I say Nepal, and you say, mountains, can’t blame you, I would have said the same. Actually, it is barely a hundred kilometres from the flood plains to the roof of the world, and more than half of Nepalis live on the lowlands. Even the untrained ear can hear a different language, and the people look completely different – wearing saris, longyis, darker skin. Even more rubbish and more chaos. The huts, the buffaloes, the relentless, dusty landscape where nothing grows, nothing thrives, an apocalypse, a threat of what’s to come, India.
Samosas for lunch, and border town
It just couldn’t be further away from the snowy mountaintops. This is the landscape that the Lord Buddha wandered all his life. What would he find that is still exactly the same? What would surprise him the most? Maybe that even after all these years – millenia! – people haven’t changed much, underneath those new clothes?
Barely a few kilometres from the border, the Buddha’s birthplace, Lumbini, a dusty village, truly middle of nowhere. It’s going to be an amazing place once all the Buddhist countries complete the temples and monasteries in their own styles that are slowly going up. Inscriptions and a pillar revealed the place of the temple ruins that mark the exact place where the Buddha was born. The white building was erected to protect the ruins of the original temple beneath. Recent excavations under these ruins have found an even older tree shrine dating back all the way to the time of the birth.
I can only try to imagine what it could have been like – an insanely hot full moon night in May, a woman in labour taking a dip in a pond, and then holding on to the branches of a tree to bring to this world a child. It’s so hot I can barely move, I feel mummified, gasping for water. I have no idea how she did it. But the baby stood right up, took his first steps, and lotus blooms sprung up instantly. He was destined to be special. – She is regarded as a mother goddess and Buddha, an incarnation of Vishnu, by the local Hindus. Women offering water to a tree next to the sacred pond.
But I digress, thinking about labour pains….
I’m not really a Buddhist, but I wanted to make this pilgrimage for all my Buddhist friends who wish they could come to the holy places. I wish I was a better Buddhist. Or a better Christian. Or anyone better. There is always someone who wants to talk and interrupt my contemplations. And an argument with the guards who don’t let me take certain completely deserted and perfectly suitable paths on my bike. Not that I enjoy being on a bike after 10 years in this heat, it was a stupid idea. But anyway, I end up having to hire a rikshaw and the driver annoys me to hell and back by rushing me. There is my inspiration all gone. And by this time, I’m too dehydrated to argue. And why I don’t I have any photos at all of the village, the food stalls, the rikshaws, the vendors. Aghhh. My brain is fried. But oops, here is a photo of my rikshaw.
I did have some nice moments. A monk talked to me about the importance of meditation. And yes, good points there, I’ve been away exactly three months now (my kids started the new school year today, actually….), and I haven’t once done yoga, or meditation, or studying, or writing a book for that matter. I’m just floating by. What would the Lord Buddha say about my love, my attachments, my sorrows? Is it really so easy to discard all the suffering? Wouldn’t that automatically get rid of all the happiness and joy? I don’t want to be empty, nothing scares me as much as emptiness. And I definitely don’t want to cease to exist. Or, maybe, yes, but not in this sense.
Definitely not ready for nirvana. I want it all. Maybe I should just be less attached to my suffering, for starters? Not sure. I’ve been here so long, and reading so much about the teachings (not recently though), and it is still not adding up.
And this is not the place where it is going to add up. The place for enlightenment is near here, but not near enough. I won’t make it, unless I decide to backtrack there, as it is the only place with a direct flight from India to Yangon as far as I know. On the outskirts of Varanasi, there is a place where he started preaching and teaching his ideas, Sarnath. I will make it there, maybe tomorrow. Maybe I can just easily skip the enlightenment part. Hah, always wanted things too easy.
But I digress. Again.
Here are some photos of the national temples in Lumbini, can you guess which countries built them, in their own style? It should be easy 🙂 Unfortunately, many countries either don’t have a temple, it’s unfinished, or I didn’t get to see them.
Ok, this one was easy. The Chinese have the nicest, most peaceful complex, with a meditation centre, a lodge for pilgrims, charity programs for local children.
Myanmar – the golden chedi was so deserted. Except for a smiling disabled beggar and his disabled cow – both holding their disfigured legs in the same position.
The Thais are building a large complex, but I have no idea why they went for this all-white scheme. It’s not the traditional style for temples.
A small Tibetan temple.
You’ll never guess this one. And I won’t tell you because I forgot and the online maps don’t tell me the country. France?
The next one was my favourite, it’s easily the most beautiful temple, with colourful, intricate details on every surface, but no photos allowed inside.
…. Tibetan style, but built by the Germans.
For now, this really concludes my Nepal trip.