Filed in Tibetan, Travel

The Third Sparrow

On leaving BoudhanathLeath Tonino

Article Preview

To access this entire article and all other member-supported
content, join Tricycle as a Supporting or Sustaining Member

Prayer flags drifted on the wind like long strands of kelp in a current. The sun sank low and orange in the west. The trip was ending? No, couldn’t be. Impossible. Sophia and I walked our clockwise circles, again and again, not really believing that in a handful of hours a plane would rise from the Kathmandu Valley and we’d be on it.

We’d been traveling in Nepal for five weeks, through sweaty jungles and mountains bright with snow and claustrophobic markets where old, hunched men sold metal beads, spices, cheap digital watches, hunks of raw water buffalo. There’d been elephants, monkeys, a man-eating tiger, and a moonlit horse nuzzling our tent with his big velvety nose. Countless children asking for chocolate. A gorgeous one-eyed woman.

Now we were back in Kathmandu making a final stop at the Tibetan Buddhist neighborhood called Boudhanath, site of the largest stupa in Asia. As we circled, gazing at the flags, it felt as if we were swimming underwater, holding our breath. Six egrets flew overhead, tracing an invisible path across the rooftops. The stupa glowed a soft, warm white.

Really? The trip was ending?

We followed the egrets, wandering a maze of hills and alleys, lost and happy-sad, wishing aloud that the sun would give us one more hour of light before we closed our eyes and woke up back home. Sure, there’s magic in America, but too often it’s hiding underground, unwilling to show its face for fear of being bought and sold, reduced by science, stifled, sucked dry. In Nepal, at least from what we’d seen, magic still lived in the surface world, jouncing along with the rickshaws and mopeds, burning in the night like incense. Enchanted—that’s how a friend had described Boudhanath before we left the States.

Five lefts, two rights, another couple of lefts—a harmony of car horns. We passed a garage where guys built hand drums by hand and a shop where women hawked bright folded sweatpants stacked in towers. Lanes became paths between walls and hedges. More rights and lefts. An open gate. By accident we entered a monastery compound and found ourselves in a courtyard surrounded by rainbow-colored buildings.

Was this okay? Were we allowed to be here?...

Share with a Friend

Email to a Friend

Already a member? Log in to share this content.

You must be a Tricycle Community member to use this feature.

1. Join as a Basic Member

Signing up to Tricycle newsletters will enroll you as a free Tricycle Basic Member.You can opt out of our emails at any time from your account screen.

2. Enter Your Message Details

Enter multiple email addresses on separate lines or separate them with commas.

Become a Supporting Member

*With Autorenew

  • You Get
  • Tricycle | The Magazine - a one-year subscription to premier Buddhist quarterly
  • Tricycle Retreats - a new online video teaching every every week by a contemporary Buddhist teacher
  • Tricycle | The Digital Edition - web based edition of the magazine
  • The Wisdom Collection - nearly two decades of teachings by the world's most compelling teachers, from the pages of Tricycle
  • Tricycle Gallery - the best in Buddhist art to download and share with friends
  • Tricycle Book Club - online discussions with leading Buddhist authors
  • Tricycle Discussions - teacher-led explorations of dharma in daily life
  • The Tricycle Blog - our diary of the global Buddhist movement
  • Daily Dharma - heart advice delivered direct to your inbox
  • The Tricycle Newsletter - the latest news, teachings, events, and more, every Monday

Become a Supporting Member

Become a Sustaining Member

*With Autorenew

  • You Get
  • Tricycle | The Magazine - a one-year subscription to premier Buddhist quarterly
  • Tricycle Retreats - a new online video teaching every every week by a contemporary Buddhist teacher
  • Tricycle | The Digital Edition - web based edition of the magazine
  • The Wisdom Collection - nearly two decades of teachings by the world's most compelling teachers, from the pages of Tricycle
  • Tricycle Gallery - the best in Buddhist art to download and share with friends
  • Tricycle Book Club - online discussions with leading Buddhist authors
  • Tricycle Discussions - teacher-led explorations of dharma in daily life
  • The Tricycle Blog - our diary of the global Buddhist movement
  • Daily Dharma - heart advice delivered direct to your inbox
  • The Tricycle Newsletter - the latest news, teachings, events, and more, every Monday

Become a Sustaining Member