We are struck by the number of pilgrims and the wealth of the rooms containing quantities of large statues and relics. On the right-hand side, there was a large chapel containing the chortens or burials of the former abbots of Sakya although slightly smaller were, as in Potala or Tashi-lhumpo, covered with gold leaf.
Abstract= We leave Rasa, visit the monastery in the vicinity and pass Tso la pass before taking a valley which leads us to Samye G. Then we pass Lhartse G before reaching Chuchar.
Rasa guesthouse. After having taken our breakfast with soup, etc. we hit the road again travelling towards Tso la pass.
Two kms further, we discover, overhanging the road, the small monastery of Rasa. It is to be rebuilt.
The old monk is the only survivor of the old monastery which was destroyed by the Red Guards. He lives with 4 young monks whom he educates when they are not preparing concrete. The land becomes a desert. We reach Tso la pass at nearly 4537m high.
From the top of the pass, the view of the Himalayan range is hidden by a light ribbon of clouds.
We pass down a rather broad valley rapidly negociating a few bends.
At the bottom we arrived in a broad cultivated plain where we took a fork towards the S in order to visit the monastery of Sakya. This section of road was under repair. We passed several villages before discovering the city.
In front of us, the new city with its broad streets bordered by Tibetan houses adjacent to the powerful walls of the large monastery, whereas over the Northern bank of the river, the old city and its 11th century small size temples are disseminated among the dwellings. We lunch in a small restaurant belonging to the monastery which forms the angle of the street, while waiting for the monastery opening hours to commence at 14h00.
The Dukhang is one of the largest in Asia with its 5000 square meters and its 40 pillars of solid cedar 16m high and more than 5 feet in diameter. One in the center is named the tiger pillar as the legend tells that it was hung bt a team headed by a large size tiger, 20 feet long (from nose to the tail end)
In the Dukhang we also find large gold statues of Buddhas. It was an abbot named Sakya Pandhita who in the 13th century introduced Tibetan Buddhism to both the Mongolian and the Chinese' court . This resulted in a long period of peace with China and this area received amount of gold between the 13th and the 16th century before Gelugpas (Tsongkapa) imposed the last reform of Buddhism and the Dalai Lamas settled in Lhasa. Sakya lost its importance then.
In a side building, on that day, the great lama gives his blessing to the pilgrims. He is very honoured because he has completed three retreats in meditation caves (of 3 years, 3 months and 3 days each).
There is in his eyes an expression of infinite bliss and compassion. The pilgrims come and incline themselves in front of him. He leans then towards them and directs a breath on their forehead in order to transmit to them some of his knowledge and his wisdom. He invites us to sit down beside him and we have much time to observe the scene. Doing this shows that he knows the limits of his power and his humility. One side, the pilgrims which pass successively in front of him seem humble and seek forces to persevere in good deeds, and on the other side, the Lama Saint seems completely indifferent to the comfort and marks of respect which are bestowed to him. There is in his eyes the mirror of a world which escapes us and only exists in Tibet in men of such importance. I return the reader to the statements made by the General Younghusband when he left Lhasa after his discussions with the Regent.
We crossed the river separating the old city from the new with the intention of visiting a chapel and photographing a series of large white chortens.
We leave Sakya and drive to the Brahmaputra valley. A few kilometres before the entry to the Chinese city of Lhartse, a road on the right carries on to the N towards the old Tibetan city of Lhartse.
Here the valley of the Brahmaputra river narrows and a rock approximately 200 meters high sits in the middle of the valley. The fortress (dzong) in ruins stands on the top of the spur.
We cross the village before arriving at the monastery.
The monks guide us into the Dukhang.
In a chapel a mandala prepared with color powders.
On the first floor we enter 6 chapels of meditations and have an excellent view of the ruins of the dzong at the top of the nearby spur. In the opposite side of the Brahmaputra, on the mountain slope, monks show us three meditation caves. We attend from the floor an end of year school festival given by the pupils, and their parents in a large square just below. The monks of the monastery tell us that their Rinpoche escaped and is living in France.
We take a photograph of the group. The monks offer tea and tsampa. After the visit, we turn back towards the Chinese city of Lhartse, or Chuchar for the Tibetans.
The guesthouse run by Tibetans is located at the eastern side of the city. There is a large interior courtyard with rooms on each floor. We dine around a Tibetan table, in the courtyard, close to the kitchen. We walk downtown and glimpse the last shops within the market before they close their flaps. I vainly try to telephone to Monique. Later, using the telephone of the hotel, I get again an answering machine.