Knock, knock, knock. The bare knuckles of Robin our guide rap on the thin wooden door of our hut. It’s 5.30 in the morning and I am already awake, still in bed and watching the sky through the flimsy curtains pinken and blush as it gets ready to embrace the sun. From the toasty warmth of my sleeping bag I gingerly extricate an arm to test the temperature … it is icy cold. Not to be deterred I jump up and minutes later am layered and wrapped, like a multi-coloured, cushioned parcel, in all the clothing I have brought with me.
We walk in silence for 20 minutes up to the top of the ridge behind the lodging hut. We are at 11,860-feet and all I am aware of is each step on the short, coarse grass. The colour bleached and the ground beneath hardened by frost. My breathing slow and even, my hot breath dampening the cold fabric of the scarf that wraps around me. The whistling wind makes the cold even more fierce and my cheeks, the only part that is exposed, sting.
We reach an ancient granite prayer wall. Flecks of mica glisten as they reflect the light of the sun and the strengthening rays light up the most widely used Buddhist mantra which is engraved and painted on these rough stones. Om Mani Padme Hum. Tall bamboo poles lean at wild angles, attached to which are the obligatory prayer flags, torn and frayed from being whipped by the wind. As they slap and flap it sounds as though they are clapping, applauding our attendance, our pilgrimage.
The view which rises above and beyond the wall is magnificent. A true reward for the three days of strenuous walking we made to get here. The Himalayan massif unfolds before us. Fairytale names like Lhotse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga form in my head and around my tongue.
As the sun dissolves the darkness it’s like a tantalizing striptease. The mountains slowly discard their shadowy coverings to reveal more of themselves, each ridge and fold becomes more defined, they offer more of themselves to my gaze. It is captivating.
We drop down to find shelter from the unforgiving chill of the wind and simply look. It has the quality of mediation. Our only focus is the view, the mountains. We stand, our feet firmly connected to the ground beneath us. The same ground of the mountains just a few kilometres away. We breathe the air which perhaps just moments before was rolling around the summits of those mountains. We relax in the gentle warmth of the sun, the same sun which shines upon those mountains. I close my eyes and reach in to the vast depths beneath my feet and the infinite space that surrounds me. I draw the landscape, the air, the magic in to my body each time I breath in and as I breathe out I share some of myself – giving and receiving, giving and receiving. In equal measures I feel insignificantly small and magnificently large, both feelings spawned by my connection with these extraordinary surroundings.
The six syllables, Om Ma ni Pad me Hum, mean that through the practice of a path that is a union of love and compassion with wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech and mind into the pure exalted body, speech and mind of a Buddha. The merits of reciting this Mantra are limitless and cannot be fully described even by the Buddha. It is said that the sand of the Ganges and the drops of water in the ocean can be counted but not the merits from the recitation of this Mantra. It helps us to develop the love and compassion to make our life full of meaning. www.abuddhistlibrary.com