Words come back with my mind vainly trying to express my experience of Kailash. Incomplete trials to invite you into my experience of Parikrama around the spiritual center of the universe, the navel of the world, as Kailash is called as well.
I remember the moment when I was blessed to stumble upon Kailash in the internet. I felt an indescribable inner pull. “I will go to Kailash in this life” I expressed to my friend. “I don’t know when and how, but I will go” I continued. I left it as such and knew it was send out to the universe. The onset of its materialization began.
It is only one year later that I completed my first Parikrama and now three years later that I am blessed to complete my second Parikrama on foot around Mount Kailash, ascending the 19,000 feet altitude of Dolma Pass. The toughest yet most outstanding journey I ever embarked on. Of 65 people only me and another person walked, five took a horse and all others returned ‘unsuccessfully’ without completing the Parikrama. One person died. It turns out to be the deadliest season with many more encountering the same faith of meeting Yama, the God of Death on this journey.
Standing at a height of 6,714m Mount Kailash is undoubtedly the holiest mountain. It is the spiritual center for four great religions: Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and the pre-Buddhist Bon. It lies near Lake Mansarovar and Lake Rakshastal located in the Ngari region of Tibet, perhaps the most inaccessible place on earth. Here the desolate plains are populated by ‘Dokpas’, nomads who wander endlessly across the Tibetan plateau herding sheep, goat and yak.
Nothing in this region of Tibet seems ordinary. The landscape with its untouched mountain peaks, crystal clear river streams, fields, dunes and deep blue sky sparks with colors so vivid and pure that no words could explain, no photo could capture and no painting could ever give justice to its beauty. We pass remote Tibetan houses. Only occasional smoke through the chimneys give away that people must live inside. Colorful prayer flags flutter in the strong cold wind and ask for blessings from the Gods. Thick furred dogs sit calmly on the streets. Yaks silently grass the fields. It feels like we entered a hidden population, untouched from the claws of globalization.
We have been travelling for the past five days. The rising altitude and less oxygen cunningly make us slip into unwelcomed naps. Falling asleep during the day should be avoided under all circumstances. Taking such naps holds our body back to naturally adjust to the altitude and after each nap my fellow travellers are greeted with painful headaches. However miraculously I seem to be sparred from any kind of altitude sickness this time. Painful memories of my first trip to Kailash make me cautiously observe myself. Yet there is nothing. No headache, no vomiting, no pain. Little did I know that I was about to get hid after my first day of Parikrama. But more about that later. For now I pull my attention back to the landscape. We are getting very close. I feel it. Winding up the mountains on ever higher altitude, curve after curve, I impatiently wait. It is then when one of our Sherpas shouts “Kailash” and wakes everyone up. Our first dharshan, a first glimpse of Kailash’s peak can be seen standing majestically in between a range of Himalayan mountains in the distance. Reaching this point alone is considered a unique blessing in life. A wave of silence emerges in our bus. My heart expands and a feeling of love encapsulates my being. Tears of gratitude dwell up. Gratitude for this reunion. Gratitude for reaching home again.
Joy and silence fill the following two hours drive till we reach Lake Mansarovar, where we plan to halt for the night. This lake represents a geographical manifestation of life, vitality and forgiveness and each Parikrama begins with a dip at Mansarovar. The water is cold….very very cold. Occasional single snow patches lie on the side of the lake, remains from the recent winter months. I walk into the water and feel the cold numbing my feet and legs. Yet I do not hesitate. This is the very moment I yearned to re-experience. This is the moment I mentally travelled back to countless times since my first journey. I don’t think nor wait. I begin my full body dips at once. Pain goes through my entire body. My eyes are fixed to the sight infront of me: Kailash embedded in Mansarovar. It is then when time suddenly seems still. My body stops shaking. The pain is gone. There are no thoughts. No expressions. Just stillness. Only this moment exists……truly Kailash is to be felt and not to be seen.
Each moment anew, moment after moment, seems to shower the distant traveller in this region with unexpected blessings. Today on Buddha Purnima nature gifts us a magnificent play in the sky. Colors of the setting sun play a drama to behold. The day slowly goes towards its end and a crystal clear sky embraces the night. Equipped with my blanket I sit silently on my own in front of Mansarovar and patiently wait for the light play on Buddha Purnima to unfold. A unique mythology accompanies Lake Mansarovar. It is said its purity is so outstanding that all beings from all dimension take dips here to cleanse themselves. It is in the middle of the night that lucky souls may witness those lights on the lake. I try to explain what I experienced in this night. But my words seem incomplete. Finite attempts to express the Infinite….and so I shall remain in silence and welcome you to embark on your own inner journey to Kailash.
[Part Two of my journey to follow in a second post…]