As human beings, our lives are a sum total of situations, experiences, emotions, people, circumstances. There are experiences and places that become a part of you on account of the magnitude of emotion you feel in that moment or space. While these could veer along the positive and negative path, sometimes the surreal touches your life and becomes like indelible ink on your psyche and soul. At times, the vibrations of a singular experience permeate your subconscious, a symphony that plays in the background, not loud, barely audible at times, but there. Quite a lot like white noise yet not so.
At a little distance from Gangtok is the beautiful Rumtek gompa which was was an experience, a memory, a moment that crawled inside me and made home in a part that reverberates with peace. At 1,500 metres, the monastery is surrounded by sights that take a little bit from the very best that nature has to offer. With a backdrop of majestic mountains, the gompa has a snow peak at the front while the ubiquitous Teesta river completes the picture of peace.
The first thing you notice as you enter the heavy red door is how peaceful the space really is. The genteel monks spoke in hushed whispers, their language sounding like a tinkle of a tiny nail against crystal, melodious, calm and charming. The sight of red, sunburned cheeks of young monk lads as they engaged in a game of football, chasing their boyhood with their yellow-maroon robes was a stark contrast to their older counterparts sitting in a circle busy with their sādhanā. The difference was both heartwarming and humbling.
The place does not have a lot to offer for the average, conventional tourist, but open your mind and you see beauty, right from the flutter of the monks’ maroon robes, to the way the sun kisses the vibrant reds, yellows and blues in the intricate patterns adorning the gompa’s façade or the bright sunshine warming your back as you shed your socks and shoes to step barefoot on the cool marble steps leading to the main hall.
As I sat inside the inner chamber of main building at Rumtek, cross legged and eyes closed, part of me felt that if I concentrate hard enough, I could actually touch serenity as if it were as tangible in existence as the prayer wheels that I passed by on the steep climb to the gompa. Everything disappeared, even the charm of the beautiful relics, the detailed and breathtaking murals on the walls, and all that was left is the hum of the wind while my mind was empty, completely devoid of any thought or a word.
Stepping outside the meditation hall, we were directed by a handsome, smiling monk, to the Golden Stupa – a smallish room inside the main building. This relic-filled room was ornate and grand; the massive, twin silver-rimmed elephant tusks sitting on the floor, the ancient looking relic boxes, ornate paintings and scrolls being a clear indication. Slightly more lively, this tiny room saw a flurry of activity as pilgrims and tourists alike came to pay their visits to the ashes of the 16th Karmapa, whose presence is marked by an amber, coral and turquoise-studded reliquary.
The quiet, the memory of the gompa, those moments of absolute yet blissful nothingness are a haven that I subconsciously retreat to when things get a little too much to handle. Rumtek is now a symphony that soothes my frayed nerves and dims the hum of my frenzied thoughts.