15 June, 2003

Let me be brief, I hope. I am tired. I decided to fast for the weekend, interesting because it was the aniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment; I didn't know that. The stupa has been full of energy all weekend, thousands of candles lit and burning around the temple, so many belevers and ascetics walking clockwise, an endless train of them.

I ate my last meal Friday night. I had started writing my first story since I've been here. It came so naturally; I wanted to write it all in one sitting, but my eyes went cross, so I stopped. That was when I discovered the stupa and the sacredness of the time.

For as long as I can remember, I have known that one of the great challenges of my life would be learning to control my mind and body. Meditation has always been a battle, unsatisfying, not restfull and rejuvinating, not a focusing, strengthing activity I know that it can be. In years past I have had to let it go, too many more immediate pressing obligations to myself. But now I sense is the time. I have started reading on the value of breathing. I practiced as I walked around the stupa.

Saturday, Johan and I met to go to pujas at the White Temple at nine a.m. Pujas are prayer ceremonies held by the monks in the temples of their monasteries. This was my first time. Indian-style sitting is so difficult for me that I was nervous. I looked at as jumping into cold water: it simply had to be done. I knew that it would get easier in time. Actually, we didn't go for pujas, but to hear the Rimboche speak. A Rimboche is very simular to a Lama - a holy man. The pujas are mantras mostly, chants with horns and drums. I sat against a back wall and focused upon a drum and meditated as well as I could. It was very enjoyable and the hour and a half passed easily. Then the Rimboche came to us, the westerners against the wall, twenty or so I'd say, as the monks proceeded out of the temple. He was a beautiful, elegant man - small, soft smile, glasses. He was adorned no differently than the others, scarlet and gold. His english was respectable, at least by Nepali standards.

His talk was enjoyable, but not surprising. He talked about intellegent calmness, contentment, rejoicing - I agreed with it all, but I wasn't pushed or challenged in thought or theory. A girl, an Austrian, I have met several times sat with me afterward and we discussed the experience. She mentioned that for the occation of the Buddha's enlightenment at the nearby temple called Pashapanath, they were having a classical music festival. It would start at three.

I went home and finished writing my story This story has brought many troubling philosophical questions to my mind concerning the impossiblity, or absurdity, of the writing life. I will not get into that except to say that it was on my mind. I walked the quiet dirt path that connects the two great temples.

I ambled around too long. I encountered too many pestering people. One grows to hate hearing the word "hello" where you are a foreigner. The lack of food made me exhaused and impatient and anoyed. The music was beautiful and facinating: tablas and a sitar. Hearing a virtuoso on tablas is truly a miracle to ear and observe. I walked home near dark very spent.

The stupa was as energetic as I have ever seen it. I was too tired to participate. I walked a semicircle around to my road, up the road, up the stairs, sat for a moment staring at the full moon rising about the mountains; I walked into my room, took off my shoes and feel into bed.

This morning I could not get out of bed. The walking really wasted me. I could not read hardly. I simply laid there, focusing on my breathing. I got up twice. Once I sat at my desk and read. Another time I sat against the wall and meditated. Around four o'clock I gently strolled down the stairs, down the street to my restaraunt to break the fast. I felt I needed the time to recover before teaching the next day. I ate slowly, a plate of rice and sweet-n-sour chicken. I wrote in my notebook. I read "The GlassBead Game" by Hermann Hesse. It is revealing itself as a facinating and fabulous book. It has a particular pertanance to my life right now. The student is just learning the importance of meditation. Hesse has created a clear dichotomy between the ascetic, devout sort of scholarly life and the rest of the world. I have felt this sort of emotion myself in the last months. School has taken on such a role, something near religious. Study has a ritualistic nature for me. The novel has great promise I think. I also read Hemingway's "A clean well-lighted place" today.

After my meal I have slowly recovered a few of my wits and a little strength as well. I went to the White Temple in time to participate in the pujas. I watched a well played "soccer" game. I enjoyed the hell out of that. There were these giant mud puddles that caused immense trouble for the players. The rest of the field was dust. There were innumerous kids, all in school-uniform sitting around, and anytime the ball would get near either goal, they would scream excitedly. Along the street we all would line up around the brick wall that separated the field from the shops. Many would sit on the wall for the better view. Regularly the ball would be kicked wide and over the posts and would sail into a shop or oncoming motorcycle - that was pretty funny. There is no "futball" in Thamel. They don't know what they are missing.

And now I am here. I don't know what is next, up to the roof maybe. i want to read some more about Magister Ludi. This book won Hesse the Nobel Prize, but I think the translation has been very weak untill recently. What I have read has been impressively put down.

What I want to do is discover my next story. I want to write two or three more before the fall so I will have a lot of my work already done. And the one I have just written is likely one that noone, a side from Nicole (she is my fiction confidant) will ever read, at least for the next twenty years. I don't know; this is my problem that I refuse to get into. Fiction is not entirely fiction is it? We all know that. And that is a problem. It is also why I write, but there are problems.

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