A lighter post this week to illustrate some of my Buddhist experiences in pictures I have taken over many years. To begin, Nepal is classified as a Hindu nation, officially. Their last and earlier kings were revered as being head of the Hindu religion, their “national” temple is Pashpatinath, an extremely holy place for Hindus across the Indian sub continent, situated on the banks of the Bagmati River and where all of the Kathmandu cremations are carried out. And yet, you wouldn’t know it, because all over Nepal, not just Kathmandu, there are symbols of Buddhism everywhere ………. temples, monasteries, stupa and chortens. Here is a classical stupa so you become familiar with the shape as I share some of my experiences.
My wife’s family name is Tuladhar, and this is a “sub group” of the Newar caste of people who were the original inhabitants of the entire Kathmandu Valley. The Tuladhars predominate in the Ason area at the heart of Kathmandu City where I have rather a lot of relatives! The Tuladhar grouping are entirely Buddhist and so every ritual event I have experienced has been Buddhist; a 7 day long wedding, a welcome into the family, a child “coming of age”, a lama blessing for our mountaineering expeditions, the family gobaju (priest) blessing our U.K. education team on arrival, a safe passage blessing each time we departed Kathmandu for England. Here’s a few related images:
I have said many times before that my favourite Buddhist place is Swayambhu, the monkey temple, in Kathmandu, though I visit the place less because of crowds and disrespectful tourists. Here is my routine:
I have a simple routine having reached the stupa which begins with giving the large bell to my left a big resounding CLANG to release its supernatural properties. I now begin my clockwise walk around the stupa, spinning the embedded prayer wheels with my right hand and invoking the prayers within them for the peace of my wife, my daughter and my late son. I reach the monastery on my left and enter, marvelling at the enormous encased Buddha inside the entrance before entering the lamp room and lighting several butter lamps as one does with candles in a Christian church. Finally I wander around the initial corridor of the monastery to the prayer and meditation room, especially if I’m early enough to listen for a while to the monks chanting and praying to the mesmeric beating of a drum, bell ringing and horn blowing. This is well worth getting out of bed pre-dawn to experience whether you are a Buddhist or not! The best experience of all, naturally, was my daughters wedding which was conducted at Swayambhu in 2009.
As you can see from these personal images, Buddhism has been experienced very practically during all of our times spent in Nepal, not as tourists but as part of a large Buddhist family. Each image is a snapshot of the experience, however, some of the events took several hours, some a whole day, and one ….. a wedding …… took SEVEN days, though thankfully not my daughter’s! Nowadays all of these places are quiet, deserted, devoid of locals as well as tourists because of the Covid pandemic. Here is a final photo of the entire Swayambhu complex last week taken with a friends drone. Eerie!