In the middle of the throng of Tibetan monks, nuns, and Nepalese locals spinning prayer wheels as they make their way clockwise around Boudhanath Stupa, an old man pauses beside a statue.
Prayer beads looped loosely through his fingers, he presses his palms together and lifts them gently to his forehead as the rhythm of the Buddhist chant ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ leaves his lips. His calm moment of meditation lasts a few seconds and before long he’s resumed his place amongst the moving mass of young and old, layperson and monk.
All around us in the streets of Kathmandu, the air is perfumed with incense, daily offerings are placed in shop fronts and street shrines, the whole place seems to beat in time with the chanted mantras that filter down each street.
We’ve only been in Nepal for a matter of days, and already we’ve come to realise that this is a place where spirituality and everyday life are completely enmeshed.
This probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise given that Buddha was born here (in Lumbini, a mere 175 km from Kathmandu), and although 81% of Nepal is actually Hindu, all religions coexist here in harmonious balance. In fact, Hinduism incorporates many of Buddha’s teachings and even considers him to be an incarnation of god Vishnu.
We’d come to Nepal mainly for the promise of its first-class hiking, friendly people, and beautiful vistas. Turns out, it’s a place that also serves up a healthy dose of spiritualism too.