Life in a Buddhist Monastery in Nepal, Part 1…

IMG_0530The malls on the Miracle Mile in Kathmandu are lined up like forgotten cemeteries outside a former battle field, most of them empty, dead or dying, lucky to have a coffee bar to anchor the whole place, while pedestrians walk past with eyes on their digital devices oblivious. I wonder if there’s any connection? I hope so. Auto traffic backs up on the back streets like blocked intestines wherever two cars pass and veggie vendors congregate if there is any more room than that. Nepal time is fifteen minutes behind India, no further explanation necessary…

So I left. Think of Kathmandu and you don’t usually think of hot sweaty sticky atmospherics, just the opposite, but that’s what you get in the rainy season, an inch a day, and plenty of reasons to leave, with visions of equanimity, though still much better than the rainy season in Thailand, BTW, and climbing up a few hundred meters helps, plus it puts some perspective on it all, with all the little people down there f*cking and fighting, no slight of hands, and growth the only mantra…

IMG_0537That’s where the monastery sits, above it all, just beyond her outskirts and not dying to get in, two hundred fifty red-robed monks, and a hundred some-odd (some very odd!) students from all over the world and mostly new to Buddhism, if not Yoga, but not Yogis, and very few Americans here, barely 5% of the total, and even fewer claiming America as home…

All trying to get a leg up on the world, no doubt, me I’m just trying to quit a 200mg/day caffeine habit, doing the oolong 5-step withdrawal program maintaining at 50mg/day for now, about as much as a ‘big Gulp’ of Coke in the back seat of your car, whether I actually put on the priest’s habit one day another matter of conjecture, subject to further considerations…

IMG_0527But this is no pristine hill station, the slums of the city pressing up all around, and the road up the hill no small challenge, what with the bad state of repair, manual labor pushing rocks into holes to level uneven surfaces and downright washouts, and it can still get a bit sticky up here in the clouds, where wet clothes never really dry and dry clothes become wet, and all the little people in the city down below could care less…

The Tibetan Buddhists have a totally different gig from the Thais, though, not the least of which are debating skills, heartily encouraged, and a library, compared to the anti-intellectual ‘tude of the Thais. Other differences between Thai and Tibetan nikayas include: Tibetan monks eat all day, three squares and vegetarian, while Thais eat only once, and before lunch…

And Thais make the morning round of alms, while Tibetans do nosaj thing. This is where the Thais get breakfast of course (break fast, get it?), and the food is home-cooked and tasty, tom yam goong and tom kha gai, gaeng kieow wan and gaeng massaman. Tibetan cuisine, at least what we get, is probably better than the tsampa and thukpa and such back home, but still pretty much twenty flavors of glop…

IMG_0532So that means oatmeal for breakfast (every day), lentils, rice and more for lunch, and noodles extravaganza for supper like mathematical certainty, PBJ any time, in other words: fart food. Then there’s the issue of sanitation: now I don’t make any Big Show of doing the dishes, which we’re all supposed to pitch in on, but when it’s time to let the bathroom drain, you-know-who is the one who pulls the big globs of nuff and gradu out of the filter, enough to fill the Buddha’s big belly button many times over, just sayin’…

Students here are a mixed bag, mostly 20-30 y.o. seekers and fellow travelers who happened to be here and decided to join in the fun. This place touts itself as an authentic Tibetan monastery, albeit in Nepal, but with little or no connection between the monks and western students/teachers: how authentic is it, really? I mean: sitting cross-legged on the floor isn’t so hard if you use 3-4 pillows stacked up; let’s call that an ottoman, sounds Asian, which more than a few actually sit on for meditation—ahem (sound of one throat clearing, zen-like)…

to be continued…

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