The narrow trail winds around cliffs above a jungle of tangled trees in the clouds. After a steep climb several buildings of an ancient temple emerge from the mist. Suddenly a demon appears from the jungle, transforms itself into a dog and attacks, mistaking me for an enemy warrior and biting me in the leg.
We live in cramped quarters, eat rice and vegetables in the canteen, study English, attend pujas and participate in debating Buddhist philosophy. The life of a monk is difficult, food and housing are simple, study hours are long, the daily work is hard and wake-up time is 4:30am.
The cook's wife sweeps the broken concrete stairs with a twig broom, baby securely strapped to her back with a colorful cloth, while 3 year old son plays football in the rain with a punctured plastic ball. A black hairy dog chases pigeons that peck away at the leftover rice spread by monks on the concrete slabs.
Lhobey Tindu tends to his garden, planting cucumber seeds among the roses and tomato plants, while several smiling monks look on from the porch above, taking a break from a day-long puja sponsored by a local merchant to pray for all sentient beings.
An age-old crumbling chorten guards the timeless silence of the imposing temple, built by Guru Rimpoche hundreds of years ago. Suddenly the silence is broken by the ringing of a temple bell, calling all to prayers, followed by three dogs howling in a wailing tone. The afternoon prayer begins, with the beating of drums and the booming sound of Tibetan horns, punctuated by the periodic blowing of conch shells.
In the evening we hold English class for the novices. They sit on the temple floor, attentively taking notes from the board on vocabulary and grammar. Then we decide to practice some simple songs and they offer some Nepali and Dzongka songs and dance for my entertainment. We finish class at 8pm then go to the canteen to watch the movie Ta-Gu-Bu, a 1000 year old story of a young boy who became a lama after building a great temple, meditated in a cave and then learned of his mother's tragic death in a dream.
After a week of living at the monastery, taking part in every phase of life, walking the jungle trails to villages and temples on the mountain, meeting friendly villagers and enjoying the breathtaking, heartbreaking scenery on every step, I became transformed by the ultimate peaceful existence on this remote mountain, undisturbed by external influence. The young monks bid me farewell, urging me to return soon, as they found "Sir's teaching very nice". I hugged them and promised to return during my next vacation, for I greatly miss their kindness and lovely smiles.
For a while I lingered round them, among the chortens and prayer flags, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, watched the mist lifting to reveal the distant peaks with soft clouds hugging the hillsides, and wondered how anyone could ever imagine a more peaceful spot on this troubled earth.