Saturday, 20 July 2013

Day 1 Phakdingma, Roma, celibacy

Its here at Phakdingma  we meet the incandescent Roma, who looks like she has just completed her look-at-me run around the bays in Auckland.Indeed she is a Kiwi, making excuses for living in Australia as we are prone to doing.She is sitting outside in the sun, reflecting on her blizzard un-view of Mt Everest but seemingly happy about it all. She reinforces my view; to not make the top my goal; to be in every moment. But I'd still like to get to Base Camp,3,000 metres above us.
So we think if Roma can make it maybe I can. She also talks about seeing old and overweight folk right up there at base camp, and fit young things crapping out.High expectations and feeling good at the start mean you try to ascend too quickly, with the result being you get sick. I develop anecdotal evidence along the track for my thesis about old and unfit and slow. Being old and unfit slows you down, giving you time to acclimatise.
So after a break, we ascend to two monasteries above the little village of Phakding. I'm feeling a little weird and weak There are no monks here today,just a youngish fellow trying to get the young novices (young boys of about my son Toby's age of 9).The boys are ostensibly cleaning the cold hard stone floor of the main hall, but more interested in beating up the softer boy. I am tempted to intervene; I say aloud why are you all picking on that boy,he doesnt look like he is enjoying it.The boys look startled; they look at me a little quizzically and they are interrupted from their 'fun'. I think they get what I am saying.

Gomba (monastery) above Phakdingma, viwed from the higher monastery

The inner of the same  monastery. Check out those flagstones on the floor and then think no power tools or lifting gear except your arms and back

 We then leave the monastery, and Phinjo signals upward.He is acclimatising us. By going quickly higher, then descending makes acclimatising to high altitude easier. We are amazed at these buildings high up with no flat land.At some time (I wish I knew when) alot of people who were very strong in mind and body hauled blocks of stone, which were themselves cut by hand, up here. Ok its seems like a game: higher and more tenuous wins Buddhas attention.
When I stayed at a monastery in my twenties, it was a sort of  status marker and coming of age for a monastery to establish a 'daughter house'. It made you solid in your intial foundation.
The even higher sub- monastery-perhaps it is a hermitage is deserted. At least except for an old lady who
appears from one of the lodgings. Phinjo says she is the  house keeper attached to the monastery. She is busy hard out texting on her phone.
We see another old kuia below. She is carrying a load of mulch on her back. She starts waving, pointing, gesticulating and shouting. We get a bit scared. Have we transgressed?Have we gone the wrong way? Is she shooing us away? I do the same back,waving and shouting.We speed up,anxious not to cross paths but trying to remain nonchalant about it. I mean,we are 5 big men.After a while we realise she seems to be enjoying it
The old lady who is waving,pointing, shouting at us
On our way down we discuss celibacy, living in a monastery. The guys cant get their heads around it,All they can see is loss of this, loss of that. This life is anathema to the Western mind.Where we come from its all about desire,achievement, competing. I'm in with the monks inner world. I have experienced and continue to experience great harmony and serene joy in the present, wherever I find myself..

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Day 1 to Phakding Part 2

The first thing that strikes you about this place,and is soon to be amplified, is the scale of this place. Compared to my New Zealand, everything is huge-valleys,rivers,mountains. The two porters  have appeared from nowhere and are strapping our packs together. Yes, we are walking with a day pack and they are carrying 3 packs each. The kiwi in me is uncomfortable; he is quoting fairness and physical prowess from my shoulder.We realise later that Phinjo had meant to tell us that we should limit our pack weight to 15kg. Dave has enough clothes to cover a Nepalese family. (Later we also try to jetison the load but Phinjo makes it hard,saying "no problem" when we look pained at the massive load hiding the diminutive sherpa porter.
The trail right up the valley has been made by the locals-when I don't know. Large parts of it are flagstones laid by hand.Its easy going for walking and allows your eye to wander.
We have our first encounter with animal trains that ply the route up and down the valley. Donkeys seem to dominate down low. Every animal seems to have a bell around its neck which i first thought was cute and then saw it as torture for the poor animal (and us humans).I'm struggling in myself to be here as I encountered some unexpected expenses and got bailed out by by Dave.
We get easily to Phakding, a lovely small group of marble block buildings 2-3 hours from Lukla.We rest and then take a hike several hundred metres up a steep hill to a monastery above us. You get a feel for the enormous challenge of building something up here. Why did people inhabit these barely liveable outposts such as the polar regions and here? One thought I had was that they would be left alone-there were no resources over which to fight. Its hard,but damn sight easier than the constant threat of ransacking that may have faced peoples on lower,warmer, more fertile land.
From the beginning Phinjo is chanting "Om mani padme hum" (The jewel in the lotus flower?) as we walk, in a lilting sing song fashion.It  reminds me of the rosary chants of my Catholic childhood and no doubt serves to centre oneself,to encourage oneself, and to escape the babbling mind..I am uplifted and carried into this stupendous landscape.
Passing on the left a prayer wheel and ever present reminder of the inscriptions all over the pathways to the Himalaya
"Om mani padme hum"