The image of snow blowing off the mountain seems to jump right out and speak to me. The past blows away like that to reveal a hidden rock face.
Vistas greater than a camera eye, I invoke my memory lens. I invoke the part of me captured in each past moment, the one I can still see on the other side of the world.
The snow blows off the surface of the mountain, and I feel like a part of me is blowing away with it. I listen to hear myself in the past. As the past unravels like bandage coils from a mummy, I can feel it.
Life around the temple moves with the rhythm of the practices and performances of the place. Awakening pre-dawn by the sounds of horns. A cool breeze moves the fabric flaps leading inside. Incense sneaks out.
Sleepy monks trail up and down the steps, having left their warm covers, flying into the temple like jumping deer. Into the twisted swath of robes, they sat facing one another. Ah, they were the lucky ones.
Teapots, curved spouts belching white steam, placed outside the entrance. The tea was coming and breakfast too. But first, aspirations to Vajrakilaya, our pledge to become the dispeller of spiritual obstacles to enlightenment.
We were hiking along the valley behind Pema Ts’al in Nepal. Sheer cliffs to the right, snaky river to the left.
As we began to round the corner, in the ascent back toward the Tibetan village, and our way back to our home for the week, our paths silently crossed that of a sheep herder bringing his flock back from the river.
What a striking image. Back to antiquity. Such gentle daily rhythms continue to be viable. We yielded the path. Watched the procession before us. And as we did, one young member split off from the pack. Walked straight up to Geoff’s camera, and stared directly at us.
Grinning and laughing about the bold directness of this particular member, we were astonished when it broke out in a perfect, photogenic grin!
And held it, as if giving us time to get the camera setting right. Then after acknowledging this moment of contact, turned, and slowly rejoined the slow march up the slope we were all making together.
How are we connected to everything that surrounds us, and in what unexpected ways? Certainly, we all existed together in that moment, if only for the duration of a camera snapshot. Could there have been a slightly thinner veil in that place? The veil that covers all things from ourselves. Did we pull back that curtain, if only a peep?
At Pema Ts’al monastery in Nepal, a condensed panoramic image. Yellow flags cover the Vajrakilaya mandala and artifacts at left. At right, windows open to clean, cold, refreshing air and rising mountains. Layers of offerings to peaceful and wrathful forms decorate colorful bowls and rows of tormas. Can I identify with the impact of their living force?
Special mountain incense, burning juniper leaves on a metal censor, I brush over myself. I can purify this invisible part of me.
An-shu Stephen K. Hayes, working with Khenpo Samdup Rinpoche at the Gar Drolma Buddhist Learning and Meditation Center in Dayton, OH, completed a three day Vajrakilaya retreat. An available text for the practice came from An-shu’s special English translation, matching syllable by syllable the Tibetan pronunciation, rhythm, and beat.
Included over the weekend were instructions on setting the text to drums, bells, and hand drum, as well as many in depth discussions based on years of experience in Buddhist teachings abroad.