Last week we finally visited Swayambhu, the famous monkey temple. It is another of the World Heritage Sites that Nepal boasts. The Kathmandu Valley can boast having more World Heritage Sites than any other location in the world! When people we work with learned a couple weeks ago that we had not yet been to Swayambhu, we were confronted with incredulous expressions of doubt, especially since it is so close it can be seen from our school. Apparently, it is one of the first destinations all visitors head to, but since we live here, and we don’t consider ourselves tourists, we were not in a rush to see it. That said, it was well worth the visit and we’ll be going back to visit again. The site is charged with an energy that is palpable from the moment one begins the climb up to the stupa. There are centuries of visitors and devotees that have left behind their collective impression. And, of course, there are all the simians to watch. The area is amok in monkeys, and the big difference between them and other monkeys around the city is the monkeys at Swayambhu are relatively docile. We witnessed several who have become adept at stealing food, but in other areas of the city, monkeys are to be avoided as potentially dangerous and unpredictable.
This past weekend we went on a little retreat away from the city to a place called Namo Buddha Resort. It is named for the famous Buddhist stupa and monastery that lies a couple kilometers away. We took the hike over to the temple a couple times. As one walks through the forest towards the stupa, you can see the monastery and the prayer flags that adorn the top of the hill it sits upon. Prayer flags also line the path along the walk so its hard to make a wrong turn. Upon arrival you enter through a gate inscribed with the words,
“HERE THE PRINCE GAVE HIS BODY TO A HUNGRY TIGER”
This is a reference to one of the Buddha’s incarnations as a female tiger who sacrificed her life and body to sustain the lives of her starving cubs. The temple is surrounded by hundreds of prayer wheels and at the stupa below is found the largest prayer wheel I have ever come across. The stupa above the monastery is adorned with hundreds of prayer flags that can be seen from miles away.