Tibetans kneel and lie down in front of the Jokhang, as part of a pilgrimage to this most sacred of temples. This is a very respected religious tradition, and one of the most visible ones along with chanting (oom mani padme hum) and using prayer mills.
On the tops of passes you always see prayer flags blowing in the wind. These flags with Buddhist sutras on it are placed by the Tibetan people. The flags are very colourful and the all have a special meaning.
I think it's good to watch these flags and how the people hang out these flags but as long as you're no Buddhist it's better not to do it yourself.
Just like in many other Asian countries in Tibet it is also usual to eat your food with chopsticks.
In the beginning it is difficult to eat your food with these sticks but the longer you practise the better it's going.
Pictured here is the mani-wall - stones inscribed with mantra.
The soul of Tibet lies in its religion & culture.
LAMAISM is ... (well, I didn't do an indepth study b4 arrival & after departure either, so I shall not attempt to define it; instead here's what I found on the net which at least try to give an insight into it):
Excerpts from The Soul of Tibet - http://www.theosophy.org/tlodocs/SoulofTibet.htm :
What is religion to the Dalai Lama, to Tibetans?
Religion, he says in his book, has got everything to do with the mental discipline, the peace of mind, the calm and poise, the inner equanimity achieved by any human being, which is bound to show in his daily life. The Dalai Lama says explicitly that religion is not a matter of merely going into retreats and monasteries. No doubt when this is done it has its value, but religion is not a matter of outward profession or formal observance. His Holiness does not even use the word 'Buddhism' with anything like a sectarian sound. He is simply not interested in making claims of any sort. Religion means for him something quite different from what it means to almost all of us in the modern world. For him, and for the Tibetans, religion means what it meant in Carlyle's definition – the beliefs by which a man really lives from day to day, not the beliefs to which he merely gives verbal or even mental assent.
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Excerpt from The Soul of Tibet - http://www.theosophy.org/tlodocs/SoulofTibet.htm :
"The Tibetan view of religion is indeed something totally different from our ordinary response to religious as opposed to secular thought. How many of us really believe that even more important than material advancement and the utilitarian criterion of physical pleasure, is the possession of priceless truths concerning the numerous inhibitions and tendencies which afflict the human psyche and of which we have hardly any definite and exact knowledge? If we do believe this, we will be prepared to approach in a spirit of humility the thousands of Buddhist texts in Tibet that came from India, Nepal and China. Tibet is a repository of the real wisdom of the East – a much abused phrase. It has been the home of thousands upon thousands of manuscripts, scrolls, and volumes in which we have not only profound spiritual truths but also examples of a highly developed system of logic and dialectics that was primarily put to a metaphysical and a religious use but which in itself provides a unique discipline to the mind. Tibet has no parallel in this sphere. Of course, no one would admit that he does not care for logical processes. But how much thought do we give simply to perfecting the art of enquiry and disputation? How much time do we give to evolving a technique of constructive discussion? Do we really know how it is possible to resolve the apparently contrary standpoints of relative truths in religion and philosophy and our human relationships?
This technique was highly developed in Tibet. It was founded upon the doctrine of what the Dalai Lama calls the Dual Truth: the distinction between a Platonic archetype of absolute truth, which is unknown to mortal man but can always be held up as an ultimate ideal, and the relative truth every human being embodies, acquired purely by reference to his own experience.
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When you`re travelling trough Tibet, you wil certainly meet the local people. In Lhasa itself, we`ve met Tibetians speaking English, so it is very interesting to accept an ivitation for drinking a yak butter tea with them (altough that tea is sometimes a disgusting thing :-0... ).
More difficult was the conversation with the people we met overland. Unfortunately there is often a language bareer ... But you will find ways to deal with that...
They(official Chinese) don't like pics of the Dalai Lhama and it's forbidden. The Tibetans are a sturdy folk have survived for centuries without the West. Unfortunately a lot of hippies or travellers preaching about independance, and when the local Tibetans demonstrate, it's them which gets shot, not the Westerners, the're long gone and lying on some beach in Goa or getting high in Katmandu!
Constant turning of prayer tubes - one of the numerous rituals performed by the lay believers.
Long pilgrimages to the temples involving endless kowtowing before the Buddha & prostrating the entire body on the ground constitue some of the wonders of Tibet to the outsiders & strength & character to the Tibetans.
Prayer flags and Mani stones On the top of each pass there are rows of small, colourful, printed pieces of cloth: prayer flags. They flutter in the strong wind sending prayers directly to heaven. Each colour symbolises an element from which Tibetans still believe that everything was made: earth, air, fire, water and iron. Mani stones “grow” all around. Stones engraved with mantras, like Om mani padme hum, are piled up to form walls in every kind of sacred place. Due to the rarefied atmosphere, physical and emotional, strange mixed feelings will possess you, even if you don’t believe in mysticism. Don’t try to resist; let your soul free to pile new Mani stones up and send your prayers wherever they will address themselves.
There maybe too much to say here but, first of all, the most important thing that you should do is read/learn/pick-up-some-information on Tibet before you even think about going. There was nothing worse than the majority of 'Wow man, we're in Tibet -- groovy!'-type 'travel idiots' that I ran into who had no idea about the suffering (in the past and now) and problems that Tibetan people must deal with just to survive. Be informed and be smart about what you do. Learn some Tibetan words ('Exuse me' and 'Thank you' is more than enough) and and try to not use Chinese when speaking with Tibetan people -- that is a perfect way to turn them off to you and other travelers in the future. Try to stay at Tibetan run hotels and inns, ask for Tibetan guides (rather than Chinese guides -- if enough people ask for Tibetan guides, the Chinese government might consider lifting the BAN on Tibetan guides) and shop at Tibetan shops -- give the money that you worked hard for to the people that work just as hard but don't get paid.
Lastly, be careful of handing out pictures of the Dalia Lama to anyone...including monks. The pictures are highly coveted by the Tibetan people and travelers have been bringing them in for years.....maybe too many pictures. Anyone who asks you for a picture is not 'on the level' and should be avoided....they may be working for the government (making money catching naughty foreigners) or Chinese police. Foreigners have been and can be arrested, detained, deported, and worse for having 'contraban' like the Dalai Lama's picture. If someone goes out of their way for you and doesn't ask for anything in return -- offer a picture to them in private....but this is up to you. It may not be 'worth it' for the picture(s).
Buddhism is practised here and hence, its a buddhist state. They have a strong belief in Dalai Lama and hence, don't speak anything against the Dalai Lama.
This woman took her own mat to soften the ground is going to be praying on.
Although the picture suggests she is going to pray to a dustbin in fact she is at the side of the Jokhang temple.
Everywhere you see the police. Sometimes they are relaxing at a streetcorner like in this picture. Sometimes they are directing traffic, and sometimes they are just there.....
The two men on the left of the picture show a typical hairdress. Another common feature of Tibetans is their bright red/purple cheeks, which is possibly due to the sun's power at this altitude.
As seen here while monks study in the Jokhang temple, it is mandatory to take off one's shoes before entering a religious site.
Many traditional customs are followed by old and young Tibetans alike. Most are centered toward Buddhism. Other are a way of life. These customs, such as how to drink butter tea...