Ten miles from Thimpu, the only capital city in the world where a white-gloved official directs the right-of-way through a central intersection without stoplights, the right way is taught and practiced in the Chagri Dorjeden Monastery. Seated amid ornate wall paintings, hand-woven tapestries and visual demonstrations of circularity and symbolism, this monk’s chanting invokes a simple counterpoint and prepares his mind for meditation.
The beautiful silk fabrics, ornate pedestal paintings, and long, drapery that cascades from above exist in contrast to the soft, simple movement of air in the room that causes incense to billow. Amid all of the ornateness, it is the stream of smoke traveling upwards that calls for attention. This monk is sitting in the “what is,” resting within the richness, not grasping for attachment.
In his spiritual practice there is elevation without climbing. There is detachment from external, physical surroundings to focus on the inner, spiritual life. The image instantly establishes every detail’s purpose; the hand-woven tapestries pay tribute to tradition and history, the windows provide light, the drum—used to provide a rhythmic pattern that builds to a climactic speed and then is suddenly paused—is like smoke that blooms, then disappears, but leaves the provocative memory of a scent. The silence when the drum ceases is remarkable in its duality: full, and at the same time, empty.