Cloth Wrapped Tantras and Sutras

Tibet Tales by Sallie Mason


Flash red saris

Elegant women within

Hawking their wares

To the unwary

Smiles and namastes

Freely offered

Expecting $ in return

Buildings crumbling

Antiquity notwithstanding the

7.6 Richter tremor

Debris littered

Rebuilding started

Under the watchful gaze of

Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma

But belief is not enough

To quell earth rumbles

Nor persuade

The unwary to buy


Festival day approaches

In the holiest Tibetan Buddhist

temple — outside Tibet, that is

Its treasured, cracked spire

Repaired post-earthquake

Now central to the preparation

Of perfumed flower heads

Amassed in their thousands

Garlanded, arranged and offered

To glorify the 100-metre diameter of

This white rotunda of worship

Each corner of the football pitch

Sized area beneath,

Covered with swathes of individual flower heads in

Vibrant reds, oranges and yellows

The effect — pulsating

This devotion brings a sense of awe

Nothing is too much here

The vast girth of the stupa

Is festooned with strings of marigolds

The effort — almost effortless

Fresh prayer flags are hoisted

In red, yellow, green, blue and white

On the new, towering golden spire

There is a bustle of generosity

Of mind, body and pocket

Marjorie, in my local village church

Curates her weekly sparse arrangements

With restrained devotion

Under greying skies

And lacklustre attendance

She communes with a quiet God

Flamboyant strings of marigolds and yak butter lamps

Are too boisterous for festival days in her chancel

Where East only faces West…..


Never did I believe that after nearly fifty years, I would stand atop the Potala Palace,

something my immature but, indignant, teenage mind could never imagine

after watching images of maroon and saffron robes in flight

and, later, alight.

I witnessed, powerless, ancient wisdom fleeing its spiritual home.

And now, the red, white, yellow, dark wood-edged fortress was towering above me,

rocky-perched, elevated, ascended

Seemingly, in time and space suspended (or perhaps that is me?)

With bare mountains encircled

I am here, filled with awe

Each step takes me closer to what once was.. in this rarefied atmosphere

I climb up and up, and up, buoyed by years of waiting

Until the inner sanctum is reached.

Nothing could have prepared me for the spiritual wealth within:

A vast library of cloth-wrapped sutras and tantras,

Stupa’d, bejewelled tombs of Dalai Lama’s past

Overwhelmed by centuries of enlightenment,

I take a deep breath in the Dalai Lama’s personal meditation room and

look out through a single, open window

At the mountains of inspiration beyond.

No longer owner-occupied, suddenly I feel the weight of unfathomable loss.

I am here and he is not.

© Sallie Mason 2017

Sallie exploring the streets of old Gyanste. Photo by Jan Cornall.

Sallie Mason has recently picked up the pen after a long career in UK arts administration before moving to Sydney in 2005. Having recently closed the door on her Kinesiology practice, Sallie can’t wait to do more reading, creative writing and travelling.

Photos by Rob Mason except where indicated.

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Next Writer’s Journey trips heading out:

Backstage Bali, Oct 14–21, seven days, mountains and ricefields retreat.

Moroccan Caravan, Mar 4–17, 2018. A camel riding/writing adventure into the Sahara. Add on a five day residency at the end.

Haiku Writing in Japan, Mar 27- April 3, 2018. Walk the Nakasendo Way in cherry blossom time.