Trip Start Jan 15, 2011
Trip End Mar 19, 2011

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Flag of Nepal  ,
Monday, February 7, 2011

                  I wasn't aware until I got back to New Jersey and started to review some of this that, although apparently it was read by some of you, I had accidentally neglected to publish this chapter.  So I'm going to publish it right now, along with some subsequent chapters in my journey, all after the fact.  If you have already read this particular one (which should fall right after the one about the spreading in Nepal in the Himalayan mountains and right before the first Varanassi entry), then feel free to disregard it and go on to the next one you haven't read.  I apologize for my neglected publishing of this.

                 Ram was waiting for us upon our return to Kathmandu.  Kathmandu has eight rivers and the Bagmati s a holy one.  On that river is the Passupati Nath, the temple where I would have some of Jim’s remains blessed and possibly spread into the river.  This is where you will find the funeral pyres on the river.  I had no idea what to expect, but I must add, I wasn’t prepared for this different world of holiness.  

                Now dear reader, I want you to bear in mind I’m writing this well in retrospect. There have been several spreadings since this, but this was the first spreading in which I had actually had ashes blessed.  Immediately upon entering the temple gates, I sensed solemnness that belied the tourism going on all around us, which I would later find to be true at Varanassi as well.  Varanassi was the biggie; this wasn’t the Ganges, but it was still a holy river.  I truly wasn’t sure about this place and how I felt about it.  Yes, it was sacred, but the water was dirty (I would later come to learn that murky waters don’t necessarily obliterate holiness.  You have to get past the western concept “cleanliness is next to Godliness.”  In fact I’m learning that there are a lot of western concepts that should just be unlearned and thrown out the window.     
              On the banks of the river the cremation fires were burning.  Three men were getting their heads shaved to show that they had lost a loved one. 
              Ambling through the complex, we stopped “inside” an old age home.  This place was nothing like what we have in America and Europe.  This was indeed a place where the elderly go to die.  They know the end is near.  A sign warns, “Please do not give hand outs to the elderly.”  There will be no Friday night bingo or basket weaving classes held here.  They are fed and have a sort of roof over their head, but I suppose that’s about it.  These are the elderly indigent.  I didn’t talk to them; what could I say?  They probably wouldn’t have understood me anyway and I sensed it would have been less than respectful strike up a conversation.  There was a donation box, so I left a small donation.  I left not feeling sorry for them.  In this belief system, and I suppose most eastern ones, and certainly in mine, death is just another part of life.  Not something to be afraid of. We're only a short time to learn our lessons, then we go back to the same place we've gone back to again and again. It’s matter of fact, and I suppose I’ve always believed that we all come back over and over until we get it right.   

                Stepping over the small plates heaped with marigolds (marigolds = yellow; yellow = intellect) and whatever else meant as offerings to the gods, we crossed the river where a holy man smoked reefer (it’s legal) with some tourists.  As if waiting for us (they weren’t) a group of holy men, called Sadhu and considered the reincarnation of Shiva, were sitting beneath a tree Their faces were decorated with natural paint.  These men were ascetics, or gurus, or self-appointed holy men who will pose for your picture for a small fee, for which they were grateful.  
                Ram found a Hindu priest and secured him to perform the blessing.   Directly across the river from us a cremation was taking place.  The male family members were standing around (cremations are a “men only” affair).  The body was properly cloaked for cremation.  I go into more detail about this in the chapter about the cremations in Varanassi.

                Sitting cross-legged with the priest on the bank of the river, I opened the envelope and took out the ashes.  I handed them to the priest and watched while he placed the ashes on a large leaf and mixed them with some various powdered substances that I didn’t understand.  Some holy water was sprinkled over them, then he had me take some marigolds in the palm of my hand.  I believe the ash mixture was placed in my palm as well, and at one point I had to sprinkle holy water on top of the heap.  I had to repeat Jim’s name and the mantra began.  As he chanted the mantra, I repeated after him, “OM NAVO SHIVAYA”.  I truly didn’t understand any of this, but that was okay.  It occurred to me that growing up I didn’t understand half the Christian religious rites I was taught then either.  However this oddly felt more sacred than anything I’d ever done before (of course, once again, I hadn’t yet arrived in Varanassi).  The time came for me to place the ashes in the river, and the second spreading of the day, the first of the spreadings to take place on a holy river, was done.
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Joe on

Hey Kev
Glad to hear your making friends around the glabe. Loved the part about trying new mantras and not questioning them like you never questioned the faith of your childhood........ now here's a chant from me.... "imma wanna u-a to-a come-a home-a :))

diane on

very interesting, kept the diaglog coming, bless you Kevin

Jim Stenborg on

Not your average trip, eh? Fascinating. Keep sharing your experiences with us.

marlene and antonio on

Kevin, how blessed you have been, wish I could be there with you. I read your entries and learned from them so much. I have been sharing your experiences with my mom, who anyhow thinks that we are crazy, but nonetheless asks me all the time when you'll be back and if you know what's happening on those parts of the world. We truly miss you, but know that this is a special mission. Jim and I are waiting for you, so we could play his beautiful music here in the always ......marlene

elaine gold on

Hi Kevin
Thank you for sharing --your "journey" is beyond anything I think even one that you imagined--travel safely

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