(ALL photos by BHG – facebook page)
Swayambhunath is an ancient Buddhist site atop a hill in Kathmandu Valley. It is also referred to by many as the “monkey temple” because it’s swarmed with wild monkeys! For those of you who don’t know, “play with a monkey” is written on my Wish List for Life that I wrote when I was nineteen. I also happen to appreciate the Buddhist philosophy even more so after my stay at Tassajara last year. So, this was pretty much as good as it gets for me. When the taxi dropped us off at Swayambhunath we were greeted by a massive set of stairs to get to the top- 365 to be exact! This fact made me fall in love with the place even more. 365 til monkey temple! We both bought a gorgeous yellowish-orange marigold necklace from a street vendor before beginning our climb to the top.
Mid way up the stairs we found this exquisite Buddha to take a little break with.
As we approached the top of the stairs, I had my first run-in with the wild monkeys. See them up at the top of picture below?!
Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by monkeys and my excitement quickly changed to fear. I didn’t expect them to get so close to me! Now what, I thought?! All of their little movements started t make me anxious. One quickly slid down the bannister by my hand and I heard Brian’s voice in my head reminding me not to touch the monkeys because they could have rabies. Well, great. I was also afraid that if I moved quickly I would scare them, so I slowly backed away to safety.
Once I found a safe place to watch them I was back to being my happy monkey loving self. They were so comical with their human mannerisms!
After recovering from the run-in with the troupe of wild monkeys, we finished our climb to the top of the stairs and were greeted for our efforts with a sweeping view of Kathmandu Valley. It was refreshing to gain a new perspective of the city. I finally got a glimpse of the mountain range in the distance, although they were still hard to distinguish under the dense haze of pollution. The wind swept through my hair as a little monkey scurried by me. I glanced up at the huge ancient stupa that stood before me and was struck silent. The sight of it against the blue sky was stunning. Swayambhunath is said to be the most profound expression of Buddhism in Nepal and its history dates back to 5th century. The eyes on the stupa represent those of the all-seeing Adi-Buddha. I could have stared at it for hours without taking in all of its complexity.
As a practice of meditation, Brian and I decided to walk around the stupa rolling the huge prayer wheels. Other than having to dodge a few monkeys, it was quite relaxing.
After watching the Buddhist monks pray and chant we wandered the surrounding shrines. Everywhere we turned incense filled the air . A feeling of calm did too. We found some treasures as well- new prayer beads and a Tibetan singing bowl that makes a beautiful sound when used and has quickly become Brian’s new favorite toy.
On the way out I saw an inscription that read, Om mani padme hum, which means “hail to the jewel in the lotus”. Love this.