I had a wonderful sunny afternoon joining some pilgrims on their daily praying route along various temples and extended prayer wheel stations outside the small settlement. Three old ladies went light footed ahead, whilst I had problems following them in the altitude of well above 3500 m. Like torches they were holding their own small prayer wheel up, keeping it turning all the time. After several praying stations they were at last ready for a rest. I sat down as well. We started exchanging smiles, which was easy. Then I found some chewing gum in my pocket, which the ladies obviously enjoyed. Yet answering my question was difficult. My Tibetan language skills were almost zero, whilst the old ladies Chinese not existing. Anyway, some of my message was understood. "I want to know more about your religion!" With their arms describing a large circuit, which seemed to cover the circumambulation area, the figure 'two' was given. This was followed by the movement of turning the prayer wheel. The murmur accompanying the movement of the praying wheel turned out to be: 'Om Mani Padme Hum'. Once I was able to pronounce this, I started saying 'Om Mani Padme Hum', just to get it into my mind. I repeated again and again 'Om Mani Padme Hum'.
Tibetan culture seems to be inseparable with Tibetan Buddhism. The colourful temples, monks in their different shaded red robes, pilgrims and prostrators, burning incents, lighting yak butter candles, meditation in front of a thankra, murmuring their prayers, turning endless rows of prayer wheels whilst surrounding temples and religious sites. Tibetan people's daily life seems to be destined by religious acts. For the careful western spectator practising Tibetan Buddhism seems to be hard work. Not this all smiles 'soft' religion which seems to be main characteristic of Buddhism.
Although you should prepare yourself carefully on the historical background of Buddhism and its present forms, don't expect to understand the people who are practising this. But bring along respect and basic knowledge about their religion and don't try to understand everything!
Om Mani Padme Hum!