Tuesday, 24 March 2020

The Protector of the North

Namtöse at Jonang Gompa, Aba, Sichuan Province,
China, 20160222, photo by BK.
Four protector deities, lokapalas (Wylie: 'jig rten skyong) protect the four cardinal directions of the compass around Mount Meru, the axis of the world in the Buddhist world view. Mount Meru is not located in our universe, it exists outside reality and time.
The protector deities have fiery haloes and are shown against a background of clouds on murals and thangkas in Tibetan-Buddhist iconography. In Chinese Buddhism they are shown as three-dimensional larger-than-life statues.
The Protector of the North has an orange- or yellow-colored face and carries an umbrella as a symbol of his sovereignty. His Tibetan name is
Namtöse at Kopan Gompa, Kathmandu.
20130722, photo by BK.
Namtöse (Wylie: rnam thos sras). His Sanskrit name is Vaishravana, but this name is used in Tibetan-Buddhism as well. His Chinese (pinyin) name is Duōwén Tiānwáng. He is the leader of the four protectors of the cardinal directions,

Confusing iconography
Namtöse's iconography is somewhat confusing. As Namtöse he is depicted on murals in temple's entrance halls as one of the four protector deities, orange-faced and holding an umbrella in his right hand. Namtöse is also thought of as the god of wealth and in that aspect/capacity he is sometimes
Yellow Jambhala, with at the bottom the four
protectors of the cardinal directions. Source: Kwai.
called Yellow Jambhala (dzam bha la ser po) and as such is portrayed holding a citron, the fruit of the jambhara tree, in his right hand. Namtöse is also known as Vaishravana and in that manifestation he is seen riding a snow lion, sengay (Wylie: seng ge) but is again holding an umbrella in his right hand like Namtöse. Namtöse on temple murals is never seen riding a snow lion. The snow lion always has its head turned sideways so that it appears to be facing back to Vaishravana. It obeys iconographic rules: the snow lion is white with dark green manes and various tufts of dark green hair on its body, notable on the ankles. The snow lion is a mythic celestial animal and is a symbol for Tibet's snowy mountains.

One face, two eyes, and two arms
In all three manifestations he has one face, two eyes, and two arms, while holding a mongoose (ne'u le, a kind of rat) in the crook of his left arm, which spits precious jewels from its mouth, symbolising wealth. The shape and colour of his face are similar in all three aspects, usually yellow, sometimes orange or a shade in between yellow and orange.
So in Tibetan Buddhism, he is known by the three names: Namtöse,
Vaishravana. Source: Kwai.
Vaishravana, and Yellow Jambhala. But is each name referring to the same character? I would say not. He is one persona with three forms, aspects, shapes, appearances, manifestations, and these three aspects differ in small details from each other.
Yellow Jambhala sits on a lotus. Vaishravana sits on a snow lion. Namtöse is sometimes shown standing, sometimes seated. When Namtöse is seated, it can be on a throne, on a tiger skin, on clouds, on a moon disc, sometimes in lotus position, sometimes with knees dangling. When Namtöse is shown standing, it can be on a moon disc, on a smooth grassy surface, or sometimes on a spot that suggests height which can be interpreted as on top of (an indistinct) Mount Meru. Apparently Namtöse's lower torso does not obey strict iconographic rules, and depends on local style or artist idiosyncrasy.
Sometimes two of his aspects are seen on the same mural or thangka, which proves that Namtöse, Vaishravana and Yellow Jambhala are not the same character.
The five Jambhalas. Source: Kwai
The real iconographic confusion begins here. Both Vaishravana riding a lion and Jambhala have five different aspects/manifestations in the colours white, blue/black, green, red, and yellow/orange.
Only the yellow/orange manifestations of both are appearances of Namtöse.

White three-eyed Jambhala riding a dragon.
Source: Kwai.
Jambhala's five differents aspects are all mostly similar in posture and appearance, with a mongoose in the left arm and an object in the right hand, but the white and the blue/black Jambhala have three eyes. Green and Red Jambala are sometimes depicted with three eyes too. Red often has three faces and four arms. White Jambhala is often seen riding a dragon. Green holds a skullcup in its right hand, White a golden sword, Yellow a lemon fruit, Blue/Black a gem box, Red a norbu jewel. These are no strict descriptions, variations exist.....
All five Jambhala's are gods of wealth, but each has its own practice and mantra.

Vaishravana has many different aspects, not all of which are riding a lion. But for clarity's sake I will only pay attention to those who are riding a lion. As such he is the leader of the Yaksha's (nature spirits) and also the leader of the four protectors of the cardinal directions.
The lion of Vaishravana's other colored aspects is not always green with white tufts of hair: it can be white with red tufts of hair, white with grey/black tufts of hair, blue with grey/black tufts of hair,
Vaishravana riding a blue lion with White, Yellow,
and Blue Jambhalas at the bottom. Source: Kwai.
light grey with brown/golden tufts of hair, white with blue tufts of hair, golden with greyish tufts of hair. It seems that there is much liberty among painters about the snow lion's colours, and no uniformly prescribed iconography
Generally all Vaishravana's are seated on their mount with two feet dangling to the left, facing the spectator, all having an umbrella in the right hand and a mongoose in the left arm. Blue/Black Vaishravana is also seen riding a blue horse (cf. HAR).

"There are three divisions in the study of Vaishravana iconography" (HAR www.himalayanart.org/search/set.cfm?setID=5383, consulted 20200324). Each category apparently is based on interpretations of different kinds of Buddhist (tantric) scriptures. I am only paying attention here to the first category, Vaishravana as part of the four protectors, which is based on narrative descriptions in the early Sutras.
Vaishravana, riding a red-haired snow lion. Source: Kwai.
HAR Himalayan Art Resources (www.himalayanart.org)
Iconographic image collection of the author.

Bernard Kleikamp, Leiden, Netherlands, 20200324

Vaishravana, riding a red lion. Source: Kwai.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

David Teniers

David Teniers (Antwerp 1610 - Brussels 1690), was a Flemish baroque painter who worked at the Brussels court. He is known as David Teniers the Younger, to distinguish him from his father and his son both called David and both painters.
He was married to Anna Brueghel, a daughter of Jan Brueghel sr. One of the wedding witnesses was Rubens.

He painted landscapes, portraits, genre paintings and still lifes. Like his more or less contemporaries
the Brueghel dynasty and Avercamp, he specialized in one type of painting, which he, with minor variations, painted repeatedly over the years. That painting is a village fair in front of an inn on the countryside with a bagpipe player standing on a barrel providing the music.
Flemish Village Fair ("Vlaamse Kermis") (1652). Brussels, Royal Museum of Fine Arts.
Of course I didn't know this when I first saw one of Teniers' Village Fairs with bagpipe player in
the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium in November 2009. I only found out later.
I remember spending some time admiring the painting. I'm a sucker for musical instruments on
In December 2016 I visited the Pushkin Museum in Moscow to see the Raphael exhibition.
Whenever I visit a museum I also always check out the galleries with Netherlands' 17th c. genre
paintings, hoping for some Rembrandt or Jan Steen, and I wasn't disappointed.
But there was also a Teniers, a Village Fair with bagpipe player. I liked that one enough to make a
photo of it. Back home, I checked it against Teniers' Brussels painting, and indeed, they were
thematically quite alike. I didn't think much else of it then yet.
Village Fair ("Kermessa") (1650). Moscow, Pushkin Museum.
That changed when I visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in September 2018. In the niches
with masterpieces surrounding the Nachtwacht (The "Night Watch") was another, slightly
different version, of Teniers' Village Fair with bagpipe player exhibited. Yay. I was excited.
I had an Aha Erlebnis.
Peasant Kermis (Boerenkermis") (1665). Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum.
In October 2018 I was on holiday in France. Elma and I visited the Musée des Beaux Arts in Reims.
Their collection of Netherlands' genre paintings wasn't really impressive, but there was a real nice collection of late 19th c. Oriental scenes by French painters. And hidden in a corner, positioned there almost as an afterthought, was a Village Fair with bagpipe player by Teniers. It was as if the sky opened and a ray of sunlight lit up the painting. I had an epiphany. I couldn't see anything else but the painting.
I must have stood there for 15 minutes or more, watching from various angles near and far, left and
right. The room guard eyed me suspiciously. No matter, I was hooked.
Parish Fair ("Fete de Village") (n.d.). Reims, Musée des Beaux Arts.
In October the Venduehuis der Notarissen ("Auction Room of the Notaries") in The Hague,
Netherlands, sent me a link to its November autumn auction: European Fine Art. Sometimes,
like I did this time, I check out the catalogue for no apparent reason. Lot no. 5 was a painting
"Follower of David Teniers (17th Century) Feasting Peasants". It was estimated at €1000 - €1500.
Was this a sign or mere coincidence. Was a power from above telling me to bid on it? Eventually I
decided not to, mainly because I wasn't convinced it was a real Teniers. The inn was too small, the
crowd too thin, the painting too coarse, the bagpipe player didn't stand on an a barrel, and the
bagpipe sounded offkey.
It eventually was sold for €1000.
Feasting Peasants (17th. c). The Hague, Autumn Auction of the Notaries.

I am curious when I'll run into my next Village Fair.

addendum 20211203.

I came across my next Village Fair by David Teniers on 20210910 in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel, Germany and it was titled Bauerntanz vor dem Wirtshaus (Peasants Dancing outside an Inn).
This "Village Fair" is considerably larger than the other ones. The scene with inn, dancers, and bagpipe player on a barrel is augmented to the right with a country scene and to above with clouds. It kind makes me suspicious that the other Village Fairs originally may have been larger as well, but for some reason were cropped.
Later that day Elma and I had a nice meeting at lunch in the museum restaurant with art collectors  Eyk van Otterloo and his wife Rose-Marie, who had specially come to the Gemäldegalerie to view Rembrandt's Saskia, after having attended the opening of the Vermeer exhibition in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden the day before.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The Protector of the East

The most important room in a Tibetan-Buddhist monastery is the lha khang (lit. house of god), which is the main hall or shrine room. This is where puja celebration takes place. The main hall is closed with imposing doors and the lha khang is usually only open for celebrations, which can be as often as three or four times daily.
New Dabzang Gompa, Boudhanath, Nepal, 2018
The entrance hall is situated before the main hall. This is where people take their shoes off before entering the main hall. The front and sometimes the sides of the entrance hall are open to the outside, so the entrance hall is always open to the public. The walls are for the most part covered with murals depicting scenes and symbols from Buddhist mythology.

In Buddhist religion Mount Meru is the axis of the world. Meru is located  beyond the physical plane of reality, in a place of perfection and transcendence.
Sometimes one can see a representation of Mount Meru among the murals in the entrance hall.

Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet, 1996.
Four guardian deities protect the four cardinal points of the compass around Mount Meru. They have fiery haloes and are shown against a background of clouds. The North has an orange colored face and carries an umbrella, the East has a white or pale face and holds a musical instrument, the South has a blue face and carries a sword, while the West has a red face and carries either a stupa or a snake. Their Tibetan names are Chenmizang, Yulkhorsung, Namtöse and Phagyepo. They have different names in other languages.

The Four Protectors of the Cardinal Directions are always present in an entrance hall of a Tibetan-Buddhist monastery. They protect the monastery from harm. The protector of the East and the protector of the South are on the left of the entrance doors, and the protector of the West and the protector of the North are on the right.  Often a huge prayer wheel is also found in or adjacent to the entrance hall.
If a monastery is small and an entrance hall is lacking, the protectors are found on the walls of the main hall.

Kopan Gompa, Boudhanath, Nepal, at corner of stupa, 2018.
As a musicologist I am naturally drawn to music, musicians, and musical instruments. So from the day in 1996 I entered the Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet, and first met Yulkhorsung (Wylie: Yul-‘khor-srung), the Protector of the East, I was hooked. I've been photographing Yulkhorsung ever since and I now know that Yulkhorsung and his fellow protectors are not only found on murals in the entrance halls to monasteries. They are also found on the four square corners of stupas as three-dimensional figurines. When an imaginary line is drawn from the center of the stupa to a protector at its corner, it should coincide with that protector's cardinal direction. The four protectors are also found in Chinese Buddhist temples and monasteries as larger-than-life statues. They are found as small statues in artisan's workshops in copper or clay for later acquisition by worshippers to give a place in their own house altars. And they are found
Giant rock painting beside road S203 Xining to Repkong, Qinghai, China, 2016.
in and on numerous other Hindu and Buddhist places: temples, fortresses, royal palaces, monasteries, rock paintings, thangkas.

Yulkhorsung holds a stringed plucked lute. In Tibetan-Buddhist monasteries the lute is sometimes a dranyen. In India it is often a vina. In China it can be a pipa.
Bod brgyud nang bstan brnyan ris kun btus, loosely translated as "Compendium of Buddhist patterns and images of the Tibetan people" is an image book with black-and-white drawings with examples for thangka and mural painters. It was published by Gansu Province Nationalities Languages Press, 2008.
For a Westerner like me, this book is handy to use as an iconographic aid. It has thousands of example images, from clouds and dragons to the six symbols of long life and the protectors of the cardinal directions. Each page is subtitled in Tibetan and English. Here I find an archetypal Yulkhorsung, that oddly is named Dhritashtra (which is the Indian name for the protector of the East, actually the correct spelling is Dhtarāṣṭra), although in the Tibetan spelling the name is written correctly. I'm showing here also the page with lute variations. Compare these lutes with the photos, you will see remarkable similarities.
The Yulkhorsung from the drawing book is facing to his right. There are variations in posture, where he is facing to his left, or straight forward.

East and South Protectors (with red face!), Aidao Nunnery, Chengdu, Sichuan, China, a Chinese Buddhist Monastery, 2016.

East and South Protectors, Tharlam Gompa, Boudhanath, Nepal, 2018.

All photos taken by me © 1996, 2016, 2018 Pan Records.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Lama Wangdu

Gelung Wangdu Monastery in Boudanath was located in a side street of Boudha Main Road, opposite the wall surrounding the garden of the Hyatt Hotel. Its official name was Pal Gyi Langkor Jangsem Kunga Ling, but it was generally known as Lama Wangdu Gompa. Gompa is Tibetan for monastery. It was founded in 2000 and abandoned in about 2016.
During my 2012 summer school course in colloquial Tibetan I used to go there regularly. My landlord Sonam Dorjee Choepa was a regular and he introduced me.

Sonam is an adherent of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Nyingma is the oldest school and dates from the eighth or ninth century. Nying is Tibetan for "old". Lama Wangdu Gompa, a nyingma monastery, was a few hundred meters down the road from where he lived, and Sonam used to attend the 6:30 pm chod (pronounced "chö") meditation.
I went to chod with him regularly. I could follow the order of the meditation quite easily, as it was noted down in a handy booklet with Tibetan text and English translations, that I was allowed to copy in the nearby copyshop. But mostly I didn't meditate. I would bring a list of Tibetan words to memorise for next day's class at summer school. Nobody cared from which paper I'd recite. Besides, the younger monks apparently considered the evening chod as routine and an occasion for tomfoolery. Allright, they would recite the words from their books, but they would also throw doughballs at each other.
Young monks playing damaru in the main hall -- 2012
During particular parts of chod recitation, bells and a damaru drum are used. A damaru is a double-sided hourglass-shaped drum with two balls on ropes that are tied to the center. When the drum is turned back and forth, centrifugal force makes the balls move horizontally from one drumside to the other, causing drum beats. The young monks thought it a sport to push each other into their neighbour's centrifugal balls' orbit. Auch.

Chod is a form of tantric meditation, in which the practitioner visualises his body to be stripped layer by layer and devoured by spirits, after which the body is built up in layers again. When the cycle is complete, peace has been made with the spirits. The visualizations are accompanied by recitation, prayer, and ritual percussion instruments.
Sonam Dorjee Choepa meditates not only in the monastery, but also in his prayer room at home or at a burial site. He does so preferably in the evening or at night, because then there's no distraction and the spirits are stronger. "Spirits are present at the sites where bodies are buried. There the  force is strongest." Sonam tells that often mosquitoes are present at burial sites. I ask him if that doesn't bother his meditation. "No", he says, "that helps with the visualisations."
Lama Wangdu giving audience -- 2012
I returned to Boudanath in the summer of 2018. High on my to do list was visiting the Lama Wangdu Gompa again to see if the monks that I befriended were still living there. And I was curious to attend another of Lama Wangdu's audiences and be blessed. At a 2012 audience oil was sprinkled on my head and I received a good luck charm that I was supposed to keep in my wallet, so as to always have money in it. It's still in my wallet and the charm apparently is working. Lama Wangdu also had the reputation of being a strong spiritual healer and teacher.
Closed doors to Lama Wangdu Gompa -- 2018
But when I went there in early July 2018 the monastery doors were closed, and peeking through the slit between the doors, I could not see any activity. I wondered what was going on. Later that day I met Sonam Dorjee Choepa, and he told me what had happened. Lama Wangdu had the habit of spending part of each year in Portland, Oregon, USA, teaching and leading retreats, as can be read on his website (https://lamawangdu.org). But in 2016 he left for good on very short notice. Apparently a note was posted on the monastery door that Lama Wangdu was moving to Canada for permanent meditation. He sold the monastery and took the money with him. The regular chod practitioners of the monastery considered it a shame, they thought he should have donated the money to the poor or to charity.
Lama Wangdu's website looks like no new additions have been made since 2016.
Sonam Dorjee Choepa found a new guru, who lives in a cave in the mountains and who has no possessions. He still goes to graveyards to do his chod and I accompanied him one evening, as of old. He recited, chanted, danced, and I got stung by mosquitoes. The crows sang accompaniment.
Tingri song and dance -- 2018
The Lama Wangdu Gompa opened one day late July 2018 while I was still in Boudanath. Tibetans originating from Tingri area in Tibet had rented it for their yearly reunion and celebration with puja inside the main hall of the monastery in the morning, and Tingri dance and song in the yard the afternoon. I was happy to see that the main hall was unchanged from my memory of 2012. I hope some other school of Tibetan-Buddhism will eventually acquire the monastery.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Pigeons of the Stupa

The great stupa of Boudanath is the largest stupa in the world. Boudanath lies to the east of Kathmandu. It is a sacred site for Buddhists, and circling it in a clockwise direction—kora—is good for one's karma. It is optional to bring in motion the circa 300 prayer wheels that are found in the outer wall of the stupa, hidden by curtains. In Boudanath lives a large community of exile Tibetans.

The immediate environment of the stupa houses a large colony of pigeons, they number in the tens of thousands. All day long people will come and feed the pigeons. Some entrepreneurs have chosen position immediately next to the feeding place with large stocks of grain, that they sell by the cup. Sometimes the pigeons are startled by something and then half of them exit the feeding frenzy and fly up as on command, to be replaced at once by the same number of fresh pigeons.
Pigeons sit on the roofs and windows of adjacent houses, they sit on anything that gives a foothold, they sit on the stupa, but they don't sit on the nearby Tibetan-Buddhist Ghyanghuti monastery.

Why do people feed the pigeons. Aside from the few tourist with selfiesticks who picture themselves with the pigeons in the background and who by the way don't feed, the feeding population mainly consists of young and middle-aged Tibetan women.
No pigeons on Ghyanghuti monastery
For Buddhists life is sacred, they ordinarily don't kill animals and they leave it to the Newari butchers to provide them with meat for their dinners, as not all Tibetans are vegetarians.
So feeding the pigeons must have something to with the reverence Tibetans feel for life. And since Tibetans as Buddhists also believe in reincarnation, they could very well be thinking to feed a relative, or their parents, or maybe themselves in a next or previous incarnation.
Popular belief learns that reincarnation is linear in time, but I'm not so sure of that. I haven't gotten very deep into the Buddhist concept of time, but I've read sources which suggest that reincarnation can be circular, so that a next reincarnation may happen backwards in time. To me this sounds very plausible, because bardo, the intermediate stage between two lives, is timeless.

So what would these Tibetans ladies be thinking when they feed the pigeons. I guess they won't have very deep philosophical thoughts about afterlife and reincarantion.  They may be just doing it out of habit, with a hidden thought of gaining some karma.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Dagelijkse dingen


Voor ik in Boudanath aankwam dacht ik elke dag een blogje te maken. Vergeet het maar, er is gewoon te weining tijd. Het programma aan de Summer School is behoorlijk intensief en de vrije tijd die overblijft steek ik in het volgen van de Nepal Tibetan Lhamo Asoociation en zo nu en dan een kloosterritueel. Zo'n blogje als dit kost me ook al gauw twee uur: één uur om het te schrijven en één uur om de foto's erbij te zoeken en het geheel op blogspot te krijgen

...mijn Tibetaanse huisbaas Sonam tijdens meditatie...
Maar ik zal jullie een idee geven hoe een gemiddelde weekdag eruit ziet. Meestal sta ik om zes uur op. Ik zou graag wat langer in bed blijven liggen, maar het straatlawaai is vanaf vijf uur al behoorlijk en als ik een beetje pech heb, dan is mijn huisbaas al vanaf die tijd ook al aan het mediteren, wat gepaard gaat met trompetstoten, getrommel, zang en geluid van belletjes.
Tussen 6 en 8 doe ik een uurtje Tibetaans (grammatica of woordjes). Er is ontbijt en ik was me. Dat wassen is middels een zg. "bucket shower". Er is geen warm water. En soms, zoals de afgelopen dagen, is er helemaal geen water. In dit speciale geval schijnt het dat er een paar dode buffels waren gevonden in het water-reservoir voor deze wijk, zodat dat gereinigd moest worden. In zo'n geval kan ik met een kopje drinkwater en een washandje mijn gezicht en oksels bevochtigen. Tandenpoetsen gaat ook nog net. Gelukkig heb ik vrienden in het Shechen Guesthouse en kan ik daar douchen. Daar werkt de douche zonder mankeren en er is zelfs warm water. Pure luxe.

Van 8 tot 9 is er Tibetaanse grammatica.
Van 9:15 tot 10:15 is er "drill". In de drill zit je met vijven of zessen bij een Tibetaanse instructeur, die korte zinnetjes voorzegt, die met de eerder behandelde grammatica te maken hebben. Die zinnetjes moeten de studenten dan herhalen, eerst gezamenlijk, dan individueel. En dan komen er permutaties in de zinnetjes, een werkwoord of zelfstandig naamwoord wordt vervangen door een ander. Je mag geen aantekeningen raadplegen en er mag geen Engels worden gesproken.
Van 10:15 tot 13 is er pauze, waarbij de mogelijkheid bestaat om tussen 12 en 13 te lunchen in het restaurant van de Shedra.
...alle zomerschool studenten op de eerste dag--zoek mij...
Shedra betekent letterlijk "kloosterschool". En dat klopt aardig, want de school is gevestigd in het klooster van Ka-Nying Shedrup Ling Gompa, dat onder leiding staat van de abt Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. Hier worden praktijken van zowel de Nyingma als de Kagyu scholen van het Tibetaans Boeddhisme beoefend.
De pauze wordt door de meeste studenten gebruikt om te studeren of om dagelijkse dingen te doen zoals inkopen in de supermarkt of je vuile was weg te brengen of op te halen.
In de grammaticaklas volgen we de opzet van het boek "Manual of Standard Tibetan". We zijn nu zes weken in de cursus en inmiddels bij hoofdstuk 15 aangekomen. We krijgen ook gemiddeld twee keer per week een lijst met ca. 30 Tibetaanse woorden, die je—samen met de behandelde grammatica—moet leren voor de quiz. De quiz is een soort schriftelijke overhoring. Er zijn er twaalf in totaal en het resultaat van de quizzes telt voor 25% mee in je eindbeoordeling.
Het kost mij gemiddeld één uur om 5 woordjes te leren. We zijn nu aangeland bij vocabulaire lijst 12 en op het moment vergeet ik bijna evenveel oude woorden als ik nieuwe aanleer. Hoe heet dat ook weer: de wet van de verminderde meeropbrengst?
...mijn drumleraar Tenzin Namgyal Lama...
Tibetaanse woorden worden niet in Westerse letters geschreven, maar in een uniek karakterschrift, dat in de zevende eeuw is ontwikkeld en sindsdien ongewijzigd is gebleven. Er is een transcriptiemethode, de zg. Wylie-transcriptie, die aan elk onderdeel van een Tibetaanse syllabe een Westerse letter toekent. Je zou dit een letterlijke transcriptie kunnen noemen. Maar die letterlijke transcriptie is niet de manier waarop de woorden worden uitgesproken. Om een voorbeeld te geven: het Tibetaanse woord voor gelukkig is in de Wylie transcriptie skyid-po, maar wordt uitgesproken als kipo. Dat valt nog wel mee. maar wat te denken van bsdad, uitgesproken dè, betekenis: blijven.  Ik leer dus per woord vier dingen: het Tibetaanse karakter, de Wylie transcriptie, de fonetische transcriptie, en de engelse vertaling.

Van 13 tot 14 uur is er weer grammaticaklas. Vrijwel elke dag is er huiswerk.
Van 14:15 tot 15:15 is er individuele les door een Tibetaanse taal-partner. Je krijgt een A4'tje met Tibetaanse zinnetjes, die je moet (proberen te) vertalen. Er moet zo min mogelijk Engels worden gesproken. Soms gaat er wat Tibetaanse conversatie vooraf aan het vertaalwerk.
De meeste studenten blijven daarna nog wat hangen in het Shedra restaurant, om wat te studeren of huiswerk te maken, e-mails te bekijken of een brownie met koffie te nemen.

Op maandag, woensdag en vrijdag van 17 tot 18 uur ga ik naar het gebouw van de Nepal Tibetan Lhamo Association, voor les in de drum-patronen van de Tibetaanse Opera.

Tussen 18:30 en 19:15  ga ik vaak naar naar de cham chod in het naburige Nyingma klooster van Lama Wangdu. Chod is een meditatieritueel in het klooster en het is er heerlijk ontspannend, ik neem altijd een lijstje Tibetaanse woordjes mee om te repeteren. Cham is een dansritueel dat op de binnenplaats van het klooster wordt opgevoerd. In principe is het de ene dag chod en de andere dag cham, maar als het regent, en het regent vaak want het is moesson, dan wordt de cham overgeslagen en is het weer gewoon chod in de grote zaal van het klooster.
...met een sigaartje en een pot olijven in de avondschemering...

Tijdens een mooie avondschemering ben ik een paar keer naar het (platte) dak van het appartementencomplex —waar ik woon— gegaan, om naar de zonsondergang te kijken en daarbij een Italiaanse Toscane Antico te roken en olijven te eten. Het ritueel van sigaren roken en olijven eten maakt me buitengewoon gelukkig en voer ik veel te weinig uit. Thuis in Leiden wordt direkt over de sigarengeur gemopperd, zelfs als ik buiten op het balkon rook.

Om 20 uur krijg ik het avondeten van mijn Tibetaanse amala (lett. "moedertje"), waar ik gehuisvest ben. Het wordt hier donker rond 7 uur 's avonds en de winkels gaan om 9 uur 's avonds dicht. Het wordt niet aangeraden om na negenen nog op straat te zijn, vanwege de wilde honden.
Na het avondeten blijf ik dus thuis, lees nog wat, kijk een aflevering van Star Trek Voyager (die ik op een meegebrachte externe harde schijf heb staan) en ga rond tienen slapen.

Maar in het weekend
ga ik los als een tijger
van changkang* naar kroeg.

• changkang is het Tibetaanse woord voor bierhuis.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Sherpa wedding


This entry—as an exception—in English.

July 6 is the Dalai Lama's birthday. For the Tibetan community, this is considered an auspicious day and a day for celebration.
Not so for the RYI summer school students: they have no day off, but are expected at school at 8 am. The Nepali authorities are very much afraid for Tibetan political demonstrations, and the RYI staff in no way wants her students to get involved in any way.
The Kathmandu Lhamo Association has planned two days of cultural celebrations on the courtyard of the Srongtsen School. On  July 6 a song and dance celebration is planned, while July 7 is for a Lhamo (Tibetan Opera) performance.
My class ends at 10:15 a.m., and at 10:30 a.m. I was at the Srongtsen School. Nobody there.
...drinks and snacks...
I found out later that the Lhamo Association had had to apply for permission for these activities with the Nepali authorities. At the last moment the authorities decided not to grant permission for activities at the Srongtsen School, because that place was considered too large and they were afraid that the activities might get out of hand. So at the last moment it was decided to move the activities to the Chopsang Monastery in Jorpati, a seemingly somewhat smaller place, for which permission could be granted. Everybody within the Tibetan community had heard about these changes through the grapevine. Not me, though. But the doorman at the Srongtsen School told me about it, and I took a taxi to the Chopsang Monastery.
Chopsang Monastery's entrance is after 100 meter at the end of a small side-alley to Boudha Main Road. To the right and left of the alley were easily some hundred Nepali MP with riot gear and shields. But they were laughing with passers-by, which made the impression much less frightening.
...double scotch on the rocks...
The inner yard of Chopsang Monastery to me didn't look much smaller than that of the Srongtsen School, and there were easily some thousand or more people gathered. I listened to speeches for a while, found it hard to find a place to sit and watch the proceeding, and as I had no clue when the song and dance were about to start, I decided to leave. My main interest lay with the Lhamo performance of the next day anyway.

But strolling back on the Boudha Main Road, my attention was drawn by Brass Band music sounds, coming from the back of another alley. I followed my ears to find a band playing at the entrance of a mansion, the clarinet player contorting himself into the most incredible antics. I took my film camera and filmed a bit, until I was approached by a man, who stood bythe entrance and who invited me in. Het told me there was a Sherpa wedding going on inside, and I would be very welcome to join the party. The puja (thanksgiving to the Gods) ceremony had just been finished and the ceremony proper by the lama was about to start.

The Sherpa are a Tibetan ethnic group, originating in Nepal and living in the area around Solukhumbu at the foot of Mount Everest.

I was guided to a round table at the back, and before I knew what happened, I had a double scotch on the rocks in front of me. At 11:15 a.m.!
I happened to have a kurta (a light and fairly neat Indian shirt) in my backpack, and donned that quickly over my smudgy T-shirt.

But this is the story of my life. My curiosity (or maybe just my innocence) has often led me into strange and wonderful situations. I have always been at the right spot at the right time. Who could have expected at my birth that so many fantastic and unexpected things would happen to me. Even my birth was a most wonderful experience.
After spending an hour or so at the wedding, talking to various people, and being offered the white silk khatag welcoming shawl, I had to leave, as my next class was due at 1:00 p.m. My friend at the entrance told me that this was the bride's house, and that the festivities would continue there until 4:00 p.m., after which the party would go to the groom's house for more music, drinks, dance, and dinner.
So I asked, "What about if I come back before 4:00 p.m., can I still join the festivities?" "Sure", he said, "come back whenever you like".

I couldn't wait till class was finished at 3:15 p.m. I hurried back to the wedding, but was delayed a bit, and arrived at the bride's place just before 4:00 p.m.
The band was just marching through the alley to Boudha Main Road, followed by cars with the wedded couple and assorted family and an assortment of walking wedding guest (see film: my apologies for the bad quality, this is blogspot's work, the original is of much better quality). "Too late", it flashed through my mind. I followed the band to Boudha Main Road, where they walked on for some 100 meters, causing a traffic jam in the meantime. I saw wedding guests disappearing into various waiting cars, and when all wedding guests were seated in their cars, the band stopped playing and was about to board a mini-van. I strolled up to them, having gottten acquainted a few hours earlier, and asked if I could hitch a ride. No problem. If 22 persons would fit in a Toyota mini-van, 23 would also fit. I spent a 25 minute ride, standing on the footboard, bent double with cramps, exchanging chitchat with musicians half my age, until we arrived at the groom's house in the Bhatbhateni part of Kathmandu. There the band marched in formation to the ramp leading to the groom's house, followed by the married couple and the wedding guests. (Here is a youtube-link with hopefully a better screen quality than the previous gruesome blogspot video:
-->http://youtu.be/GQ-Ypvf50hU). At the top, we were awaited by several girls, one holding a cup with flour, the others cups with various foods. Each guest made a blessing with the flour, then accepted bits of food from each cup.

The groom's father's house was another large mansion. Drinks and snacks were served on the patio, while there was room for dancing on the roof terrace. I found a group of middle-aged men, all speaking excellent English, with whom to spend time. The groom's dad joined us for a while. I thanked him heartily for having me—an outsider—as a guest to his son's wedding. He smiled politely: "My pleasure".
Wedding guests at the groom's house.
The house was huge and exquisitely furnished. In the staircase framed pictures hung on the walls. One I remember, a picture of mountaineer and first Mt. Everest conquerer Edmund Hillary, signed and autographed "To my friend, from Ed Hillary". I later found that the groom's dad held a post as secretary-general at one of the ministries.

So there I was, enjoying myself, talking, eating, drinking. At the end I was even given a ride back to Boudanath by some wedding guests. But to my regret I have not spoken to bride and groom, I cannot even distinctly remember having met them at all.
The party would continue the next couple of days at a golf resort in the mountains above Kathmandu. The next around 200 guests, most of them immediate family, had been invited. The day after that another 1000 guest were expected.  
I spent my next day at the Tibetan opera performance of the Lhamo Association.  But that's another story.