Sunday, March 22, 2009

Some History of Nepal - Pashupatinath

As many of you know, my sister was able to make a trip here to Nepal this month. She traveled with a group of ladies from her church who came to minister to Nepali women and children and to pray for this country. They went home with many wonderful experiences, photos, new friends, and changed hearts. The picture below is our family at the airport greeting Jennifer as she just arrived.

As I was thinking about some of the things that I could share with you on my blog, I got to thinking about how I have yet to share some of the "rich" history that Nepal has. One of the first places that my sister visited was one of Nepal's most important Hindu temple sights that is located on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, here in the Kathmandu Valley. It's name is Pashupatinath...Pashupati, for short. Most of the temples here were built in the mid-1600s.

I have visited many places here in Kathmandu; however, this was one place that I have so far managed, successfully, to stay away from, until my sister came. I told myself that I would not go unless I had a Christian guide with me who could tell me about the place without all the "extra" teachings to go with it. This is one of the most important places for a Hindu to come and worship. Many devotees and sadhus (wandering holy men) come from all over; including from India. It is here that lord Shiva is shown in his peaceful state as Pashupati (the lord of the beasts). It is here where many Hindus will bring their loved ones who have died to be cremated. It is not a pleasant place to "hang around"; it can be pretty oppressive.

Jennifer and I on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, with some of the cremation ghats behind us.Here is someone being cremated. I saw some men down in the river area collecting wood that had been used for cremating and so I asked what they were doing with it. I was told that they would sell it in the shops for charcoal. Hmmm, not sure I will be grilling anytime soon after hearing that.
These men are most likely the sons of whoever that was being cremated above. The sons must shave themselves and bathe in the river to purify themselves for the mourning period. Usually the oldest son must then wear only white clothing; including hats, shoes, etc. for a whole year after one of his parents has passed away. They are also under strict regulations on what they are allowed to eat during that year.
These are some sadhus sitting in front of one of the many temples at Pashupati. They were sitting there just "shooting the breeze" and reading a newspaper. Had I been caught taking their picture, I would've been forced to pay quite a sum of money to them.
And here is another holy man, sitting in Pashupati. There were many different holy men of all different backgrounds here. Some were dressed in orange, this one in white, and some without any clothing except for a loin cloth, and chains around their waists.

These people, and there are millions of them, are all without hope. They are trapped in their idol worship and trapped in a life where they must satisfy ALL the spirits that have a hold on their personal lives. It is a never ending cycle for them. Here is a sample of the complete hopelessness that grips these people. This is an exerpt from my language book (pg. 337), "Nepali in Context" by Daniel P. Watters and Narendra B. Rajbhandary.

"The cycle of the universe is nothing more than the life cycle of Brahma. What Brahma wakes from a nights sleep, creation of life begins. This starts the Satayuga Age--the Golden age where there is no evil. Following this is the Thretayuga Age--here evil appears. Then comes the Dwaparayuga Age, where good and evil struggle for supremacy. In our current universe, Krishna's death ends the Dwaparayuga age. Following this is the age of Kalyuga (heralded in by the death of Krishna). In this age, evil gains the upper hand and Vishnu is forced to destroy the world in the form of Kalki, who rides in on a white horse and destroys the world with his bow. With the destruction of all life (Pralaya), the cycle of Satayuga - Thretayuga - Dwaparayuga - Kaliyuga begins again. We are now said to be in the 5,000th year of Kaliyuga, with 425,000 years before the cycle begins again.

After 1,000 of those cycles, Brahma is ready to go to sleep. 4,320,000,000 million human years have now passed, and Brahma will be asleep for an equal amount of time. During his sleep the universe is thrust into chaos and confusion until Brahma wakes up to begin another day. With this comes another cycle of 4,000 ages.

Brahma is said to have just completed his 50th year (Brahma years!), and he will die after his 100th year. Brahma is not immortal, but like everything else experiences the cycle of life. When he dies, everything ceases to exist--humans, deities, demons...everything. That is to say, everything is reabsorbed into the godhead and loses all identity. This is how Hindus describe the ultimate salvation, the ultimate mukti. Mukti is the ultimate end of everything, good and evil. If mukti can be obtained prematurely, the soul escapes that vicious cycle it would otherwise have to travel through (8.4 million life cycles).

After being dead for 100 years, Brahma is reborn to begin another life of 100 years. Thus, our current universe is simply one in an infinite chain of universes."

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade...In this you greatly rejoice." I Peter 1: 3 and 6a

No comments: