The evening before I left Takmachik, Stanzin, Jigmet Dorge, Jigmet Chopel and their cousins, took me and two friends to the gompa. Stanzin got the key from someone and we made our way up the hillside, past the line of little prayer wheels. The little prayers wheels are set in the wall at shoulder height and as one walks past one can send prayers spinning to the universe. For the last few days Phutsok Dorge had been spending a lot of time at the gompa. I was happy about this, I thought at this time we needed all the help we could get.
Stanzin unlocked a large wooden door. We entered a big sized room, with aged wooden posts and flooring. The facing wall contained lovely, golden statues of Buddha. The things in the room felt dark and worn and old. The Buddhas glowed with a strong, golden hue. The children and Stanzin performed honouring movements. I walked forward and went to each Buddha in turn. The atmosphere is very respectful and I felt touched by it and very emotional. A cousin picked a length of wool about the size of his thumb from out of a vase and started working with it. Jigmet Dorge took a cloth and was wiping a small golden goblet. Stanzin asked me to go outside and wash my hands. When I returned she gave me a box of matches and motioned me to the little goblet which now had a woollen wick floating in a sea of almond oil. I lit the lamp. It was on an aged wooden altar in front of the Buddhas. I plucked hairs from my head and took money from my belt and left them with the flickering lamp on the altar.
We each took time to give thanks or petition the Buddhas or offer reverence. It was very spiritual. Although I cannot be regarded as a Buddhist, I felt something fill my heart and mind, and was awed and humbled by my experience with these people in the holy space.
In our own time, we made our way back to the open courtyard in front of the main door. I looked out over the houses of Takmachik to the swollen Indus. I looked out to the immense mountain ranges stretching to meet the blue infinity of sky. I felt the power of the land and the sky and the Buddha.
Stanzin and her family group took me to three different temple rooms inside the gompa. Each had a different feel, but each was part of an overarching whole. Stanzin made an almond oil lamp for me to light in another of the temple rooms. I asked for protection on my journey. At each altar I left three hairs from my head and money. I wanted to offer something of myself.
We processed through each temple room in turn, and locked each door behind us. Our journey was slow and organic and reverential. I felt time immemorial in these rooms. They were foreign to me, but I was not a stranger there.
Eventually we made our way out the gompa. I knew with certainty I would be looked after on the journey that lay before me. I could sense the Buddhist God in the skies over Ladakh.