Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chocolatey Delights

I entered into another world the day i set foot in Big Bazaar.  Outside was the usual chaos of beloved Bangalore, the auto-rickshaws attempting death-defying maneuvers, the chaat-wallas with delicious treats, the cows and the everyday hustle of the crowd.  Inside was air-conditioned comfort and the looks of a mega supermarket like checkers or hyperama back home.  It was the first time i had been to one of these in India so i decided to check things out a little.  

My investigations took me to a home-made dark chocolate stand inside the store.  Now let me emphasize DARK chocolate because over the course of many a year (i wont say how many in case my fanaticism about chocolates happens to be older than you  :) I  have come to be a HUGE fan of dark chocolate.  (apart from the many health benefits, i have found that the serotonin and endorphin high is also a nice pick me up on those gloomy days.  Can i get a witness??  :) After 10 minutes of tasting i walked away with three selections (out of about 15) a) fig and honey (b) brandy and cherry (c) butterscotch and a BIG smile on my face.

Today though, i took a run down into the valley and up a few hills into my favorite place in ashram.  People here affectionately know it as Saraswathi tank.  A special friend here introduced me to the place and since then it has become my favorite retreat.   (i know its kinda weird - a retreat within a retreat (ashram) - its kinda like the chocolate shop in the supermarket.) lol.  We closed work at 5pm today and I ran from panchakarma as fast as my legs could carry, i wanted to be there before the sun would set.  A friend stopped to give me a lift on his bike for a few meters and then i was off again by foot.   After about 5 kilometers of running and the final stretch up the long hill, I made it to the highest point in Udayapura: Saraswathi Tank.  

To be geographically correct, Saraswathi tank is not within the ashram premises itself,  (okay so i take back most of what i said about a retreat within a retreat, an oasis within an oasis etc. i still like the imagery though :P ) Its outside and is a reservoir that supplies water to the school, college and householders nearby.  Above the water tank are 3 stories:  A meditation hall, a room where Sri Sri Ravishankar resides at times and a yoga space.  It is circular in structure and is adorned with a wonderful driveway and garden filled with seasonal and perennial flowers.  A nice thing about Saraswathi Tank is that its so far away from ashram that nobody goes there.  And the nicer thing is that i went there today with a few left over chocolates in my shoulder bag.  And the best thing is that i made it there before the sun could set. :) :) :)

View from Saraswathie Tank
How awesome it is when you meet me here in these moments, these moments of in between.
Neither day nor night, you are my lover undefined.
As free as the wind that blows past me in these silent hours.
As dark and mysterious as the night to come.

But in these moments of in between, everything is changing.  
And who knows what you or i will be in the hereafter.
So i am here and i will sit by you my cryptic conqueror
And together we will discover the depths of the silence within.

I surrender to you.  I wait for you. I long for you. 
You are the end of all my journeys. The spirit that broods over the waters.
The silent space within.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tamang Jatra

I woke up early this morning to the rising sun.  Its summer now in Boudha.  Along with the change in weather, comes many other changes too:  People are earlier at the stupa.  Its warmer in the mornings.  Alot less Thungba, (tibetan warm beer)  A greater sense of cheerfulness and color as a greater variety of fruits fill the stands of the vendors and as ice cream wallas traverse the narrow pathways.

I made my way to the Stupa at about 8:30am to find it filled with many people.  Today is the day for Timal Jatra.  Tamang people gather at Boudha stupa on this day to offer butter lamps to the deceased family members. They celebrate the whole night by singing around the stupa. Mostly young Tamang boys and girls are seen taking active part on singing competition. It is called dohori, question's are asked in song and replied in song accordingly.  If the boys and girls like each other they can also get married. Locals put up stalls for Tea, Momo, Chhyang, Aaludam etc. all around the stupa. Early in the morning the next day they go to Balaju to take a holy bath.

I met my friend Kunzang and we decided to go and have breakfast together at Cake Cha (A simple local tea room owned by an old man that people have grown to call Cake Cha.)  I like breakfast there.  Its nice.  Aloo, Roti and an omlette.  I then met my friend Nima Sherpa and we went to get some photos taken for my Indian Visa application.  (I will be leaving for India shortly to attend a 10 month course on Ayurveda at the art of living ashram in Bangalore)

We then hung out at a local cafe and i made my way back to my guest house.  On my way there i stopped over at a little tea room for some Aloo, Channa and Roti.  I had been there once before.  This time, the 11 year old daughter saw me and offered me two sweets saying it was her birthday today and i should have it.  I thanked her and she giggled.  It was a very girly giggle and it made me laugh.  Her little brother came into the tea room thereafter and another exchange took place.  Followed by another little girl and boy.  They were all local kids in the area, about 4 to 9 years of age.  They seemed amused by me and i delighted in their company.  Slowly by slowly more kids trickled in until there were about 7 of us in the tea room.  We hijacked the place.  haha.  We spent the rest of the afternoon teasing each other and playing around the table.  Until i decided to take the party outside.

Here are some pictures of my day.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Art of Living Nepal

In my time here in Nepal, I have been fortunate to meet and interact with some great friends from the Art of Living.  They have enriched my stay here.  They have just finished developing their local website.  Its a great site.  I thought i would clue you in on some of the activities happening here.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Oh Lover, hold on
'till i come back again
for these arms are growin' tired,
and my tales are wearing thin

if you're patient I will surprise,
when you wake up i'll have come
All the angerwill settle down
and we'll go do all the things we should have done

yes i remember what we said
as we lay down to bed
i'll be here if you will only come back home

oh lover, i'm lost
because the road i've chosen beckens me away
oh lover, don't you rome
now i'm fighting words i never thought i'd say

but i remember what we said
as we lay down to bed
i'll forgive you oh
if you just come back home

Oh lover, I'm old
you'll be out there and be thinking just of me
and i will find you down the road
and will return back home to where we're meant to be

'cause i remember what we said
as we lay down to bed
we'll be back soon as we make history.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Walk to Pashupatinath

Today a friend and i went to see a baba who lives in a Cave in Pashupatinath.  It was a pleasant encounter.  We spent most of our time in silence.  I left the cave and the baba's presence feeling very high on prana (life energy).  Here are some pictures of the temple and its surrounds.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Teachings at Benchen

I have started teachings at Benchen Monastery about a week ago.  Teachings are given by Tenga Rinpoche.  The Monastery is located in Swayambhunath, a truly magical place.  

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meet Prakash

I walked down the alley way toward the Monastery.  I knew i would see her there.  I had planned beforehand how much i would give her, how my interaction would be, how i would depart to my lessons.  I realize now that these sort of calculations come from the mind and have no heart in it.  I was terribly surprised to see her preoccupied with a sick boy on her lap.  He looked about 10 or 11 years of age.  He was frail, fragile and looked terribly ill.  I backed off immediately and took a safe distance behind the monastery gate and watched.

I remember thinking to myself, this boy is going to die.  This boy is going to die.  I reevaluated my position.  What was i to do.  I could not speak her language.  She could not speak mine.  I better walk away.  I did.  That day, I went for my Thangka lesson.  I grabbed something to eat.  I did some Cora around the Stupa.  But all the while, I could not get the image of the boy out of my mind.  I felt sorrow.  Deep sorrow.  I remember praying several times, please keep him alive.  A few days later i saw her there again with the boy.  They were both talking to each other and smiling.  I was so overjoyed.  I went up to them.  He spoke the English language so well.  I invited him to breakfast with me.  Instant connection.

Meet Prakash Chhettri.  He is 14 years of age and lives in Boudhanath in Kathmandu.  Both his parents beg money for a living.  He has 2 younger sisters who live in an orphanage and a brother who lives in a hostel.  Prakash is intelligent.  He has a watchfulness in his eyes that quickly relates and responds to the moment with his whole being.  I enjoy his company very much as he tells me what the current Dollar Nepalese Rupee exchange is whats happening in global news, how much earning potential there is in America.  So bright and intelligent.

Two days ago, he asked me if he could walk with me.  I was just returning from the Monastery.  I agreed and we both took a walk together.  He was so excited at just being with me.  It had been a while since we talked.  His enthusiasm was infectious.  Before long we were both laughing and talking along the way.  He shared these sweet ideas with me about us both going to America and Australia and earning lots of money and bringing it back for our parents and siblings.  We talked about what we would do there, all the fun we would have, all the mischief we would get up to.  We kept bursting out in rolls of laughter.  It was so simple, we were just enjoying each others company.  I remember being so fully into it thinking these moments never come twice.

Out of the blue Prakash expressed something to me.  "I would like to have a bicycle."  He said.  "Please get me a bicycle."  I asked him what he would do if he had one.  He said that he would visit his sisters and brother.  That he would not have to pay money for the taxis and buses.  That he would be able to ride there.  "Lets go visit my brother."  He said.  So i agreed and we walked to Chahabil to his brothers hostel.  Him as casual and in the moment, me still pondering about this bicycle.  He took me to a house that was 3 stories high.  I was greeted by a young man about 18 years of age and his elder sister about 30.  She was surprised to see us and mentioned something to Prakash in Nepalese.

Then she greeted me.  I smiled and returned the greeting.  She deviated her attention to Prakash and asked to see his nails.  She had a conversation with him in Nepalese.  He seemed to enjoy the conversation.  I asked the didi (big sister) about the place and what activities happened here.  She told me it was a bording school.  That parents paid to send their children there to study and to get personal care.  She told me that Prakash was very bright and stayed with them for a while but ran away after some time while his brother stayed.  I asked how this was possible given the fact that his parents were poor and could not afford such a thing.  She mentioned that a worker at Schechen monastery had a vision of taking in 15 street kids and approached her with the vision.  He said that he would provide half the funds necessary and asked her to provide the other half.  Although it was not part of their policy, she agreed as she thought they would have ample funds.

Prakash and his brother became a part of this exercise.  After 6 months, the person with the vision backed off completely and she was left to take care of these kids with no funds.  It became very difficult and they had to let them go.  She told me that after a few weeks, her younger brother saw Prakash and his brother begging at the monastery and was moved and pleaded with her to take them in again.  Because of the lack of funding she refused.  But after seeing them herself she took them in.   She spoke very casually and calmly with no air of desperation around her, although i could hear from the slight tension in her voice that she was emotional.  She told me that Prakash keeps running away and some nights she has to pay a taxi driver to take her around town to look for him. She said that it is heartbreaking. All the while Prakash stands there listening to the conversation and smiling.  I was surprised to hear all of this and was moved by her story.  I could see from her occasional glances at Prakash, that she loved the boy very much.  She told me she feels attached to this boy now and does not know how to help him.  That it has been a few days since she last saw him.  She then turns to him and looks at his pants (which was very dirty and torn) She then asks her younger brother to take Prakash upstairs.  We continue talking and 10 minutes later they come back down with Prakash cleaned up and a new pair of pants and a jacket.

I could see that this Didi was sincere.  That this was what she had chosen to devote her life to.  That they had little means.  That they were very generous with what they had.  She told me that she had some errands to run and asked if she could excuse herself.  I also had to go.  I took Prakash with me.  I asked him why he ran away.  He told me that there was a teacher in the school that would beat him up constantly.  I believed him.  I asked him if he was going to school currently.  He told me no.  I was very troubled.  The didi also mentioned that his parents did not seem to care for their children's future.  That it suited them better if their kids would beg with them.  I have seen Prakash begging with his mum on many school days.

Prakash and his mom

We went back home.  We went past the bicycle store.  I asked for the costs.  The cheapest bike available cost Rs5000 (R500)  I asked him if he had a second hand bike.  He brought out a bicycle that looked old and worn. He said he would fix it for me and charge Rs2000. (R200) We went to Boudha main gate.  I said goodbye to him.  I told him i would see him tomorrow.  I thought about Prakash and his schooling.  I thought about the Didi and her situation.  I was very troubled by the information at hand.

Bicycle for Prakash being fixed at store

Here are some facts about the average Nepalese family of five members:
Money needed: Rs8000 (R800) per month
Rent:  Rs 3000 (R300)  They live in a single room in a flat.  Shared bathroom and toilet outside.
Food:  Rs 2000 to Rs 3000
This is an example of Babita's family.(My former English student)  According to her, they are middle class.

Prakash and his mom pay Rs 1000 for rent.  Most times he is severely undernourished and gets sick quite often because of this.  According to Didi he has been smoking, taking glue and hashish in the past.  I spoke with him and he told me that he had stopped these activities.  I had a conversation with a man named Ram Hari who runs an orphanage called Indreni Childrens home here in Nepal.  He met with Prakash and told me that he will try and help put him into a school.  I will follow up with him in a few days.  I still dont know what the best thing is for Prakash.  I am hoping to be able to assist in the best way possible.

I have many friends like Prakash and i know of many families here who are constantly in need.  I am working with 3 orphanages in particular that could benefit from outside help.  I am not in a position financially to help all the time as i am not earning a salary.  If you would like to help in any way then please let me know.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991) was one of the great luminaries of Tibetan Buddhism in the twentieth century. He was a highly realized and accomplished master dedicated to the transmission and preservation of Tibet's spiritual legacy and a principle teacher of the Dalai Lama.

February 20th to 22nd marked the centennial celebrations of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.  (Rinpoche meaning "Precious One") I was fortunate to attend the start of the celebrations here in Kathmandu.  Here are some pictures and a video.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

We Remember

We stood and we listened.  Underneath the big khor lo, underneath the dpal beu, we opened our eyes to see.  With great wisdom and compassion, deep love arises.  As the knots tie together its composite parts, so too are our hearts woven as one.  As the wheel turns, so too are we reminded that there is much work to be done.

We are grateful for your love.  We are thankful for your presence.  "May the students stay close to their teachers.  May the deep love between master and disciple continue to grow."  We remember, today, your wishes.  In it we remember our duty to all sentient beings.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sherpa Funeral

Withered hands holding gently onto clumps of wood
Tender eyes tell the story of many a days of friendship shared
Gentle smile giving rise to surrender and acceptance.

Heart felt stories.  Now one is left alone to tell them.
These are the stories of love and faith and perseverance.
These are the stories of hardship and courage.

As we moved down from the Mountains into the Valley
As we braved the dry season and the storms.
This is who we are.  This is our life:
In the One without a second.  In the duty.  In the community.

We are here together.  We are one; in your life and in your departure.
I will remember you.  More than others.  This is my final wish to you:
May your soul take wind in blue skies, may it find joy in the clouds
May it dance in the sun, may it find greener pastures in the life hereafter as it
takes form in the earth again.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stupa Fun

Babita, one of my friends, came by today. She met Tenzin. Instant connection.  We decided to go for a walk to the Stupa and then around it a few times. Tenzin's face lit up like a light bulb when i told him.  The child loves the Stupa.  He kept asking: "How many times around?"  I was not sure why he was so excited until we reached.  (normally i try to be serious when doing Cora.  It is hard to be this way when a 6 year old keeps challenging you to run as fast as you can, to take ad-hoc pictures of strangers, to grab powdered incense while the shopkeeper turns his back and then throw it into the air as quickly as you can, to chase the birds and try and catch a few while they are flying toward the stupa and to do karate and wrestle whilst weaving your way through monks.  I learn a lot from this little one.  I think he is a keeper.) oh and yes................ IT WAS FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I cant wait to go again.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

30 January 2010

I decided to inaugurate my painting stand with my first ever fully fledged Thangka painting.  I figured it would sit there for a while until i was more accustomed to the art.  Yesterday Tenzin visited me.  When he saw the stand his eyes lit up excitedly, he asked me for a book and some color pencils.  I couldn't refuse.  :)

Today I woke at 5:00am.  It was still dark outside and very cold.  I took a micro to Charbhil visit the little Stupa there to meet some friends.  We were en-route to Kakani in Nuwakot.  Here are some pictures:

Langtang Mountain Range