Monday, October 12, 2009

The Lama

Once again my weak knees have led to something wonderful! Two days ago I was recovering from a stomach bug and the climb up the temple stairs (and yes, Julia, Jeremy did carry me up at least a third of them) and Jeremy set out for a solo adventure up to Kopan monastery. Luckily, he got disoriented leaving a grocery store and ended up taking a long scenic detour. About half an hour from the monastery in a small Tibetan village he met the son of a lama.

A few minutes later he found himself in the lama's prayer room surrounded by his sons and daughters. The whole family paints thankas, colorful religious artwork that requires scrupulous attention to detail and proportion. After pleasant conversation and a brief lecture on Tibetan Buddhism translated by one of the daughters the lama insisted that Jeremy return the following afternoon for lunch. After Jeremy explained my knee problems, the lama indicated that since I had already seen doctors to no avail, a blessing might be in order.

We made the hour-long journey to the lama's house the following day bearing biscuits as a gift. After some small talk the ceremony began: I sat cross-legged for forty minutes visualizing the green goddess Tara removing my obstacles and healing me. The lama, Tsering, chanted from religious scrolls which he told us were the words the Buddha used to heal the sick in an era before there were reliable doctors. This chanting was punctuated by blowing into my face and on my knees (initially the face blow was very surprising since my eyes were closed.) Midway through he drenched me with holy water and sprinkled rice on my head. To close the ceremony he directed into my mouth three handfuls of holy water (which tasted old and unpurified and like it might lead to a case of giardia or worse.) As I stood up to leave the ceremonial cushion I almost fell and then walked very strangely over to my seat beside Jeremy to the great consternation of the group. Once I explained that my feet and legs had fallen asleep during the long sit everyone had a good chuckle.

Silliness aside, the ceremony was magical for me and the genuine and passionate concern for my welfare on the part of the lama and the participating daughter was deeply touching. Jeremy, who had at the lama's instruction been patiently praying in the corner, found it particularly moving when mama lama delivered us heaping platters of rice, lentils, and freshly slaughtered chicken. I was also excited but a little scared given that all my stomach could digest in the past four days was "digestive biscuits" and bananas. In my head I kept thinking, please please don't let me have to use the bathroom until after we leave their house. Well, I didn't. We exchanged vows of eternal friendship and gratitude with the family (and the daughter gave me lots of hugs) and promised to eat well and stay in touch.

We had an eventful and restful week in Bodhnath and are back in Thamel, Kathmandu for the evening. Tomorrow we leave for Dhulikel, a small Newari village two hours east of here. Supposedly we will treated to great views of the Himalayas and mandarin oranges fresh off the trees at the Shiva Guest House.

Click here for pictures of Nepal so far (temples, monkeys, and monks!)


Ali and Jeremy


Yael said...

Sounds like you all are having a great time! Ali, I hope the blessing worked :) Keep updating! I love reading these posts.


ArielleFaith said...

What a moving experience. Did you feel yourself wishing you understood what he was saying or were you just caught in the moment? How are your knees now?

Miss you!!