Why did so many gompas start out as caves? Tak-Thok (also Thag-Thok, literally “rock roof”) gompa has come up around a cave where Padmasambhava, or the Guru Rinpoche, is said to have meditated during his travels to Ladakh in the 8th century.
The cave, called Duphug (or Tu-Phuk) Lhakhang, is a popular pilgrimage. Buddhists visit to be blessed by dubchu, the sacred water that oozes from its ceiling. A constant drip. Even in winter, when the world freezes over. The ceiling is a greasy black with emissions from the butter lamps that burn nonstop. Devotees have stuck offerings of banknotes and coins all over. Gold-plated statues of Padmasambhava’s eight manifestations occupy pride of place.
Tak-Thok comes under the Nyingma lineage founded by Padmasambhava, also called the red hat sect going by the colour of the headgear its followers sport. Tak-Thok’s lamas are sought after as they have developed texts to ward off evil spirits, epidemics and curses. They perform birth and death rites, recite prayers for longevity and wealth, even make astrological predictions.
All this expertise has been developed over time to supplement the monastery’s income. Sacred water doesn’t pay bills!
Read more such anecdotes and experiences from Ladakh in Ajay Jain’s new book, Postcards from Ladakh.