Kawa Karpo, Part III: Of Mountain Gods
Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
351Trip End Ongoing
After one night in a small Tibetan family hotel, I hiked up the valley to Taizi Temple, 3000 vertical feet up the Mingyong River Gorge. Surrounded by views of the mountains and crashing, calving glaciers, I sat and contemplated the cloud-enshrouded holy mountain as I picked off another leech.
In Tibet, local villages each have holy mountains where a mountain god lives
Other mountains are even more holy, such as Kailash in Western Tibet, where the future Buddha, Maitreya is manifest, or Chomolangma, the Goddess Mother of the Snows. The latter mountain is also called Mount Everest, renamed after a mere mortal.
Many of these mountains are Tibetan pilgrimage sites. Kawa Karpo is one of these, with its holy waterfalls and summits and the powerful mountain god that can be seen in this world as Meili Xueshan.
Some say that the mountain god will reveal itself only to believers. Others will see only the constant veil of clouds. Does seeing the mountain for seven seconds through the veil count? How about through a diffuse mist? Or can someone simply have faith that the mountain is there, unseen, behind the clouds? Either way, the immense glaciers tumbling from the clouds and the periodic glimpses of something greater, far above, are testimony to the grandeur of the mountain.
The mountain god Meili has confounded mountaineers to this date. Many people have died attempting to climb its summit, which still has not seen the marks of footprints. Perhaps the friable snows, ice fields, and steep slopes are the main obstacles. Or perhaps, it is the mountain god. On the other hand, the Goddess Mother of the Snows was not successful at keeping climbers from her summit, and since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Everest, many others have, probably unintentionally, disrespected the Tibetan custom of not climbing mountain god mountains. But, I know, the allure of climbing mountains is strong and more will try to climb Meili, despite the hurt it causes the Tibetan people.
Despite the sacred nature of mountain gods, perhaps some sacredness has been lost following the Cultural Revolution. Trash, toilet paper, and many cut trees, can be seen on some sacred mountains. Can these once again be treated with the reverence they deserve?
What stays the same yet is always changing?
What disappears but is still there?
What is holy but is made of the earth?