Lamont Cranston , aka “The Shadow,” learned his crafty skills at a remote Tibetan monastery, didn’t he? As well as the latest incarnation of Bruce Wayne, and who can forget the frustratingly mobile Black Fortress in Krull? I hit the path today to find such a place, the Thrangu Tashi Yangtse Monastery, where I could hone my already considerable skills in the most martial of arts. Rather than follow the dirt road, I took the three-hour-ish path because I’m what we in the biz call “hardcore.”
Sharing the last third of the journey with three Americans I’d come across–including a yoga gal in spaghetti straps who tipped a woman 980 rupees (about $14) for a 20 rupee bottle of water because the purveyor had no change–I was bound toward deep, expedient, philosophical glory.
My plan was to hike up a few hours to the sacred Namobuddha stupa and surrounding monastery, take a few photos, and carry on another couple hours to the neighboring town’s neighboring town’s better-known neighbor of Panauti.
The Tibetan Monastery itself is remote (as I noted, the road that the buses take isn’t even paved), ancient (1978), and mysterious (it can get foggy sometimes). If you doubt me, you can see for yourself on their website: http://www.namo-buddha.org.
Ok, so all of the above not-so-clever sarcasm is in response to a suspicious short tale of an epiphanic sojourn shared frantically with me by a stranger in Kathmandu, like Robert Carlyle telling Leonardo DiCaprio all about the “the Beach.” The monastery is beautiful and placed beside the sacred site of Namobuddha, where an orgy of prayer flag strings hang like long-distance laundry lines or interweave like a series of cat’s cradles gone very wrong (lead photo at the top of the page).
The story goes that at this spot, in a previous life, the Buddha came across a tigress whose cubs were starving. The Buddha (just a prince at the time) gave his own life so she could feed her cubs with his generous carcass, and thus he took one small step for man and one giant leap toward enlightenment. Sounds a bit like revisionist history to me, but I like Buddhism, so I’ll try not to be obnoxious about it. But compassionate or not, it’s suicide. And if you’re familiar with the top-rated songs on my iPod, you’ll know I have a soft spot for the Big Fun classic “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It).”
In any case, it’s a good hike on a sunny day and the finale is a beautiful spot, full of the flying rainbow colors of prayer flags atop a Himalayan foothill, and complete with boys and men in burgundy and gold, horns and chanting, and I lingered long enough into dusk to realize it was probably best to hunt down a bed for the night in the small town a half-mile below the Namobuddha stupa and surrounding monastery. Panauti can wait ‘til tomorrow.
Plenty of photos from the day’s hike, stupa & monastery, and night shots of the local town.