Today, we visited Taktstang or Tiger’s Nest in Paro, Bhutan. It is the most important and famous monastery in all of Bhutan.
The area where present day Tiger’s Nest stands was only a small temple where Guru Rinpoche meditated for four months. In the spot of the present location, Guru Rinpoche rode a flying tigress to subdue a local demon, and that makes the spot the holiest and most visited place in Bhutan. The Tiger’s Nest temple that is present now, was completed in 2005. It burned down in 1951 and 1998. The current temple was first built in 1692. Tiger’s Nest is nestled on the edge of a 3,120 meter tall cliff overlooking Paro Valley. The hike to the top is two hours, but it is well worth the climb. By the time we all got up to the top, we were all sweating and exhausted, but the view was definitely worth the work to get up there. I was so inspired looking at all the work it took to make the monastery, but also the beauty of it on top of the mountain.
We began our climb in a large parking lot and began to work our way to the top of the mountain. Towards the end of the climb, we came to a spot where there was a restaurant, but there was also an amazing view of the monastery. The monastery loomed right over the cliff face, and it was literally built into the side of the mountain! We walked on from the restaurant to the monastery until we came to a viewing area that was directly across from the monastery. We had to cross over a waterfall that flowed from a small stream another hundred feet above us at the top of the tall cliffs looming over the beautiful monastery. It was crazy and amazing that thirteen-hundred years ago, a person climbed all the way to the place where we stood now and he said, “I’ll build a monastery.”
We walked up the steep stone steps and instantly could hear monks chanting from a room somewhere in the monastery. We walked up stone stairs all worn by the thousands of people that had walked the same stairs as we had. We peeked our head into a room where the sound of the chanting had come from. In the room there were many young boys who were in the monastic school practicing chants and prayers. We walked on until we came to a rock that had a small prayer written on it and a small indent that was about the size of a thumb. We learned that there is a myth that Guru Rinpoche had hidden a treasure inside of the rock and that someday someone who presses their thumbprint against the rock, and has the correct thumbprint, will open it and the treasure will be found. We all tested our fingerprints and, sadly, none of them worked.
We first walked up and into a small temple which was the cave where Guru Rinpoche first meditated in the 8th century. There was a door in front of the actual cave, and it only opens once a year. After leaving that temple, we climbed more stairs and walked into a room where there was a medium sized statue of Guru Rinpoche, just a bit smaller than a full grown person. We learned that long ago when Tigers Nest was being constructed, the builders wanted a statue of Guru Rinpoche, so they built one down at the bottom of the valleys and tried to carry it. It was too heavy to get up the mountain, so they had to set it down. As they sat, they were thinking about disassembling it so they would’t have such a hard time carrying it up and across the cliff face. Then, the statue spoke to them! It told them that a being would come and carry it all the way up to the monastery, because they had already carried it so far. Suddenly, a being appeared and carried the statue across the mountain and to the monastery.
Another story about the statue is that when the monastery burned down twice, the statue was the only thing that survived the fires. After multiple fires, the monks at the temple decided that the monastery wasn’t a safe home for the statue because it kept burning down. When they tried to move the statue out of the temple, there was a heavy downpour and the waterfall flooded so they weren’t able to take the statue down to the city of Paro. The statue did not want to leave it’s home, so now the statue has been retuned and lives in its home within the Tiger’s Nest monastery. It was amazing that the statue was protected throughout the fire and I felt just blown away, that the gods protected that one statue.
After looking at the statue, we walked up a steep space between two buildings and saw an entrance to what looked like a cave. Dad, Brooke and I all went down the ladders to get into the cave. There was a window-like hole in the side of the mountain where we could see out and over the city of Paro. It was crazy that we were inside of a mountain, and we weren’t the only thing in the mountain, the whole temple was built into the side of the mountain. After adventuring down into the cave, we ventured into a room that was full of butter lamps. We all got a stick that had a little bit of fire on the end, and we each lit three lamps. Lighting the laps gives you good merit and karma when you light the candles. We walked on further through the temple and came to a room where there were about twenty monks chanting and their Chief Abbot was there. The Chief Abbot is the head of the monks in a temple or monastery. We saw a pit that was almost twenty feet deep that was full of money and donations. We all walked down the center aisle of the room to give the Chief Abbot a small donation. We had to cover our mouths with the money as a sign of respect for the Chief Abbot so people don’t get saliva on him. He blessed us by tapping us each on the head with his prayer beads and then we all walked out of the room. We could still hear the monks chanting from where we stood thirty yards away from the room we were blessed in.
It was a beautiful and magical experience visiting Tiger’s Nest in the Paro Mountains.