Leaving Nepal on a Wing and a Sutra

On this last day, I have a late check-out from Shambaling and so can relax and make one more monastery visit to a place close to the hotel but which is a bit odd. Tharlam Monastery looks fairly normal upon approach (save for a big guesthouse for foreigners that is just inside the gate), but a look at their website indicates their head lama is a foreign-born man who is married and styles himself as “Maitreya the Christ.” I’m interested in religion and globalization but this seems a bit much for my taste; or at least for my last day in Nepal.

Nonetheless, the monks (like their colleagues in other monasteries) are hard at work trying to overcome death. I pay my respects as the only visitor and once again find the combination of instruments and voices compelling and profound. I look forward to having a close look at some of the main text when I’m back in the states.

After packing and resting, I make a final goodbye trip to the main stupa. I haven’t said much about it thus far but, as yet another World Heritage site, it draws people by the thousands. The founding legend goes back to the 5th century CE and concerns a woman of lowly origins who erects a mound after finding the bones of a hermit. The local aristocracy are surprised and humbled by her initiative, and then devote resources to the site, enabling it to become a place of pilgrimage for the entire Himalayan region.

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During the day, one can find a variety of practitioners in the corners around the base. Some do prostrations, some chant, some meditate, and some check their cell phones or just hang out.

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Every evening, local Tibetans come out by the hundreds to walk around the stupa several times, spinning prayer-wheels as they go, fingering prayer beads, chanting “om mani padme hum” (“hail to the jewel in the lotus”) and creating good karma for themselves and families.

Since it is the onset of a new moon, the stupa has been illuminated and glows softly in the fading light. This is the image I want to take with me as I leave Nepal.

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