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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kathmandu

I awoke this morning just as a slight hint of dawn was beginning to outline the foothills that surround Kathmandu and I decided to assuage the sensory overload that consumes me upon arrival here every year and make my way through the still sleeping city to Bhoudanath, a sanctuary of Tibetan Buddhist culture.  In the wee morning hours every day, this World Heritage site becomes a destination for Tibetan refugees and Buddhist pilgrims who light butter candles around the massive base of the centuries-old temple, one of Central Asia’s most sacred Buddhist structures.  It resembles an enormous white dome topped by a tall golden ziggurat and the disembodied eyes of Buddha peer down from this soaring multi-tiered stupa.  As the only Westerner, I joined the hundreds of pilgrims who circumambulate clockwise around the stupa, chanting “Om mani padme hum”, “hail to the jewel in the lotus”, while fingering the string of mani beads, precursor to the rosary beads of Catholicism.  I am drawn to this ritual many times every year when I am here as I feel a wonderful connection to feminine energy……..the fading of the moon as the dawn appears, the circular nature of walking koura around this huge, onion shaped dome, the repetitive chanting over and over and over.  Later in the day this site will be visited by hundreds of tourists passing through Kathmandu, but this early morning ritual before the day grabs hold is a wonderful grounding for me.

 

As always, Kathmandu is pulsating with the rhythms of everyday subsistence……with no focus on making a better life but simply on how to stay alive.  The chaos of vehicles, from taxis to trucks, bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles and rickshaws, not to mention the sacred cows, all contribute to the city’s dusty pandemonium.  This year, the ubiquitous brown haze that surrounds the Kathmandu valley is especially noticeable as the city still awaits the cleansing rains of winter.  And it is always unsettling to see the same disturbing images of poverty, year after year, throughout the city.  The same little shoeshine boy with no shoes of his own, the hoards of maimed and disfigured children set out on the streets to work for their families and the multitudes of homeless who were chased in from the countryside years ago by the Maoist insurgents.  Life here is raw, in the moment and very public…….from birth to death and everything in between.  It’s truly  a lesson for me about how fragile the human condition really is……..    





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