The Monastery: Heart of the Sherpa Community
“Sherpas” © 2009 doc_c, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license
It’s often said that travel is more about the journey than the destination, and the rewards of Everest Base Camp trekking certainly include much more than reaching Base Camp itself – although that is of course a wonderful feeling. As well as the physical challenge offered by this famous route, the opportunity to get a glimpse into the culture of the region is one of the most meaningful and memorable aspects of the experience – which is why a Mountain Kingdoms trek gives participants the chance to explore cultural highlights along the way, including one of the most important aspects of Sherpa culture, the monastery.
Having originated in Eastern Tibet, the Sherpa people practice a strand of Tibetan Buddhism, and the stupas and colourful monasteries that can be seen along the Everest Base Camp trekking route play a central role as both the spiritual and cultural heart of their society. Religious matters in the community are overseen by spiritual teachers known as lamas, many of whom reside in the monasteries that can be found dotted throughout the region – although not all lamas are monks, and some live in villages with their own families. Those who do reside in monasteries, under the leadership of a head abbot, spend much of their time in meditation and ritual practices, offering blessings and guidance to the public during festivals.
Many of the monasteries in the region are relatively isolated, and rarely visited by outsiders, but there are some that can be visited on the Everest Base Camp trekking route, including the peaceful Thame Monastery, and the famous Thyangboche Monastery, where the Everest pioneer Tenzing Norgay spent time as a monk. Visiting one of these monasteries on our treks lets visitors to the Sherpa lands gain a sense of the spiritual tranquillity that resides at the heart of their society. In November 2013, we have three holiday departures attending the Mani Rimdu Festival at Thyangboche Monastery, the most important cultural event of the year. These are Everest Base Camp & Gokyo Lakes and Luxury Lodges of Everest.