Gradually unwinding into a new rhythm of life. Listening, absorbing timeless traditions of calmness, respect and patience. Doing is inaccessible to me. I must learn to let go, to receive love and service from those around me.
Sweet, pungent aromas and deep energy infuse the “Sleeping Vishnu” statue. The most memorable moment of the week so far was the Budhanilkantha Temple. Also called Narayanthan Temple, it has an huge statue of Lord Vishnu reclining on a bed of nagas, or snakes. Vishnu is part of the Hindu Trimurti, Trinity of dieties, along with Brahma and Shiva. It is said that this statue was found in a farmer’s cornfield several hundred years ago and transferred to a sacred place in Kathmandu. I’m getting that it is about 8,000 years old, a remnant of a refined civilization before the great flood swept away most of human history.
Vishnu is lying on a bed of stone nagas or snakes, all carved from a single piece of black lava. The statue is enormous – 16.4 feet tall in a pool of water. His four hands hold a Sudarsana chakra, a club, a conch and a gem. He wears an ornate crown. This temple is considered a sacred place for both Hindus and Buddhists, a testimony to religious harmony in Nepal.
We wait in line to offer a garland of flowers to the Vishnu image. There’s an air of deep worship, as police oversee. No photos are allowed inside, so the Lama took this from outside the wall. I’m the most white-skinned person and an obvious newcomer. The woman behind me kindly offers instructions.
Kuzu Zangpo means Hello in the Dzongkha language of Bhutan. Exercise on the rooftop of the Butsugen Hotel is a great way to start the day!
The Musumusu store at the Dwarika hotel is owned by some Italian friends. They adopted 30 Nepalese orphans to create a philanthropic organization that produces gorgeous handmade Pashminas. Their shawls and clothing in sumptuous colors use traditional Nepalese wool weaving techniques.
After lunch we took a walk around the Dwarika Hotel, a gorgeous place!
But electrical power is DOWN again today. Hmmm… I wonder why?? Fortunately Hotel Butsugen has a solar back-up so critical electricity works, like hallway and stairway lights. We have to recharge phones and computers when power is UP.
The internet can be ON even when when electricity is OFF. Hooray! So I’m taking this chance to write my travel log and use my battery. Hotel Butsugen has GREAT Wifi! Julie, the dog keeps me company in the lobby. We’re practically the only guests in the hotel. Even in low season they keep a full staff, who wait patiently to serve our every need. They joyfully offer meals any time of day or night, laundry, water, directions, etc. All for a fraction of the price of living in a home in SantaFe.
“You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself.” Gautama Buddha
Being utterly helpless here is a miror into the deep interconnecteness of all things in space and time. My usual efforts to be independent and self-sufficient are a total failure. For example, today I coudn’t hand-wash a spot from my blouse. Turns out curry stains must be removed immediately or they’re permanent. It took a village to decide how to fix it. Everyone on the hotel staff offered assistance. Finally Kelsang, the kitchen cook figured it out. She doesn’t speak a word of English, so we exchange pictures on Facebook. 24 hours later I had my pristine white blouse back. Part of me is humilated and embarassed with this kind of service. I am trying to appreciate it, to express gratitude, and find ways to serve in return.
This morning my Lama offers a chant to the Three Jewels of Buddhism: Sangye, Choe, and Gendun, meaning Enlightenment, Dharma, and Followers. This is a new twist. Unlike other types of Tibetan Buddhism, the Bhutanese lineage has had no Western influence.
Breakfast of fresh ginger tea, papaya and yogurt with Jane’s Healthy Kitchen granola on top. Yum!
We visit the Swayambhunath Temple, at the top of 365 steps.
The Swayambunath temple has a very ancient history. It is said that Manjuśrī, the great Tibetan Boddhisattva, came on a pilgrimage and observed the lotus flower in the lake emitted a brilliant radiance. He cut a gorge with his flaming sword to allow the lake to drain. The Lotus was transformed into a hill, the flower became the sacred stupa, and the valley became habitable.
Swayambhunath is sometimes called the monkey temple. Legend tells of a tribe of people who came to the Temple but treated it with disrespect. The tribe was reborn as monkeys who now inhabit the forest around the temple. Of course that may not be true, as there are countless other stories.
The Lama chants a blessing and offers food to pigeons.
The top of Swayambunath offers a full 360 degree view of Kathmandu valley. It’s the cleanest air in Kathmandu.
The Amideva Buddha Park has three enormous statues on a hill. In the center is Gautama Buddha, flanked by Avalokiteshvara and Padma Sambhava.
Auntie Phupdem is visiting from Bhutan. The Lama is showing us both around the high points of Kathmandu.
We drove a muddy hour to Pharphing, a beautiful jewel city overlooking Kathmandu. This Monastery houses a huge statue of Padmasambhava, the founder of modern Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery displays clear signs fobidding photos. So the Lama circumvents the rule by taking a video. He calls me Madam Jane. I’m not so sure about this name. I understand it is a respectful title for a Western woman.
The next day we decided to surprise Aunti Phupdem and take her to the Yak Yeti hotel lunch buffet.
Lunch was awesome. Lama is the male head of a large family, and he takes his service role seriously. Auntie Phupdem was amazed. So my first meeting with “the family” went pretty well. She flew back to Bhutan yesterday and reported to the others “Jane is a Boddhisattva”. Don’t know, but pretty sure this is positive.
The Yak Yeti Hotel buffet offers a huge selection of delicacies. I chose yellow dahl, make-your-own salad, rice, paneer curry, stewed chicken in an indescribable sauce, and chick pea chapati. Oh WOW!
Leaving the Yak Yeti. Now we have to go shopping for Lama’s family. Here in Kathmandu prices are much lower, and selection is better than in Bhutan.
Saturday is a holiday in Nepal so stores are closed. That means Sunday is shopping day! We bought shoes and fabrics for Lama’s family. The focus was on Skechers, Crocs, and silk cloth. A really fun day! I got to watch Lama and Phupdem in action fearlessly negotiating prices while sending photos and checking with relatives in Bhutan via WeChat Social Networking.
Lama and Phupdem are choosing the best fabrics for traditional Bhutanese ladies’ jackets called kira. These Indian silks are top quality and the colors are amazing.
My $5 shoes from The Beat Goes On were 1/4 size too small. I had seen online that you can stretch them with a hair dryer. It worked! Now they’re my most comfortable walking shoes.
This handy spray nozzle by the john in many Indian and Nepali homes, is a VERY efficient hygene tool. Maybe even more effective than the European bidet.
Having Thali for lunch today at the Boudha. The Lama chants a blessing over a rice, dahl, and assorted tasties.
I am being utterly spoiled. The Lama gave me a Kunye Tibetan massage while instructing a student. This ancient technique uses specific pressure points on the muscles, spine, organs and cranium. Heavenly.
Walking around the Bouda today, I was temporarily engulfed by a crowd celebrating the Hindu Cow Festival, Gaijatra. The festival remembers family members who have died this year. During the procession, the bereaved family marches cows in the streets. If a cow is unavailable, children are a perfect substitute, with painted cow faces and straw horns.
The Gaijatra cow festival is based on the belief that during their journey to heaven, the deceased must cross a legendary river by grabbing the tail of a cow. Bereaved families offer fruits, bread, beaten rice, curd and money. It’s a free week of joy and joking, when people of all ages can go around the city in the guise of cows and lunatics, wearing strange costumes to commemorate deceased loved ones. Even better, you can say anything to anybody!
Vegetable soup for dinner. Diki and her husband, the hotel owners, offer a taste of their traditional dinner. Sherpa potato pancakes with homemade chili cheese. WOW!! Betcha I could make it Paleo and nightshade-free!
Lama’s morning chanting is interrupted by an iPhone WeChat request from a friend – Can you invent for me a Dzongha poem for my wife? Yes. He drafts this poem quickly, photographs it, and sings it to his friend. You can see from the script that it rhymes. The poem is about a beautiful peach, its delicious taste on the first bite, and how it feels to lie down under the tree.
Thanks for checking in!
My travel log comes out every Friday. Probably.
I’ll be here in Kathmandu until Sunday September 2, the day I go to Bhutan.
See you next time!