Kora in Lhasa
We were fortunate to be in Tibet during their most sacred religious holiday Saka Dawa, a month which honors the Buddha's life. During this holiday the merit of doing good deeds are believed to be greatly multiplied, by as much as one hundred million times. Some of these pious deeds are not eating meat, buying animals that are going to be killed and releasing them, lighting butter lamps, offering donations to monasteries or nunneries, giving alms to beggars, praying, reciting mantras, making prostrations around and pilgrimages to holy sights and circumambulating holy places. These are all activities you would expect to see in Tibet anytime but during Saka Dawa, even more so.
Circumambulation you say? In Tibet, the pathway around a sacred place or object is termed kora. In the English language, making kora is circumambulation. When they walk the paths, their motivation is to seek wisdom and compassion. They seek to neutralize negative karma and sow the seeds towards enlightenment. When circumambulating, one proceeds in a clockwise direction, which is going to the right, not only in direction, but also toward the moral and just.
Above is the kora around the Potala Palace.
Circumambulation is a multigenerational pious activity. People of all ages participate, both the very young and the not so young are walking the kora throughout the day. Many spin prayer wheels and carry prayer beads. In some areas such as below, the air is thick with incense. It is an experience that touched all five of my senses.
Note the two large sangkang (incense burners) in front of the Jokhang.
And some prostrate the entire kora, which my body can not even begin to imagine.
In Tibet, kora is both a type of pilgrimage as well as a meditative practice and and on a larger scale can refer to the entire pilgrimage into the Tibetan regions.