Summer time brings not only monsoonal rains but also a burst of colour to the hills behind Phajoding Monastery. It literally becomes a flower garden as the following photos reveal. Just for an adventure about a month ago some of the monks journeyed over the passes behind the monastery and were keen to share their photos they took with Lama Namgay’s camera with you all. The mountain passes were covered in pink, yellow, white and red Rhododendrons (known in Bhutan as Etho Metho) and rare medicinal plants of various kinds. According to their account their journey took them the whole day, trekking over 7 mountain passes and past 6 sacred lakes. And what was even more interesting was that an unknown black dog guided them all the way there and back and then mysteriously disappeared and hasn’t been seen since (you can see the black dog leading the monks in the first photo).
Some of you may be wondering what is meant by a ‘Beyul’. Well, Beyuls are hidden valleys that transcend geographical and political boundaries. Their locations are also spiritual and to fully experience a Beyul one needs to be spiritually prepared through meditation and prayer. They are said to fully exist beyond the range of our ordinary senses; a bit like parallel dimensions and multiple universes spoken about in quantum physics. From a Buddhist perspective these sacred valleys offer those who enter with the correct motivation and certain level of merit an opportunity to enhance ones understanding of the true nature of reality by deepening one’s wisdom and compassion. These hidden valleys permeate the country, and are seen as havens of peace, spirituality and a sacred refuge for true seekers and believers.
Beyuls are thus sacred natural landscapes of great bio-diversity and immense spiritual significance where many highly evolved spiritual beings have meditated, blessed and hidden spiritual treasures known as terma. Often inexplicable events occur in these Beyuls, such as the appearance and disappearance of the black guide dog and often those who are attuned to the hidden dimensions are said to perceive spiritual visions and messages. It is also said that by seeing, being in or even listening to stories about these valleys, can purify ones negative karma and be a cause of attaining enlightenment. The Beyul behind Phajoding is steeped in Phajo’s presence and many wise beings have spent years meditating in the caves hidden amongst the landscape.
It is also important though to be mindful of the sacredness of these places and keep human intrusion to a minimum in order to preserve the biodiversity and not disturb the spiritual guardians that are said to reside in such places. Being aware of the sacred connection these Beyuls have with the beliefs and practices of the Bhutanese people will ensure that they will remain powerful spiritual sites for generations to come.