Kathmandu- the sacred valley

Being born in Soviet Union and raised in a traditional Russian family, i never knew how it will be possible, but always dreamt about travelling the world. In a way, I knew that I will eventyally will do it. From a young age of 6, I learned from my grandma, a highly educated woman, has  all basic Geography – i knew all countries, their capitals, most exciting climate zones and places of high tourist interest. One day she asked me: «if now you are given a chance to travel any place in the globe, only one, where would you go?» And I, without a moment of hesitation, replied: «Himalayas». Back in Soviet union almost no information was available about Tibet or Nepal, and my grandma was, let’s say, surprised. She asked back: « But why? There seems to be nothing!» And I said: «That means we have to go and find out what is there». I did not  remembered that  story, till my grandma told it to me 30 years later, when I already guided groups to Himalayas. She added: «And you have done it now».

Although the connection to the region was obvious, my entrance to the Himalayan world happened via it’s religious aspect. In 2006 I took serious  decision to become a Buddhist, found my teacher and started practicing Buddhist meditation. Two years after, our teacher, Karmapa, who is one of the greatest Tibetan yogis of all times, conducted a course of teachings in Northern India, and we all were invited to come. Then, the first idea of pilgrimage to sacred Buddhist places came to my mind and Kathmandu -the capital of Nepal, was, no doubt, the point of the greatest interest. This first travel and meeting with the incredible amount of blessings changed my life forever, there was no way back to my previous life, and I decided to share the great inspiration of those places with others, by starting to guide groups.

Everything is possible but nothing is for granted

 

To say that Asia is another planet is an understatement , because everything in such countries as Nepal proves your life experience as being opposite – from culture and interpersonal communication to architecture, nature and social organization. One of my favorite sentences to share with people in the groups is «Here everything is possible, but nothing is for granted», which basically means that nothing can be really planned, but rather flow, highly depending on your  view, relation to what is happening and communication skills. When traveling to Kathmandu, you have to be prepared literally for everything and at the same time, reduce  your expectations as some of them most likely won’t be fulfilled. Probably, before seeing it with my eyes, I never thought such places as Kathmandu can exist, where almost everything happens by some magical ways, and air has a high concentration of «strange coincidences» and «wish- fulfillments».

After all these years, I have learned that people from the west are quite afraid of such things, as their world does not provide many ordinary visible miracles. We are used to schedules, clearly stated and fulfilled conditions, stable life and safety – we regulated ourselves to have less risk, but in the process lost certain flexibility. This flexibility is the stream of endless possibilities of how even most ordinary events can develop and unfold, and it’s exactly that feeling of magic in the air which you can feel 5 minutes after landing in Kathmandu. Nobody finds it easy to digest, but everybody enjoy it in the end, immensely. I guess, only one thing about such trip can be said for sure: «you never come back home the same person you were before».

The center of the universe

 

The capital of Himalayan country of Nepal, Kathmandu, is not an ordinary city at all. It is located in the valley, surrounded by snowy peaks, which is said to be a huge lake in the past. Very long past.. Legend has it that a Wisdom Buddha, Manjushree, once flew above that lake and noticed something outstanding on its  surface – inside a huge lotus flower, floating in the middle, resided a very bright crystal spot, shaped as Stupa (pyramidal structure which has deep symbolic meaning for Buddhists). Manjushree recognized it as the spot, from which our universe expanded and where it will collapse in the end of its time (a kind of heart- center of the flower, from which petals open up).

With his magical powers, Manjushree divided the mountain range and let all water leave the valley, making in now appropriate for life. That’s how it started to be inhabited by local tribes, like those Nevari and Shakyas (said to be the descendants of historical Buddha Shakyamuni).

When water left the valley, the crystal Stupa landed on top of one hill in the centre, and to protect it, people additionally covered it with substantial amount of soil. In this way, the sacred relic was preserved inside the hill named Swayambhunath till our days. Swayambhunath is, of course, place number one to visit in Kathmandu. It’s worth to take a walk around the hill, traditionally called Cora – clockwise circumambulation of holy places with respect and good wishes. Along the path which takes approximately one hour, you can find many old monasteries, other Stupas, prayer rooms with huge turning mantra-wheels and impressive traditional Tibetan paintings. From the main entrance it’s also possible to take a climb up the ancient staircase and in 10 minutes appear on top of the hill, where can be found another big and old Stupa (but not as old as the one inside), few old monasteries and 360° overview on Kathmandu valley.

It is absolutely worth and stunning to dedicate the whole day to Swayambhunath surroundings, as there are many magical places located nearby, all connected by legends and stories.

Wish-fulfilling jewels

 

With time, Kathmandu valley became one of the most important places of pilgrimage for Buddhists and Hindus. A bit later after appearance of Swayambhunath, but also long time ago, another Great Stupa of Bouddhanath was constructed on the other side of the valley. It’s history was also connected to many miracles and especially, to the great power of granting wishes. Being there, it is highly recommended to be aware of your speech and even thoughts, better using general formulations as well as mantras.

It’s difficult to imagine better and more powerful place for meditation, prayers and wishes, than Bouddhanath – it’s vibrating energy fills the space around and creates, as it feels, completely another dimension of mind. Also, the surroundings of Bouddhanath became home for thousands of Tibetan refugees in 70s and nowadays is the biggest tibetan Buddhist community in the world. If you wish to encounter authentic Tibetan Lama, and see Buddhist culture, Bouddhanath is the place to go.

No doubt that all most influential Buddhist yogis of the past and the present visited Kathmandu, mediated there, left there a part of their blessings. Some of them even chose this place for the final stages of their realization, like the Great Guru Rinpoche (Pafmasambhava), who was the one who brought Buddhist teachings to Tibet and is, no doubt, the most worshiped and influential yogi in the Buddhist history. 1 hour drive from Kathmandu there is a place called Pharping, where Guru Rinpoche meditated. In the moment of the high insight and as a token of realization, he went through the hill using a crack the size of a needle, then he ended up on another side and imprinted his head in the selling of the cave. These caves can still be visited, and no matter if one totally believes those stories or takes them as folklore, the very special overwhelming energy of such places can be felt by everyone and is not comparable with anything else.

Along with Pharping, there are many such places distributed across the valley – monasteries with great Lamas (alive or dead,and enshrined inside the memorial Stupas), caves where many important yogis of the past meditated, alone or in the groups, so-called places of power, peaceful or protective where we can witness different rituals and energies present. There is no boring time in Kathmandu.

Having been visiting Himalayan capital twice a year for already 10 years in a row, I never found my impressions fading away, how it usually happens with even most wonderful places in the world. On the contrary, every trip to Kathmandu opens up something even more deep, like it would be if we take a huge picture and we build  it piece by piece, with each of the pieces making the whole picture, hence bringing  more bright and clarity every time. It seems to me, that there are things in the world so huge and deep that we can’t simply comprehend them as our brains and minds are too limited, and can’t accommodate such huge things. But still,  piece by piece, we can discover another worlds and dimensions, and for this purpose   Kathmandu is simply the best source.

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