The Look Out
Our first morning in Gangtok found us viewing the Do Drul Chorten, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery
The monks, looking out on their world, appeared to be just as curious as we were.
The community mainly consists of young men in their teens and twenties: some are mere “schoolboys”.
Many are Tibetan refugees.
They were polite but seemed largely indifferent to the presence of pilgrims and tourists.
Instead they appeared determinedly focused on the middle-distance, staring out onto whatever was happening around them.
My assumptions were challenged.
I had expected the monks to be sitting in silent meditation, chanting prayers or reading sacred texts.
But their time seemed largely unstructured.
Although silent, the very strong sense of communication between them was almost palpable.
It was like stepping into a boy’s boarding school during a moment of high drama.
Initially I wondered if the young monks felt like exhibits in an exotic zoo. Perhaps their “look out” was a defence against the constant scrutiny of outsiders and their cameras.
But I saw exactly the same phenomenon in all the monasteries we visited.
Whether it’s a search for distraction, their game of interaction, or part of training in mindfulness, I cannot tell.
The monastery is not an enclosed order.
And although I could not understand what was happening, this community’s strange, unsettling atmosphere had some sort of magnetic attraction.
It defied expectation and explanation.
In my mind, the monks remain inscrutable,
waiting and watching from their window on the world.
Pictures taken at the Do Drul Chorten, Tibetan Buddhist Monastery and Institute of Education.