Buddha peeking out from a veil in Tibet

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ December 10th, 2011. Filed under: Photography, Tibet.

Buddha statue from behind a curtain in Tibet

Buddha statue from behind a curtain in Tibet

Buddha statues in Tibet

Tibet in 2008, just prior to the riots there. I was on an overland journey from Nepal through to China which of course means passing through Tibet, which is a controversial part of China. Here, Tibetan monasteries are plentiful. In this particular photograph Buddha behind a veil holds a significant meaning …

Facts from behind the lens of this photograph:

  • The term Buddha is a Sanskrit (Indo-Aryan) word meaning enlightened and derived from the Paki (Indo-Aryan) world Budh meaning to understand or to be awakened.
  • There are several different Buddhas mentioned in many texts. There reason being is again that it’s simply a term for someone who’s reached a certain stage of enlightenment.
  • The Buddha is born a man who then through much personal teaching and understanding reaches a stage of total enlightenment
  • Before becoming Buddha, one is called Bodhisatta
  • Siddhārtha Gautama (or Gotama) Buddha is perhaps the most well-known.
  • Gautama was born in Lumbini in Nepal, though some attest to him being born in Uttar Pradesh / Kapileswara, Orissa India
  • Gautama is noted as being one of the ten avatars of God Vishnu and is also noted as being a God/Prophet in other religions / denominations such as the Ahmadiyya Islamic religious movement and the Bahá’í Faith
  • There is some question whether The Buddhism believes in God. With Zen Buddhist master Sokei-An, is quoted as saying “I am afraid of speaking about anything that is not familiar to me. No one can know what IT is …” Thus in typical Buddhist sayings, it seems only the enlightened one can know, and even then, there is doubt as he is but a mortal too.

The Story behind the photograph

I only knew of a somewhat one-sided “western” ideal of the Tibetan situation when I traveled through Tibet overland. And, I’ll save the whole “free Tibet” notion for an early post next year.

I will however describe to you the facts as they were repeated to me by many monks in Tibet’s more outer regions. I write it like that for good reason.

In one such location a monk listened to my questions about the history of a monastery. He must have enjoyed history too as it livend him up to show me through some old libraries.

“This is our library, he said taking me through a dark and dusty series of deep rooms. “It is so very old.”

He turned briefly to another monk, and then used a wooden pole to pull a golden box our from a wall that looked like an ancient safety deposit safe. Minus the locks, but including a lot of heavy red and gold decor.

“This library holds our history,” he continued with an air of sadness. “But inside here is someone else’s history.”

It was later, upon questioning another man about what the monk meant I learned that the Chinese had come and removed the old Tibetan history scrolls with their own ones during the “occupation” of Tibet.

The notion of a place, be it autonomous, occupied or a state within a nation having its historical documents and history taken and replaced by someone elses notion of their history is very disturbing.

As I moved on through Tibet I found myself being pulled into looking more behind the hidden curtains in many place than the outside picture. What I saw was indeed like another culture living in the shadows. Hidden, behind a wall of someone elses expectations.

Again, this is not a political jibe, nor point of view. This is simply what I saw in Tibet. So, when I came across this golden statue of The Buddha behind a curtain, I thought it quite reminiscent of my experience thus far. With some silk scarves seemingly hiding his face, he’s looking on; as if in wait for the right time to let history tell its truthful tale.

Statue of Buddha peeking out from behind some silk scarves in Tibet

Statue of Buddha peeking out from behind some silk scarves in Tibet

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This is an additional photograph feature from my world travel photography gallery, documenting the story behind the picture 

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11 Great responses to Buddha peeking out from a veil in Tibet

  1. Anna's World says:

    I have always wanted to go to Tibet. Buddhism fascinates me. I’ve just learned a few new things too.

  2. karumba says:

    Could you post the name of the monastery where you took this photo?

  3. Jim says:

    Mesmerizing. I wonder if things will ever change there. Given the current world political situation, I doubt it. Hard to believe an entire culture has had their history erased like this.

    • I don’t think things will change Jim. It’s a complicated issue that’s mired in both today’s politics and yesterdays way of the world. But yes, there is no reason on earth why a cultures history should be rewritten the way another see’s fit.

  4. hayadith says:

    so what u really mean is that, without those monks, we won’t know what Tibet really is?
    disturbing indeed..

    • In a way, yes. The only problem is they are not allowed to talk about it. When I was there we were told not to mention things like this with the monks due to spies in the area. Some monks took their chances, others did not. Either way I am sure there is a record of Tibet’s history that was taken out of the region. At least I hope so.

  5. beautiful – and yes, disturbing, that people keep trying to change things into what THEY believe.

  6. Cheongsam says:

    The statues in Tibet look beautiful, its hands down one of the must see destinations for Buddhism destinations in the world.