Buddhism, being the fourth largest religion in this world, has influenced many and guided them to a path of serenity, they themselves created. Various monasteries exist where monks retreat to, leaving the hustle of the real world while adapting a monastic order, and to learn, debate, and teach life philosophies with the basis being the teachings and interpreted philosophies of Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha. These monasteries are places of worship and meditation, to find time with oneself and nature, as you question your life philosophies and debate with monastic scholars. These monasteries are built to provide a safe haven for the monks who chose to live there as a community, and therefore are places with quite exquisite and tranquil lifestyle, while consisting of shops, forges, dormitories, and many more places as you would see in a normal community, therefore making these places self-sustained and a matter of wonder for people who exist outside of them. Here is a list of the top 5 Buddhist monasteries one must definitely visit to gain a literal out-of-the-world experience.
- Ki Gompa Monastery, Spiti Valley, India
The box-like structure of this 1000-year-old Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, due to the presence of demolished and restored structures on the trail leading up to this monastery, gives it a fort-like appearance, where around 300 monks live. It is situated on top of a hill, at an altitude of 4,166 meters above sea level. It is close to the Spiti River, near Spiti Valley, and is the biggest monastery of the valley, also being the training center for the Lamas. Reportedly, on request, it also opens the doors to the medieval prayer rooms and even Zimshung Lhakhang for the visitors.
- Hanging Monastery, China
One of the most visited monasteries, mostly due to the menacing fall right beside it, Hanging Monastery is perched halfway up a cliff, almost 75 meters above the ground. It is built near Mount Heng in Hunyuan County, Datong City, China, and its name is quite the misnomer considering it is actually supported by stilts. It consists of a complex of 40 rooms, connected by walkways and corridors, which now ‘hang’ for 1500 years without falling into the sheer precipice. Also being the only existing temple with the combination of three Chinese traditional religions: Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, this place mainly known for its Hall of Three Religion, enshrining the deities of all the three religions.
- Paro Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Bhutan
Guru Rinpoche or “Precious Master”, also known as the “Second Buddha” of Bhutan, is known to have meditated at this location, and legend states he flew on the back of a tigress to this location from Tibet, therefore, this monastery holds quite a symbolic meaning for the people of Bhutan. It is situated at the edge of a cliff, 900 meters above the Paro Valley, 10 kilometers to the north of Paro, and is accessible by road and then a three-hour trek from the parking space. The stone steps are carved into the exposed cliff face, with no handrail, making the visit here quite thrilling and adventurous. It is said that one can actually feel the chill breath of Guru Rinpoche coming from the cave.
- Taung Kalat, Burma
If one is up to the task of climbing 777 steps of the Mount Popa, a volcano rising to the height of 1,518 meters, almost 50 km from the medieval city of Bagan, in central Burma, to see one of the most magnificent sites in Burma, then Taung Kalat is the right Buddhist monastery for them. Mount Popa itself is quite prominent a pilgrimage site, with thousands of tourists visiting each year to see Nat temples and relic sites situated atop. Looking almost like a giant castle, this mountain with its monastery is visible from even a distance of 60km.
- Erdene Zuu Monastery, Mongolia
Being known as perhaps the oldest surviving Buddhist monastery in Mongolia, this monastery is surrounded by a wall featuring 100 stupas, only 8 short of the sacred number in Buddhism. Situated in the Övökhangai Province, 2km from the center of Kharkhorin. It is known to be built by Abtai Sain Khan in 1585, using the stones from the ruin of the Karakorum, the ancient city adjacent to this monastery. This place turned into a place of worship from a museum only after the downfall of communism in Mongolia in 1990, as it was then handed to the lamas.
Religion is considered as the ultimate path to peace and answers, something this world around us fails to provide, by many who practice it. It gives hope and a sense of purpose to people, makes them feel like a part of something much greater than themselves. Buddhist Monasteries are very quiet and peaceful, making a perfect place to meditate. So pick one of the aforementioned monasteries and set off for a serene adventure.
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