The Spiritual Side of the Kathmandu Valley
Written by: Nadia Alamo
Nepal is a country with a challenging political, cultural, and environmental past. Yet, your first thoughts of Nepal will include first class hiking, friendly locals, the tallest mountain on earth and unbelievable vistas. But the spiritual side of Nepal, and the Kathmandu Valley in particular, is also evident. You’ll find that the case no matter your reason for visiting. Nepal is made even more beautiful thanks to the spirituality within its places and people.
Without a doubt, the most spiritual aspect of the enclave known as Bodnath is the Buddhist stupa at its heart. Just follow the throng and you’ll soon be standing in front of this imposing structure. Thousands of monks, nuns, and Buddhists from many countries make their way clockwise around the stupa at all hours of the day. You will even see many dedicated souls prostrating their way through the spiritual walk – known as the kora to Buddhists. All are mumbling mantras under their breath with prayer beads loosely looped in their hands. Many will light butter lamps for blessings or remembrances, spinning the 108 prayer wheels. It’s a wonderfully inspiring sight to behold.
The stupa was built in the 14th century and is the largest stupa in the country. It’s also the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. The entire complex was built as a large mandala and a physical representation of the Buddha’s path to enlightenment. It’s covered in colourful prayer flags and whitewashed to reveal the all-seeing eye at the very top. As you walk around the rest of Bodnath, your senses will heighten. That’s thanks to the incense from shops and guest houses, daily offerings surrounding every shrine and mantras wafting from temples.
Kopan Monastery is arguably the best place in the Himalayas to learn the fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism and meditation. Just north of Bodnath, Kopan Hill rises from the Kathmandu Valley. The monastery that exists now is part of the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. It is under the guidance of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Almost 400 lamas, monks, teachers and various workers reside there. Monks from across Nepal and Tibet come here to study.
For tourists, seven and ten day retreats are often available and affordable. For those looking to delve deeper, there is also an annual one month course. The atmosphere here is a far cry from the city streets and so it’s no wonder that it serves as a kind of mecca for spiritual seekers. Those who stay here walk away with a sense of new-found peace as well as an understanding that they’ve just had the experience of their lives.
A Place You Must Feel
It takes a relatively short amount of time to understand that everyday life is completely enmeshed with spiritual life here. The Nepali people have woven their gods into the fabric of their daily lives. No matter your spiritual inclinations, you’ll feel this immediately. Nepal might have earned the title of ‘Roof of the World’ because of the towering protection of Everest and the Himalayan range, but perhaps it’s also because there’s so much life contained within.
Keen to make a Nepal trip a reality? Get in touch with Mundana’s team of experts and discuss your needs today.