Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Buddhist Gompas and Healing Practices: Nucleus of Ladakhi Lifestyle

Breathing Buddhism

ladakh gompas

The central role of the Gompa was based on the political and military role it had played in the early period. The civil and administrative functions were built on land ownership and supplemented by money lending, trade and mortgages. Most gompas found in Zanskar, an area known for its religious orientation, belong to the period dating from AD 1400. Here are two sects control the gompas, the Drug-pa and the Gelugs-pa.

Gompas have lines of chorten, symbolic structures that often house relics. A good example is the one at Karsha, which as the mummified body of an incarnate monk inside it. the oldest gompa is at Tandi on the route to Zanskar. Called the Guru Ghantal gompa, it had a slanting timber roof, which has been replaced with a slate roof. Another old structure, the Sani Gompa, is very similar in size and construction. Its Kanika chorten, which is said to represent the Kushan emperor Kanishka, is one of the claims of its antiquity.

Related Link

One of the largest gompas, the Karsha gompa, is said to have been founded by Padmasambhava. It has an Avalokiteswara temple with wall paintings that recall the Rinchen-tsang-po period.

phugtal gompa
Phugtal Gompa
The great Phugtal gompa lies off the gorge of the Tsarap river. Its main templs have been built in a cave in the cliff-face above the river. Wooden ladders and platforms lead to the monks’ quarter, which seem to hang in the air. Some of its wall paintings are similar to the Alchi gompa in Central Ladakh. The common theme in the gompa wall paintings is of incarnating Bodhisattvas come to relieve humanity of its suffering.

Ladakhis continue to believe in the efficacy of ancient secret rites of propitiation. Ladakhi folklore warns against the 24 dangers by which a hundred thousand spirits endanger life. nooks, crannies and rocks painted  in mineral tones to ward off the evil eye are visible everywhere. For the same purpose, skulls of dogs and sheep, ibex horns and spears and of course, animistic belief in totems and taboos, cutting across ethnic and religious divides, evolved from the Bon Chos rituals of local tribes.

Related Link

The Drama of Healing

The Amchis practice a baffling mixture of science and mysticism known as swaza or Science of Life. it is said to have originated  at the time of the battle between good and evil in which gods were injured. To heal them, the Buddha is said to have elaborated the Ayurvedic system. Gompa libraries are stocked with the Samans-Chak text that has around 600 remedies based on minerals, herbal and animal products.

The special healing abilities of the Lha are altogether more spectacular. The present-day Lhas are living oracles of the Spirit of Mercy, the Pal-den Lha-mo, depicted riding a white horse in several thangkas. Their occult powers are acquired through several years of rigorous training, the observance of fasts, punishing abstinence and exacting physical control. Knowledge and identification of the causes of both pain and pleasure and their location in the body are essential features of training, together with the learning of proper mantras.

Related Link

Though held in awe and greatly sought after, the Lha-mos (female) and the Lha-bas )male) have no particular hereditary or other claims to their skill. They are perfectly ordinary people of common occupations who through their apparent spiritual abilities, achieve status and local fame.

Recognition the limitations of her skills, the Lha-mo at times refuse to treat certain maladies, preferring to refer the patient to another Lha-mo or Lha-ba, or even medical practitioner.  However, while in a trance, the Lhas are said to have a certain prescience by which they can also uncover obsessions and psychological fears, and even identify thieves and criminals.

The Lha-bas – male healers – are far more dramatic. After drinking vast quantities of chang, they go on a rampage and run the blade of a sharpened sword against their tongues, drawing blood. In this way, it is said, they expel the influence of the evil eye. The sight of a possessed Lha-ba incanting incomprehensible mantras and, in the case of Lha-mo of Sabu, wielding a sharp whip, can make even the most stout-hearted quail. As the rage abates and self-control is regained, the healing begins.

Related Link

Superstitions elaborated by Tantric prescriptions have developed into the equivalent of shastras or rules, which govern every facet of life, whether it is dance, arts, crafts, iconography or even architecture, their influence has given an enduring continuity to these traditions.

If you enjoyed the story, you can…

Get updates and read additional stories on the Wacky Wanderlust Fan Page.
For Sponsored posts and other details, please go to ‘Contact Me’



Post a Comment