After a month of traveling in an exotic mystical land, what did I bring from my trip? Was it a neon-colored T-shirt printed with the word LIGHTING or, perhaps, a hostile microorganism? Or, like the character of Bill Murray in the Caddyshack movie, did I become friends with a holy man and received in gratitude the gift of total consciousness. As Carl, Bill's character, would say, "So, I did that for me …"
Nepal is the poorest and most exotic country I have visited. The old is mixed with the modern here as easily and awkwardly as extreme poverty does with the sublime.
The streets of Kathmandu present the stage and the testing ground of what I have called the Zen Buddhist chaos theory and its unlikely natural flow. The movement of humanity through the narrow and dusty streets of Kathmandu emanates a pattern of beautiful chaos. Every inch of precious space on the main roads through the city is coveted by one form or another of a colorful man, woman, beast or moving machine, but somehow everyone manages to flow without incident, miraculously avoiding a certain collision. Here in Nepal, the cultures and religious practices of Hinduism and Buddhism also manage to merge and merge without colliding with each other, although there is evidence that Indian Hinduism with its inclinations towards materialism and class conflict is causing frictions and social fractures.
Could you ask another question that while exploring the mystical world of Nepal, had you acquired a new wisdom or discovered a unique sense of harmony among the Nepalese that did not exist elsewhere? Unfortunately I would not find assistance to a teaching of a holy man, a guru, a teacher or a Tibetan monk, nor a golden opportunity to deepen the beliefs and blessings of the Hindu / Buddhist spiritual mysticism. However, I could talk to The Mountains, the Himalayas; A spiritual connection that offers a truly enlightened speech. I was also lucky to hear a part of the history of Nepal, interesting conversations told through the personal experiences of several different Nepalese knights, and a proud Sherpa mother; several stories that illustrate the human saga that exists among all mankind, no matter where in the global community you are.
The first gentleman, Ashesh, was 57 years old. Old world traveler, friend and promoter of a local Nepal blues band. I was not happy with the recent changes in Kathmandu. Ashesh admitted in recent years that the standard of living had improved for the average Nepalese in Kathmandu. Instead of walking barefoot, they now had shoes on their feet. Many even chose to drive mopeds instead of walking. However, through his observations, he felt that the air of friendship and community among the people was diminishing. A search for wealth and materialism was replacing better habits.
His observation range was far from limited. His travels took him to America and Western Europe. He was well informed about American culture and politics. Ashesh was also an honest man who liked to paint an honest image. He said: "you think your government is corrupt," a reference to the United States. "Nepal has the MOST corrupt government."
Apparently, the Nepalese had lived under a corrupt kingdom for many years, a kingdom quite isolated from the outside world until only a few generations ago. As in the modern world, the kingdom of Nepal apparently still suffered the same inequalities inherent in the imbalances of the classical divisions of human power; The Haves (in this case, the king and his family) and The Have-nots (the rest). The recent riots among the people, instigated mainly by the Maoist rebels, had pressured the reluctant abdication of the throne by the King, which allowed the slow installation of a more parliamentary and democratic form of government for Nepal.
The Maoists became representatives within this new evolving government, however, after a year of counterproductive rhetoric, inaction and violence by the Maoists against journalists and dissident villagers who now criticize the Maoist intention, it is becoming clear for the Maoist people. I only want a part of the loot and the power that the King once had; Not to really help people. There would not be a nirvana solution here.
Political corruption aside, a topic of greater importance for my gentleman friend was the continuous promotion of this blues band that we were listening to and the infusion of blues music in the Nepalese mainstream (yes … they have an artistic mainstream although mainly influenced by its largest neighbor, India). The band also played great classic rock songs, including a generous help of Jimmy Hendrix jams!
I told him about the wonderful experience I had in the town of Sauraha that was across the river from the Royal Chitwan National Park. Located along the river bank of camel-colored land, restaurants place tables and chairs for visitors to enjoy the sun's rays. Our scenario: a luxurious jungle green carpet visible through the air laden with wet dust with the incredulous backdrop of the Himalayas in the distance. The audience, a cornucopia of colorful nationalities watched with silent astonishment how the subtle pastel tones of a glorious sunset bathed the jungle and surrounding mountains; An extraordinary natural performance.
It wasn't long before darkness enveloped the jungle. While we were still sitting in our chairs, contemplating what we had just witnessed, I thought it would not be a cinema-sized screen with the disturbingly beautiful images of the movie that Baraka projected onto her as the perfect continuous complement to that stunning sunset, using the nocturnal sounds in development of the jungle for the musical accompaniment.
Ashesh's eyes lit up and he exclaimed: "Man, that would be GREAT!"
Another good gentleman I spoke with, Kumar, was the manager of a hotel for their families & # 39; hotel in Pokhara. Kumar was intelligent, energetic and had vision, both for him and for his family and for his country. He stressed the importance of Nepalese supporting each other by shopping in Nepalese businesses instead of India or other countries. He felt that this economic policy would strengthen a sense of pride and hope among the Nepalese, persuading them to seek opportunities within their own country instead of immediately applying for visas to seek opportunities abroad.
Kumar pointed to the local stone that his family, at his insistence, was using to build an addition to the hotel. Kumar talked about the devastating effect that the ten-year conflict between the Maoist rebels and the Nepalese government has had on the tourist economy that the Nepalese have depended so much on for a living.
The view from the top of his hotel offered spectacular views of the Annapurna Himalayas; however, the view also provided a telling story of the reality of Nepal. Pokhara's construction fronts offered a dichotomy of economies; A story of two worlds, the western world and the developing world. The hotel competition was prominent in the lakefront neighborhood.
Hotel-owning families were waiting for an attractive and expensive-built hotel to attract foreign tourists & # 39; deal; Many families invest their lifelong savings in these business ventures, assuming the risk and betting heavily to be presented with a constant flow of tourism trade. Often, behind the attractive facades, are the very modest enclaves that the local hotel staff and owners called home, barely equipped with basic plumbing and running water. An economic bet that is often seen today in the new countries of the developing world, strongly betting that some form of political stability would provide the comfortable green light for foreigners to come to visit their beautiful land.
Within the Hindu family of Kumar, there was an aura of conflict between his brothers, mainly monetarily driven by the patriarchal father, frustrating Kumar. The social place and strict adherence to religious disciplines and traditions seem to divide rather than unite their family.
A very important Hindu festival, Deepawali, with its colorful Festival of Lights, was fast approaching. For Kumar, the festival meant another stressful monetary obligation, since it was customary for the brother to present monetary gifts to his sisters. Deepawali represented a Christmas celebration abroad, with stressful monetary obligations of Christmas style inside. Poor Kumar …
Local bus travel can often be a source of stimulating conversation. While we sat tight together like sardines on a local bus returning from the grounds of the ancient city of Bhaktapur, I talked with a Nepalese boy who lived in Dublin, Ireland for the past six years, earning very good money as a Hi Tech Co manager He had just returned to Nepal to attend a cousin's wedding. Kumar could see this man as a traitor to the cause of a greater collective good in Nepal, but he could honestly blame him for finding a better path for himself. The man also spoke with good authority and humor about the current global change in employment opportunities today, which changes from country to country, from continent to continent, depending on the greedy whims of company cost / profit reduction global multinationals Ireland and China were already beginning to overvalue themselves, even with their cheaper paid immigrant workers. Would Cambodia or Kenya be the next economic boom?
The next two conversations represented the hopes and aspirations of today's goalkeepers and trekking guides; the first, Gopal, a young trekking guide from Annapurna who loved his mountains. Gopal spoke well, was quite knowledgeable about the world and very friendly. He worked at a travel agency in Kathmandu when he was not on a guided hike. He attended school to learn languages. He was very good with languages and knew that multiple linguistic skills translated into a greater scope of guide opportunities for foreigners. He sent money home to help his parents and his sister.
I met the next partner while walking painfully along the Everest hike, each of us moving steadily with our heavy loads, enjoying the magnificent views and carefully avoiding the abundant yak dung along the way. He talked about his last years of experience, bringing products for others, learning the trade, acquiring knowledge of the mountainous terrain so that he can finally become a guide. He also talked about his difficulties in dating his girlfriend, who is from another family of Hindu caste; a recurring theme of Romeo and Juliet, even here at the top of the Himalayas.
Then there was the proud and gregarious middle-aged woman who owned the profitable cabin along the Everest trail. His parents were refugees who had fled Tibet during the Chinese invasion of the fifties. They began a new life in the Nepalese Himalayas, gradually earning a living, which allowed them to send it to the university in India. By combining her new educational skills with great business acumen, she, along with her husband, built a good livelihood for themselves through the burgeoning foreign trekking trade while raising three children who now attended various universities throughout the world. world. The future of his children was also very promising.
And, as always in my travels, there were numerous simple acts of kindness and generous smiles and gestures of the local people who are in the streets and on the dirt roads through the fields and villages. And what about these same people who offer goodwill to Sidhus Hindus, Tibetan monks or the stranger that happens? Are they not the true practitioners of spiritual enlightenment?
Are Kumar's trials and tribulations really different from those of a family man who works in New York City? They are two people who live in two very diverse cultures, but still share many common human traits. Nepalese, like the rest of us, want a better life for themselves and their families. Some take money and social status issues too seriously.
Life is what you make of it: share a smile and a conversation with strangers. Making the effort to extend goodwill to other people, such as the American I met, bringing solar water heaters from the Himalayan path to the villagers or the charitable legacy of Sir Edmund Hillary to the Sherpa villagers.
There are no easy answers to discover the iconic spiritual abodes of the world or the supposed enlightened cultures. Does a visit to Machu Picchu or a walk to a Buddhist or Hindu temple provide immediate answers to an enlightened life path? Or are the answers more subtle and are found throughout the daily journey of life? Are the responses of life discovered during a high pilgrimage in the desert to Mount Kailash, a low pilgrimage in the desert to Mecca, or perhaps by a lonely walk in the forest; any forest
I often discover in my travels that it is not so much about the sacred destinations in themselves but about the journey itself and the good people that are on the road, where the answers to the mysteries of life reside.
My last day in Nepal, I am standing in the middle of a busy Kathmandu street. The usual crowded chaos is happening to me on both sides, screaming, honking and honking, but now I only hear the steady rhythm of Buddhist singing music floating down the street. Those who were once irritating annoy me, although very well, as always, but now I only politely shake my head and smile.
I am looking around and observing the chaotic and liberated way in which growth was being built throughout the city of Kathmandu; contempt rampant by electrical codes, public services or construction. Somehow everything worked; well, at least until the next blackout, which happened almost daily.
I slowly moved my eyes, leveling my eyes towards the city street ahead. Soon, the concrete physical forms began to blur, merging, changing in mixtures of colors and movement until finally all that appeared before my eyes was the silence and the white and shining glow of the Himalayas.
Like Ashesh, my blues friend said: "COOL!"