(At the end of this article a quick gallery)
Perhaps funded in 1839 by Blo Bzang Mchog Grub Rgya Mtsho, the monastery is located near the today Ribu, at the north of Bar Khams.
The Tibetan traditin of Dza’godgonpa monastery is the one of Jonangpa, which between his most important masters has Dolpopa and Taranatha.
Typical of this tradition are the practice of Kalacakratantra rituals and the Gzhan Stong doctrine, which along of Tibetan Buddishm’s history have been at the center of filophical contrasts.
How reached the monastery
Sichuan is the best direction for the travelers that likes Hiking, Mountains and the colors of ethnic minorities.
We arrived in Aba county because we wanted to climb a mountain that according to my friend F. was supposed to preserve an ancient Tibetan monastery of Dza’godgonpa.
In order to reach the monastery we had to change 3 different vehicles and then walk over some little path hidden in the woods, the mountain is 4,000 meters tall, but we are not 100% sure yet we will find the monastery, but we are confident because we foresee the roof of a little stupa from the valley.
On the way we meet an old man telling us that we are going on the correct direction and that now just few kilometers areseparating us from the monastery. It’s getting darker and we are glad to know that perhaps we might find a place to spend the night.
Soon we hear the barking of dogs, we reached the top. The view form here is splendid, fresh and silent. I regret already that I didn’t brought my professional camera with me.
The monastery is quite bigger than we expected. We end in the main square, where in few minutes we are greeted by a little group of kid monks.
We don’t know yet how they will react to our presence. In Asian culture, especially for the high mountains or nomadic ones the guest receives a lot of attentions but some times he is soon sent back.
The kids instead are very friendly (perhaps they are used to the visits of pilgrims or other monks ) and they starts to show us around the monastery. We realize how well preserved is the monastery in its architecture and the details of its mandalas. It please us also to see that the monastery is actually expanding, perhaps thanks to the donations of the kids families (some of the kids we are coming from quite far provinces of Sichuan.
After a quick visit we are escorted to one little house to have some rancid-butter-tea.
We spend the night here, surrounded by kids monk, all of the ages between 12 to 17.
They are really curious about us, perhaps we are the first foreigners they met, surely that close. We decide to show them pictures of our families and Italy and one of them which come from the valley below shows us the pictures of the wedding of his big sister. We joke about our features, they show us to have good sense of humor than us when one of them arrived late for dinner “Look! He is the reincarnation of a master of our temple!” but this is just a joke.
Rancid-butter-tea tonight is free flow and has been constantly offered to us and the one of the kids monk, later we will found out to be the one hosting us, starts cooking for us. Rancid-butter-tea is typical of nomadic and high-plateau cultures because highly nutrient and keeps the body constantly warm and hydrated. Continental climate is in fact more dry that European temperate climate.
Outside the little house the dark is absolute, no light are coming from the front valleys, just a few starts are escaping from the clouds, a dark night I haven’t see for years since my staying in China.
Time to time more people come just to say hello, and our conversations goes on in a funny way because we don’t speak their dialect and their Chinese in not very good, even though they know how to write it.
Generating the hilarity of our young friends we realize that we chose the hardest path to reach the monastery, while there is another one, more recent, which the monks usually cross by little motorbikes to reach the closest village. We decide to follow their suggestion and to use it for our way back.
The conversation and the jokes keep till late and I fall asleep exhausted under so many blankets, outside it’s very cold.
The morning in the monastery
When I woke up in the morning it’s snowing and the panorama is beautiful.
I notice that the young monks are not dressing much, just a hat. The one that hosted us in his room, is very young and tell us about how he decided to chose the monastic life.
His family is from a valley a few days from there and his family is quite supportive. The new monastic educative system allows him to came back to his family time to time. His room is very simple, just few bags of wheat, a big sack of potatoes and some dried meat is hanged on the walls. He has a little space where he has a small laptop to communicate with his family.
Few more monks from the night before join us for breakfast and invite us to join to their class, which will start at 9:00. I’m surprise that here the monks are waking up quite late comparing with others from the valleys .
The class is very tiring for us, the air is fresh and we can’t take part to their redundant prayers. It’s quite funny to see our new friends regularly checking on us with the tail of their eyes. We can tell that for youth experience that perhaps they are wishing their classes to finish soon so they can spend more time with us.
After around 20 minutes we decide to leave the room to have a quietly a look around… and to don’t create troubles for our hosts!
We are a bit glad to have a few hours just for us to explore the location.
We came back before the end of the classes, just in time to see the young monks training in their dialectic skills. In my previous experience I had only the chance to “spy” from far this exercises of dialectics of Tibetan doctrines.
This is a common exercise for the all the Tibetan Buddhist schools to prepare the future to been able to defend their positions and to understand which part of the teachings is not yet clear to them.
As for the past, the monks are required to travel even for many months away from their monastery and prepared to front different schools interpretations of the teachings.
The defending part is usually seat in the lotus position, while the one “attacking” is standing, around all the other curious students sustaining the points two parts. The “attacking” part make use of laud words and sentence is followed by a single, strong and sharp clap of the hand.
After a few minutes we thanks our little friends and we take our path back to the first small village.
We enjoyed a lot the place and we hope to came back there one day.