Taktshang Goemba is one of Bhutan’s links to Padmasambhava aka the Lotus Born aka Guru Rinpoche aka the Guru with 8 manifestations aka the bringer of Buddhism to Tibet and Bhutan. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche flew to this spot way up on the cliffs, on the back of his consort Yeshe, who turned herself into a tiger for this epic journey. He meditated here in a cave for three months, three days and three seconds, and his karmic power was said to have subdued the local evil demons, and pave the way for Buddhism to flourish.
Hiking up to the monastery is its own epic pilgrimage. Done in the right state of mind it is supposed to mirror the trials and challenges of life. The trail leads up through the woods, 1000m up above Paro valley, with stunning viewpoints at several stops on the way up. Its around 3200m when you reach the gate of the monastery, and take your shoes off to the ancient, high altitude chilly stone floors. There is a mystic air about the whole place, with the sounds of the waterfall opposite and the wind and centuries of wishes reverberating off of the silent but telling cliffs. I’ve never been much for solitary isolation, however, the energy is such I would be awed to be able to spend months here taking it in. [The monk I met at the entrance to the monastery lighting rows of candles far away from harms way had been here 13 years!].
There are several puja rooms, including the most famous cave where Guru Rinpoche spent his meditation. There’s another meditation hall with a trap door that leads into another pitch dark meditation cave. Walls are adorned ceiling to floor with colorful paintings of the Guru’s manifestations (including the wrathful Guru Dorje Drolo, the fierce manifestation of the Vajrasattva). At each altar incense is burning, butterlamps are lit, scarves and money are thrown, and piles and piles of food offerings await the blessing of the holy Karma. In fact, there was so much food that one of the caretakers had us pick a treat off of one of the platters- like a karma enhancing trick-or-treat. Each meditation room also has a peacock-feather adorned ‘kettle’ of herbal infused holy water to be taken in the palm and drank and washed over the face. The Guru was said to have brought the water out of the rock to sustain him during his months of isolated meditation.
The fierce manifestations of Padmasambhava are impressive enough, however, the most impactful fright comes from looking out the window in the far back of the monastery, right over the cliff! How in the the world they constructed the monastery right on the cliff ledge is a mystic secret. I am surprised to hear only one tourist has fallen off the cliff – an overeager photographer no less! Thus, I had a spotter on all my photos (just kidding). No photography is allowed inside the monastery, only outside.
Dharma kitties are allowed inside the monastery though, we also met one dog too that belonged to the monastery that seems very chill but has a nasty streak (he’s still working on his enlightenment).