Tibet: Drigung Monastery

Right: Drigung Monastery

My next excursion took me to Drigung Monastery (Drigungtil Ogmin Jangchubling Monastery) about 150 km east from Lhasa, in Drigung district. The monastery was founded in 1179 by Drigung Kyobpa Jigten-gonpo-rinchenpel and is the chief monastery of the Drigung Kagyu (Drikung Kargyu) tradition.

Drigung Til Monastery

At a hight of around 4,600m I often found myself short of breath getting around the hills above the monastery and would stop every 5-10 paces for a rest. The local monks were clearly well acclimatised and showed little difficulty trundling up and down. I found myself stranded in Drigung as the bus didn't seem to arrive. I asked one of the monks when the bus would come and he was characteristically vague about it, "Some days the bus comes, some days it doesn't!" They were friendly bunch though, I think they enjoyed having someone from the outside who they could talk with (albeit in broken Chinese) After the first couple of nights they stopped charging me for accomodation.

Sky Burial

So play the game "existence" to the end
Of the beginning, of the beginning.....

(John Lennon, Tomorrow Never Knows.)

The ancient ritual of sky burial is performed at Drigung monastery and it was my great privilage to be invited to attend one such event during my stay. I don't know much about the origins of the sky burial but I understand it predates the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet. In short the monks cut the flesh from the bones and the vultures are invited to feast on it. The bones are then smashed up, mixed up with the brains and some tsampa and again offered to the birds. Everything must go, anything that remains is burnt and again offered to the sky in a separate ritual. It's a pretty gruesome business though the monks seemed pretty cheerful as they went about their work.

prayer flags

Prayer Flags

Drigung Til Monastery

Charnel Grounds at Drigung Til