2 July 2011

For my birthday I walked to Bouda, where there is an enormous stupa sacred to Buddhist everywhere.

I went over the hill, asking directions along the way, and ended up on a muddy road that took me to the Bagwati river, which flows through Pashupatinath to the Ganges. I got lost temporarily, but found my way, through mud, to the bridge and into the outskirts of Kathmandu on streets that grew steadily less muddy and more congested, until I was on a busy four=laned street jammed with pedestrians, three-wheelers, buses, taxis, and motorcycles.  Soon I was threading my way through lanes packed with monasteries, butter lamps, drums, singing bowls, prayer beads, and tourist souvenirs.

The stupa was much more crowded than the time I had been there before—see the photos below—and that made it easier to join in the stream of pilgrims and faithful ones walking around.  There were only one or two other Westerners.  I intended to go three times.

There was a heavy bell tolling, somewhat irregularly.  I saw where it was coming from when I rounded the stupa.  There was a string of people waiting in line to make an offering and ring the bell, whose vibration registers the collective Buddhist hope that everyone will soon become enlightened and all war will cease forever.  I was the only westerner in line, and worried that they’d throw me out of it, as usually happens at Hindu temples.  Buddhists are far more welcoming, however, and I was allowed to approach and pull the rope.  From watching others in front of me I learned to touch my hands and forehead to the vibrating bell, bow, sign Namaste, and send my sound into the universe.  It was an intensely beautiful and emotional experience.

The walk to and from was arduous because of the mud, the filth along the way, and the blisters on my feet.

Later that night I went to an Internations expats-living-in-Kathmandu party, but found it pretty dull.

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