Monday, February 23, 2009

Among the Gods, Dakshinkali

This Drawing was created by my eldest, Joshua
It is written that when the master of Yogis, Padmasambhava, performed the powerful Vajrakilaya rites, he made it rain by subduing three kinds of elemental spirits. These spirits, or forces, are referred to as Nagas, the serpentine spirits of water; Yakshas, giant spirits of the earth; and Kumbhandas, sylph-like spirits of air.

Dakshinkali Village Inn, a place I have visited several times, is one of my favorite places in the world. The accommodations are modest, but the beauty is other worldly. Each misty morning when I rise, there is a gardener tending the roses at the perimeter of the courtyard or sometimes on his hands and knees clipping a 8x12 foot patch of grass with a pair of scissors. There isn't much lawn in Nepal. (There isn't much lawn in the world like the oceans of lawn known in the US.) Visitors will rise early and stand barefoot and do yoga on this tiny thick carpet of soft grass. It is supposed to be very good for your health. Sometimes, from the court yard at sunrise, I can see a distant outline of the Himalayas rimmed with gold. Looking to the south-east, I can also see a road cutting through the lush valley and trailing off toward the forests of southern Nepal and the dusty northern plains of India.

There is an absolutely amazing ridge not far below the inn with a narrow path along its crest. Though local people walk here easily with mule trains, I have to crawl on my hands and knees from the mountain trail to reach the ridge because I am, just a little afraid of heights. Once I am on the ridge, I can walk on the path. The path is probably 12 feet across with an additional little bit of scrub brush and rocks on either side. Beyond that, it is about a 500 foot plunge to the valley below. When I walk down the path the ground far below rushes past me in the periphery of my vision on both sides. Each step gives me the feeling of soaring through the air.

The valley itself vibrates with with layers upon layers of ancient history and religions. Since before the written history of Nepal, a goddess cult has been associated with this Parphing area, and the region has been inhabited by practicing yoginis, women who seek spiritual knowledge and mystical insight. Located in a dark hollow at the confluence of two streams is the shrine of Dakshinkali, dedicated to the feminine principle of divinity. Animal sacrifices are offered here to the Hindu goddess Kali, signifying fertility and the reproductive power of the female. Every Tuesday and Saturday, the animals are presented to the priest who will ritually decapitate them with a khukuri knife and bathe the black stone image of Kali, in blood. This is not my favorite part of the valley. It is too dark and blood thirsty for me. But for the Hindu worshipers, it is a great place to enjoy a picnic. Kali receives the spirit of the sacrifice, while the people get to have a barbecue with the meat.

I am more comfortable with the monastery on the hill above the inn. Parphing monastery, built in the 11th century, is devoted to the feminine aspect of Buddha, Vajrayogini, or the Divine Mother. Worship of the divine mother in this area goes at least as far back as the 3rd century BC. High on the mountain side above Parphing monastery is the little cave of Lang-le-sho where the famous guru Padmasambhava and his consort, the beautiful Nepalese princess Sakyadevi, lived together and attained simultaneous enlightenment in the 8th century. In an exulted state of mind, upon emerging from the cave where their meditations took place, Padmasambhava placed his hand against the rock face of the mountain, leaving impressed forever in stone a miraculous hand print. (In my mischievous mind, I see him standing outside the cave with one hand on the rock and the other holding a lit Marlboro.)

On one of my first trips to this area, the owner of the Village Inn took me up to Lang-le-sho and I placed my hand where Padmasambhava melted the rock. It really does look like someone's hand melted the rock. From there we climbed higher above the cave, reverently passing by a circle of 6 or 7 monks whose deep resonant chants were humming in concert with a very large singing bowl. At the top of the hill, we stood among trees covered in multicolored prayer flags as we admired the incredible view of mountains, villages, winding rivers, terraced fields and rice paddies spreading for miles through the valley below.

The owner of the inn is a great story teller. That night after our climb he spent a few hours talking with me. First he showed me a picture of himself with Steven Seagal, a movie star who has been recognized by a contemporary guru as a reincarnate lama or "tulku." Several people seeking mystical insight have stayed at the inn and often they hold spiritual retreats on the property. In the middle of his story telling, the electricity went out. We lit a candle and, while the rats played in the rafters above our heads, the innkeeper told me about having seen witches flying out over the valley. He then told of a festival for the goddess in which men who carry her palanquin are dragged up and down the mountainside with their feet no longer touching the ground. "If you see the eyes of the goddess staring at you from the palanquin," he said, "you will die." Someday, I would really like to see that festival.

*For those of you hoping to go to Nepal with me this October, I will undoubtedly try to take you here. If you are interested in joining us, contact me through

I used Wikipedia to check facts for this article, but most of this information comes from the Dakshinkali Village Inn. Please do not use my stories for historical facts without researching them further.


  1. I am going actually to comment on your comment on Caroline, The Zen in You (Shaman Walk). It shows that you are talented writer and your style is one of my preferred style in writing.
    I hope that I can read more of your short stories. I do not know if you post them here or not? I will check. Now I will read your post.

  2. Thank you Khaled. I will put short stories up here as soon as I am able. I have a list of stories I am working my way through, some fictional some not. It has been years since I allowed myself the time to write, and the dam is bursting. Watch out!

  3. What a beautiful post...the Inn sounds amazing. I would love to go someplace like that valley to experience that divine mystical light (although I would skip the animal sacrifice part...). How lucky you are to have traveled extensively through this part of the world.

    Also, I left a reply to your comment on my blog (I reply in "batches"...but it's there).

  4. I have experienced this to be a wonderful post. I felt as though I was in another land in present and past time. You are gifted as a writer!

  5. Hello again,
    Thank you for your visit. I forgot to tell you yesterday, I love the drawing your son did on this post! It is wonderful.

  6. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I see you went to OSU! I live in the Columbus area. Go Bucks!

  7. Hey there Willow! I came across 3 different Willow streets yesterday. Inspired by the ghoulish doll head in your post, I worked on a short story set in Ohio today. The current post is still waiting for a few readers, but then I will put up the story. Buckaroo to you to. Your story is exquisite.

    Hi Tammie, thanks for complimenting Joshua's drawing. He was delighted. He refers to this as "Our Blog."

  8. Most interesting that you mention this. Hopefully I can see the place sometime. Just back from seeing the creations of monks at Ellora, remarkable faith. You must visit Ajanta and Ellora sometime.

  9. Energy flows to its own.. tears scoured suffering, petals added beauty.. yesterday I had a post called Petals, based on a poem written a while ago.
    Synchronisity just is!!
    Wonderful writing..

  10. Hi Butternut Squash, (what a cute name you selected). I appreciate your work here. How lovely your descriptions...and your son's work is a delight. I would like to go to India someday, but with a purpose and destination in mind. I'm writing from Puerto Rico where I've lived for nearly 14 years. Please visit my blog Oasis when you can, maybe we have some things in common. I'll come back and reread your experience.

    I enjoy autobiography so much because it lets you know how a person thinks about their life experience. I want to look up some of the places you've mentioned. I have read some fiction set in India and many spiritual autobiographies.

    So glad I happened upon you, I saw Butternut Squash at Windy Skys and had to follow the link. <3

  11. Hi Butternut Squash, I tried to become a follower so I wouldn't lose your location but blogger is going bonkers right now...I will be glad when they get the kinks out of their program update. Btw, I grew up in Michigan...about 20 miles north of Ohio...then I moved to California...and have been in warm climates ever look so cosy with your head wrap.

  12. You have such a high and refined tolerance for LOTS of energy. I love thinking of you on top of the world (when you go to Nepal) but just as comfortable in the Peacock Room here at sea level.

    Joshua's drawing is incredible! Wow. Your kids, too, really "get" energy.

  13. Your son's painting is very beautiful.

    Thank you for this story. I have visited Nepal a couple of years ago and it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. People are wonderful and friendly and the views of the mountains are breathtaking... I'd love to go back there and your story brought back many memories

  14. Hi Reya,could be tolerant, might be numb, hard to say. I have to first be receptive to feel much of anything, but when I am, Oh boy.

    Hi Polly, I'm so glad you stopped in. I would just love to take everyone to Nepal with me. I have a blast when I'm there.

  15. I'm looking forward to the next story. Each one tells a little bit more of your adventure.