More Porridge from the Holy Mountain

Zen porridges from japan are coming soon, yesterdays Taiwan post  the beginning of the  shift from  tsampa  to brown rice. But I am not done with Tibet yet – there is Golok, and Yushu , Wudong, Madoi (source of the yellow river), Tankor and the summer pastures above Langmusi – each place  a profound porridge experience in the primordial unfolding of porridge on our planet. So to the holy mountain of Amnye Machen and our discovery of buddha in the porridge.

On the material plane,  tsampa that we’d had for breakfast in Tawshuma sustained  us on our pilgrimage by car, giving us the energy to look out the window at other  pilgrims prostrating themselves each and every meter of their journey around the mountain Kora. We smelt the ice off the the glaciers out of the Mitsubishi pajero’s window. We  listened to the craggy mountan peaks rushing by, and tasted the essence of the windhorses flight from prayer flag to heaven, all the way to our next porridge stop in a marmot-meadow by a gurgling mountain stream. Jamian puntsok pulled out the tsampa sack scooping generous spoonfuls of this finely ground roasted barley into our bowls, adding sugar but only a small ammount of tea. This tsampa treat was a departure from the gloopy texture that defines porridge and raised the important issue of   where exactly  the line between different dishes lies. When does soup become porridge? When does porridge become dough or anzac biscuits,? Are muesli and rice soups realy just porridges at different stages of evolutionary development?
It is all perspective, words imprisoning realities that are all interconnected, a spectrum with shifting boundaries depending on your reality. Form and formlessness.

Was there something in the tsampa, or was altitude affecting my brain I wondered as zen thoughts on porridge  began to posses my usually vacant mind. Maybe achieving the equivalent of 3  walking kora  in a single  mornings drive had coorerspondingly sped up our  journey towards buddhist enlightenment.

Mid afternoon brought us to the half way point where two rivers became one under a pretty bridge. The road entered a gorge with pine trees clinging twisted and gnarled to the limestone crags, then broadened into green meadows of yaks and sheep. We set up camp by the tents of a herding family, inviting a wandering muslim sheep procurer marching his expanding flock of soon-to-be pao mos (muslim bread and lamb porridge) to market, to come and share our rice and vegetable soup, a meal which from my new all encompassing everything-is-connected buddhist outlook, was the universe once again expressing itself as porridge.

Wanting to honour the diversity of the feast that the universe everyday provides, I cooked oats for breakfast saluting our muslim goatherd by adding silk road saltanas, powdered goat milk and grassland honey.

Driving on that morning we came to a fork in the road which we took. Another Zen Koan. Right to continue the kora proper, or left to Golok to continue the kora –  a much much wider Kora, said Namgel, who also seemed to have expanded his Buddha nature. In our detached mindsets it no longer seemed important to complete the conventional mountain kora – in fact to finish it would be possesive, like it were a feather to be aquired for our hats. Namgel turned the wheel, setting our course and we rolled on to discover new and wonderous expressions of the universe through porridge and our newly discovered buddha-nature in Golok on the back road to Yushu.


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