All images by Jakub Rybicki. Used with Creative Commons permission.
Tibet is one of the most mesmerizing places on Earth, especially in terms of history and culture. Tibetan Buddhism is just one of the facets through which we can see this, given how the Dalai Lama and his teachings have become part of global consciousness. Jakub Rybicki takes us to one of the best places in Tibet to glimpse the life of its spiritual people; the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, the second largest city in the region.
In his set Buddhists in Tibet, the Polish photographer and storyteller presents us some of the most fascinating photos and stories about the monastery and the monks who call it home. Young monks, as Jakub has found, learn in the monastery through open debate. “They discuss truths of faith and Buddhist philosophy by trying to neglect them. Sometimes the discussion seems to be pretty aggressive, but there’s a little bit of theatre in this as well.”
Indeed, there’s a myriad of scenes in the set that are most likely different from what typically comes to our minds when we think of monks. We see them seemingly in intense discussions, listening intently, lost in deep thought, and engaged in relaxed moments of friendship. These candid scenes are what every documentary or street photographer searches for, and the aspiring ones dream of capturing. The vibrant colors also make everything extra captivating.
Jakub also tells us that the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is an equally interesting historical and cultural landmark worth visiting and learning about. Apart from the fact that it’s the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama lineage, there’s a bit of controversy about the esteemed figures themselves.
“The monastery is the traditional seat of Panchen Lamas, the second highest ranking (after Dalai Lamas) of tulku lineage in the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. You may say that Dalai Lama takes most important part in finding and recognizing new incarnations of Panchen Lama, and vice versa. But this won’t be the case when the present, XIV Dalai Lama dies, as he didn’t recognize the boy who now plays the role of the 11th Panchen Lama. The ‘original one’ ‘disappeared’ over 20 years ago. Just Google the story of 10th and 11th Panchen Lamas, it’s fascinating.”