For about a year I have been corresponding with an American expat in Nepal named Amanda. She came to Kathmandu nearly 4 years ago.
After the major earthquake in KTM during her first year there, she quickly moved out to the ancient city of Bhaktapur. That is where Marilyn and I first met her. Just a week after our visit with her, she moved further out to the ancient village of Changu Narayan.
Changu is home to the oldest Hindu temple and the oldest statues in Nepal. The temple was built in 325 A.D. It is dedicated to the god Vishnu.
We traveled for an hour by bus from Patan to Bhaktapur and then after waiting for 15 minutes or so, we took another bus for about 45 minutes to the village. The buses are small and the people are usually packed in like sardines in a can. They were clearly not built for long-legged Americans. But the people make it very pleasant and fun. (By the way, the entire roundtrip cost about 90 cents per person. It only took an hour on the return)Once outside the congestion of KTM and Bhaktapur, we passed through wheat fields and forested foothills; a pleasant contrast to our everyday setting in the city. Finally we reached our destination and began the walk up the pleasant lane through the heart of the village, which leads to Vishnu’s temple. Once inside the temple courtyard, a group of Nepali young women spotted me and asked for several pictures, less interested in the ancient Hindu temple and more interested in the ancient Orthodox priest.
After taking some photos of my own of the temple and it’s surroundings, we made our way out the back of the temple courtyard and down the 108 steps to Amanda’s guesthouse (108 is a special number for Hindus and Buddhists. The traditional “mala” or prayer rope of a Buddhist also has 108 beads).
The setting of the new guesthouse was beautiful and we enjoyed just sitting in the large downstairs room with the great shutter doors opened to the countryside.
When we were about to leave for lunch, an American couple walked in, residents of the guesthouse for a few days, and introduced themselves to me. Luke and Jennifer are from Seattle. They are filming a documentary about a young Sherpa who is trying to establish his own trekking company and send profits back into his village for the purpose of building a school and some other similar types of works.
Luke asked if he could interview me. I told him I doubted that I would have anything of interest for his documentary, but he replied that he wanted the perspective of an outsider who had spent some time in Nepal. So we sat down together for about an hour or so. I enjoyed meeting and speaking with Luke. You can learn about his project and see some pictures of his time in Nepal, including at some point, pictures of our interview, at www.karmadocumentary.com.
Finally Marilyn, Amanda, and I headed back up to and out of the temple and into the small village square for lunch. There was a nice rooftop cafe that looked down on the square and we enjoyed some veg chow mein for lunch.
While visiting with Amanda, she related an unusual (for Westerners) experience she had recently had in the village. One evening after falling asleep, she was suddenly awakened about 1 a.m. by singing and chanting. She arose from bed and looked out to the fields below her house. There in the moonlight she saw a group of villagers praying and chanting to a local deity whose name I cannot recall just now. He is often depicted with red face and long fangs. As she looked toward the group she suddenly felt an overwhelming “presence” and power as she described it. She saw a huge red glow and then the red deity appeared above the group in giant form.
“Well, you probably don’t believe such things,” she said to us. She was, of course, wrong in that. We certainly do believe such a thing happened. The difference is that she believes a god appeared to her and that he is benevolent. We believe that it was a demon who appeared and received the worship of the people, and the veneration of Amanda (she does venerate him as she explained to us).There are many such experiences here in Nepal and many such demons. The spiritual warfare is very real here and sadly I meet many Western tourists here who are enthralled with the spiritual and mystical experience of Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal without any real understanding of the nature of the powers which lie behind them. They have no idea of what they are opening themselves up to in their spiritual pilgrimage to this land. – Fr. S.