Monks and Monasteries
After checking out Leh, we spent a day scootering around the surrounding towns and visiting a few nearby monasteries. Picture below is the Hemis Monastary, the largest – and wealthiest from what we gathered – Buddhist institutions in the Ladakh region, with it’s sphere of influence expanding into local politics and even national land management of massive preservation areas such as the Markha Valley.
When we turned onto the main road leading to the monastery, we encountered an impressive lone stupa marking the beginnings of the Hemis grounds. Still about another kilometer west of the Indus river, completely hidden from the main roads, we drove into what seemed like uninhabitable land. The narrowly paved road slowly turned around the first towering rocks, revealing lush farm fields and the Hemis institution appearing carved into the walls of the Stok mountain range of the Himalayas. The Buddhist sure know how to pick some incredible spots of worship.
While inside the grounds we learned about the Drukpa lineage of monks and their current leader, or Gyalwang Drukpa, a big environmentalist, gender equality activist, and biker. Back in 2016 he joined hundreds of Buddhist nuns on a biking mission from Kathmandu, Nepal, to the Hemis monastery, helping impoverished communities along the way and spreading information on women’s rights and environmental conservationism. He seems pretty chill – would hang out.
NAT’S EYE VIEW: HEMIS MONASTARY
We ended the day at the Thiksey Monastary, where we spoke to a lovely monk who sat with us for a bit overlooking the Indus River. He told us about the Buddhists belief in the cycle of rebirth and the Wheel of Samsara.
He also, somewhat sourly, told us Ladakh is miserably cold in the winter and they eat a lot of barley in monastic life.