Walkabouts and wonders

"A life not examined is a life not lived" – Socrates

Butterfly discoveries

Boys being boys

Boys being boys

My second Sunday; I had been 17 days in Kalimpong, but realised that I hadn’t yet really paused for breath, certainly not for my soul – hardly enough for my body. So, with only my camera and a rather odd map, I set off into the town. The first part of the journey was my familiar walk to the office in town, but at this slower pace, I had the time to see and appreciate things a little more.

A roadside house, that I had passed many times but never quite saw

A roadside house, that I had passed many times but never quite saw

Who's the man with the funny eyes, mom?

Who’s the man with the funny eyes, mom?

A place of a thousand shopkeepers

A place of a thousand shopkeepers

Having wandered around a while and discovered that my favourite coffee bar was closed – more on that, another time –  I decided to seek out the Indo-Tibet Cultural Institute – perhaps, I thought, there might be a museum, or some interesting people to talk to.

Convinced, after walking a full hour, that I had lost my way, I stopped to ask a shopkeeper. He pointed me further along the road, so off I went. I didn’t find any Indo-Tibetan Institute (and still haven’t). Instead, I found myself walking into the grounds of a Gompa – a religious centre for the 6th Lepcha Lama.

Prayer flags around a new stupa at the entrace to the Gompa

Prayer flags around a new stupa at the entrace to the Gompa

wheels of prayers

wheels of prayer

After wandering around for a bit and finding no one about, I began to think it was all shut up, so I settled into a little of my own quiet time, gentled by the gathering atmosphere. But then, I spied a rather striking, dark butterfly. It flew in front of me and then away. I followed and was shortly greeted by this twelve year old girl –

The Lepcha Lama's grandaughter - a pupil at the High School wh wants to be a doctor.

The Lepcha Lama’s grandaughter – a pupil at the High School wh wants to be a doctor.

And so was led to the Lama’s shrine and meditation centre.

Inside the tiny shrine and meditation room - the Buddha flanked by more ancient gods

Inside the tiny shrine and meditation room – the Buddha flanked by more ancient gods

Though neither old, nor richly endowed, there was an undeniable sense of abiding peace and settlement – a place of continuing devotion as evidened by the new stupa. I spent a further and very worthwhile hour there, taking in the atmosphere and feeling myself settle more deeply than I had before on this trip.

The central temple of the Gompa - a traditional block design.

The central temple of the Gompa – a traditional block design.

5 urns ..... 6th lama.... wonderful thing detection.. wonder if I am right

5 urns ….. 6th lama…. wonderful thing detection.. wonder if I am right

Later, I was told that the Lepcha are one of the three original tribes that inhabited the Kalimpong district. They are not generally Buddhists, and the existence of a Lepcha Buddhist gompa near the town has come as a surprise to a number of my Nepalese friends. But that seems to be the way of these parts – many small communities, clans and families living close by one another; peaceful, self-contained; interacting and mixing, but remaining distinct – content to be and allow to be, together.

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