Inner and Outer Discoveries at Earth's Sacred Places
Nepal: A Country of Holy Cows, Monuments and Spiritual Mountains
Bangkok, Thailand. I stood viewing the sunset’s stream of pastel colors from the deck of my hotel after sitting in an airplane all day. I had departed from Vancouver, B.C. and my bottom was sore. My energy field was depleted because of tight seating arrangements and stifling conditions on the aircraft. I fell into a soft bed and asleep straight away thereupon though and when I awakened rubbing my sleepy eyes the next morning it was still dark out. I dressed, repacked my bags and grabbed a coffee at the hotel kiosk on my way to the waiting cab. I got in and in a few minutes I was at the airport once more and aboard Asian Airlines flight 399 to Kathmandu, Nepal, a place that my neighbour loved to visit and often talked about. I was going to Nepal to find my spiritual connection in an exotic place. The questing torch that I have held high for many decades burned brightly and I was excited to explore another powerful place on planet Earth. It was 1996 and I had just healed my ovarian cancer with the potato, Reiki and other dietary measures and was feeling robust. My husband was with me, he liked to tag along with his globetrotting wife. It was mid January, and our return tickets were for the end of March.
As we sat in the airport lounge waiting to board I was reminded of an unusual memory that I had several years ago. “I”, my spirit, was actually part of the Himalayan mountain range. It was a surreal feeling being conscious as part of a mountain. I wondered at the time if that was where life began, or how a spirit begins their journey when contemplating coming to planet earth. This notion was confirmed a few months later when I read a book by Hilarion in which he stated the life stream that later became the human life stream was originally part of the Himalayan mountain range. I recall thinking at the time that I should like to go back to the Himalayan Mountains to see how it feels there now.
Three hours or so later we have flown over the Himalayas, the captain having let us know when we were directly over spectacular Mt. Everest and we landed. We have left the region of the Nepalese white snow leopards lofty mountainous roam and Kathmandu, a city of Hindu origins mostly (80%) is about to be explored. Bags retrieved, juices of fruits in hand, cabs been caught and we are on our way out of the airport to the Kathmandu Guesthouse where beds await us.
We were promptly greeted with refuse, miles wide on either side of the highway. When I point out to our taxi driver he said that locals throw their garbage here because cleanup crews are located in this vicinity and there is little environmental mentality. I suppose, Nepali’s think that all this plastic will just disappear? I decide Nepalese need to learn to deal with the debris of industrial society. I opened my window and garbage smells immediately permeated the air and the smell concentrated in my sinuses. I closed the window and wished I had a lavender handkerchief. I am wondering how the next two months of my life will go as we drive to the city, this plastic bag garbage with dogs foraging everywhere along our route a total turnoff.
Kathmandu Guest House soon loomed in sight! I espied magnolia trees, flower bedecked gardens, and statues of the Buddha, as Buddhism is 20% of the population of Nepal. Oh my, praise Brahman and Buddha for a beautiful refuge.
We orientate, converse with the hotel manager and to my delight she is Buddhist and leads a meditation here. Not that I am Buddhist or any religion, but I am a Goddess and God honouring woman who meditates daily. I am reminded of a joke. In Hinduism it is the only religion in the world where the gods outweigh the followers, over 300 million gods. That sounds intriguing and slightly confusing for an ex Mennonite girl who was taught monotheism.
Near eventide we venture out onto the streets in the upscale Thamel region we are residing in with no map, following our whims and wherever our footsteps lead us. I am feeling out of place. Young Nepali men tried to grab my attention, “Change money? Buy carpet madam? Good trekking guide?” Pagoda-like buildings abound in various stages of paint, no paint or fading peeling paint. Broken uneven roadways remind me to watch my step and there are hundreds of celebrants out as darkness descends. Both young and old people are out and about and candles burn and incense smokes at all the Hindu monuments. Skinny dogs swagger looking for tidbits. I am stopped occasionally as a turbaned one in colorful cloth to his bare feet shows me his wares and opens his brown hands hoping for a Nepalese rupee. Everything looks exotic and intriguing. Despite the incursion of recent tourism, traditional Newar architecture and way of life still holds sway. This place on planet Earth appears different and much more bizarre to any place I have visited thus far.
We duck into many cafes before finding one that is not too smoky. It is uncanny to find that all cafes still allow smoking indoors. We order plates of delicious Nasi Goreng; my husband an Everest beer. I speak to the Nepalese man beside me who is eagerly devouring his dinner. “Is this a typical cafe, I ask?” Smoky, filled with skinny bedraggled westerners with back packs. He says, “Namaste maro sathi”, hello my friend, and asks where we come from. When I say Canada, he immediately smiles. I also smile and say “Mero naam ho?” What is your name? Thinking that I am clever having learned a few Nepalese phrases before embarking on this particular journey to find God, in this case Brahman. “Yes, yes, he says, “Smoking is fine here.”
Nepalese custom dictates that women are treated with respect and even casual acquaintances are referred to as elder or younger sister. I ask the gentleman if he is married, indicating that I am. He says he is and I ask what his wife does? He says that she stays at home and cooks, she is a very good cook and does the washing and she likes to die wool for her auntie. I would love to meet and get to know Nepalese families and was hoping for an invite but sadly none came about this time.
Dinner done back on the street at night there are urine smells, old wizened with gold nose rings women, men hoiking and spitting, street children clamouring as they play tag and collect cardboard boxes that they sleep in. In the narrow crowded streets, Tuk tuks – bicycle vehicles with canopies bustle by. We will end up using them frequently.
Kathmandu lies in a low valley surrounded by mountains and the next morning it is hazy, smoggy and the air quality is entirely dubious. Fact is I immediately have lung congestion as we walk about and I cringe as I need to be able to stay well. There is no getting away from the smog though, the Kathmandu valley lies in a bowl and coal and wood are still burned to heat. The night was exceedingly cold. Apparently at this time of year at this altitude that is what we can expect. The new day however emerges warm by noon time.
In my last eve’s meditation I saw a beautiful exotic looking city of lights, so I wondered if that is where I needed to be for further enlightenment and I prayed to be able to locate that place.
As the day warmed so did my heart to see the smiling women cooking their famous flat cakes on sidewalk grills. We walked climbing the hilly streets that took us about this city of thousands. We stopped for chai occasionally and then towards eventide hiked back for a rest in our guest house. As soon as I walked into its central garden oasis I could relax, it was going to be my place of tranquility and refuge whilst living here. Outside its walls was the real Nepal.
This was my first back pack hosteling trip and so far not even dirty but wonderful Cairo a city of 35 million that I often visited when living in the Middle East compared to the Kathmandu energy. The people seemed very calm, grounded and relaxed and yet the ambiance was so different, unique to any other place I had ever visited.
At sunset we were out and again smells of food cooking, incense burning stimulated the senses as did the gigantic shrines and concrete fountains that greeted our plod. When we turned a corner several blocks from our guest house we encountered several women smearing blood on a Hindu Stupak. What in heaven’s name were they doing that for I pondered. I am reminded of superstitious blood sacrifices that have gone on since man walked on two legs on this planet and how I am quite certain the Supreme Creator/God/Great Spirit who is love would not demand this from his children.
Richly decorated pagoda houses are everywhere, representing the lingam or erotic phallic symbol of Shiva. Have the Nepalese through Hinduism always been obsessed by the male genitalia, phallus's? Or is it sex I think as I wander about and checking out every man to see if I can see if they are obsessed with sex, their phallus's or eroticism. Why so many symbols of this nature in this country?
The Pashuparinath Temple loomed ahead and on our sacred way; so we went, his majesty the deity of Nepal, Pashuparinath, honoured here. Turbaned Hindu Holy men dressed in orange with swaths of red paint on their forehead, long beards and orange and red flowered leis wandered about looking stoned, on Krishna? I meditated in the temple and enjoyed the spiritual ambiance; it was peaceful and transcendental in essence. Flowing near the temple, the brown Baghmati River was where women in red saris came dipping. Amazed I asked my guide why the women were bathing in their saris? “These are holy waters and dipping here before marriage ensures a long and happy one,” says our guide, Krishna. I think about how I have never had any of these kinds of rituals before any of my marriages. Perhaps I could use some.
Everywhere we turned this day we saw the smearing of blood on the monuments. When we come across a monument up on a hilltop near a park I saw a cow laying in the gutter, her ears being mutilated, the blood being collected in a tin cup. I was sickened. Holding my belly as I pulled myself away from the sight I grabbed my husband’s hand and pulled him away. A verse from the Srimad Bhagvad Gita comes to mind, “Among the cows I am the wish fulfilling.” Not in this case.
Without a word we walked back to the guest house. There are hardly any street lamps in Kathmandu so the evening was eerie, dark and smells of rotting garbage lingered. Words did not come and I was thinking, “Oh what have I done, why have I come to Nepal? I have just left a pristine habitat in the wilderness of the B.C. Monashee Mountains and recovered from cancer.” I lapsed onto the bed when we got to the guest house. “I want to go home!” I said to my retired military base commander husband. I suggested a three day stay to a hubby who was not quite sure of what to make of this wretched world traveler.
“We are here now, says a baffled husband, “Let’s make the most of it.”
“I can’t take it!” I say, thinking about the sights I am seeing. “Come on, he says, “Lets head out of the city for awhile, the fresh air in the countryside will do you well! He peruses our Nepal guide book and chose to catch a bus to the Langtang National Park. I agreed but I was sickened by the sights I was seeing and wanted to go home immediately.
The bus station was a bit of a hike the next morning! My husband and I and several other intrepid travelers who were ready for an adventure eventually found it. At least I thought I was ready for an adventure and perhaps that place in the mountains is where I would find my Shangri-La, the city of lights where mystical things happened.
What we had not anticipated was the road conditions! We were soon passing a copiously forested area and entering a precipitously terraced hillside leaving the Kathmandu valley rim behind. Right atop the pass was the village of Ranipauwa. “Moola, moola”, we heard our betel leaf chewing bus driver say, red juice emitting from his mouth whenever he spit out his open window and he gestured with his hands. I was told by the fellow I was tightly squeezed in beside that it is a very tasty radish-like vegetable that is grown in this region.
We hung onto our hats then as our bus lurched around numerous bends teetering much too close to the cliffs edge. Was I to die in Nepal? We finally stopped for breakfast among amazing views to the Lantang and Ganesh Mountains. The air was fresh and the sky clear and I sensed a history here, a reestablishing of Earth. It felt like Earth’s freedom had manifested and the seeding of a new civilization was occurring. It felt exciting to be part of an Earth game, and I was ready to play meanwhile wondering who it was that wished to merge with me here on these spectacular lofty heights. I was open for higher dimensional merging in these mountains.
As the bus juggled along the potholed road once again, we saw landslides. Frightening turns kept us engaged in prayers and heart throbs of the terrifying kind. I looked out the window occasionally and saw a leg dangling down beside my window. There were bus roof riders, I noticed, amused, non-fare paying travelers. However when I weighed up the situation I remembered that we had train roof riders and hitch kalongs in Canada too. I promised myself to be open to the numinesence of the sacred sites ahead that would surely spark clarity and unique insights for me.
In seven hours we had driven merely 120 kilometers and at length reached our overnight guest house, although we did not see close up what the ditches looked like! Praise be to Allah and Brahman. Colorful shrines and prayer flags welcomed us soaring in the up currents of a pagoda near the snow topped Himalayan Mountain heights. Praise Brahma there were mouth watering cooking smells emanating from the hostel kitchen as we are hungry when we arrived.
We enjoyed our first stay in the mountains at a Nepalese tea house, small cramped stone houses in the mountains. My meditations were lucid and the Tibetan Sherpa that guided us on regional hikes had a charming spirit. I was hiking down a forest trail one afternoon with the warm sun on my back feeling at peace when suddenly I had an outburst of “Krishna! Krishna!” To my surprise I began chanting and singing Krishna at the top of my lungs, “Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna! I really see you. Praise to the God of Love and divine Ecstasy!” I realized at that moment how the land and its human consciousness permeate stone and forest here and everywhere. I have never in my life had any feeling for or connection to Krishna.
I loved seeing the fields near the tea house where gardens flourished even in winter and discovered there is only one feasible path for married rural women and that is work in the fields and home. The women have much more to do than men, although I did not hear complaints. My impression was that they placed a high value on cheerfulness and resilience.
As I observed the night skyline from my mountain top and saw a star fall from heaven before I departed for Kathmandu I felt in awe of my chosen planet Earth.
*To be continued.
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