Monday, July 09, 2007

Around the Wet Kathmandu Valley with the Passage Students

In Boudhanath, Kathmandu:

Rice transplanting underway in my neighborhood Boudha on the east side of Kathmandu. Before the monsoon, rice is planting in tight bunches in a small section of the field, and when they reach about 10 inches are transplanted into rows in the flooded field. As you can see, new residential construction is rapidly replacing the rice paddy in the Kathmandu Valley.

Local women carrying hay from the community-owned forest in the hills north of Kathmandu. This is the method that 95% of Nepalis transport goods, and usually women collect fodder to bring back for the animals.

Nyungnay (Simple Living) Retreat at Nagi Gompa:

A nun walking around the inside of the lhakhang (chapel) at Nagi Gompa during the Nyungnay fasting retreat in May. I attended two sets of two-day fasting retreats, which include one meal only on the first day. During the retreat, the practitioners begin chanting prayers and making prostrations at 4am, until 6pm. In this fasting practice, no one is allowed to speak, drink water or even swallow their spit, as well as observing the 8 vows (no killing, no stealing, no lying, no sex, no intoxicants, no purfume/jewelry, no eating while fasting, and no sitting on high seats).

Here Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche is ordaining two Nepali young women (one Tamang, one Newar) to be novice nuns, at Nagi Gompa, on May 31, 2007.

My friend the Newari (Maharjan) monk, Lama Monlam. Lama Monlam has been a monk since he was 14 (56 years ago) at Nagi Gompa, on the northern slope of the Kathmandu Valley rim. He has spent many years in solitary meditation retreat, and now has his own small gompa (monastery) near Swayambhu on the west side of Kathmandu.

Passage Project for International Education, Summer tour:

I brought our Passage students to see Lama Tsering Wangdu, a realized master of meditation and ritual. He threw dice to divine the most karmically appropriate Tibetan name for each student. Lama Wangdu will be traveling to the United States in about a month for a few months, see if you can catch him in New York, Boston, Portland, Seattle or one of the other cities he'll visit!

A semi-traditional Newari wedding scene, with each the bride's and bridegroom's families' brahmin priests standing by to conduct their parts of the ritual union. Our Passage students attended this wedding (and I think a few may have gone to the after party...) as a culturally enriching experience.

The very beautiful Newari bride (Yanik Srestha's cousin for those who know him) in all her finery, trying not to cry. I've noticed that many South Asian brides shed tears at their weddings. I don't think it's an indictment of the men, but rather the sadness of moving away from the joint-family home of their parents into that of their husbands.

A traditional folk band at the wedding.

An amazing collection of traditional wooden Newari hookha. Newar men have been fond of the sheesha for many generations.

Chapgaon Monastery:

One of the many beautiful trees that grow in Nepal, next to the unpainted gateway of the monastery in Chapagaon.

Some village women chanting prayers together in the monastery in Chapagaon. They meet every morning, and nowadays since the weather is pleasant there are about fifteen that assemble. It is interesting to me that they they chant devotional prayers in Tibetan (Guru Rinpoche, Amitabha), some dharani and mantra in Sanskrit, and then sing devotional hymns in Newari language.

July's Cute Monk Photo:

Our Newar monk Ngedun Gyatsho (Ocean of True Meaning) playing a game on one of our youngest, Rangjung Dorje (Naturally Arisen Diamond).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Exporting with a Cause

Next week I will be sending a few cubic meters of manufactured items from Kathmandu to New Orleans via Sea Cargo. It should take about two months for the boxes to be driven to the coast in India, and slowly make a journey halfway circumnavigating the earth to our favorite dirty port city.

It will mostly be prayerflags of various sizes, and I'm including some scarves, clothes, wallhangs, doorhangs, prayerbeads, Nepali paper, soap and incense as sample items (to feel out the future market potential) and as gifts.

In the future I hope to set up regular shipments of certain items to raise awareness and money for the education of monks and nuns in Nepal. I have worked closely with both the Khari nuns in Tramo village, Khumbu Nepal, and the monks at the Vajravarahi monastery in Chapagaon, Nepal. We have already begun to teach higher Buddhist philosophy to the nuns in the mountains. It is rare for nuns to study philosophy here. I am also already sponsoring one lama to complete a traditional three year mediation retreat, and hope to continue doing so. We are also hoping to turn the monastery in Chapagaon into a training center for monk translators of Tibetan to French, German, Chinese, English, Spanish, Nepali and Newari.

Otherwise, I've been spending my time helping out our six summer Passage students and working on a Tibetan translation for some Nepali Dharma friends.