Stepping to the Notorious Bihar State

The road view to Rajghir, Bihar, India

It took me nearly five years to complete this full circle. When I started my Himalayan journey back in 2013, I was thinking to end them in Bodhgaya, Bihar. I did not know that I would accomplish them last December 2017. In the middle of my sabbatical, mobile working attempt and literally recharging my life.

By then, I already lost the sense of even managing a travel blog or at least care about the random things I have been posting at all. Tonight somehow, things sober up a little. I decided to organise my blog and my old writing. Writings is mean to be something you record and to go back to. Then I found that I just started typing again here. I even try the mobile posting mode through my phone to upload the photos. Life is indeed just another post away.

I feel this is where we lost it. In our travels nowadays, we just post photos in our Instagram account. Visual diaries are great but somehow I feel its too much visual junk. I even felt the need to declutter my phone memories. But it lacks stories. It lack depths. It does not tell you anything. The reconstruction of image has taken the social media by storm where we only see things in the surface. I felt that it become something that is very shallow. It even change the way we communicate with each other. We don’t say hi anymore and see people face to face. Instead of expanding your world, it somehow narrow your view about people and easily make assumptions. On the positive side, this facts help me to learn to set my boundaries and knowing how to recognised people real qualities.

I found freedom when this year I decided to delete Facebook on my phone. I still need to keep my personal network but put a notice that I am not active and people should just contact me personally when they need me. I felt I do not want to participate in this things anymore. I don’t believe in the constructed reality of social media.

My travels in the end always teach me the essentials. I took a forty hours train crossing my favourite continent, of course the Indian way. I was entering the end of my first month of travel. Hopping from Sri Lanka after finally getting my Indian three months visa approved for the first time.

Vasco Da Gama Train, view from my upper bunkbed

I smelled the Arabian Seas and swam in their waves. Spending days chasing sunsets in the Goan hills among its crosses, sleeping in beaches for the sunrises. Cooking and feeding people who I lived with. Doing translations and script editing deadlines in between. And finally took that train ride alone. Overcome a train accident in Allahabad. Walking in Mughalsarai station as a solo woman traveler and ignoring the danger by taking a random auto with the fact that I just skipped death again at 4.30 that morning. Dipped myself in this life again at 6 AM the next morning in the Mother Ganges. Letting myself being fed by a boat owner and share my food with the dogs of India’s most famous ghat. A Japanese guy decided to gave me a piece of lapis lazuli from Nepal as a token of friendship late at night.

While sipping my nth chai in the chill of Indian winter, seeing bodies being burn and listening to stories of people I met. I do not even know whether I will have enough money to survive another three months in India. Being motherless for the last 12 years, I found myself in my home, somehow being taken care off by the universe. Nothing is a coincidence.

My teacher had one of the best advice that he gave me last year. People do have expired dates. Alive or death. I threw my earthen chai cup to the ground in that last Varanasi morning and began my trip to Bihar.

The monks above the hill at Sunset, Rajghir, Bihar

I found myself staying in one of the small Japanese temple in Bodhgaya. I offer myself to help with the cooking. Food is literally my offering. I end up studying a bit about shojin ryori (Japanese temple food) in my exploration of adjusting the Indian vegetables and spices into an adaptable Japanese palate. This plate journey went as far as getting me an offer to join the Japanese monks delegates in the International Mahayana chanting event. I cried at the peak of Eagle’s Peak when they chant the Heart Sutra (Prajna Paramitha) in Sanskrit after hundreds of years for the very first time, again. I even felt the stones were crying in longing.

I end up staying for another two months in Bihar. I ended up cooking from temple to temple. For all pilgrims, monks, nuns, and layperson from all over.

With my Japanese nun friend, Katayama, I found myself slowly studying the Hiragana and chanting the Lotus Sutra in Japanese. While doing my own Tibetan practice during the day, joining the many Tibetans in the Mahabodhi Temple.

I end up joining the monks in exploring the ancient Buddhist sites that just got uncovered. I often can’t believe my luck in keep on stumbling this things in my dharma path. Sometimes I felt like I don’t deserve this so much goodness. Though, I learn to accept my faith, diving in so much gratitude and blessing.

Buddhawana – the cave where Buddha sleep for a night, Bihar

This is my only photo of the Mahabodhi Temple since you are not allowed to bring a phone inside due to the bombing incident back in 2013 when I was going to travel here originally then. I felt I complete a circle in just stepping myself inside. Its the only thing that I can share right now.

The rest of precious memories of even sighting the magnificent Bodhi Tree and doing my daily prostration. Doing kora with my Gyenla early morning and being reunited with many of my Tibetan friends all over again are just pure blessings. I finally had my first Dalai Lama teaching which are priceless.

I remembered all my steps, dreams and vision about being among it since I was in my teens. When everything felt very far away with the unspeakable craving from the bottom of my heart. In these moments nowadays, I know my spirit was home and I am awaken.

QUOTE #2

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“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”
― Pema Chödrön

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My favourite Pema Chödrön quote with the photo I took last month in Upper Pisang, while doing the Annapurna Circuit. It was my first clear glimpse of Annapurna Mountain Range. I realised to take a mountain photo you need all the luck and friendship with the weather. Things can change so very quickly, sometimes in second. May all the lives who are lost in this region last week find their peace.

Nepal: Early Note of Going Into the Wild

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Thorong La Pass, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

You found yourself walking briskly, back on your steps with your thinning rubber sandals, that you start to realized being slightly too thin in the growing cold of Kathmandu weather. You know: winter is coming and you get to used seeing snow peaks lately. You know that you need to buy yourself a pair of a walking boots in this city, the weather can turn to be very unpredictable, the pavement either splotchy or dusty.

You know how it feels to walk under the raining snow or even small ice balls attacks from above the Himalayan sky. Those different types of rain. You past the Tibetan quarter market to find yourself writing in a corner of the city. Back in putting your thoughts down. And all those self talk along the way, the hours, the days, the whole one month out of touch. Finding their words slowly. Very slowly.

But today you feel completely human. Completely alive. Parts of nature you know had somehow left you with that knowledge. On appreciating every single thing. In being grateful to even breathing. On the shortness of life and how beauty can turn to be dangerous in a single moment. In being aware, that a misstep of a foot can led to a fatal slide. On facing that border of life and death. How the news bring things to you today and how you react. How it makes you pray and let things go. And thankful, with those strange powers that life brings you.

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Magar Women singers in Maikot

You remembered the nights under the moon in top of an ancient fort of Maikot. Where old women shaman sang their songs about the past glory and the stories of their ancestor in a completely different tongue of the Magar clan, while they drink their nth cup of raksi. How they put flowers in your hair while they sang and dance. How some nights there is nothing but stars along the way and the ice white peaks glistening by the distance. The moon was the only light in your beaten path. And sometimes barbecued potatoes were the only thing you ate that night. But you walk all the same. The hills you cannot imagine before, since these hills were in the size of your mountains in your home country.

You amazed yourself by passing three mountain passes. Although you know you nearly died catching your breath going up, or your feet hurt so bad you can’t even feel them. But you learn how to know your strength and also your weakness. You learn how to train your leg by walking properly (most of us don’t). And in the end how to step on your ground properly, then understand the basic principle of really being grounded.

Nature teach you to face yourself, all the time. It shows every side of you. The beautiful and the ugly. The between. And in total silence when you find your connection with nature, you found yourself in that point of tranquility where you don’t need anything else. That moment which effortlessly leave marks in your life. IMG_2416 Om Mane Padme Hum.

May all beings found their happiness and peace. May all be remove from sufferings.

Kathmandu: Kopan Monastery Calling

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How do you define a calling? You never did.

Studying at a Catholic school for eleven bloody years. Growing up in a country where the Moslem population is the biggest in the world. Ending up in the high peaks of sacred ancient temples of the Hindu or Buddhist from another civilization. Finding yourself in some shamanistic journey of different tribes in forgotten interiors. You would start question what do you seek in this world?

You feel you are not all that religious being brought up in one of most mixed up family in one of the most mixed up environment, a so called Indonesian, but always puzzled with your own background when they asked you where do you really come from? Those background already at least take 15 to 30 minutes explanation, let alone when they ask you what you believe in?

***

For me all of this issues are personal. In this age of confusion, religious or not, spiritualist or not, atheist or theistic or agnostic, whatever, I most feel that our sickness is the sickness of the heart. Often we don’t know what to do with our own heart. To build our walls around it or to keep it open to the world.

I personally don’t know how I ended up hanging out with the Tibetan Buddhist monks. Back in Indonesia or in Tibet or in Kathmandu. Stumbling and finding myself in the many Tibetan quarters. In New Delhi, Dharamsala, inside China, in Tibet and now in Nepal. Some people say I look like one. I don’t know. I stop defining how I look ages ago. As long as a person is not making a racist comment, I go along just fine. It is maybe the nomadic nature of the Tibetan that somehow have some personal connection to my soul. In short maybe I was Tibetan in my previous life.

Though, in May 2014, thinking that I would spend the Vesak day somewhere in Borobudur temple in Central Java or in one of the biggest Buddhist temple in Trowulan, where the old Hindu kingdom was, I ended up flying to Nepal and apply to a 10 days of meditation retreat in the Kopan Monastery. On Vesak day, where they celebrated the Buddha’s birthday, I saw the Boudanath stupa from the high hill of Kopan Monastery, seeing the lights and festive from quiet a far. I remember that night was silent and I seek for the stars and one of the biggest super moon of this year shine from above. The same fullmoon where 2600 years(?) ago that Siddharta Gautama become Buddha under a bodhi tree.

IMG_0864Sunrise at Kopan Hill

IMG_0894Kopan Monastery main hall

I was sitting in the Kopan Monastery hall with around 80 other people from all over the world. Each with their own purpose, questions and process as a seeker in life. Some are so young in age, some are in the mid-life, some are easy going, some are serious. The background was so diverse, it is so interesting how this groups actually made off. We spend days hearing Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, spending half days in silence and full silence on the last two days, doing meditation and walking meditation, doing discussion on the some major questions in life and share each other experiences, and in some other times just having good time sharing food or travel stories. One Morrocon friend spend his days with his roomies, one a Jew, one an Indian Hindu, one a Christian and they all somehow met in the Tibetan Buddhist monastery. I end up hugging a stranger in one afternoon and she turn to be the only other Indonesian of the whole group. She was crying in that point and ended up laughing out loud with this universal joke. The whole experience has enrich part of my heart and I can feel the beat has somehow calm down than its usually are.

IMG_0442Spending 10 days here :) Sharing the space with 3 other girls

IMG_0912Sharing lunch with the girls

IMG_0467Voluntary yoga sessions on the hill

There are some of major questions in my life that had been answer without me asking my own questions. I found myself doing yoga in the morning because we agreed to have some short class in one the hill of the monastery. I was so thankful with the shared experience. I found a lot of talk session with myself. Looking at the moon at the top of the building late at night and be grateful with all the things in life that had brought me there. It is somehow like counting my blessing and being thankful for all the people who had somehow guided me here.

IMG_0911Initiation session on final day

My major lesson in Kopan was about wisdom and compassion, how it has to go together in order to work. How it is supporting each other. My Morrocon friend, who later become my somehow sangha brother, at the end of our journey decided to get the same tatto reminder in one of the studio in Freak Street. Three weeks ago he managed to message me and said that our two names means the same, Reda and Reza, which means “he/she who prays”. I end up laughing hard in the many coincidences in life that is actually making patterns in my daily life.

IMG_0672Wisdom reminder on the making

IMG_0693Reda, me and our Nepali tatto artist, Sanjay

Post Kopan session, it was not only a calling anymore, it was a real test in going back to the real wild world outside the monastery gate. Finding peace in the middle of a chaotic world and meditate your mind in the ongoing fast pace changing world is a challenge. I realized that this path is the way of going to the deepest mystery of the human heart. May peace be upon us all.

Om Mune Mune Maha Munaye Soha

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

The Journey of Finding Home

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Banyuripan teak forest – our future home, Bangunjiwo, Jogjakarta

In so many ways, everybody need to find their own home. My life has been quiet random in the terms of the places I live in. Since 2012, I had the 10 years itch to move somewhere else. I had lived in Jogjakarta for the last 12 years. A city that I fall in love with since I was 18 years old. A city where I found my skills, gain my knowledge, belonging to communities, finding my ancestral roots, meeting all the beautiful people I love, fall in love, break my heart, again and again, where I deliver my son into the world, finish my degree after 8 years, a city where I build and rebuild my life, over and over. A city where I am most comfortable with. But also a city where I know I would not grow from it anymore. Jogjakarta is my comfort zone and everything has become too easy. Although I am at the utmost grateful with this beloved city, where I feel I answered part of my ancestry calling.

This feeling were answered in the moments I had in Tsuglag Khang Monastery when I went to Dharamsala back in 2012. I had nearly forgotten my travel passion due to all the family matters, motherhood and a faltering marriage. I was kinda lost for a while. Knowing too well that I’m actually best when I’m on the move. That my life energy is based on movement. My ways of grounding myself is often when I’m flying all over the place, doing yoga or just stare at the sea for hours (that goes for mountains too).

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The magical waterfalls of Pupuan, Tabanan, Bali

Photo courtesy of Labodalih Sembiring

Last year I tried to move to Bali, where I live in a beautiful mountain for nearly 7 months. It is a process of slowing down everything in my life. A process of cracking the nutshell to grow. The process to find the blooming of my own heart. It was a process of mirroring each other in the eyes of someone else. It was the process of opening the heart. It was about patient, resilience and perseverance. It is a process to know the right timing for every single thing naturally, something that I’m not so good at. But I learned. The hard way.

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Asabhumy on the way to Kethek Temple, Cetho, Solo

Then, it is my son. It was not easy to move permanently without slowly adjusting about his life and mine. Our own needs and our space. I decided not to go that fast this time. Though Bali stayed as our second home forever. We love Bali and its beautiful nature. His ancestral place and my love affair forever with the island which I need to answer myself. Somehow I’m starting to found Bali as my working base to be, very soon :)
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Me and Asabhumy chilling in Nusa Ceningan, Bali

Despite all things, I’m in my second trip back in Kathmandu this year. Where I found the gracious pace of Tibetan old ladies doing the kora in Boudanath had calm my mind and help me to keep my creative juice flowing through my writings. My days in Indonesia in 2014 were so intense that I need another break from it. I’m currently also helping my friend, Anggi Frisca, who managed itinerary adventurous trips around Indonesia and also Nepal, do check it out and contact them if you want to go to Everest Base Camp this year and next year: http://www.rokaora.com (ROKAORA)
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Tibetan Ladies doing the kora, Boudanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

I’m currently feeling so home staying around Boudanath Stupa this time. Of course I will share more on all the stories of the Himalayan regions since last year, so stay tune on this blog :) Bless all of you

Om Mane Padme Hum

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Boudanath Stupa under the moonsoon, Kathmandu, Nepal

Back to Kathmandu

I know, I know. I owe a lot of stories last year but after 9 months I decided to go back. It is a bit unplanned, but I’m here again :)

We often go back to some places to answer the most unexpected things in life.

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 Swayambunath Temple aka The Monkey Temple at sunset, Kathmandu – Nepal

20140522-031059.jpgA greetings from Kopan Monastery, photo credit by Anggi Frisca

Indeed I am home. Namaste _/\_

Landing at the Ancestral Land

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“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu

After meeting a dear old friend again who share part of her Nepali experience a couple of days ago, I realised my blank state mode was actually quiet normal. The conversation left me with a beginning of a paragraph. Those long process paragraph that need to start pouring out in this story. I had to make a choice in order to put things together with this post, to maybe map myself in this current planet of mine. Picking the trails where I left it off. I checked the sky, the stars and I know where to start from the very beginning of my own personal history. China.

My great great grandfather from my mother side came from Fujian. That’s all that I know. Although from the very beginning I didn’t even plan this trip, in the end I had to pay respect to my ancestor first by literally landing in China. I never imagine I would reach Chengdu in 2013. This part of Mainland, at thirty.

I learned to make peace with part of my blood somewhere along the line which as an Indonesian peranakan has been quiet a complicated experience. This part of your growing up identity sometimes matter much, sometimes it doesn’t matter at all. My first encountering problem of course is because I don’t speak Chinese at all. I had the lack of will in learning the particular language and yes, part of it cause by my grandparents generations all speak fluent Dutch instead (see it’s complicated?). Language and culture all tumble and mixed up so bad along with the Indonesian history plus politics, where I in end always have the difficulty to answer where I originated from.

It took me time to take all about being a Chinese Indonesian, having a mixed blood do make you feel like Hermione in the mudblood situation. My Chinese interest range record was reaching as far as Chinese food, kungfu movies and musing the contemporary Chinese literature translated in English. I learned three kingdoms history from the never ending Japanese manga series “Legenda Naga” (Ryuroden by Yoshito Yamahara). I do somehow often moved by the lyrical sad traditional Chinese tunes, especially those from the classic music records ones which I never catch the title or even understand any single word being said. It is a feeling of a tragic beauty fascination. The rest I often remain ignorance or even denied when I was younger, this part I had to admit. In the end I always feel I can’t take side with 4 ancestry down my bloodlines. My son have another extra 2, which make him with 6, well, at least we have a lot of ancestral guardianship or to put it simple, simply human.

It’s my first time in China, my only Mandarin dictionary was a small Lonely Planet Mandarin compact guide that T (my travelling partner) got hours before we landed into Chengdu. The plane from Kuala Lumpur feels hectic already, we end up drinking two bottle of Soju along the flight, to silence the killing voice of a mad Chinese family who keep on arguing and their scolded children keep on crying, throwing mad fits every 3 minutes at the back of our plane seat. We couldn’t sleep. No, not even the Bob Marley songs in T’s Ipod help with the situation. We arrived in the middle of the night at Chengdu Shuanglia airport with no clue, half drunk on Soju, in the middle of China’s summer breeze.

That first step entering China, was indeed our first step to the journey of a thousand miles ahead.