Sacred Geography 5
I was anxious when I crossed overland from Sichuan Province to the Tibet
Autonomous Region (TAR) because I didn’t have the proper paperwork and so risked being deported. I hid under some animal pelts in the back of a jeep at a checkpoint where the road crossed the Jinsha River, near the spot where the Chinese army had first invaded Tibet in 1950. The monks living in the nearby Wara Monastery were on the front lines of that initial military invasion. More than a half century later, the monastery remains closely monitored by the authorities, who are concerned about the monks’ involvement in recent civil protests in the region.
Located near the tourist center of Thamel is the Kathesimbhu Stupa,
one of the nicest courtyard temples in Kathmandu. It’s easy to miss,
though, hidden in a back street amid the busy marketplace. Inside the plaza is a gleaming stupa encircled by statues and shrines and draped with flapping prayer flags. Local youth frequent the courtyard tea shops. It was heartening for me to see them seated there among the ancient religious monuments, drinking tea and joking with a café proprietor. After tea, they would make a prayerful circumambulation of the stupa before getting back onto their motorbikes and speeding off to work or school.