December 26, 2009: Lumbini, Nepal
It’s nighttime at a monastery in Lumbini, the place where Gautama Siddartha the Buddha was born. Lumbini is in southernmost Nepal, just north of the Indian border. The monastery where I am staying is one of twenty-six in the area that are strewn about a vast peaceful refuge of trees and fields.
Tonight I took a nice walk through misty moonlit fields. All around me I could I hear the mad howling of jackals whose crazy hoots and hollering sounds like they’re having a hell of a great party. There insane celebrations of freedom delight me immensely. And along my peaceful walk the sillouettes of monasteries appear in the midnight fog.
Todays journey to Lumbini was another wild expedition via an extremely uncomfortable little minivan with only one buttcheek on the seat for close to 10 hours, while the busdriver’s assistant basically sat on my lap. And then after what seemed like we’d transcended hell and crossed many mountains, the bus driver explains in grunts and motions that this bus had reached the end of the line and they were going to put me on another bus, the local bus to Lumbini.
The bus was seriously ragged– just dusty metal and seats and glass that has never been clean. As always when traveling in Nepal, I just cross my fingers and trust that I will arrive one way or another, or else someplace else.
But then an angel arrived. A young guy named Govinda sat down beside me and began speaking to me in broken english. He seemed like a good guy and I liked him right away. As this rickety bus slowly proceeded down the dusty broken road, though, nighttime was fast approaching and I was concerned about the journey that lay ahead of me and trying to find lodging for the night. I didn’t know where I was going, but Govinda told me about the Korean Monastery which offers lodging to weary travelers. It lay somewhere among the vast forest of Lumbini and I had no clue how I was going to find it. Fortunately, my angel, Govinda, told the bus driver where to stop and then offered to lead me there.
We jumped off the bus at an unmarked location and began walking through a dusty dirt road into the heart of the dark forest. Instantly I took notice of the peace in the air– a tranquility that I haven’t known for a while. The air was gentle. There was no buzzing of busses and horns and madness. Just the tranquil meditative air surrounding the Buddha’s birthplace.
The walk to the monastery was a long one and now it was pure darkness. I was so ready to lay down my bags and be free from it all, and finally by 7 we arrived.
Before departing, Govinda invited me to his house for dinner the following night. He arrived at the monastery to pick me up around 5:30. I jumped onto the back of his bicycle and we rode down the dusty street Nepali style. Arriving at his clay thatched roof abode, I learned that his Dad was working in a faraway town and his Mom was out at work. That left Govinda, his sister, and me. Govinda sat me down on a bench while they scurried around cooking seriously greasy scrambled eggs and some rice. They brought the food to me and explained that they’d eat later. And so I sat in the grim flourescent light of their home and ate food by myself. After I was done, he asks…”we go?” And so with that, he drove me back to the monastery and that was our outing. Very strange.