Kailash Pilgrimage Journal - Day 1

by Jeff Greenwald, May 27, 2003 | Destinations: China / Nepal / Tibet / Nepalganj
Fruit seller on the roadside, Nepalganj, Nepal.

Fruit seller on the roadside, Nepalganj, Nepal.

Fruit seller on the roadside, Nepalganj, Nepal.

When the Journey Begins

The pilgrimage begins when you pack up the computer; when you go off line, unplug the modem and pull out the power cord. That's when the umbilicus is severed, and the journey begins. Because any worthwhile journey, really, is a journey away from the familiar; away from the comfortable; away from routine.

"Kha sher Lam khyer," Ian Baker advised me as we hiked up Nagarjun Peak yesterday, under a glowering sky. "Whatever arises... whatever happens... bring it to the path."

The definition of pilgrimage, at least in the Asian sense -- and certainly a pilgrimage to Kailash, the holiest of holy mountains -- is a journey beyond preferences, to a clear awakening of our Buddha nature. We must travel with total openness to whatever comes up, not seeking a particular goal or objective.

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Nepalganj is only a few kilometers from the border with India. Even from the plane, it looked hot as hell; the ground almost iridescent with shimmer. We drove to the Batika Hotel down a crowded avenue, the driver blasting his horn at the endless streams of bicycles and bullock carts moving our way. It's no wonder that the school crossing sign, a white triangle bordered in red, shows the black silhouettes of two schoolgirls running for their lives, clutching their books with their pigtails flying behind them. Nepalganj feels much more like India than Nepal; the wizened faces with chiseled faces and trim white beards; the Brahmin bulls pulling wooden carts with rubber truck tires; the congested rows of shops with their brightly painted signs -- Deep Guest House, Shree Buddha High School, Shitall Communications, Namasté Lodge (Welcome for Lodging and Fooding) -- hanging askew. It's comfortable enough as long as the fans are spinning, but every time the electricity blacks out (and it's blacked out half a dozen times this evening) a stupefying heat descends like a cloud of gnats. "I'm melting" our Nepali agent moaned during dinner, sweat pouring down his face. When the locals are swooning, you know it's hot.

Over dinner it became very clear that Norbu, our handsome young Humla guide, and Ingeborge, the homely, middle-aged German housewife on her second trip to Kailash in nine months, are lovers.

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