is so charged that I cry with gratitude and still now, I can feel my heart beating. The monk at the Samadhi gifts me a mala with white beads, which is now sacred to me and I often wear it on my right wrist.
That same afternoon we proceed to Sera Monastery. Though all the monasteries have been rebuilt, this monastery looks old and I can imagine thousands of monks living and meditating here once upon a time. While there, we witness monks debating in the open courtyard.
The next morning we are driven to Namtso Lake (which is one of the three holy lakes in Tibet). En route we visit Tsurpu Monastery, which is the erstwhile seat of the Karmapa, and then to Nenang Monastery, the seat of Pawo Rinponche. He is 28 years old and presently in a meditation retreat, located high on a mountain. He has been in silence since January 2017.
Standing outside the monastery, I lift my head towards the clear sky above and am surprised to see a complete rainbow circle surrounding the sun and there my inner whirling begins – bliss, joy, ecstasy…
We finally continue through the interior to Namtso Lake, which is a challenge as several patches of the road are very rough. We pass grazing yaks, cows, sheep and horses who all seem so friendly; very few cars are on the road. Touching an altitude of 17,000 feet above sea level, strong winds give us glimpses of flying without wings. Never before have I seen so many rocks in different shapes appearing alive in nature. Once at Namtso Lake, I immerse my hand in the water that gently flows from my palms and leaves me with pure and serene silence.
From Namtso Lake we continue on the next day to Drigung Til Monastery; the drive is breathtaking. Majestic mountains, a transparent river and barely anybody else driving on the dirt road! The flowing river appears like a mirror of my being.
We have a stopover at the famous Reting Monastery, where still a few monks are in residence, keeping the energy moving. The Dalai Lama once said: “When I actually arrived at Reting Monastery [in 1956], and came to pay my respects before its most important statue, I remember that, for no particular reason, I became very emotional. I felt a powerful sense of having in some way been long connected with the place. Since then, I have often thought of building a hermitage at Reting and spending the rest of my life there.”
Drigung Monastery is still lively and vibrant. We observe young monks practicing musical instruments in the open. The monastery has an open sky burial where the bodies of the deceased are offered to the birds and vultures. After visiting the main temple of the monastery, we are taken to a place with two stupas; the place feels charged. The monk who accompanies us offers his mat for us to sit there silently witnessing those energies. After we leave the monastery, local Tibetans start smiling and nodding their heads – one woman walks up to share chocolates with us.
Moving on, we visit Tidrum Nunnery where we see a woman praying, looking so charismatic, serene and blissful. Sitting close to her fills me with a calm and serene energy, forgetting time and space. When I get up to leave she greets me with a beatific smile.
On the last day of our stay we drive back to Lhasa, not without visiting the mystical hill, Drak Yerpa, with its 108 caves and many small shrines, some of them dating back to pre-Buddhist era. What an amazing powerful energy! We take time to meditate and feel the place. We also get to see the open ground where the Dalai Lama addressed the devotees. Many enlightened persons are said to have meditated in this place.
In the evening we walk to Jokhang temple to pay our gratitude for the abundant gifts we are showered with while prayers are happening inside the main shrine of the temple. To our surprise, we are asked to come inside, while the monks are changing the clothes of the idol, Jowo Shakyamuni. This idol is said to have been personally blessed by the Buddha himself. Spellbound again! Tears, love and laughter… all mixed together.
A little later we slowly walk the Kora (circumambulation of temple/stupa) of Jokhang temple. My white-beaded mala (the gift from the monk in Potala) breaks and the beads drop all over the place while I stand still and watch this happening. I am thinking that perhaps the work of this mala is over but to my surprise several people start gathering the beads and one person approaches me with a ziplocked bag and all 108 beads inside. A miracle!
My heart full with love, we move to a nearby small lane which is crowded mainly with elderly Tibetans. Suddenly, one lady, perhaps 60 years of age, takes my hand and hands me a necklace. I resist taking it, telling her I don’t need to buy anything, but she puts in my hands and says something in Tibetan and moves away, holding a prayer wheel in her hand. This feels like another wondrous happening from existence. It takes me a while to let all this sink in and then I run to hug and thank her. I had heard a lot of similar stories previously to our visit but this is one I have experienced, and am touched by such mysteries.
I bow with love and gratitude to existence for having made this journey possible. On the flight back home I feel I am returning from a planet unknown, unknowable. It took time for body, mind and soul to be completely back in Delhi.
My love and prayers to the Tibetans!
Anand Urvashi, a Delhiite who trained as an interior designer, and Calcutta-born Anuragi, a specialist for stainless steel applications, took sannyas in the early eighties. They met in 1981 in Chandigarh during Osho’s birthday celebration, got married in 1984 and now live in New Delhi.
Urvashi has been introducing Osho and his meditations in Tihar Jail (India’s largest prison) for a long time. She regularly participates in Oshodham’s major events and visits Nisarga and Osho International, Pune. Besides dancing, she loves yoga, meditation, walks in nature and taking care of their home.
Anuragi’s work takes him frequently to China and Europe, and Urvashi loves to join him whenever she can. He loves exploring the places of Zen and Tao masters in China, and is deeply rooted in Tibetan culture. Anuragi is new at photography and enjoys his latest interest playing with colors and painting.
All photographs © Anuragi