Tibetan Buddhists believe that prostrations bring merit in the quest for enlightenment. I initially thought it could be just a believe for old generation. Apparently it is not. Our guide in his 20s has done it a few times (whose dream is to buy an iPod for his sister) and his mum has even done twice from Qinghai province to Lhasa (a 6 months journey). It is a difficult journey for pilgrims. The pilgrims do not run or walk, they takes three and a half steps forward, then prostrates flat on the road while chanting mantras. Then the pilgrims get up, folds his hands in prayer and repeats the process. It is probably still manageble if the road is in good condition. However, as what we have observed through out the whole journey Tibet, it is not the case most of the time. It could be on a rocky mountain road under hot sun. It could be on a high traffic road. To protect themselves, the pilgrims will wear a thick apron, fortified shoes and gloves with a wooden pad on the palms.
Prostration at Drigung Til Monastery
For a long pilgrimage, the pilgrims will travel in group and one or two of them will in charge of food and set up tents for overnight stay. The pilgrims will normally bring bagful of rice, wheat, barley and fruits along the trip. This is also a form of bringing merit in the quest for enlightement by helping the pilgrims to complete the journey. They will take turn to be the helper for each pilgrimage.
Prostrating at Jokhang, Barkhor Circuit (Lhasa)