A few hours after posting the recap of my Thursday visit to Bodhnath (Boudha), I noticed that it was featured in Eric Weiner’s article “Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer” in the today’s New York Times Travel Section. Wiener discusses the power of experiencing “thin places,” where “we are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world.” He writes:
After decades of wandering, only now does a pattern emerge. I’m drawn to places that beguile and inspire, sedate and stir, places where, for a few blissful moments I loosen my death grip on life, and can breathe again. It turns out these destinations have a name: thin places.
After describing several of his favorite “thin places,” he startled me, since I’d spent this past Thursday at the very place he saved until last:
Perhaps the thinnest of places is Boudhanath, in Nepal. Despite the fact that it has been swallowed up by Katmandu, Boudha, as many call it, retains the self-contained coziness of the village that it is. Life there revolves, literally, around a giant white stupa, or Buddhist shrine. At any time of the day, hundreds of people circumambulate the stupa, chanting mantras, kneading their mala beads and twirling prayer wheels. I woke in Boudha each morning at dawn and marveled at the light, milky and soft, as well as the sounds: the clicketyclack of prayer wheels, the murmur of mantras, the clanking of store shutters yanked open, the chortle of spoken Tibetan. A few dozen monasteries have sprung up around the stupa. And then there are restaurants where you can sip a decent pinot noir while gazing into the All-Seeing Eyes of Buddha. It is a rare and wonderful confluence of the sacred and the profane.
If Weiner had just taken the five-minute walk to the beggars camp with its quilting women, I’ll bet he would have found his experience at Boudha even thinner. That magic place sure jolted me out of my old ways of seeing the world.