It's Tuesday morning, the sky a dull gray and the city is waking up. A few dogs bark, tires can be heard on the beat up gravel and tarred road outside the guesthouse, and car horns begin to sound. The Valley Guesthouse is a few minutes above the great stupa at Boudha, one the Himalayan world's most visited pilgrimage sites. It's a strongly Tibetan enclave and monasteries fill the lanes that snake down to the large structure where devotion occurs.
Last evening, we got to the stupa at around 5:30 and many hundreds of devotees were circumambulating. Many clicked prayer beads and quietly chanted Om Mane Padme Hum, the basic mantra of the Tibetan Buddhist world. Traditional garb of long dresses was the norm for the women. Men often wear slacks and long shirts with vests. Many wear hats. It's a calm, beautiful scene for any locale, to see so many doing religious devotion in public.
A tent was set up in the large square courtyard surrounding the round stupa. Inside, hundreds of practitioners were making 'puja', responding to the chanting of a monk. A small fragrant fire was lit outside the tent and the smoky air lent a special feel to the whole of the area. The large Boudhanath stupa area is mandala shaped if you see it from above. The slate-tiled square is banked by shops of all kinds. the stupa's lowest level is white-washed stone and has three tiers, getting smaller as it rises. The round tier that comes next is also white-washed stone, cement I suppose. Then a tall bronze tower crowns the whole of it. Festooned with thousands of prayer flags, with upper areas of the bronze tower draped with fabric, it is a stunning scene at ant time.
At the 5:30 hour, with so many people and prayer activity, it's transformative. This holy space provides our group with the perfect welcome. We are surrounded by people of good faith and so clearly not in Portland anymore.