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My Scholarship entry - Seeing the world through other eyes

WORLDWIDE | Wednesday, 14 March 2012 | Views [200] | Scholarship Entry

“What goes around comes around”: this graffiti is scrawled on Boudhinath Stupa, a World Heritage site in Nepal. Boudhinath is temporary and permanent home to thousands of pilgrims. Serendipitously positioned as a resting place on the road linking India and Tibet, there is ironically little rest here.
One of Boudhinath's remarkable characteristics is an ability to remake itself: during the day, it is a hive of commercial and devotional activity. At night, it is often garlanded with coloured lights. Birds and animals flock to be fed by pilgrims seeking merit.
The awe-inspiring pre-dawn kora transforms the stupa yet again. While many guidebooks will recommend visiting the stupa during the afternoon or evening, this early-morning experience is not to be missed.

Some helpful tips for participating in the kora:
1. When you hear the bells ringing at 4 a.m., put on warm clothing and head out.
2. Act strategically when entering the walkway, like a car merging with traffic on a dark and busy freeway. Choose your moment, and just merge.
3. Bring a thermos of chiya and biscuits, to consume at the end of your journey and share with others. There are no cafes open at that hour. 
4. While it’s sometimes helpful to seek a visual starting point, you will never get lost. Though tempting to count the number of times you circle the stupa, this is not an exercise program but a circular journey to meditate on in the the midst of goal-seeking and instant gratification Western messages.
5. Walk in the same direction as your fellow travelers; don’t stop to take a photograph or to gawk at the pilgrims. If you choose to watch, get off the path. 
6. Don’t analyze; don’t scrutinize. Just absorb the smells and sounds of incense, chanting, bells. Later, reflect on the discipline and devotion in this daily practise of faith.
The experience of circumambulation--with its reminder that "what goes around comes around"--is immensely helpful when you explore Kathmandu’s Thamel and its labyrinth of narrow streets. Walking through this area without a map, but with an open mind, you will experience sights, smells, and sounds that change remarkably as you watch the sun's rays moving through the area; you may find yourself unintentionally returning to the same spot repeatedly, but can usually find a taxi to release you from your circling if you truly are exhausted. As you walk the labyrinth, greet the people setting up—later dismantling—shops; stay out of the way of motorbikes, animals, schoolchildren, and rickshaws. Again, stopping along the way can be dangerous!

Some final words of reassurance: Remember that what goes around comes around; you are indeed already there. Now just keep walking.

Tags: travel writing scholarship 2012


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