Today was yet another very auspicious day at Boudha... This is the reincarnation day of Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Yellow Hat (Gelukpa) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. There are several sects, such as the Red Hats (Kagyupa), Black Hats, Nyingmapa, etc... The Dalai Lama belongs to the Gelukpa, as do many residents of our neighborhood. So tonight many homes, windows, balconies, and the stupa were lit up with thousands of candles, colored lights, and butter lamps. A lovely evening, with so much happening around the great stupa....
We are so thankful to be living here, as opposed to the tourist ghetto of Thamel. In this part of Kathmandu, most of the activity is centered around the monasteries, the stupa, walking the kora in prayer, spiritual study, and improving one's karma. Every morning and evening, and throughout the day, steady streams of pilgrims walk up and down our street, heading for the stupa with their prayer beads... Of course there are typical commercial operations, souvenir shops, cafe's, etc., but all of this shuts down by 6 or 7 pm. Many of the foreigners we meet around here are long-term residents, volunteering, teaching, or studying Buddhism or language. It's quite a different crowd than the bar-hopping dance-party scene in Thamel!
There are MANY auspicious days on the lunar calendar.... Full moons, new moons, and the 8th, 10th, and 25th deserve special attention. Buddha's birthday, enlightenment day, and parinirvana day are major celebrations. A few days ago was another "festival" to honor the Rinpoche of the nearest Monastery... The white dome of the stupa was freshly white-washed, and saffron water was splashed across the dome to make a lotus blossom pattern. Up until a few years ago, thousands of butter lamps were lit all around the base of the stupa, but that was apparently "too messy... too difficult." Now they string up colorful electric lights on special nights instead. It's a bit ironic, as the constant power outages in KTM usually black out the celebratory lights for much of the evening. Butter lamps would be far more dependable than Nepal's Electricity Grid. Many tiny niches around the stupa, each with a tiny buddha image, are filled with candles by devotees, and thousand and thousands of butter lamps are lit on portable carts and tables set up in the surrounding courtyard. Special prayers are chanted by groups of monks seated at the North point of the stupa, and huge mounds of fruit, biscuits, and flowers pile up as worshippers make their offerings.
Living in the neighborhood allows us to experience so many of these special nights! If we just visited once or twice, you'd miss all these incredible moments. We try to do a kora or 2 around the stupa each evening, just in case there is something special happening! It is such a pleasure and a gift to call Boudhanath our neighborhood for these few months.... I will deeply miss this place when we leave in a few weeks.