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..

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