El·e·na [el-uh-nuh, uh-ley-nuh; It. e-le-nah] /ˈɛlənə, əˈleɪnə; It. ɛˈlɛnɑ/ –noun a female given name, form of Helen // A proud student of His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche // Personal assistant with a BSc (Hons) Psych from Uni of Warwick // These are snapshots of my life, in words and pictures

Choose Nepal

April 28, 2018 0

Boudha-2Originally penned for Rinpoche’s blog.

The first time I ever travelled to Nepal was in 2005, on a pilgrimage led by Rinpoche. What was meant to be a one-week trip turned into a two-week stay, with the second week being fully dedicated to stock-buying for Kechara Paradise. My next trip was in 2009, for a three-week stay – I went to volunteer to teach English but ended up staying because Rinpoche asked me to.

But one week, two weeks, three weeks…the thing about Nepal is that you can never get enough. No matter how long you are there for, you never feel like you were there for long enough and whenever you leave, you cannot help but think, “What am I leaving to?”

Sure, you have the dust to contend with and if it is not the dust, then it is the lack of hot running water or the absence of heating, or even the load-shedding (back in those days, anyway). But this lack of modern-day conveniences is always swiftly forgotten the second you step into a holy place like the Vajrayogini chapel at Bijyaswari. How can you think about hot water when you get to commune with the highest of the high? Why think about the Maggi Mee you missed out on, when you can feast on a Michelin-starred meal with a queen?

Sitting in the chapel, not a single moment went by that I did not so badly want to receive her practice and to become one with her. The Goddess! She is in front of me, right there in front of me! It recalled for me the sheer ignorance with which I had embarked on my previous two trips to Nepal. Back then, I did not fully appreciate the significance of the pilgrimage sites. Yes, they were holy and all that, but the trips were more an exotic destination for me to satiate some misguided wanderlust influenced by youthful naïveté. So I felt fortunate to be back there again this time with more knowledge, to really make the best of the opportunity to plant more seeds and make more imprints.

SankhuVY

You know, in my short time on this earth, I have been to some incredible places. From glitzy lake-side casinos in Austria (we arrived by speedboat!) to the jaw-dropping raw beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway in California; from the swishy six-star hotel suites in Sydney to the romantic Brontë-esque countryside of the British Isles.

Yet nothing compares to Nepal.

Boudha-1Nothing compares to going on bumpy pilgrimage to pay obeisance to Mother Tara who resides at Parphing. Nothing compares to the opportunity to meditate on death and impermanence as you stare down the river at Pashupatinath. Nothing compares to the comfort of knowing you can offer butter lamps at all hours of the day, any day. Nothing compares to the possibility of just hopping into a car and going to Sankhu to pay homage to Vajrayogini. And really, truly – nothing compares to the excitement of waking up in the morning and knowing Boudhanath is just half an hour away.

Because next to Kechara Forest Retreat, Boudha is quite possibly my favourite place on the planet. When I gaze at Boudhanath Stupa, I am reminded of Lord Buddha’s strength of renunciation, of his perseverance to do battle with and crush his ego, and of his commitment to the vows. I am reminded that if I – nay, if we – try hard enough, we too can be just like him.

And when I gaze at Boudha and I see Buddhists from all traditions, from all corners of the earth joining one another to circumambulate the holy stupa…just why, WHY would you want to be anywhere else?

There are just some places that leave an indelible mark in your heart, and Nepal is one such place. I really thank Rinpoche for introducing me to Nepal all those years ago, and for imprinting in me an undying thirst to return to the country. Each trip to Nepal recharges something in me and reignites the feeling that I want nothing more than to enter into, and to die in retreat.

If you need to travel, if you must go on holiday, next time choose somewhere different. Choose to go somewhere which gives you so much more to bring home than photographs and souvenirs. Which gives you Dharma imprints, teaches you acceptance, shows you impermanence right in front of your eyes, gives you a chance at a better rebirth.

Choose Nepal.

Travel

Leave a Reply