Often an unplanned detour opens a whole new world to you, and sometimes a chance visit to an unknown place can change the entire mood of your travel. A traveler will easily identify with these feelings. Not many people include the Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lödrö Institute in their itineraries when they visit Himachal pradesh. In fact, very few people are even aware of its existence.
But while travelling on the pretty, narrow roads through the tiny town of Chauntra in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh, you do not realize when the dissonance of the everyday market scenes is replaced by the harmony one often associates with spiritualism. For a long time, you travel through fragrant fields and houses, from where Tibetan faces gaze at you with such good-natured familiarity that you feel that the land and the air are both opening their arms to you. As you leave the houses behind, a blissful anticipation grows in your heart and a red building finally breaks through the horizon and gradually begins to take a shape.
The colour red isn’t usually associated with peace and tranquility. But one look at this building and your perception of red changes forever. The majestic building, which is the monastery, presides over the sprawling grounds, surrounded by the green hills and resonant with the chirping of birds and the gushing of wind in the trees. In the circular dormitory, a lone monk sits against the pillar, engrossed in his scholarly exploration of the theories of Buddhism, or perhaps English, which is taught in the institute with a vision to enable the Buddhist teachers to spread the teachings of Buddha across cultural and linguistic borders. There is such concord between the Institute and the surroundings that it is difficult to imagine what the landscape would have looked like before the institute was constructed hardly a decade back. The Tibetan way of life seems so prevalent that you have to force yourself to remember that the institute was inaugurated as recently as 2004, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and several other lamas and dignitaries.
While sitting on the steps that lead up to the entrance of the monastery or while clicking pictures, it is easy to lose yourself in the serene surroundings. But it is important to remember that this complex isn’t really on the tourist circuit and is primarily an educational institute so there may be a chance that the tourists may not be granted permission to enter on a particular day or at a specific time. But at other times, if you are fortunate, you may even get an opportunity to enter the monastery and walk barefoot along the wooden desks where it is easy to conjure up the images of mystical monks engaging in their holy discourse. The symphony of colours all around carries you up to the magnificent, imposing statue of Buddha, surrounded by intricately carved leaves and golden Buddhas in various poses.
Even though this encounter doesn’t come as a surprise, it still retains the power to inspire you with awe and, if your mind is receptive, a chance to realize how miniscule we actually are in the larger scheme of things. One leaves this place either speechless or on a spiritual high that only a long, meaningful interaction with nature can induce.