Milarepa Palace is a Buddhist temple located in the Chinese province of Gansu, China. What makes it unique is its unusual structure: it is a 9-storey tower, surrounded by prayer wheels. Each floor actually contains a separate temple, dedicated to a spiritual leader of the past or present. It is a triumph of carpets, statues, Bodhisattva paintings, scrolls and yak butter candles. The eye cannot grasp the richness of the details at once.
I would like to photograph everything but… “NO PICTURES!” shouts a voice from a speaker.
Every corner of the temple is monitored by cameras. It is strictly forbidden to take photos in Buddhist sacred places, especially you can not photograph the altars. I try several times to break the ban but every time I get caught by the voice of the monk who controls the visitors from the cameras. I admire this extreme form of devotion: a temple is a place of prayer and meditation, where one comes to draw from their deepest inner resources; it is not permissible to make it the object of a purely aesthetic, external experience. I live my inner disagreement during the visit of the 9 nine floors of the temple. The building is entirely made of wood, the floors are creaky and full of holes. Some support beams are worm-eaten and inclined: many things make me doubt the solidity of the structure. A nail that comes out of the floor unexpectedly rips out my sock. I put aside my guilt feelings and secretly take some photos. The precariousness of this place requires me to preserve its memory in some way. I am not hurting anyone, I say to myself.
I finish the visit and return to the external reality as if waking up from a dream. The tower is surrounded by a porch with hundreds of prayer wheels. Tibetan Buddhists pray by walking around places of worship. They do it all day, especially at dawn and dusk. As they walk, they pass by the prayer wheels and make them turn with their hands. Each wheel has engraved a prayer, a mantra: spinning the wheel, the prayer stands out in the air and the wind carries it around the world. In my opinion, a beautiful way of praying.
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