The Tiger’s Nest

11952843_10207082404129145_7133272283005113507_oParo Taktsang is the popular name of Taktsang Palphug Monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest), a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex, located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley, in Bhutan. A temple complex was first built in 1692, around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century.

Padmasambhava is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan and is the tutelary deity of the country. Today, Paro Taktsang is the best known of the thirteen taktsang or “tiger lair” caves in which he meditated.

Padmasambhava
Padmasambhava

The Temple of the Guru with Eight Names is an elegant structure built around the cave in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye; and has become the cultural icon of Bhutan. A popular festival, known as the Tsechu, held in honor of Padmasambhava, is celebrated in the Paro valley sometime during March or April.

  • words by my friend Ganga Nath

Journey To The Temple

You are walking up a gently sloping trail, the trail is covered with dirt, soft green grass, and small smooth stones.  The grade is easy, and your feet fall lightly upon the path, the mountain lifts to meet your footfall with gentle, loving-kindness.  The skies are forever deep, with the colors of blue and turquoise, and where the clouds can be seen there is silver and white; the clouds are soft with no hint of threat within.

Walking further up the trail, your mind wandering and letting go of worries, you settle into a peaceful pace.  Before you there stands a small boulder to the right of the trail.  You approach the boulder with no apprehension, as you pass the boulder an animal steps upon the path with you.  This animal has the confidence that you had until now been lacking, and now you also have this quiet confidence within you as well.  The animal offers you its energy as you continue up the trail beside it.

You and your animal come to the top of the trail and there before you is an endless lake.  The waves of this lake are rolling up to a rocky shore, the sound is soft and dreamlike, you reach your hand into the water and on a whim you take a drink of the water.  In your mouth there is a warmth, an amazing vibration of energy from this water that is alive with knowledge and love, compassion and happiness.

The animal lifts its head from the water and stands erect, looking out over the water to a small island.  You follow the animal’s gaze and settle your attention upon the island as well.  On this small island there is a building.  It is sturdy and well kept, made of your favorite materials and adorned with a variety of flowers, shrubs, and grasses around the building grounds.  In a moment of peacefulness a notion arises within you.

To be on that island, that would be a good thing.

Air_Temple_Island_overviewA sound attracts your attention, and looking to your animal you see that it is headed to a small boat rocking gently against the rocky shore.

Your animal climbs into the boat and looks to the island.  You follow, knowing that is where you should be, safe in the understanding that no harm can come to you on these waters.

The boat moves effortlessly across the waters and then slides gently up on to the grassy shore.  You and your animal leave the boat behind and walk to the door of the building.  At the door there is a note hanging on the wall, it is written to you, in your own handwriting.

I reads ‘Please come in, you are always welcome here’, and it is signed with your signature.  You look at your animal, who is looking at you, and then you both enter the door.  The interior of the building is decorated in your favorite style, with your favorite things all around you.  You can see that this main room extends into darkness, clearly larger on the inside than the outside of the building.  There are doors off of this main hall, and beside each door there is a small wall hanging.  As you walk toward the closet room and its wall hanging you can make out the inscription.  It reads Healing Room.

The door opens as you come close and you walk inside.  The room is well lit, but it is not too bright.  The windows are full length from the floor to the high ceiling, white drapes blow gently in the easy breeze.  In the middle of the room there is a plush couch.  The couch is the color of natural cotton, about seven feet long and sits only a few inches above the wood floor on four claws carved from an alabaster stone.

“Welcome,” a voice says from just behind you.  You turn slowly, as if in a dream, and see your twin smiling at you warmly.

“I am so glad you have come,” your twin says to you.  “Do you understand yet?  Do you know where we are, who I am?”

Realization spreads through your being, and an easy, calm understanding grips you lightly.

“You are me.  You are the me that is the healer, right?” You ask your twin.

“I am the part of you that is the healer, the universal doctor, the heavenly nurse,” your healing twin says walking toward the couch.  Your twin sits down and then looks into your eyes again.  “This temple is you, it was built by you out of pure compassion for yourself.  There are other rooms here as well; a library, meditation rooms, a garden, a sleeping room, an entertainment room, and many more.  Each room or place within your temple also contains an aspect of you, an avatar that represents your higher self.  We are each connected, as we are you, and though we may appear to know some knowledge that you do not, that is an illusion, as you already know all that there is.”

“And what of this animal?” you ask your healing twin.

“This is no mere animal, this is your totem, your power animal.  You chose the animal yourself, and it is also an aspect of you, an avatar.  It is us, we are you.”

You look at the animal, and see yourself in its eyes.

“This animal,” your twin says, “will stay on the shore across the waters, ready to bring you back to the temple when you call to it, or when you need it.  Be calm, be rested, and breathe.”

Closing your eyes you feel a breeze on your skin.  You find yourself in the great hall once again, refreshed and ready for the journey back to daily life. Your eyes close again, on opening them you are standing on the far shore, your animal is standing beside you.

“Until next time,” you tell the animal and start upon the trail back down the mountain.

Originally published August 21, 2009.