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Perceptions of a tour guide at Jokhang Temple

Duobujie (center) talks to tourists at the Jokhang Temple. Photo: Zhang Chong

Unlike most tour guides in Tibet, Duobujie did not bombard the reporter with numerous obscure nouns in the manner of reciting scriptures. Instead, The tanned middle-aged Tibetan man with deep voice shared his real perceptions and spiritual practices of being a Buddhist. 

“The Potala Palace is for tourists while the Jokhang Temple is the soul of Lhasa, and people trek thousands of miles only for a pilgrimage to the place."

The Jokhang Temple is the birthplace of Tibetan Buddhism. It boasts a statue of 12-year-old Sakyamuni baptized by Buddha himself. It is commonly thought that seeing the statue is the same as seeing him in person. “Without the Jokhang Temple, there would be no Lhasa, as the city was actually built around the temple.

The seven pillars of the grand hall were made of Indian Rosewood when the temple was initially built. So, the wood is now 2,500 years. They are all covered by thick cotton for protection.

The day when a group of reporters arrived, the temple was going through a maintenance. So, most people could only pray outside the grand hall. “Worshippers must be sensible people. Those without self-control are not welcome to pray to the Buddha. And those who seek immediate benefit are also not welcome,” said Duobujie.

“Put your palms together devoutly. And the right way is to withhold your thumbs into your palms, indicating scrapping selfishness and conceit,” he explained.

Every day, there are people who kowtow all the way to Jokhang Temple. Duobuji said these people are not praying for their own prosperity but for world peace and safety of all creatures.

The statue of Maitreya Buddha in Jokhang Temple is slightly different from the belly Maitreya in the Chinese mainland. The Maitreya from Tibetan Buddhism looks more like Bodhisattva, with coronet on top, pearl necklace on the body and a pretty face. Duobujie suggested that males should wear Bodhisattva pendants while females Maiteya pendants, because men are supposed to learn to have a loving heart from Bodhisattva, and women are meant to learn generosity from the Maitreya.

A visitor handed Duobujie a string of Buddha beads worth 1000 yuan for him to tell something about the origin of Buddha beads. “This is used for counting the number of times of reciting scriptures, and it is constituted of Buddha head, pagoda, and vajiras. It could count up to five-digit numbers, just like an abacus. Those who recite scriptures may be illiterate, but they are all good at counting,” said Duobujie.

He felt regretful that the Buddha beads have become somewhat of a toy for people nowadays. “Some use the faith to fish for money, fame, and official positions, while few people would like to really practice it in good faith.”

Now, there is hardly a monastery which does not demand incense money. Over-commercialization has made disciples with limited financial means unable to stick to their beliefs. Guobuji felt pessimistic about the current situation and doesn't think things would get better in a short period.  

(The article is translated and edited by Rebecca Lin)

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