On the road to the Temple, in Nayapati, I met a huge traffic jam . The great skills of the drivers were more than never called for. It took hours to get there and many people just walked through the dust and traffic mess. I seriously considered asking a ride on a motorcycle, the vehicle of choice of the people, men or women, even while dressed on beautiful saris. After many mantras we made it there, where the access street was blocked to cars and we had to walk to the gates of the Temple. When I climbed the stairs leading to the courtyard I was surprised by the view of the enormous crowd. I quickly reached for my camera and another day as a photographer started.
I wasn’t late at all, Holiness wasn’t there yet. So I decided to go upstairs to the main residence building and take pictures from the top. As I reached the second floor, Garchen Rinpoche’s sister was at the door of a front room. She greeted me effusively (just like him) with this lovely caring and large smile and a hug, characteristic of the family, and invited me in. There was her daughter, her husband, and other family members, and friends. The room was very privileged regarding the view. After being served the traditional Tibetan butter tea and biscuits I started to take pictures until Holiness made his entrance with prostrations towards the Gompa.
Not knowing yet how things were organized and not being aware that today was going to be so grand with the same rules as the inauguration day, I have forgotten my pass and was stopped by guards on my way. Remembering my old journalistic days, I tried the back stairs to get inside the Temple. There were all Westerners and Holiness Secretary, who told me, quick, the function already started, go get your pictures. Together we got to the front top stairs just in front of Holiness. Downstairs the guards looked puzzled, but left me alone.
I was quite surprised throughout these teachings and inauguration how few American Buddhists have come. Drupon Thinley and Kenpho Tsultrim from TMC, Lama Gursan and me, were the monastics who came. The other few lay practitioners were related to Garchen Rinpoche and the Arizona Center. Germans, Australians, Spaniards, Swiss, and Taiwanese; Malaysians and Bhutanese, and other Asians came in large numbers not counting the so many Tibetans. It was hard to gather a small number of us for a mandala offering, with not so many offerings. Comparing with the generosity of others we were at the bottom of the line. Most of the donations for the construction also came from the poorer countries in Asia, but obviously from the pockets of great donors. It is said the Monastery cost millions of US dollars.
I went back to the opposite building, going up to the terrace and the view of the crowd was amazing. I was reminded of the Vatican. The afternoon was dedicated to secret empowerments from Holiness, for a limited group of Teachers and Rinpoches.
Later, in Bouddhana, I was invited by a friend to join a group for dinner with Garchen’s sister and family, whom I joined at a private room in the Kitchen Garden restaurant for several courses, both Nepalese and Tibetan mixed dinner. Holiness secretary, Kinley, his translator and a few other Rinpoches were there, and also my friend Huan, who was the host, and Popo, a Chinese actress. It was a lively evening with translations going through, back and forth in three languages.
Yesterday, Monday, there was a final long life Mandala offering to His Holiness. A much smaller crowd gathered at the Gompa, which came alive with tons of yellow flowers and rice thrown towards his throne. Then, every one had a chance to offer him a khata face to face. Afterwards, I went upstairs to his room to say goodbye. He had a great sweet smile and told me he is coming to America next year, for the inauguration of the Vajra Yoguinini Nunnery. I know he will have a very busy travel schedule including New Zealand and South America in Peru, where he is inaugurating a stupa in Machu Pitchu.
Showing a complete ignorance of these correlations, no business, restaurant, hotel or rich people care for their entrance, or street leading to their place, they only care for protecting themselves behind iron gates. What goes on outside is not of their concern. Everything goes into the streets. In Bouddhana however, a place of worship and business of religious artifacts, the people clean the way several times a day.
We left for Lumbini at six in the morning, hoping to get there by mid afternoon. The bus was so small, that I, who am a short person had no space to fit my legs, Khenpo and Ryan were really compressed. The bus stopped at every village to let in local people going to the next, probably to make a few extra rupees. It stopped for all meals in places really poor and unsanitary. After lunch, I generated amazement among local people by using a knife to peel and cut an apple. Everybody was using their hands to eat, and the woman serving the food had kindly handed me a spoon, which she cleaned on her sari. The boy waiting on our table stopped and stared at my hands while I used my knife to cut the apple. Everybody was looking.
The view of the rivers, the Royal Park and the Mountains was really beautiful when you could ignore the trash surrounding it all. At a certain point we got to a bad traffic jam and had to get around a detour to another detour from the road. No information was given to passengers. The night came much before we arrived at the last stop, Bhairahawa, where we found out we still had to get a local bus to arrive at our destination.
I decided to go back to Kathmandu next day and found a tour bus that seemed to be comfortable for a better trip. Khenpo decided to go back with me while Ryan was going back to India, where he is studying Tibetan.
Next morning, at 6 am, we took a taxi to Bhairahawa to get the bus. I guess that bus stations are poor anywhere in the world, and in Nepal it is not different. When the bus came we were quite relieved, both for getting out of there and because it was a regular tour bus, with large and comfortable marked seats. We left on time and were quite hopeful that this was going to be a much better journey, maybe with the bus stopping on better places to eat. It didn’t take many hours for us to realize that a gigantic traffic gem was ahead of us. Hundreds of buses and trucks were stranded on the only road to Kathmandu, because a bus had hit a bridge 3 days before, the day we came in, and the bridge was not yet repaired. The bus company knew the situation but did not allow the driver take a detour on time, taking a chance that the situation would be resolved.
By midnight we finally got going, crossed the bridge, and the bus headed to a nice restaurant. At 4.30 AM we got at the bus station in Kathmandu, found a taxi, and arrived at the hotel just before the strike started, stopping the country.