An unexpected welcome

Dinesh had been very silent during the few days of the trip. But now, he was the local expert and began to talk to us. On the way from Trongsa to Bumthang, he said we might want to stop on the main road to look at a very nice monastery. Since it was on the way, we agreed. I thought we had seldom made a better decision on this trip.

Reading about the place later, I think we had reached Chakhar Lhakhang. It must have been close to five in the evening, because a large crowd was leaving. The mist rising from the valley behind, and the deep calls of ravens in the gathering dusk gave the place a wonderful feel.

The novice monk at the gate told us that the main shrine was closed, but we could still walk around the garden if we hurried. The place was small, and there seemed to be little to do. Monks were busy closing up, and we turned to go. As we were stepping out of a gate, a novice came running and told us that the master wants to talk to us. Anything for the master, of course. We followed the monk to an upper floor of the building, where a fairly young master waited for us.

He asked us where we were from, and when he heard that all of us were from Mumbai, he nodded. "I thought you were Indian", he said. "The Guru came here from India. Would you like to see more of the monastery?" We were happy to. The master told us that we could not take photos of what he would show us. We passed through galleries with paintings dating back from the 15th century: beautiful panels in luminous blue and gold showing the Buddha meditating on a lotus, interspersed with those of Padmasambhava on a tiger.

We passed through the passages connecting the monks’ quarters to the main shrine. The shrine had a statue of Padmasambhava, the original Rinpoche, and his wife, Tashi. She was the daughter of the local King who had called Padmasambhava to Bhutan. The hall was lined with masks and hats used in the tsechu. When I started to ask him about the masks he seemed a little annoyed. I realized my gaffe, and let him tell us about Padmasambhava.

He offered tea which we declined, saying we still had to go and find a hotel. He gave us his blessings, and we walked out feeling we had left the last homely house.