Staying in a place unfamiliar for a longer time than just a few days usually starts with some sort of magic and than slowly the magic fades away and the real character of that place shows itself. Some places have more magic than others and some places are the definition of magic. Boudanath is such a place. It’s hard not to fall in love with it and if to some extent you’re at least interested in religion it certainly is a place overflowing you with religious energy. In my life I have seen many religious places and most of them are focussing on one specific interpretation of the devotion to that ‘higher power’ that is the foundation of most religions. There has not been one place that lost it’s religious magic swiftly. Except for this place.
The great stupa of Boudah is impressive. Not so much as an achievement of architecture or as a builders marvel but more as a building that is like a definition of the focal point of religious activities. It’s circular layout has a lot to do with that as it not so much forces but certainly invites one to walk around it. And just like being right handed most people nearly automatically follow a clockwise direction along the stupa walls with the hundreds of prayer wheels built into it. The true Buddhist might spin a few, a lot or maybe even all of them while circulating the stupa and mumbling their mantras in utter concentration of their religious task. Maybe just as big a number of people just walk around it in amazement of the atmosphere the place undoubtedly has. Not for religious reasons but just being tourists or just enjoying the place. Some people who are totally oblivious to any sort of magic walk counter clockwise I don’t even notice that they are missing the point of this place.
I’ve walked around the Buddhist building daily for some fifteen days in february and last week. It took me days to start recognizing the others that do the same thing. Like an unrelated bunch of people with just the stupa and its invitation to walk around it as a common denominator. Faces become familiar after a while and so do the times they emerge. There seems to be some sort of daily routine forced upon them by the sheer presence of the stupa. They seldom speak to each other, they often if not nearly always greet each other just by acknowledging eye contact and a smile. The others, the religious ones and the tourists are not aware of this silent community. The ones who become member of it meet sometimes in the surrounding cafes, on the rooftop terraces, on top of the stupa or while doing the daily walk. Their conversations are usually interesting as these people all have their specific story and reason to be here. Without exception.
The religious ones are to preoccupied to notice this, the tourists just to amazed. The beggars populating the area beg at them for the first few days but that stops after some days. Even they recognize these temporary inhabitants of Boudah that become part of the society of the unknown. Sometimes there’s a lama or monk being part of the family. Sometimes they join you on a circular walk. But as always, having become part of that silent society slowly kills the magic. Even these silent members will leave after a while because as magical as it may all look like here, in the end it’s just another strange building with a lot of people around it. Birds of Paradise, Bohemians, artists, writers, thinkers, they come, stay for a while and in the end they all go away again. I am not different in that. Yesterday I escaped the hypnotizing grasp of the stupa for some hours, tomorrow I will leave to do what I must do else where.
But I know one thing for sure. If I live the day I will surely return simply because a part of the magic of the Boudah stupa is that it becomes a home for a part of your soul. It certainly is for a part of mine now. I will always be there in mind and will certainly return.
Alice © 2011