What did I get out of my way after a month of traveling in an exotic mystical country? Was it a neon shirt decorated with the word ENLIGHTENMENT or a hostile microorganism? Or, like Bill Murray's character in Caddyshack, I made friends with a holy man and received gratitude for the gift of complete consciousness. Like Carl, Bill's character, she would say, "Well, I have to go for me …"
Nepal is the poorest and most exotic country I've ever visited. The ancient here mix with modern as easily and embarrassingly as with poverty.
The streets of Kathmandu represent the scene and test ground for what I dubbed Zen Buddhist theory of chaos and its unlikely natural flow. The movement of humanity through the narrow, dusty streets of Kathmandu radiates a pattern of beautiful chaos. Each centimeter of precious space on the main city passages is sought by one or the other of a colorful man, woman, animal or moving machine, yet somehow they manage to flow miraculously without incident and avoid some collision. Here in Nepal, the religious cultures and practices of Hinduism and Buddhism also merge and blend without interfering with each other, although there is evidence that Indian Hinduism, with its tendency to materialism and class conflict, causes social friction and fractures.
Could another question be asked that in exploring the mystical world of Nepal, I gained some new wisdom or discovered a unique sense of harmony among the Nepalese that did not exist elsewhere? Unfortunately, I would not find any participation in the teachings of a holy man, guru, teacher or Tibetan monk, any golden opportunity to delve deep into the faith and blessings of the Hindu / Buddhist spiritual mysticism. But I spoke to the Mountains, the Himalayas; a spiritual connection that offers truly enlightened discourse. I was also lucky to hear part of the Nepali story, engaging conversations told through the personal experiences of several different Nepalese masters and one proud mother of the Sherpa; a few stories that illustrated the human saga that exists among all people no matter where in the global community you find yourself.
The first lord, Ashesh, was 57 years old. old world traveler, friend and promoter of local Nepalese blues band. He was not satisfied with the recent changes in Kathmandu. Ashsh has in recent years acknowledged the standard of living of average Nepal in Kathmandu. Instead of walking barefoot, they now wore shoes. Many have even chosen to drive mopeds instead of walking. Yet, through his observations, he felt that the air of friendship and communion between people was diminishing. The pursuit of wealth and materialism replaced better habits.
Its scope of observations was far from being limited. His travels led 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 picture. He said, "Do you think your government is corrupt," a reference to America. "Nepal has the worst government."
The Nepals seemed to have lived for many years under a corrupt kingdom that had been completely isolated from the outside world several generations ago. As in the modern world, the Kingdom of Nepal apparently still suffered from 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). Recent riots among people, mainly caused by the Maoist rebels, have led to pressure on the reluctant abdication of the throne by the king, allowing for a slow installation of the Nepalese parliamentary and democratic form of government.
The Maoist has become leaders in this evolving new government, but after a year of counter-productive rhetoric, inaction and violence by Maoists against journalists and dissenting villagers who are now critical of the Maoist intent, it's just a share of prey king; not really helping people. There would be no nirvana solution.
In addition to political corruption, it is more important for my gentleman's friend to continue promoting this fine blues band we listened to and infusing blues music into Nepal's mainstream (yes … they have an artistic mainstream, albeit mainly influenced by their larger India neighbor). The band also played great classic rock songs including generous help from Jimmy Hendrix Jam!
I told him about the amazing experience I had in the village of Sauraha, which was across the river from Royal Chitwan National Park. The restaurant is located on the banks of the dirty camel river, and the restaurants prepare tables and chairs for visitors to enjoy the rays of the sun. Our stage: a rich jungle-green tapestry visible through air-saturated damp dust with an incredible background of the Himalayas in the distance. The audience, an abundance of colorful nationalities, watched in silent respect as the wonderful pastel shades of sun flooded the surrounding jungle and mountains; extraordinary natural performance.
It wasn't long before darkness surrounded the jungle. While we were still sitting in our chairs, wondering what we were just witnessing, I thought it wouldn't have to be a screen of a passing theater size with the ghostly beautiful images of a movie projected on Barak as a perfect complement to this amazing sunset. using evolving jungle night sounds for musical accompaniment.
Ashesh's eyes lit up and exclaimed, "Man, that would be COOL!"
Another great gentleman I spoke to, Kumar, was a hotel manager for his family & # 39; hotel in Pokhara. Kumar was smart, energetic and had a vision for himself, his family, and his country. He stressed the importance of Nepalese supporting each other by buying from Nepalese businesses instead of from India or other countries. Feeling that this economic policy would strengthen the sense of pride and hope among the Nepalese, he would persuade them to seek opportunities in their own country rather than immediately apply for a visa to seize the opportunity abroad.
Kumar pointed to the local stone his family had used at his insistence to build a hotel extension. Kumar spoke of the devastating effect of the ten-year conflict between the Maoist rebels and the Nepalese government on the tourist economy that the Nepalians rely on to earn a living.
The view from the top of his hotel offered dramatic views of the Annapurna Himalayas; however, the view also provided a narrative of Nepalese reality. The building facades of Pokhara offered a dichotomy of economies; the story of two worlds, the western and the developing world. The hotel competition was prominent along the lake shore.
The families who owned the hotels were hoping that an attractive, expensive hotel would attract foreign tourists & # 39; business; many families invest their life savings in these business efforts, taking the risk and making a strong bet that they will receive a steady flow of tourism. Often behind the attractive façade, very modest enclaves were laid by local hotel staff and homeowners, barely equipped with basic plumbing and running water. The economic gambling often encountered in the new developing countries today strongly rests on some form of political stability providing foreigners with a comfortable green light to visit their beautiful country.
There was an aura of conflict between his siblings in the Hindu family of the Kumar, which was mostly led by a patriarchal father in monetary terms, which frustrated Kumar. It seems that social place and strict observance of religious disciplines and traditions are more divided than united with the family.
A very important Hindu festival, Deepawali, with its colorful Festivals of Light was fast approaching. The festival meant another stressful monetary commitment for Kumar, as it was customary for a brother to give gifts to his sisters. Deepawali presented for Christmas as a celebration from the outside with stressful Christmas cash gift obligations inside. Poor Kumar …
Local bus service can often be a source of encouraging conversation. When we sat down squeezed like a sardine on a local bus returning from the ancient districts of Bhaktapur, I talked to a Nepalese guy who had lived in Dublin, Ireland for the past six years, and earned a good manager from Hi Tech Co. very good money. He was in Nepal to attend a cousin wedding. Kumar could see this man as a traitor for the greater collective Nepalese good, but they could sincerely blame him for making a better way for himself. The man also spoke with good authority and humor about today's ever-changing global shift of job opportunities from country to country, continent to continent, depending on the disparate whims of global multinational companies driven by cost / profit reduction. Ireland and China have already begun to overestimate, even with their cheaper paid immigrant workers. Will Cambodia or Kenya be another economic boom?
The next two interviews presented the hopes and aspirations of today's porters and tourist guides; First, Gopal, a young tourist guide to Annapurna who loved his mountains. Gopal spoke well, being quite subtle and very kind-hearted. He worked in a travel agency in Kathmandu when he was not on a guided tour. He attended a school where he learned languages. He had very good language skills and knew that more language skills translate into greater opportunities for foreigners. He sent the money back home to help his parents and sister.
I met another man as I crawled across the Everest trek, each of us steadily moving with our burdens, looking at the spectacular views while carefully avoiding the abundant yacht on the trail. He spoke of his last years of experience, carrying goods for others, learning business, acquiring knowledge about mountain terrain so that he could eventually become a guide. He also talked about his problems with dating his girlfriend who came from another Hindu caste family; the recurrent theme of Romeo and Juliet here in the Himalayas.
Then there was a proud, famous middle-aged woman who owned a profitable cottage along the Everest hiking trail. Her parents were refugees who fled Tibet during the Chinese invasion of the 1950s. They started a new life in the Nepalese Himalayas and gradually made good living, allowing them to send her to college in India. By combining their new educational skills with the enthusiastic business phenomenon, she has made a good living for herself thanks to the growing foreign trekking business and has also raised three children, all of whom have now attended different universities around the world. Their children's future also held a strong promise.
And, as always on my travels, there were numerous simple deeds of kindness and generous smiles and gestures from local people you encounter in the streets and along dirt roads through landscape fields and villages. And what of the same people who offer goodwill to Hindu Sidhus, Tibetan monks or a passing stranger. Are they not the real practitioners of spiritual enlightenment?
Are Kumar's attempts and tribulations really different from those of family men working in New York? They are two individuals living in two very diverse cultures, yet they still have many common human traits. Nepalese, like the rest of us, want a better life for themselves and their families. Some take too serious problems that revolve around money and social status.
Life is what you do from it: sharing a smile and talking to strangers. In an effort to extend goodwill to other people, such as the American, I have encountered the raising of solar water heaters in the Himalayan Villagers Trail or the charity message of Sir Edmund Hillary by the Sherpa Villagers.
There are no easy answers to the discovery of the world's iconic spiritual homes or alleged enlightened cultures. Does a visit to Machu Picchu or a trip to a Buddhist or Hindu temple provide an immediate answer to an enlightened life journey? Or are the answers more subtle and found on a daily journey? Life responses were discovered during the desert desert on Mount Kailash, the desert desert in Mecca, or perhaps a solitary walk in the forest; any forests.
I often discover on my travels that it is not so much in the sacred destinations themselves, but on the road itself, and the good people you meet on the road where the answers to the mystery of life lie.
My last day in Nepal, I'm standing in the middle of the busy Kathmandu Street. The usual beautiful crowded chaos heads me on both sides, screaming, blowing and rotating, but now I hear only the constant rhythm of Buddhist singing that rolls down the street. The once irritating touts bothers me, though nicely as usual, but now I just politely shake my head and smile.
I looked around and watched the chaotic and liberated way in which growth was built throughout the city of Kathmandu; uncontrollable disregard of electrical, utility, or building regulations. Somehow it all worked; well, at least until the next outage, which occurred almost daily.
Slowly I shifted my eyes and leveled the view of the street ahead. Soon the specific physical forms began to blur, merge, blend in color and motion, until finally all that was in front of my eyes was the silence and radiant white glitter of the Himalayas.
Like Ashesh, my friend Blues out of enthusiasm would say, "COOL!"