Looking around the Shrine Room

December 6th 2008

The shrine room is huge and I am starting to relax and look around from our seat in the sea of monks and the murmurs and constant chatter of the lay community and children that spill out the back of the massive shrine room onto the veranda. I can’t tell you how ornate the space is—it is just so much color and symbolism. Photos and video as they come will help, and I hope they will start to convey something of how alive the wall-to-wall-to-ceiling frescos are, how vivid the huge statues make this space. Because the main temple has just been completed, everything sparkles, and because western construction methods have made the galleries and windows wide and open, there is so much light on everything.

As I start to relax in the shrine room the noise is what gets me. The front half of the room—the Sakyong, Jigme Rinpoche and so forth on back through a row of distinguished meditators and yogis, the khenpos and monastic officials, the local leaders off to one side of the temple near the front, the westerns on the other, and the older monks in between—that half of the shrine room is relatively silent. But the back half of the room, the rest of the four hundred monastics on to where many lay people sit, and on out to the veranda where a great many people camp on rugs with their children—this part of the room is a constant ocean of sound. Somehow all of this is some sort of strange organic whole. The noise of conversation, kids squealing, the occasional tin cup being dropped on the marble floor by a then startled young monk all is taken in stride thanks especially to a very good sound system booming out Namkha Drimed Rinpoche’s powerful speech, occasionally punctuated by drums and the shrill unearthly harmonies of gyalings, the Tibetan trumpets. It’s more than most of us conceive of being able to deal with in the west at a talk or dathun, but as I said the front rows are silent and focused as are some older monks and lay people in the crowd.

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