Saturday, July 25, 2015

Monastery at Lava

Jamgon Kongtrul Monastery

A soft and cooling air breathed along the solitary corridors. The sunlight  filtering into the prayer hall through  windows tinged the ornamented roof and massive red pillars with a thousand various tints of light and colours:  Universal silence prevailed around. The calm of the moment and tranquility of the place contributed to nourish.the peaceful solemnity of mind. We were the only ones in the vast spacious prayer hall of Jamgon Kongtrul Monastery at Lava, West Bengal.

In 1987 Buddhist community present in Lava offered  about 3 acres of land to the third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche for building a monastery for the local community of lava and now it's a very well maintained monastery thriving with various spiritual activities, discourses, workshops etc.

I had read somewhere that in ancient Sumerian a standing statue with folded hands was placed on the top of a temple high above the village. This statue  in continuous prayer mode reperesented the common who could not get enough time to devote to pray God as he is busy with the activities necessary for his survival, necessary for running his day to day life, In Buddhism the monks living in monasteries and viharas pray on behalf of the common man.

 There were two prayer halls facing each other. These halls were adorned with multi coloured bright and intricate murals and frescos. The images on ceiling, walls, and pillars did not appear to be of merely decorative purpose.  I felt that their significance goes beyond the aesthetic beauty. Each of them tried to impart some lesson perhaps, conveyed some deeper reality. Against the rear wall  were enshrined the idols of  Buddha and others[ Buddhas or Bodhistavas, I don't know] in meditative postures, resplendent in Gold, eyes closed, total calm and serenity exuding from their being. The idols felt so alive. Looking at those faces I felt like being transcended to another realm.

 In between these halls was open compound while on the back was a building in which classes for monks were being conducted. Behind this frontal area down the stairs were residential accommodations of monks and a  room with two huge prayer wheels.Around the room on the outer wall were smaller prayer wheels.

                                                   Residential buildings for the monks.

Inside the room with big prayer wheels. One can be seen on the left side in the picture.

                                              Exterior of the rooms with the prayer wheels,

 A long shot the room with prayer wheels. We can see it at the back end. Behind that lay the Lava town.These white colored bells in row stood on the wall . Below is picture of lower portion of that wall.

 In Buddhism this unique way of chanting prayer/ mantra while going on rotating the wheels.....what does it signifies? Does it signify setting the universal forces in motion? Or it symbolizes  the cosmic rotation of planets on their axis, revolving of all the planets around the sun, on which depends the existence of  our entire universe? All these questions are arising in my mind while I sit at home penning my memories of the travel but when in monastery, be it prayer halls or open spaces questions did not even occur. There it was total acceptance , surrender and serenity. Such was the aura of the place.



I sat on the bench in open facing the distant range of mountains.The delicious wind brought the fragrance of unknown virgin blossoms. The clouds  as if being boiled in a big cauldron rose from invisible valley and hid the distant mountain range, while another caravan of clouds descended from the other end and floated hurriedly to embrace others. The suddenness  of changing forms  and shapes was overwhelming. A divine drama was being enacted on vast open stage and I sat there engrossed, completely forgetting myself, letting myself be merged with it. Felt like a bird soaring high, free and far away.
I had read somewhere that in Tibetan Buddhism white cloud,which can assume any form is regarded as a symbol of mind .It is considered to be the ideal medium to  create the enraptured mind. Perhaps that is why most of the monasteries were established in the lands of clouds. I do not  know much about Buddhism and it's ways but sitting there that day experienced the spell of clouds and abandoned myself to their realm.

When we entered the monastery sky was loaded with dark clouds. Monastery tucked midst the floating clouds looked mystique and unapproachable and while returning dazzling blue sky smiled upon us. Multi colored prayer flags fluttered in wind rising higher and higher. Feathery white clouds sailing across limitless sky invited us to take the voyage to the yonder lands. I returned with my heart full of hope, peace and faith.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

.Lava is 32 kms from Kalimpong town. The closest railway station is NJP at a distance of 120kms. Taxis and shared jeeps are easily available there which takes about three 3.5 hours to reach lava. Bagdogra is the nearest airport.


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