Travel to Tibet - communicate with Buddhists - Adishhub

Travel to Tibet – communicate with Buddhists

Travel to Tibet - communicate with Buddhists


During my stay in India, I often happened to communicate with Buddhists, and what they told about Tibet piqued my curiosity to such an extent that I decided to make a trip to this relatively unknown country. To this end, I chose the route through Kashmir, a place that I had long intended to visit.

On October 14, 1887, I boarded a train filled with soldiers and departed from Lahore for Rawalpindi, where I arrived at about noon the next day. After a little rest and exploring the city, which, due to the endless garrisons, looked like a military camp, I bought things that seemed necessary in a campaign in an area where there was no railway connection.

Accompanied by my servant “Philip”, a Negro from Pondicherry whom I had recruited on the warm recommendation of the French Consul in Bombay, I gathered my things, hired a tonga (a two-wheeled tarantass drawn by a pony) and, sitting in the back seat, set off along the scenic road, which leads to Kashmir.

Our tonga moved forward rather quickly, although one day we had to make our way with a certain agility through a large column of soldiers who, together with the camels loaded with luggage, were part of a detachment returning from the camps to the city. Soon we crossed the Punjab valley and, climbing up a path where the winds never died down, entered the labyrinths of the Himalayas.

Here we began our ascent, and the magnificent panorama of the area that we had just crossed rolled back and disappeared under our feet. The sun shone its last rays on the mountain peaks as our tonga cheerfully left the breaks we walked along the ridge of the wooded peak, at the foot of which Murry is snugly nestled, a sanatorium filled in the summer with families of English employees who came here in search of shade and coolness.

It is usually always possible to hire a tonga from Murri to Srinagar, but as winter approaches, when all Europeans leave Kashmir, transportation is temporarily stopped. I deliberately embarked on my journey at the end of the season, much to the amazement of the British, whom I met on the road to India, and who tried in vain to guess the reason for such actions.

The road was still under construction at the time of my departure, I hired – not without difficulty – saddle horses, and the evening descended as we began our descent from Murry, which is located at an altitude of 5,000 feet.

Our journey along the dark road, riddled with gullies from recent rains, was not particularly fun, our horses felt rather than saw the road. When night fell, pouring rain suddenly fell on us, and because of the huge oak trees that grew along the road, we plunged into such impenetrable darkness that, fearing to lose each other, we were forced to scream every now and then. In this absolute darkness, we guessed heavy rocks hanging almost over our heads, while on the left, invisible behind the trees, a stream roared, the waters of which must have cascaded.

Freezing rain chilled us to the bone, and we walked for nearly two hours on foot through the mud when a faint light in the distance revived our strength.

The lights in the mountains are, however, an unreliable beacon. They seem to burn very close when in reality they are very far away, and disappear to shine again when the road turns and winds – now to the left, now to the right, up, down, as if taking pleasure in deceiving a weary traveler , who, because of the darkness, does not see that his desired target is in fact motionless, and the distance to it is decreasing every second.

I had already given up all hope of ever getting to the light we had noticed when it suddenly reappeared, and this time so close that our horses stopped of their own accord.

Here I must sincerely thank the British for the foresight with which they built small bungalows on all the roads – one-story hotels intended for lost travelers. True, one should not expect much comfort in these semi-hotels, but this is an unimportant issue for the weary traveler who is more than grateful to have a dry, clean room at his disposal.

There is no doubt that the Indians serving the bungalow we came across did not expect to see visitors so late at night and at this time of year, since they left the place and took the keys with them, forcing us to kick the door. Once inside, I stretched out on the bed, hurriedly prepared my Negro – becoming the proud owner of a pillow and a half mat impregnated with water – and almost instantly fell asleep.

With the first glimpse of the day, after tea and a small portion of canned meat, we continued our journey, bathed in the scorching sun. From time to time we passed villages, first in beautiful gorges, then along the road that ran through the very heart of the mountains. In the end we descended to the Jkhe-lum River, whose waters rush quickly among the rocks that direct their course, and between two gorges, whose edges seem to touch the azure arches of the Himalayan sky, which is an example of remarkable cloudlessness and purity.

By noon we reached the village of Tonge, located on the banks of the river. It was a series of unusual huts, like crates open on the front. All sorts of things and food are sold here. This place is full of Hindus, wearing on their foreheads the signs of their castes of different colors. You can also see beautiful Kashmiris wearing long white shirts and impeccable white turbans.

Here I hired an Indian tarantass from a Kashmiri for a high fee. This transport is designed in such a way that when you get into it, you have to cross your legs a la Tirque; * / In Turkish. The French / seat is so small that only two people can squeeze into it. Despite the fact that the lack of a backrest makes this vehicle somewhat dangerous, I still preferred to the horse this semblance of a round table raised on wheels, on the basis that it was my responsibility to bring this journey to an end as soon as possible.

I had not even traveled half a kilometer when I began to seriously regret the animal I had abandoned, I was so tired of the uncomfortable posture and the difficulties experienced in maintaining balance.

Unfortunately, it was getting late, evening came, and when we got to the village of Hori, my legs were terribly numb. I was exhausted from fatigue, beaten with unbearable shaking and completely unable to enjoy the picturesque views that unfolded in front of my eyes along Jhelum, on the banks of which sheer cliffs rose on one side and wooded hills on the other.

In Hori I met a caravan of pilgrims returning from Mecca. Thinking that I was a doctor, and hearing that I was in a hurry to get to Ladakh, they persuaded me to join their group, which I promised to do upon arrival in Srinagar, where I went on horseback the next day at dawn.

I spent the night in the bungalow, sitting on the bed, lamp in hand, not daring to close my eyes for fear of being attacked by a scorpion or centipede. The house was simply teeming with them, and although I was ashamed of the disgust that they awakened in me, I still could not overcome this feeling. Where, after all, can you draw the line between courage and cowardice in a person? I would never boast of special courage, nor do I think that I lack courage; and yet the dislike which these vile little creatures instilled in me drove sleep from my eyes, in spite of my extreme weariness.

At dawn our horses were already galloping at a light trot along a flat valley surrounded by high hills, and under the hot rays of the sun I almost fell asleep in the saddle. A sudden feeling of freshness woke me up, I found that we began to climb a mountain road going through a huge forest, which at times parted, allowing us to admire the wonderful current of a rapid stream, and then hid the mountains, the sky and the entire landscape from our view, leaving us with en revanche ‘/’ In exchange, in return; consolation, fr. Approx. ed. / songs of many birds with spotted plumage.

By noon, we got out of the forest, went down to a small village on the banks of the river, where we had lunch before continuing our journey. Here I visited the bazaar and tried to buy a glass of warm milk from a Hindu squatting in front of a large bucket of boiling drink. One could imagine my surprise when this subject suggested that I take away the bucket with all the contents, claiming that I had infected him.

“I only want a glass of milk, not a whole bucket,” I protested. But the Indian continued to persist.

“According to our laws,” he insisted, “if someone who does not belong to our caste looks closely and for any length of time at some thing or food that belongs to us, then it is our duty to wash this thing and throw the food out into the street. You, O Sahib, have defiled my milk. No one will drink it now, because you not only gazed at it, but also pointed your finger at it. “

It was perfectly correct. I first checked the milk carefully to see if it was fresh, and what’s more, I pointed my finger at the bucket, wishing that the person would fill my glass. Full of respect for other people’s laws and customs, I paid the requested rupees without regret – the price of all the milk the merchant poured into the gutter – although I received only one glass. From this incident, I learned a lesson – never again stop looking at Indian food.

There is no religion more entangled in rituals, laws and interpretations than Brahmanism. While each of the three world religions has only one Bible, one Testament, one Koran – the books from which Jews, Christians and Mohammedans derive their beliefs – Brahmanical Hinduism has so many volumes of commentary that the most learned Brahmin is hardly had time to study more than a tenth of them.

Let us put aside the four books of the Vedas; Puranas, written in Sanskrit and containing 400,000 stanzas on theogony, law, medicine, as well as the creation, destruction and rebirth of the world; extensive Shastras, which expound mathematics, grammar, etc .; Upo-Vedas, Upanishads and Upo-Puranas, which serve as pointers to the Puranas; and a host of other multivolume commentaries, which also contain twelve comprehensive books on the laws of Manu, the grandson of Brahma – books concerning not only civil and criminal laws, but also church rules, which prescribe to their adepts such an amazing number of ceremonies that everyone will be surprised at the constant patience of the Hindus in obeying the instructions given to these saints.

Manu was undoubtedly a great legislator and a great thinker, although he wrote so much that at times, it happens, contradicts himself on the same page. Brahmins do not take the trouble to pay attention to this; and the poor Hindus, by whose labor their caste essentially lives, obediently obey them, take on faith their orders never to touch a person belonging to another caste, and never allow strangers to pay attention to their things.

In keeping with the precise meaning of this law, a Hindu imagines that his goods are defiled if any particular attention has been shown from the outsider. And yet Brahmanism was, even at the beginning of its second birth, an absolutely monotheistic religion, recognizing one eternal and indivisible God.

As has always happened in all religions, the clergy used their exclusive position, elevating them above the ignorant crowd, in order to hastily invent different laws and purely external forms of ritual, believing that in this way they would be able to exert a greater influence on the masses; the result was that the principle of monotheism, so clearly stated in the Vedas, degenerated into an endless dynasty of meaningless gods, goddesses, demigods, geniuses, angels and demons, represented by idols, different in form and, without exception, terrible.

The people, once great, even when their religion was pure and developing, has now degenerated to a state bordering on idiocy, into slaves of rituals that hardly a day will be enough to enumerate.

It can definitely be argued that the Hindus exist only to support the main sect of the Brahmins, who have taken into their own hands the secular power that formerly belonged to the independent elect of the people. In the Indian government, the British do not interfere in this part of the life of society, and the Brahmins take advantage of this, encouraging the people to hope for a different future.

But back to our journey. The sun drowned behind the top of the mountain, and the night shadows immediately enveloped the area through which we drove. Soon the narrow valley through which the Jhelum flows seemed to fall asleep, and at the same time our path, winding along a narrow cornice of pointed rocks, gradually began to hide from our sight. Mountains and trees merged into a single dark mass, and only the stars shone brightly overhead.

In the end, we were forced to dismount and grope along the rocks for fear of perishing in the abyss that opened at our feet. In the middle of the night we crossed the bridge and climbed the rocky slope that leads to Uri’s bungalow, all alone standing on top of it.

The next day we walked through a charming area, along the banks of a river, at the bend of which we saw the ruins of a Sikh fortress, which stood alone as if in sad reflection on its glorious past. In a small valley hidden among the mountains, we came across another hospitable bungalow, in the immediate vicinity of which the camp of the cavalry regiment of the Maharaja of Kashmir was located.

Upon learning that I was Russian, the officers invited me to dine with them, and I had the opportunity to meet Colonel Brown, who was the first compiler of a Pashto dictionary.

Wanting to get to Srinagar as soon as possible, I continued my journey through the picturesque area, which, for a considerable time following the river bed, stretched at the foot of the mountains. Our eyes, tired of the monotony of the previous landscape, now saw a densely populated valley, opened by two-story houses surrounded by gardens and cultivated fields. A little further, the famous Kashmir Valley begins, located behind a chain of high hills, which I crossed in the evening.

By the time I reached the top of the last hill on the border of the mountainous country that I had just crossed, rising from the valley, a magnificent panorama opened up to my eyes. The picture was truly fascinating. The Kashmir Valley, whose borders were lost over the horizon, completely inhabited by people, nestled comfortably among the Himalayan mountains. At sunrise and sunset, the strip of eternal snow becomes like a silver ring encircling this rich and beautiful plain, lined with roads and streams in all directions.

Gardens, hills, a lake, whose numerous islets are covered with bizarre buildings – everything seems to transport the traveler to another world. It seems to him that he has reached the limits of the magical world, and he believes that, at last, he is in the paradise of his childhood dreams.

The shadows of the night slowly descended – mixing mountains, gardens, reservoirs into a dark mass, permeated only by distant, like stars, lights – when I descended into the valley, directing my feet towards Jhelum, who here made his way through a narrow crevice in the middle of the mountains, to drain its waters with the waters of the Indus. According to legend, the valley was formerly an inland sea, which was drained by a passage that opened between two rocks, leaving only a lake, several ponds and Jhelum with shores dotted with many long narrow boats, in which the families of their owners live all year round.

From here it is possible to get to Srinagar by horse in one day, while the boat trip takes one and a half days. I settled on the second vehicle, and after choosing a canoe and making a deal with its owner, I settled down comfortably on a rug at the bow, protected by some kind of canopy.

The boat left the coast at midnight, quickly carrying us to Srinagar. At the other end of the ship, an Indian was preparing tea for me, and soon I fell asleep, quite satisfied with the thought that my journey was progressing rapidly.

I was awakened by the warm caress of the sun’s rays penetrating to me through the awning, my first impression of the surrounding picture was indescribably pleasant. The banks of the river were green, the distant mountain peaks were covered with snow, the villages were picturesque, and the surface of the water was transparent.

I eagerly breathed in the air, which was strangely thin and fragrant, and at the same time I constantly listened to the trills of a myriad of birds soaring in the cloudless clear depth of the sky. Behind me, water splashed, split by a pole, which was easily controlled by a beautiful woman with charming eyes, sun-dark skin and an expression on her face full of frozen indifference.

The dreamy charm of the painting had a hypnotic effect on me. I forgot why I was floating on the river, and at that moment, being at the height of bliss, I did not even want to reach the end of my journey. And yet how many hardships I had to endure and how many dangers I had to face!

The boat glided quickly, the landscape that had recently opened to my eyes was lost beyond the horizon, merging and becoming part of the mountains we sailed past. Then a fresh panorama unfolded, seemingly escaping from the slopes of the mountains, which were increasing in size every moment. Twilight deepened, and I did not get tired of admiring this magnificent nature, the views of which awakened the happiest memories in me.

As you get closer to Srinagar, the villages nestled in the greenery become more and more numerous. When our boat appeared, several residents came to look at us – men and women, equally dressed in long robes touching the ground, the first in turbans, the last in bedspreads, with completely naked children.

At the entrance to the city, rows of boats and houseboats are visible, in which entire families live. The last rays of the setting sun caressed the peaks of the distant snowy mountains as we glided between the two rows of wooden houses lining the banks of the river in Srinagar.

Business life seems to freeze here at sunset. Thousands of multicolored boats (dunga) and covered barges (bangla) were moored along the coast, where the locals of both sexes, in the most primitive costumes of Adam and Eve, were busy performing their evening ablutions, a sacred rite that, in their opinion, is beyond human prejudice. …

On October 20th, I woke up in a clean room with a magnificent view of the river, which shimmered in the rays of the Kashmir sun. Since it is not my intention to describe the small details of the trip, I will not try to list the wonders of this beautiful place with all its lakes, enchanting islands, historic palaces, mysterious pagodas and flirty villages: the latter are half hidden by dense gardens; and from all sides the majestic peaks of the gigantic Himalayas rise, covered everywhere, as far as the eye can see, with a white veil of eternal snow. I will only describe the preparations I made for my further travel in Tibet.

I spent a full six days in Srinagar, taking long excursions in its enchanting surroundings, exploring the numerous ruins that testify to the former prosperity of the area, and learning about the country’s curious customs.

Kashmir, like other provinces adjacent to it, such as Baltistan, Ladakh and others, are British colonies. They were formerly part of the domain of the “Lion of the Punjab”, Ranjit Singh. After his death, English troops occupied Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, separated Kashmir from the rest of the empire and handed it over under the guise of inheritance and for the amount of 160 million francs to Ghulab Singh, one of the close friends of the deceased ruler, giving him, moreover, the title maharaja. During my travels, the reigning Maharaja was Pertab Singh, the grandson of Ghulab, whose residence is at Jammu on the southern slope of the Himalayas.

The famous Kashmir Valley of Happiness – eighty-five miles long and twenty-five wide – was at the height of its glory and prosperity under the Great Mogul, whose court loved to eat here – in the palaces; on the islands of the lake – the delights of rural life. Most of the maharajas of Hindustan came here to while away the summer months, as well as to take part in the grandiose festivities that were organized by the Great Mogul.

Time has changed the face of the “Happy Valley”. She is no longer happy: algae cover the transparent surface of the lake, wild juniper has thrived on the islands, displacing all other plants, and palaces and pavilions are now only ruins overgrown with grass, ghosts of former greatness.

The mountains around it seem to be covered by general despondency and yet they hold the hope that better times may still come for their immortal beauty. The locals, once beautiful, intelligent and enlightened, degenerated to a semi-idiotic state. They are lazy and dirty, and now they are ruled by the whip, not the sword.

The people of Kashmir had so many masters and were so often plundered and raided of all kinds that over time they became indifferent to everything. People spend their days at their barbecues, gossiping with neighbors or either painstakingly making their famous shawls or filigree work on gold and silver.

Kashmiri women are melancholic, their features marked with unspeakable sadness. Poverty and filth reign everywhere, handsome men and beautiful women go about dirty and in rags. The garments of both sexes, in winter and summer, consist of long, one-piece shirts made of coarse fabric. Such a shirt is not changed until it is completely worn out, and is never washed under any circumstances, so that the snow-white turbans of the men look dazzling in comparison with these soiled, greasy-stained robes.

Great sadness overwhelms the traveler from the contrast that exists between the wealth and splendor of the surrounding nature and the plight of the people dressed in rags.

The capital of the state, Srinagar (City of the Sun), or, calling it the name that she bears in honor of the country – Kashmir, is located on the banks of the Jhelum, along which it extends to the south for five kilometers. Its two-story houses, home to 132 thousand people, are built of wood and border both banks of the Indus. The city is no more than two kilometers wide, and the entire population lives on the river, whose banks are connected by ten bridges.

Well-trodden paths descend from houses to the water’s edge, where all day long ablutions are performed, baths are taken and household dishes are washed, usually consisting of two or three copper jugs. Part of the population professes Mohammedanism, two-thirds are followers of Brahmanism, and only a few Buddhists can be found among them.

It was soon time to prepare for my next risky journey into the unknown. I have packed a supply of canned food, a few furs of wine, and other things needed to travel through a country as sparsely populated as Tibet. The things were packed in boxes, I hired ten porters and a guide, bought a horse for myself and set the day of departure for October 27th.

To liven up my journey, I took with me, thanks to the kindness of Mr. Peixo, a French farmer from the Maharaja’s vineyards, a magnificent dog that had previously traveled through the Pamirs with my friends Bonvalo, Kapus and Pepin, famous explorers.

Taking a route that would shorten my trip by two days, at dawn I sent my coolies forward to the other side of the lake, which I myself swam by boat, joining them later at the foot of the mountain range separating the Srinagar Valley from Sindh.

I will never forget the agony we endured as we climbed almost on all fours to the 3,000-foot summit. The coolies were gasping for breath, and I was afraid at any moment to see one of them rolling down the cliff with his load. My heart ached from the sight of my poor dog Pamir, when he, with his tongue out, finally let out a soft groan and, exhausted, fell to the ground. I forgot about my own extreme fatigue, stroking and encouraging the poor animal, which, as if understanding me, could hardly rise to its feet only to fall again after a few steps.

Night fell when, having reached the top of the mountain, we threw ourselves greedily into the snow, hoping to quench our thirst. After a short halt, we began our descent through a very dense pine forest, hurrying to reach the village of Hayen at the foot of the gorge, before the beasts of prey appeared.

A smooth, well-maintained road leads from Srinagar to Hayena directly north past Ganderbal, where, rounding Sindh and passing through extremely fertile terrain that extends to Kangra, it turns sharply east. Six miles further, it comes to the village of Hayena, where I directed my way by a shorter route through the already mentioned pass, which significantly reduced the distance and time.

My first step into the unknown was marked by an incident that forced us to go through tan vais quart d’heure (lit. “bad quarter of an hour” French; unpleasant, albeit brief experience. – Ed. Note)

The Sindh Gorge, sixty miles long, is famous for its inhospitable inhabitants, including panthers, tigers, leopards, black bears, wolves and jackals. As if in order to confuse our plans, the snow has just covered the heights of the mountain range with its white carpet, thereby forcing these formidable predatory inhabitants to go down a little lower – to seek shelter in their lairs.

We walked in silence in the dark along a narrow path winding between old fir and birch trees, only the sound of our steps broke the silence of the night. Suddenly, in the immediate vicinity of us, a terrible howl broke the silence of the forest. Our little detachment came to an abrupt halt. “Panther!” My servant whispered in a voice trembling with fear, the other coolies froze in immobility, as if chained to a place.

At that moment I remembered that during the ascent, feeling completely exhausted, I entrusted my revolver to one porter, and the Winchester to another. Now I felt an acute regret that I had parted with both, and quietly asked where the man to whom I had given the gun.

The howl grew more and more violent, evoking an echo in the silent forest, when suddenly we heard a dull thud, as if a body were falling. Almost simultaneously, we were frightened by the noise of the struggle and the dying cry of a man, mingled with the disgusting howl of some hungry animal.

“Sahib, take your gun!” – rang out next to me. Feverishly I grabbed the gun, but it was of little use, since it was impossible to see anything two steps away. A new cry, accompanied by a dull growl, gave me some idea of ​​the place of the fight, and I felt my way forward, hesitating between desire. “Kill the panther” and save, if possible, the life of its victim, whose voice we heard, and fear, in turn, to be torn apart.

All my companions were paralyzed by fear, and only after five long minutes I managed – remembering the dislike of wild animals for fire – to force one of them to strike a match and set fire to the deadwood. And then we saw, ten steps away from us, one of the coolies, sprawled on the ground, the limbs of his body were literally torn to pieces by the fangs of a magnificent panther, which, frozen in place, still held a piece of flesh in its teeth. A torn fur was thrown next to her, from which wine flowed.

As soon as I raised the gun to my shoulder, the panther growled and, turning towards us, released its terrible lunch from its mouth. For a moment it seemed that she was ready to jump at me, when suddenly she turned and, issuing a growl, from which the blood froze in her veins, darted into the middle of the thicket and disappeared from sight.

My coolies, who had been lying on the ground in fear all this time, have now somehow recovered from their fright. Holding bundles of brushwood and matches ready, we hastened on, hoping to reach Hayena, leaving the remains of the unfortunate Indian out of fear of sharing his fate.

An hour later we emerged from the forest onto the plain. There my tent was set up under a thick sycamore tree, at the same time I ordered to light a large fire, the only way to keep wild animals at a distance, whose terrible howl came from all directions. My dog, with its tail between its legs, in the forest all the time huddled towards me, but once in the tent, suddenly regained its prowess and barked all night without interruption, not daring, however, to stick its nose out.

The night was terrible for me. I passed her, gun in hand, listening to a concert of fearful howls, the burial echoes of which filled the gorge. Several panthers, attracted by the barking of the Pamirs, approached our bivouac, but the fire did not allow them and they did not try to attack us.

I left Srinagar at the head of eleven coolies, four of whom were loaded with boxes of wine and provisions, four more carried my personal belongings, one a firearm, the other all kinds of utensils, while the latter was responsible for the work of a scout. This subject bore the title “chikari”, which means “the one who accompanies the hunter to choose the route.”

I demoted him after that night in the gorge for his extreme cowardice and absolute ignorance of the area, and at the same time resigned six other coolies, leaving only four with me, and replacing them with horses upon arrival in the village of Gund. Later, I recruited another chikari, who acted as an interpreter and received good recommendations from Mr. Peisho.

How beautiful is the nature in the Sinda Gorge and is justly loved by all hunters! In addition to predatory animals, one can find deer, fallow deer, wild sheep, a great variety of birds, among which one can especially note golden, red and snow-white pheasants, large partridges and huge eagles.

The villages throughout Sindh are inconspicuous due to their size. Usually they number from ten to twenty pitiful-looking huts, their inhabitants go about in rags and rags. The cattle there are of a very undersized breed.

After crossing the river near Sumbal, I stopped at the village of Gund to get horses. Whenever it happened that I was denied these useful four-legged, I always began to play with the whip, as a result of which I invariably met obedience and respect, and small sums of money completed the business, ensuring exceptional servility and immediate execution of my slightest orders.

The stick and the rupee are the true masters of the East. The Great Mogul himself would not mean anything without them.

Soon night fell, and I was in a hurry to cross the gorge that separates the villages of Gogangan and Sonamarg. The road was in very poor condition and was teeming with wild creatures that go out at night in search of prey and make their way even into villages. There are many panthers, and for fear of being attacked, very few dare to settle in this area, despite its beauty and fertility.

At the exit from the gorge, near the village of Chokodar, or Tkhajivas, in the semi-darkness, I saw two dark figures crossing the road. It turned out to be a pair of bears followed by a cub.

Since only my servant was with me (we went ahead of the caravan), I was in no hurry to grapple with them, having only one gun. However, my hunting instinct for a long time spent in the mountains, so strengthened that I could not resist the temptation to fight them. Jumping off the horse, aiming, shooting, and without even checking the result, quickly reloading the gun was a matter of one second.

At that moment, one of the two bears was about to jump at me, but the second shot made him show his tail and run away. After reloading the gun and holding it in my hand, I then cautiously approached the place where I was shooting, and there I found a bear lying on its side and a cub jumping behind. The next shot landed him too, after which my servant hastened to remove from them the skins with luxurious, jet-black wool.

This incident took us two hours, and the night was thickened by the time I pitched my tent near Chokodar, which I left at dawn to reach Baltal, following the course of the Sind River. At this point, the exquisite landscape of the “golden prairie” suddenly ends with a village of the same name. Sona – “gold” and marg – “prairie” ) Next comes the Zoji La Upland, a steep rise of 11,500 feet, beyond which the whole country takes on a harsh and inhospitable appearance.

Before Baltal there were no more hunting adventures, since that time I have met only wild goats. If I intended to conduct an expedition, I would have to leave the main road and make my way into the very heart of the mountains. I had neither the time nor the desire to do this, and I calmly continued on my way to Ladak.

A dramatic change occurs in the transition from the smiling nature and beautiful inhabitants of Kashmir to the waterless gloomy rocks and beardless ugly inhabitants of Ladakh. The country I had just entered was at an altitude of 11,000 to 12,000 feet; only at Kargil the level drops to 8,000 feet.

The ascent of Zoji La is very difficult, you have to climb an almost sheer wall. In some places, the trail winds over crevices in the rock no more than a meter wide, but the head starts spinning at the sight of the bottomless abyss underfoot. In such places, may the heavens save the traveler from a wrong step! “La” means “pass.” – Ed. Note )

Here is one place where the bridge is made of long logs inserted into holes in the rock and sprinkled with a layer of earth. Brr! .. At the thought that a stone rolling down the side of a mountain or a too strong vibration of the logs could throw the earth into the abyss – and together with the earth and the unfortunate traveler risking his life – my heart sank more than once during this dangerous journey.

The worries were left behind, we entered the valley, where we prepared to spend the night near the postage hut, in a place that, due to the close proximity of ice and snow, is not particularly attractive.

Outside of Baltal, the distance is determined by the Dacians – that is, the stations of the postal service. These are low huts, located seven kilometers apart, each of which has a guard left for constant supervision.

The postal service between Kashmir and Tibet still operates at a very primitive level. Letters are placed in leather bags and handed to the postman. This man, who carries a basket with several identical bags on his back, quickly covers the seven kilometers assigned to him. At the end of the journey, he transfers his burden to another postman, who in turn performs his task in the same way. This is how letters are delivered once a week from Kashmir to Tibet and back, and neither rain nor snow impedes their movement.

For each crossing, the postman is paid six annas (ten pence), the amount usually paid for carrying loads. My coolies asked for the same fee for carrying loads at least ten times heavier. My heart aches at the sight of these pale, emaciated laborers. But what can you do? These are the customs of the country. Tea comes from China in a similar way, this transportation system is both fast and economical.

Near the village of Matayan, I again came across a caravan of Yarkand residents, to which I promised to join. They recognized me from afar and immediately asked to examine a patient from their group. I saw the poor man rushing about in agony from a violent fever. Raising my hands in despair, I pointed to heaven, thus trying to make them understand that the condition of their companion is already beyond the limits of human help or the competence of science and that only God alone can save him.

As these people moved slowly due to frequent stops, I had to leave them in order to arrive that evening at Dras, which is located at the end of the valley, by the river of the same name. Near Dras there is a small fortress of very ancient construction – freshly whitewashed – under the protection of three Sikhs from the Maharaja’s army.

Here the post office became my shelter, which was the only station of the only telegraph line connecting Srinagar with the interior of the Himalayas. From that time on, I no longer set up my tent in the evenings, but was forced to seek shelter in the caravanserais, which, although terribly dirty, were nevertheless well warmed inside by the huge logs of a burning tree.

From Dras to Kargil, the area is dull and monotonous for those looking for magical sunrises and sunsets and beautiful moonlight effects. Quite the opposite, the road is monotonous, endless and full of dangers.

Kargil is the main city of the region and the residence of the country’s governor. Its views are very picturesque. Two water streams, Suru and Wakka, noisily seethe between rocks and stones, flowing out from different gorges to merge into the Sura River, on the banks of which the Kargila adobe buildings rise.

At dawn, having procured fresh horses, I continued on my way, heading to Ladakh, or Little Tibet. Here I crossed a wobbly bridge, built like a mos shy; you are in Kashmir, from two long logs anchored on opposite banks, completely covered with a layer of brushwood and sticks and creating the illusion of a suspension bridge.

Soon thereafter, I slowly climbed a small plateau that stretched for a distance of one hundred meters from the ground and the unfortunate traveler risking his life – his heart stopped more than once during this dangerous journey.

The worries were left behind, we entered the valley, where we prepared to spend the night near the postage hut, in a place that, due to the close proximity of ice and snow, is not particularly attractive.

Outside of Baltal, the distance is determined by the Dacians – that is, the stations of the postal service. These are low huts, located seven kilometers apart, each of which has a guard left for constant supervision.

The postal service between Kashmir and Tibet still operates at a very primitive level. Letters are placed in leather bags and handed to the postman. This man, who carries a basket with several identical bags on his back, quickly covers the seven kilometers assigned to him. At the end of the journey, he transfers his burden to another postman, who in turn performs his task in the same way. This is how letters are delivered once a week from Kashmir to Tibet and back, and neither rain nor snow impedes their movement.

For each crossing, the postman is paid six annas (ten pence), the amount usually paid for carrying loads. My coolies asked for the same fee for carrying loads at least ten times heavier. My heart aches at the sight of these pale, emaciated laborers. But what can you do? These are the customs of the country. Tea comes from China in a similar way, this transportation system is both fast and economical.

Near the village of Matayan, I again came across a caravan of Yarkand residents, to which I promised to join. They recognized me from afar and immediately asked to examine a patient from their group. I saw the poor man rushing about in agony from a violent fever. Raising my hands in despair, I pointed to heaven, thus trying to make them understand that the condition of their companion is already beyond the limits of human help or the competence of science and that only God alone can save him.

As these people moved slowly due to frequent stops, I had to leave them in order to arrive that evening at Dras, which is located at the end of the valley, by the river of the same name. Near Dras there is a small fortress of very ancient construction – freshly whitewashed – under the protection of three Sikhs from the Maharaja’s army.

Here the post office became my shelter, which was the only station of the only telegraph line connecting Srinagar with the interior of the Himalayas. From that time on, I no longer set up my tent in the evenings, but was forced to seek shelter in the caravanserais, which, although terribly dirty, were nevertheless well warmed inside by the huge logs of a burning tree.

From Dras to Kargil, the area is dull and monotonous for those looking for magical sunrises and sunsets and beautiful moonlight effects. Quite the opposite, the road is monotonous, endless and full of dangers.

Kargil is the main city of the region and the residence of the country’s governor. Its views are very picturesque. Two water streams, Suru and Wakka, noisily seethe between rocks and stones, flowing out from different gorges to merge into the Sura River, on the banks of which the Kargila adobe buildings rise.

At dawn, having procured fresh horses, I continued on my way, heading to Ladakh, or Little Tibet. Here I crossed a wobbly bridge, built like a mos shy; you are in Kashmir, from two long logs anchored on opposite banks, completely covered with a layer of brushwood and sticks and creating the illusion of a suspension bridge.

Soon thereafter, I slowly climbed a small plateau that stretched for a distance of two kilometers, and then descended into the narrow valley of Wakka, dotted with villages, of which Pashkum, on the left bank, is the most picturesque.

Soon, my feet set foot on Buddhist land. Its inhabitants are simple and good-natured; they seem to have no idea what we Europeans call quarrels. Women there are somewhat rare. Those whom I met were different from the women that I had previously seen in India and Kashmir in the gaiety and well-being written on their faces.

And how could it be otherwise, when every woman in this country has an average of three to five husbands, and in the most legal way in the world? Polyany flourishes here. No matter how big a family is, there is never more than one woman in it. And if the family has less than three people, a bachelor can join it, contributing to the total expenses.

As a rule, men are weak in appearance, rather stooped, and rarely live to old age. During my trip to Ladakh, I did not meet a single gray-haired man.

The road from Kargil to the center of Ladakh looks much more busy than the one I just passed, as it is decorated with numerous villages, although trees and greenery of any kind are extremely rare on it.

Twenty miles from Kargil, at the exit from the gorge formed by the rapid flow of Wakka, there is a small village of Shergol, in the center of which there are three brightly painted chapels – chorten , ( chorten is a small funeral chapel or memorial to the dead. Ed. Ed. ) As they are called. in Tibet.

Below, near the river, there were heaps of stones piled together and forming long, wide walls, on which many flat, multi-colored stones were scattered in obvious disarray with all kinds of prayers in Urdu, Sanskrit, Tibetan and even Arabic carved on them. Unbeknownst to my coolies, I was able to carry away from there several of these stones, which can now be seen in the Trocadero Palace. From Shergol, you can meet these elongated dams at every step.

The next morning, at sunrise, having procured fresh horses, I continued my journey, making a halt near the monastery ( gonpa ) in Mulbek, which seems to be glued to the slope of a lonely rock. Below is the village of Vacca, not far from which you can see another rock of an extremely strange appearance, which seems to have been placed in this place by human hands. On one of its sides a seven-meter high Buddha is carved, while the rest is decorated with several prayer girouettes.

These are a special kind of wooden cylinders covered with white and yellow cloth and tied to poles driven into the ground. The slightest breath of wind makes them sway. The person who placed them on the rock was released from the obligation to pray, since everything that only a believer could ask of God is inscribed on them.

This whitewashed monastery has a very bizarre appearance, which is visible from afar, surrounded by rotating prayer wheels, clearly standing out against the gray background of the mountains.

I left the horses in the village of Wakka and, accompanied by an interpreter, went to the gonpa, where a narrow staircase carved into the rock led. Upstairs we were greeted by a representative lama with a characteristic rare Tibetan beard. His simplicity was surpassed only by his kindness.

The costume he wore consisted of a yellow dress and a cap of the same color with headphones. In his right hand he held a brass prayer wheel, which from time to time, without interrupting our conversation, began to rotate. This action supported the continuous prayer, transmitting it into the atmosphere so that it would quickly ascend to heaven.

We walked through a suite of rooms with low ceilings, walls lined with shelves, where various images of Buddha were displayed – of all sizes, made from different kinds of materials and covered with a thick layer of dust. We finally came out onto an open terrace, from which we could see the surrounding wastelands of this inhospitable country, strewn with gray rocks and crossed by a single road, both ends of which were lost beyond the horizon.

Here we sat down, and immediately we were served beer made from hops and brewed in the monastery itself, it is called chang. This drink quickly gives the monks a stoutness, which is considered a sign of the special disposition of heaven.

The Tibetan language is spoken here, its origin is very vague. One thing is certain, a certain Tibetan king, a contemporary of Mohammed, decided to create a universal language for all followers of the Buddha. With this intention, he simplified the grammar of Sanskrit and composed an alphabet with a huge number of letters, thereby laying the foundation for a language with pronunciation as simple as it is difficult and difficult to write. To represent any sound, at least eight characters must be used.

All modern literature in Tibet is written in this language, which in its pure form is used only in Ladakh and eastern Tibet. In other parts of the country, dialects are used, formed from a combination of this native language and various idioms borrowed from neighboring peoples of a particular region. In ordinary life, Tibetans speak two languages, one of which is completely inaccessible to women, and the other is spoken by the whole people. It is only in the gonpas that the Tibetan language remains in its purity.

Lamas prefer to be visited by Europeans rather than Muslims. I asked my host to explain this fact, and he replied as follows: “Muslims have nothing in common with our religion. Quite recently, as a result of a successful campaign, they forcibly converted some of our fellow believers to Islam. All our efforts are directed towards trying to bring these Muslim apostates from Buddhism back to the path of true God.

As for the Europeans, this is a completely different matter. They not only profess the basic principles of monotheism, but, perhaps, more deserve the name of Buddha worshipers than the Tibetan lamas themselves.

The only mistake of Christians was that, having accepted the great teachings of the Buddha, they completely separated from him, creating for themselves another Dalai Lama, while only ours has the divine gift of contemplating the greatness of Buddha face to face and the right to serve as an intermediary between heaven and earth ” …

“Who is this Christian Dalai Lama you are talking about? I asked. “We have the ‘Son of God’ to whom we turn with fervent prayers and to shy; who we ask for intercession before the one and indivisible God.”

“Sahib, I’m not talking about him: We also honor the one whom you consider to be the Son of the One God and see in him not a certain only Son, but a perfect being, chosen from all the others. Indeed, the spirit of Buddha was embodied in the sacred personality of Issa, who, without the help of fire and sword, spread the teachings of our great and true religion throughout the world . I am talking rather about your earthly Dalai Lama, to whom you have given the title of “Father of the Church.” This is a great sin; may he forgive the lost flock. ” Having said this, the lama began to spin his prayer cylinder.

Now I understood that his remark referred to the Pope.

“You told me that Issa, the son of Buddha, spread your religion throughout the earth. Who is he then? “

To this question the lama opened his eyes wide, looked at me in amazement and, muttering words that my translator could not catch, continued to say the following somewhat indistinctly: “Issa is a great prophet, one of the first after twenty-two Buddhas. He is greater than any of all the Dalai Lamas, as he is part of the Spirit of our Lord. It was he who enlightened you, returned the souls of the lost to the fold of religion, allowed every human being to distinguish between good and evil. His name and his deeds are recorded in our scriptures. And when we read about his wonderful life among sinful and lost people, we mourn the terrible sin of those pagans who gave him over to torment and death. “

I was amazed at the lama’s story. The Prophet Issa, his suffering and death, our Christian Dalai Lama, the recognition of Christianity by Buddhists – all this made me think about Jesus Christ more and more, and I asked my translator to be careful and not miss a word of what the lama could say.

“Where can these scriptures be found now? And by whom were they first recorded? ” I asked.

“Major scrolls, lists of which were made in India and Nepal in different eras, can be found in Laos in number of several thousand. In some of the main monasteries, you can find copies made by lamas during their trips to Laos at different times and subsequently donated to their monasteries in memory of their pilgrimage to the abode of our great teacher, our Dalai Lama. “

“But do you yourself have copies concerning the prophet Issa?”

“We don’t have one. Our monastery is not an important one, and since its foundation our lamas have received only a few hundred manuscripts at their disposal. Great monasteries own thousands. But these are sacred things that you will not be shown anywhere. “

Our conversation lasted a few more minutes, and I returned to the camp, not ceasing to reflect on the lama’s story. Issa, the prophet of the Buddhists! But how could he be? Being of Jewish origin, he lived in Palestine and Egypt, and there is not a single word in the Gospels, not a single hint of what role Buddhism could play in the teaching of Jesus.

I made the decision to visit every monastery in Tibet, hoping to collect more complete information about the prophet Issus and, perhaps, come across the chronicles concerning his life.

Almost without realizing it, we crossed the Namika Pass at an altitude of 13,000 feet, from where we descended into the valley of the Sangeluma River. Turning south, we reached Harbu, leaving behind on the other side of the river numerous villages, among which Chagdum, standing on the top of the cliff, has an exceptionally picturesque view.

The houses there are white, two- or three-story and very cheerful in appearance – this property is inherent in all the villages of Ladakh. A European, going around Kashmir, soon forgets his national style in architecture, while in Ladakh, on the contrary, he is pleasantly surprised by the sight of neat little houses with casement windows, like those found in every provincial town in Europe.

Near Harbu, on two sheer cliffs, you can see the ruins of a small town or village. It is said that a storm or an earthquake destroyed its walls, although in terms of strength they left nothing to be desired.

The next day I passed another station and crossed the Fotu-La Pass, 13,500 feet high, on top of which a small chapel was built.

From there, following an absolutely dry river bed, I went down to the village of Lamayuru, which suddenly appears before the eyes of a traveler. The monastery, clinging to the slope of a lonely rock and miraculously maintaining its balance, rises above the village.

The stairs in this monastery are not known. From one floor to another, they climb there with the help of ropes, external communication is carried out through a labyrinth of passages and corridors. Below the monastery, whose windows resemble the nests of a huge bird, there is a small inn that offers the traveler some unattractive rooms.

Immediately after my arrival here, when I was about to stretch out on the carpet, my apartment was suddenly occupied by a group of monks in yellow robes, who pestered me with questions about where I came from, what was the purpose of my trip, etc. etc., and in the end they invited me to go up to the monastery.

Despite my tiredness, I accepted their invitation and began to climb with them along a steep passage, carved into the rock and so hung with prayer cylinders or wheels that I touched them every minute, making them spin. These religious objects were placed here precisely so that those passing by would not waste time in prayer, as if their daily affairs were so important that they would not leave free time for religious rituals.

Many devout Buddhists use the flow of the river for the same purpose. I have seen a number of such cylinders, equipped with the usual formulas and placed along the riverbank in such a way that the water kept them constantly in motion, relieving the owners of the obligation to pray.

When I reached my goal, I sat down on a bench in a dimly lit room, the walls of which were decorated with unchanging images of Buddha, as well as books and girouettes, my talkative hosts immediately began to explain to me the meaning of each object.

“And the books that you have are undoubtedly about religion?” I asked.

“Yes, Sahib. These are volumes dealing with the earliest and most important rituals of public life. We have several parts of the Buddha’s precepts, dedicated to the great and indivisible divine Being and everything that came out of his hands. “

“Are there any records of the prophet Issus among these books?”

“No,” the monk replied. “We have several major treatises on religious observance. As for the biographies of our saints, they are kept in Laos. Even some of our most important monasteries have not yet acquired them. Before coming to this gonpa, I lived for several years in a great monastery in another part of Ladakh, and there I saw thousands of books and scrolls, rewritten shy; sledges at different times by the lamas of the monastery. “

Questioning the monks for a fair amount of time, I learned that the mentioned monastery was near Lech. My urgent questions, however, aroused their suspicion, and with undisguised pleasure they escorted me downstairs, where I retired to sleep after a light meal, instructing my Indian to carefully question the young lamas from the gonpa about the name of the monastery where their chief lama lived before his appointment. to Lamayuru.

Right at sunrise the next morning, I continued my journey; the Indian informed me that he had not succeeded in extracting any information from the lamas, who were apparently on the alert. I will not dwell on the description of the monastic life of these monasteries, it is basically the same in all monasteries of Ladakh. Subsequently, I saw the famous Lech monastery, the visit to which I will describe in detail later.

A steep descent begins from Lamayuru, which leads through a narrow gloomy gorge to the Indus. Having no idea of ​​the dangers of this descent, I sent my coolies ahead and set off along a trail between hills of brown clay – fairly flat at the very beginning, but soon led to a narrow and fog-filled notch, winding a cornice along the side of the mountain, from which there was a view of a terrifying abyss.

The road was so narrow that if I had met a rider, we, of course, could never have missed each other. All descriptions could not convey the greatness and wild beauty of this gorge, bordered by peaks, the crests of which rushed straight to the sky.

In some places the passage narrowed so much that from the saddle I could touch the opposite rock with a whip, while in others death seemed to gaze intently into my face from the depths of the descending abyss. However, it was too late to dismount. I could only regret the haste of my step and continue on my way with all possible caution.

This crevice is actually a huge fissure, formed by some kind of terrible shift in the earth’s strata, which seemed to frantically split two giant masses of granite rocks. At the bottom, I could see a subtle white stripe. It was a rushing stream, whose indistinct noise filled the abyss with mysterious sounds. Above me was a narrow blue ribbon — the only part of the firmament visible between the rocks.

The contemplation of this magical nature was a great pleasure in itself. At the same time, the deathly silence, the terrifying silence of the mountains, only disturbed by the melancholic splashes of the water below, filled me with sadness.

For eight miles I experienced this sensation, pleasant and at the same time overwhelming, when, after a sharp turn to the right, I drove out of the gorge into a valley surrounded by rocks, the peaks of which were reflected in the Indus. On the bank of the river there is the Khalsi fortress, a citadel famous since the time of the Muslim invasion, near which there is a large road leading from Kashmir to Tibet.

Crossing the Indus along a kind of suspension bridge leading to the entrance to the fortress, I crossed the valley and passed the village of Halsey, hurrying to spend the night in the village of Snowley, which is located in the Indus Valley and is built on terraces that descend to the river.

For the next two days I traveled calmly and without any complications along the banks of the Indus through the picturesque countryside, which led me to Leh, the capital of Ladakh.

Crossing the small valley of Saspula near the village of the same name, for several kilometers in the vicinity I found stone mounds and chortens. I also passed two monasteries, one of which was flying the French flag. Later I learned that a French engineer had given it to monks who used it as a decoration.

I spent the night in Saspul, not forgetting to visit the monasteries, where for the tenth time I saw dust-covered Buddha statues, flags and banners hanging in the corner, horrible masks lying on the ground, books and scrolls of parchment piled up in disarray, and the usual exhibition of prayer cylinders. …

The lamas seem to take a certain pleasure in displaying these objects. They seem to be displaying treasures of great importance, while being completely indifferent to the extent to which it arouses the interest of the viewer. Their idea seems to be this:

“We must show everything that we own, in the hope that the mere sight of so many sacred things will make the traveler believe in the divine greatness of the human soul.”

As for the prophet Issa, they gave me explanations that I had already heard before, and they told me what was already known – that the books that could somehow clarify this issue were in Laos and that only the largest monasteries have copies of these books. I no longer thought about the transition of the Karakorum, but only thought about how to find out this story, which could, perhaps, shed some more light on the inner life of the best of people and at the same time expand the somewhat obscure information that gives us about dumb the Gospel.

Not far from Leh, at the entrance to the valley with the same name, the road passes near a lonely rock, on top of which a fort with two adjacent towers (without a garrison) and a small Pintak monastery are built.

A mountain 10,500 feet high guards the entrance to Tibet. The road then curves sharply north towards Leh, which, six miles from Pintak, is 11,500 feet high at the foot of immense granite columns whose peaks, ranging from 18,000 to 19,000 feet, are covered in eternal snow.

The city itself, bordered by low-growing aspens, rises in rows of terraces, over which the old fortress and the palace of the ancient rulers of Ladakh rise. Towards evening I drove into Leh and settled in a bungalow specially built for Europeans.

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