Thursday, November 30, 2006

on the way up the hill

this afternoon i will walk north from our east kathmandu neighborhood into the hills. it won't take but about twenty minutes to be outside of the madness of town, into a village along the road that winds north east up the valley sides. gentle hills give way to mountainside, and after a few hours i will be happily sitting at the Nagi Gompa, a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery for a three day meditation retreat with some of the practitioners from the seminar chris and i attended over the last two weeks, led by the presiding lama, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche.

i'll be crashing in a tent on the lawn of the monastery, and should have a great view of kathmandu in the valley below. carrying my little tripod so maybe i can get a decent sunset shot of the city, or nighttime lights.

chris is staying in town to continue his tibetan drawing and painting classes, which seem to be giogn well, although i think it is difficult for him to sit cross legged all day the way asians do.

yesterday as i was walking to a shiatsu massage appointment, i met Lama Tsering Wangdu on the circumambulation path around the Boudhanath stupa (by met I mean saw him and stalked him down), said hello, and he replied that I should go to his monastery. After the massage, I walked across the neighborhood down the Boudha road to Tusal, and upon arrival at the gompa (monastery) discovered that he was about to commence a long life empowerment, requested and sponsored by a group of twenty or so Newari women, mostly middle aged and elderly. They have a close connection to Lama Wangdu because he used to live in Jawalakhel at a Tibetan refugee camp near Patan, where many Newar Buddhists live.

The long life empowerment is technically a ritual empowerment or permission to practice the mantra and visualization meditation of Amitayus (Tsepagme), the Buddha of Infinite Life. Once done with the ceremony, the thirty or so local students of Lama Wangdu finished their chod feast offering, and after two plates of delicious rice and lentils with curry vegetables, i walked home to meet chris and watched a cheesy Korean sword action movie.

Off to the hills!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

lingering in boudha

Big bro Chris has been well occupied taking some drawing classes in the afternoons with a Tibetan painter friend of mine that also lives in our neighborhood, Boudha. Tomorrow or the next day he will begin as a full time student at the Tsering Art school at the Shechen Monastery here, which has a pretty vigorous traditional routine: 30 minutes of prayer followed by 3 hours of drawing class in the morning, 2 hour lunch nap break, some prayer at 2pm, and 3 hours of painting class in the afternoon. He'll continue this through Jan 10 or so when he leaves Nepal for the Big Easy.

We attended the annual seminar on Buddhist philosophy and practice at the White Monastery in Boudha, I had been looking forward to it greatly and am sad it is over. However, there is a follow up retreat this weekend up in a small hermitage on the rim of the Kathmandu Valley this weekend, I'm going to walk up from our apartment building in Boudha to the hermitage with a sleeping bag and tent (3 hours or so) and walk back, so it'll be kind of like camping. Mostly meditation up there, I went three years ago and it was splendid.

I caught Chris meditating this morning in his room, I'm feeling a bit proud of that, rejoicing in an attempt at recognizing the natural state, or at least calming down a bit.

things are well these days, i've been able to redirect a lot of my fulbright money towards monasteries and nunneries, trying to purify a little of the collective negative karma of the american government and being an american. we have all been complicit in many terrible deeds. (as well as good ones like sending a hopeless spacecadet like myself to hang out with buddhists and try to let something rub off if possible).

"the mind is like a crystal, which takes the color of the fabric that you set it upon. therefore to practice virtue it is necessary to keep virtuous friends dear and distance yourself from those that engage in non-virtue." - Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

working on the computer with little monks everywhere getting into my stuff and having a blast. they love to sit with me and watch me type or upload photos or translate, which is how i spend a lot of my afternoon unless i'm bouncing around kathmandu or the countryside on my motorcylce to meet someone or entertain or be entertained.

the spiritual epicenter of the neighborhood where big brother chris will be spending the next two months, the bodhanath stupa, the largest buddhist monument in nepal and one of the largest (and oldest of its type) in asia. VIBIN'.

i let some of the little ones take my digital camera (i got this model because of its durability and shockproofness) and run around taking photos of each other. this is one of the particularly cute ones (that was actually in focus) that came out.

back in the shitty

one of our ferocious guarddogs at the monastery in Chapagaon, Gonpo [protector] is the absolute friendliest cutest Tibetan mastiff I've ever met, he loves scratches on the tummy, like all puppies.

a veiw to the southeast from the window of the monastery in chapagaon.

some of the young monks hanging out in the sun outside the monastery on Sunday, which is a day of play for them. after all, most of the monks that i live with are about 12 years old.

older brother chris arrived in kathmandu a few days ago, although his bags remained in thailand enjoying the beaches and fruit cocktails for a few extra days without him. Despite the hassle, we managed to get the luggage and spent his first three days in chapagaon at the monastery where i have been studying, and then for a day in the even smaller village of lelegaon hiking around in the beautiful hills outside of kathmandu.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

finally some little bit of internet

no posts for a while, internet connection has been spotty. i came into kathmandu to stay for a few days at a monastery populated by newars in a newari neighborhood in patan (Okubahal), and have been making some useful observations and getting a lot of good secondary info out of the library there.

older brother chris comes in two days. i'm going to bring him up to the village chapagaon to stay with me a few days, to sleep and check out little farms and ride around the countryside. a good introduction.

i started translating phadampa sangye's biography, although i haven't really looked at any tibetan the last three days as i've been staying with the newars at the padmavarna mahayan vihar. there is one old newari lama there, 93 years old, and i have been able to chill with him in the mornings a bit. he just kicks it reciting prayers and mantras under his breath all the time, blessing some things, talking to people, walking in the sunshine at times. he's got some real accomplishment i can feel (the only way to really know that), and advised me to continue practicing, surely i will have some accomplishment (ngonshe) as well.

i also read a bit out of a small biography of dilgo khyentse rinpoche last night which made me cry. he spent almost all of his teens and early twenties in retreat sitting in the woods in a meditation box praying and meditating all the time. at twenty three he was ready to go into life retreat! he didn't for the sake of us, though. his mere picture brings a peircing feeling to my heart. gyab su chi!

will post more with pictures next week when i get a better connection. i have many photos now to share!