Home » The Kathmandu Report » Sunday April 23, 2017 – Slam on the brakes

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I was down at the stupa early. It’s around 5.00 AM when serious numbers of people start circumambulating.





I was almost ready to leave when I got my devotee’s cup of tea put down next to me. And then it happened – Traveller’s trots. A panicky rush back to the guesthouse – thank the Lord for ensuite facilities!

At breakfast I met an American couple Hanora and Lama Pema, and noticed as I talked to them that I had lost the 10,000 counter off my mala. (Digression for those who don’t know: a typical Buddhist mala has 108 beads, and counting of a “round” of recitations is usually just called 100. Again, typically, there are two attached strings, each with 10 rings that can be pushed up and down. The first one is used to count 10 rounds of the mala, one for each ring, while each ring of the second string is used to count a full set of rings on the first string. So by the time that one is full you have done 10,000 recitations of whatever it is. What you can then do is have a little clip to move on one bead every time the second string is full, allowing a count of one million before you have to resort to something else. Like a bit of paper.) That was disappointing, as the lost counter had come from Khenpo Tsultrim, but at least I was in the right place to get hold of a new one. I send a message to Chris, to see if he would know which would be the best of the many shops where I could get one, and he took me to a good place, on the kora, to get a new “ti-tak”.

Having got up so early, I went back for a rest, and then, thinking that my digestive trouble was over, I set out to choose a place for lunch. Hardly out of the gate, and nature called me back. So I stayed in the guesthouse for lunch, and for much the same reason it seemed best to stay close to home for the afternoon.

I risked going out to the Double Dorje in the evening, where I met yet another of the unexpected people you get to know in these places. After the usual “Do you mind if I sit here?” – “Of course, be my guest” routine, Christine, as she called herself (she did tell me her Chinese name, but there was no hope that I could catch it), began by asking me if I would be offended if she ate beef. Her background was academic, and was there in Kathmandu, funded by a grant from the Chinese government, to study some manuscripts in one of the important libraries in Kathmandu. She was hoping to be the first person to translate the Guhyasamaja Tantra from Sanskrit into Chinese. She was having a bit of a hard time with the unfiltered, unexplained terminology you find in a raw Tantric text. Mahamamsa, for example, which means “great meat” and refers to human flesh, is not the half of it. She obviously did realise that the relationship between the material written in such a text and the actual practice and thinking of the tradition is complicated, distant and misleading in the absence of the traditional explanations – and it is intended to be so.

I was just pleased to get back to bed without having to rush!


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