A Rain of Nectar, Coco Puffs, and A Hermit's Life
Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
351Trip End Ongoing
Show trip route
"The fame of Mapham Lake (a.k.a. Lake Manasarovar) is indeed far spreading: people say of it in distant places, 'Mapham Lake is like a green-gemmed mandala!' The water falling in it from the heavens is like a stream of milk, a rain of nectar." ~ Milarepa, 9th Century Tibetan Magician and Hermit, who founded the Kagyu school and defeated Naro at Mt. Kailash.
Milk in sweetened cereal is like "nectar of the gods." ~ Seinfeld, comedian.
Thus, Lake Manasarovar is like a big bowl of Coco Puffs.
Hindus say that bathing in the big bowl of Coco Puffs, created by Lord Brahma, will absolve you of your sins.
Buddhsits consider the big bowl of Coco Puffs to be the legendary Anotatta Lake, where Buddha's mother Queen Maya conceived him as the gods bathed and purified her in the holy water. At this point, Buddha appeared, riding Sonny Coco: "I'm Coco for them Coco Puffs!" Or maybe he was riding a white elephant. The legend is unclear about this.
Although I didn't have any Coco Puffs, I did have muesli, powdered whole fat milk, honey, and dried blueberries. I boiled water, made hot milk and poured that on the muesli with the honey and blueberries. I drank the nectar of the gods with the entire lake, fifteen miles wide, in front of my campsite at Chiu Gompa.
I was able to get a ride to Chiu Gompa with a truck crew--a driver and two support staff. They were part of a large staff for six European tourists who came from Nepal with two 4x4s and a support truck. The crew left Darchen early to prepare camp on the lakeshore. The trip the tourists were taking was undoubtedly amazing, but the amount of vehicles seemed excessive as the large support truck bed was less than half full.
Above the lake, outside the range of the millions of midges, I constructed my tent and cooking site, taking the time to re-tie figure eight follow through knots and create wind protection with rocks. I figured lakes are known for their unpredictable winds, so might as well.
I walked to Chiu Gompa, a small monastery perched on a hilltop. This is where Padmasambhava, who made Tibet safe for Buddhism, died in a cave. From the roof of the monastery, the entire lake sprawled before me, surrounded by mountains.
Nearby, on the banks of the Ganga-chu, I bathed in hot spring waters and bought a candle, vegetables, and an additional lighter from a small town. Chinese-made lighters are built to break, so now I carry three lighters, dozens of normal matches, and a dozen matches that will stay lit underwater, in case I need to build a fire while scuba diving.
Yak and Mushroom Macaroni
Rehydrate dried yak meat, onions and mushrooms
boil macaroni for 15 minutes (at 15,000 feet)
Fry rehydrated items with garlic, ginger, and vegetables
Add cumin, coriander, red pepper, black pepper, and salt, continue to fry
In a separate cup, mix boiled water (from the macaroni) powdered butter and powdered milk
Add cream mix along with macaroni to pan, stir for awhile.
After dinner, I sipped a hot cup of milk and honey while watching the lake.
The lake and its surroundings were the circus training grounds for the sky gods. In one corner a god practiced creating thunderstorms, the darker the better, behind a mountain range: a rain of nectar. In another corner, a rainbow goddess was performing. She was busy: at one point I saw a double rainbow over the lake, one rainbow over the southern shores, and a fourth rainbow to the north, next to the darkened skies of the thunderstorm god. At the same time, the sunset god was practicing his art by dabbling yellow sunlight on the hills to the east and on the surface of the multi-hued blue lake. The display of the gods ended with a brilliant golden sunset flanked by deep blue clouds.
The next day, I walked the north shore of Mapham Yutso, as the deep freshwater lake is called in Tibetan, heading east. Along the way, I met the largest population of midges in the world, so it seemed. Millions and billions of midges flying everywhere. Whenever I took a rest break, hundreds of midges would die as I placed my backpack on the ground.
A couple of Lammergeiers, large Himalayan birds of prey, flew along the cliffs that descended to the rocky lakeshore, coated in decaying lakegrasses. Built into the cliffs were the hermitages of Serkyi Jakyib. I waved to a hermit who was spinning his prayer wheel, looking at the lake on this warm sunny day.
Just 150 years ago, a reincarnation of Milarepa, Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol, a.k.a "The Perfect Hermit," created guidelines for a hermit's life:
Leave your mind to the Dharma
Leave your Dharma to a beggar's life
Live your beggar's life until death
Leave your death to a cave
Cast yourself out from your place among others
Take your place among the dogs [i.e., the lowest of society]
Find a place among celestial beings
Embrace unswerving determination
Embrace indifference to what others may think of you
A hermit should have the following preferences:
With four dharmas:
not returning anger for anger, insult for insult, slander for slander, blow for blow.
Shakbar described ten benefits of a hermit's life:
one's activities will be fewer
one will be far removed from noise and distractions
one will be free from quarrels
one will be free from harm
one will not let obscuring emotions increase
one will not create causes for discord
one will always enjoy perfect tranquility
one will keep one's body, speech, and mind under control
one will live in a way that is conducive to liberation, and
one will quickly reach complete freedom.
I could see that hermits living at Lake Manasarovar, the green-gemmed mandala, would easily be able to follow these guidelines: the only person I saw along the north shore that day was the hermit.
One meditation of hermits is to focus on the sky, a lesson in impermanence as the blue sky is infinite and the clouds are continually changing, growing, raining, shrinking, swirling, darkening, lightening.
Soon, waves developed on the lake as storms were brewing to the south and east. Rain was falling on five sister peaks of Gurla Mandhata, rising to over 25,000 feet. Nearby farmers pray to the highest sister, agricultural goddess Lhamo Yang Chen, for rain; it was working.
Soon, clouds had merged above me; rain fell. I reached a small hilltop monastery, Langbona Gomba, and stayed there for the night. The Kagyupa monastery, though remote, had satellite television, powered by solar batteries.
I began the next day balancing on rocks to cross a bridge-less river and crossed an immense delta plain. The river was one of many that encircle and flow into the lake. Plovers and other shorebirds were nesting in the sandflats and sparrows flew through the grassy dunes.
As the sun returned to the lake, I stripped off my clothes and performed an ablution in the big bowl of Coco Puffs, diving into the cold waters. I was now new, improved, and sin-free, just like a box of Coco Puffs.
Returning to the road to Lhasa was a challenge. I had to cross four rivulets, some over waist deep and flowing forcefully. The river bed was at times, like quicksand. Luckily my backpack was waterproofed with a heavy-duty garbage back as the inner lining. Next I waded through an extensive wetland with black-necked cranes calling and terns flying overhead. I could see the road in the distance as buses and trucks drove by.
Hours later, I reached the road. No vehicles passed. Hours later, I still had no ride and walked an hour back to a lakeside camping spot, prepared dinner, and fell asleep.
In the morning, I returned to the road to test my luck, leaving the big green-gemmed bowl of Coco Puffs with its hermits, midges, and changing sky.
Where I stayed