Kathmandu Travel Blog› entry 32 of 49 › view all entries
June 22nd, 2006 – by: umbralwalker
Kathmandu is home to the gigantic stupa of Bodhnath (Boudha), one of the largest stupas in the world. Stupas were originally built to house holy relics. It is not certain if there is anything kept at Bodhnath, but it is rumored that there is a piece of bone that once belonged to Guatama Buddha. According to tradition, Guatama was the fourth individual to acheive enlightenment and become Buddha.
Bodhnath is the religious center of Nepal's flourishing population of Tibetan refugees and is one of the few places in the world where the culture is accessible. A brick wall around the stupa has 147 niches, each with 4-5 prayer wheels bearing the sacred buddhist mantra 'om mani padme hum' which means 'hail to the jewel in the lotus'.Pilgrims can be observed as they circumambulate the stupa, prayer beads in one hand, the other twirling the prayer wheels as they chat with their companions or mumble their prayers.
I joined the pilgrims in their circumambulation and spinning of prayer wheels. I had only a layman's understanding of the meaning of the ritual so I took the opportunity to take my own mental journey with my own personal mantra spinning through my mind as I walked along and twirled the wheels.
From the Boudha stupa I took an hour long trek through the streets of eastern Kathmandu in search of the Kopan monastery. As Nepalis are well known for dispensing poor directions, I was amazed at the fact that I managed to navigate the labyrinth of muddy streets and arrive at the monastery without one wrong turn.My destination was situated on top of a hill overlooking the Kathmandu valley and as I made the ardous climb I frequently stopped to take in the breathtaking views. The vistas nearly rivaled those of Sangkhlaburi, Thailand.
The ardous hike, not eating well and the breathtaking views on the grounds of the peaceful monastery made for quite the altered state of consciousness. I was so high off the experience, it wasn't until later that I noticed the quarter-sized blisters I got from my new hiking shoes!
On my way back from the monastery, I asked an 18 year old girl for directions to a nearby bus stop. She didn't just give me directions, but walked with me for several km to make sure that I didn't get lost. We got to talking about American culture and I discovered that she was a huge fan of Richard Gear.As I boarded my bus and waved her goodbye she made me promise that if I ever met Richard Gear in America that I would tell him that she loves him. Silly silly girl.
If any of you see Richard Howard in America, will you promise me that you will tell him that I love him?
I found the following two inscriptions translated to English at the monastery:
"Like dew on the tip of a blade of grass, pleasures of the three worlds last only a while and then vanish. Aspire to the never changing supreme state of liberation. This is the practice of Bodhisattvas."
"While the enemy of your own anger is subdued, though you conquer external foes, they will only increase. Therefore with the militia of love and compassion subdue your mind. - This is the practice of Bodhisattvas."
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