I walk slowly while moving the prayer wheels, large metal-plated cylinders containing sacred mantras,  clockwise. Behind me, shuffling feet. An old Tibetan man barefoot, muttering prayers, a rosary running through his fingers. Soon he is past me. With every turn of the prayer wheel, karma is meant to be burned and good karma created, someone had said. I don’t know if that is true but why miss the chance?

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© Anuradha Prasad 2019

My friend, the Buddhist, has brought me here, what is my second visit. Her happiness to be in a place she considers home is contagious. The first time that I was here, I was battling choices made, good and bad, and what in retrospect I see as a spiritual wake-me-up which was none too pretty, no halos, no hallelujahs. The second time, I am wary of what losses the visit will bring, forgetting the gains that are on the other side of every loss.

I stop to take in the open fields with occasional trees held together by strings of colorful prayer flags. It is a different world. Just four hours out of Bangalore. It is a world of the displaced. I am here in Bylakuppe, en route to Mysore and Coorg, the largest Tibetan settlement in India after Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama has found a home after the Chinese occupation of Tibet. A country uprooted that has laid roots here, made a home. Only the old perhaps still remember a home of another name, of mountains, of leopards, of snow, of earth where they may have scraped a knee.

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© Anuradha Prasad 2019

At another turn, there is the window of a monk’s room. On the sill, a pot of money plant with lush heart-shaped leaves creeping up the grills. One more turn, monks are playing football. There is a smattering of tourists. Seekers of sights or spirituality, who knows. The path has taken me around the Namdroling Monastery. It ends and we enter a surreal silence. Unlike the main areas of the monastery, here it is quiet. A row of white stupas and one that stands apart.

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© Anuradha Prasad 2019

My friend, the Buddhist, tells me that the stupa possesses healing energy. Dainty tea cups are placed around it and bottles of pills. I rest at the gazebo. Large black bowls that are placed in the hand of the Buddha are drying in the sun. An old Tibetan woman gives me a toothless smile. Some monks are teasing a kitten, purring and rubbing itself against ankles beneath maroon robes. Their laughter is easy.

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© Anuradha Prasad 2019

I walk past the Tara temple, the replica of the Palyul Monastery in Tibet, the turkey strutting on the lawns, monks debating, and the Dharma Wheel and the portrait of His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche. I walk past the highlight of the monastery, the Golden Temple. Where three Buddha avatars – Buddha Amitayus, Sakyamuni Buddha, and Guru Padmasambhava – rise up to sixty feet. Where they stand resplendent in copper with gold plating, from within them emanating, the energy of relics and scriptures. Where snow lions stand guard. Where deities of peace and wrath war. Where dragons twine around pillars. I walk past the temple that rung with the vibrations of gongs and chants, now in silence in the late afternoon of a high sun and a wheeling hawk.

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© Anuradha Prasad 2019

There is a strange kind of feeling in my heart. The past and future are hushed. The heart is still, still but aware, still but alive. I realize it could be peace. On the other side lies wrath.

As we drive away, past a nunnery, past slender trees arranged uniformly and cutting space into narrow bars of sky, I turn back. Up in the green canopy, I see a white crane, hunched, in contemplation.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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