All over Tibet we would come upon piles comprised of rock and other things, all carved with Tibetan scripture.
The Potala Palace. The top of the brown section is the home of the exiled Dalai Lama.
I don’t know what it’s like now, but in 1987 a traveler could enter the grand Potala Palace and explore every part of it, including the private residence of the exiled Dalai Lama. The Tibetans themselves entered the palace with great reverence, restricting their activity and maintaining postures of humility. But we were dumb foreigners and at that time completely unaware that there was a man known as the Dalai Lama who had to flee the Chinese occupation of Tibet for fear of imprisonment or worse. We traipsed around the Dalai Lama’s private quarters taking it all in while the Tibetans kept themselves at the entrance and did not enter. Sometimes when you travel you don’t know the real significance of what you’re seeing. The fuller impact of your experience can come much later, as was the case for me in Tibet.
1987. One day when my travel partner wasn’t feeling well and wanted to stay indoors to rest I went out on my own and wandered into Barkhor Square. I followed the flow of Tibetans into the Jokhang Temple and wandered around, watched the lighting of yak butter candles. A Tibetan woman approached me, beckoning with her finger for me to follow. She led me up some stairs and I could hear thumping and a song being chanted by voices. She led me into a room that was under construction. A circle of people — monks, Tibetans and a few foreigners — were singing a song and holding hands and stamping their feet to tamp down the new floor. I joined hands and stamped my feet and giggled and did my best to hum along. The circle slowly turned in a clockwise motion and the floor was gradually set. Whenever I think about the Jokhang Temple I feel gratitude and joy. Tibet sparked my interest in the practice of Buddhism, a practice that continues to this day.