Sep 08, 2010
The streets before dawn strangely still. Stirring soldiers with balaclava faces. Shifting in their coldness. I almost feel sorry for them. The early pilgrims getting into line. Hot bread cakes and butter tea. Old women, stooped, holding spinning mantra wheels shuffle through the darkness. Once the dawn breaks the rising sun sends before it an even colder wind. The temperature drops further. Entering the temple, pull aside the heat capturing drape to low light stillness. Crimson cushioned benches. Smoke blackened walls. Rows of butter lamps. Bowls of pure water. Pyramids of canned fruit. Oblations to the thousand, thousand Buddhas. A conch is blown and shaven-headed nuns begin to file in - Tashi Delek, Tashi Delek - and arrange their robes, stow away their bags and settle cross-legged in rows. Rearrange. Settle once more. Yawn. A tinkle of bells and the chanting begins. The rocking. The recitation. The yawning, the coughing, the nudges and smiling. Money is passed from hand to hand, shoulders tapped, notes passed on and tucked away in the folds of robes and the fabric that wraps the wooden columns. The whole thing is so human. So mundane. But the chanting is continuous and elevates this morning gathering into something only slightly less than perfection.