Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jerry's Medicine Puja in Kathmandu

This afternoon Ms. Leah, my friend, Christopher, and I trundled down the backstreets of Kathmandu along Indrachowk via Durbar Square to Tahaity to visit the Rimpoche we affectionately call, 'Tip-Top'.

It was a few days after the main Indra Jatra festival, so we stopped by the Indra Temple to offer our respects to the good g-d Indra, still out in public view in all of his silver masked glory. Then continued by the main Taleju temples, looking even more 'rato' (red) and resplendent after the recent election of a Maoist government in Nepal. I wanted to show Leah the massive black statue of the g-d of Time in front of Hanuman Dhoka and the golden mask of Indra (where a bamboo reed from the mouth of the mask spouts local beer at the start of the festival) unveiled only at this time of year.

This being the Kali Yuga, and Kathmandu being the modern mess it's become, we endured motorcycle-people-bicycle traffic jams walking from Durbar Square toward Thamel through the narrow lanes of the old city. Yet, Ms. Leah, even after a full and rewarding day of Second Grade was not wearied by our long march through Nepal's living past. With her eyes wide open and her hand tightly clutching mine, she kept pace with us as we narrowly avoided two and four wheel traffic.

At last, a peaceful haven appears in the form of the stupa that is known as "Little Swayambunath" on the backstreets of Tahaity. It's a large courtyard with the lovely, white stupa rising in the middle and the Drubgon Jangchup Choeling Monastery set off back from the crowded, commercial mean streets of Kathmandu.

Christopher's guided us here to meet his beloved Rimpoche so that we can ask for a puja to be done for Jerry. While we wait upstairs in the ante-chamber, Chris buys some 'kata' (white silk blessing scarves) to present to Rimpoche and a younger attendant brings us some much appreciated orange squash to drink. After a few minutes, we're invited in to see "Tip-Top".

The aged and gentle Rimpoche is in a small room overlooking the courtyard sitting quietly on his bed below a large, almost life-sized thangka of Avalokitshevara (the thousand-armed) image of the Buddha of Compassion. There are Tibetan carpets covering the floor, images of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist iconography on the walls.

Chris makes his ritual thrice prostrations on the floor in front of Rimpoche as a manifestation of his devotion and respect for the Buddha (Spirit incarnate), Dharma (Teachings) and Sangha (Buddhist community) represented by Rimpoche's spirit and teachings. He then comes up to give the kata and receive a blessing from the Rimpoche.

Leah and I, still of our Jewish persuasion (although Ms. Leah may not yet fully understand that...), bow deeply in front of this profoundly human teacher and spiritual guide. I place Leah in front of me as we come close to Rimpoche. She, quite naturally, bows before him while he holds both sides of her head and offers a prayer. I follow and feel the soothing loving-kindness of Rimpoche's blessing on our lives and the journey which brings us all together in this modest sacred space today.

Then, through the young Tibetan monk attendant I explain in Nepali about Jerry and his recent illness. I say that I was with Jerry just a few weeks ago when he became ill and entered an American hospital. I say that Jerry loves Nepal almost as much as our home country America. Then, I correct myself and say, 'as much as America', with which I believe Jerry would agree. I mention that Jerry worked here in Nepal some decades ago with the US Peace Corps. Then, I mention that I'd like to offer a puja for Jerry's health and happiness. The young Tibetan monk translates this into Tibetan for Rimpoche while we listen.

Tip-Top recommends a Medicine Buddha puja (ceremony) for Jerry. He also gives me a prescription of Tibetan medicine that I can bring back to the US when I come in mid-October.

The puja will be next Monday at 9 am at the gompa (roughly 11 am Sunday night EST).

As we depart, Leah takes a ride on Christopher's old, red bike through the streets of Kathmandu. A few corners away, we depart. Chris heads home to Maharajganj while Leah and I walk through Bohaity back to Shakun's boutique on Durbar Marg from where we will head home, too. We smile at each other through the din and dank of a decaying Kathmandu, a city where we have lived half of our lives, as we part, once again, and head back our separate ways.


Life's constant passage;

Buoyed by friendship.

An uncertain journey

We share,


Before we wave and say,


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