An unexpected interlude requiring more work...
The monk breaks into an even larger grin and bows in return. Together they walk back up the path, chatting in broken Chinese and sketching out the occasional Sanskrit word in the air in front of them in order to learn more about each other.
The monk's name is Geshe, Wei learns.
The monastery is larger than he expected. It is built of thick, whitewashed walls that seem to erupt from the earth itself, with small red-framed windows and ornamented eaves.
Li spends a few weeks with them, discussing the sutras, enjoying the debates that form the basis of their teaching style, and learning too about the strange beliefs that accompany their faith. Sometimes it seems like they do not follow Buddhism at all, but then a phrase or an expression will turn his misconceptions on their head and affirm their understanding of the Mahayana to be at least as deep as any Chinese priest. It becomes clear to him that their understanding of the psychology that Buddhism propounds is deeper than any school he has previously come across. Yet he can't help feeling culturally adrift, cut off from familiar practises and even his own language. Eventually it is time to leave.