There was to be no lengthy solitary retreat, thanks to forest officials and a number of other causes. That notwithstanding, I am still at Bagdwar, the source of the sacred Bagmati river near the peak of Shivapuri. At the moment, I am staying in a small kutir attached to a largely abandoned small Tibetan gomba.
The environment up here, with the relaxed yet wise pace of life — so eminently demonstrated by Todake Baba, a mellow and wise hermit who earned his name ("Tree Baba") by living half a decade in the hollow of a tree — is providing me exactly the right antidote for the long, noisy period I was subjected to at Radhakund.
And the walk from Sarnath to Lumbini, while wonderful in many ways, wasn't exactly the holiday of choice either. Especially with five persons, five minds, and the subsequent five directions aboard. It served to highlight the worth of individual freedom in tending to one's ongoing internal processes.
With coming better to terms with my present needs, I have bowed out from the planned Kushinagar - Bodh Gaya stretch. Not the least since it'd be the peak of the hot season — and I mean hot — and in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar of all possible places.
What I presently need is contemplative peace. Research and reflection. I find myself repeatedly studying my inner samskaric patterns, the awakened and the latent mental circuits. The base reality, present and potential, on which new heights of practice are to be built. To know oneself is to know the practitioner. To not know the practitioner is to have no practice.
Rather than taking a ready sadhana-bundle, no matter how grand the brand, I am finally coming to terms with the fact that it might actually be a good idea to instead develop an individually tailored practice routine that addresses my base rather than that of the generic theoretical person.
A teacher you must have for this, some say — but I've been a bit short on luck in meeting with masters with an ability for direct insight into my psyche. Or even good intuition for that matter! Practically the entirety of such well-wishing attempts for guidance from teachers and fellow travelers have been just shooting from the hip. In the interim, Dhammapada speaks well:
Ah, Dhammapada, of which I again secured a copy a while back, having given mine to a friend back in Dixitpur on our journey past Devariya. This one isn't bilingual, but will do in absence of something more."The self is the master of the self, for who else could be its master? With the self well subdued, one finds a master such as few can find."
Wisdom ancient in written volumes, how have I come to realize how much I indeed miss it and how direly do I need it! The whole of the walk went practically without reading, and while the extensive walking itself occupied the mind enough to not realize the internal imbalance, the dharma-assimilation necessity became quite acute as I settled down.
So much so that I have just thrown away a good deal of my last pennies in securing a three-volume translation of the Majjhima-nikaya along with a commented Maha-satipatthana-sutta. The one-and-a-half to two kilo addition will no doubt agonize my shoulders in the journeys to come, but if anything is a burden of love... Yea, and there was an economical Tao Te Ching rendered into English and commented on by the good old Alistair Crowley — exploring Tao has been in the air for a fair bit.
A week or two more at the serene Shivapuri, followed by further excursions in Nepal. Where exactly, time alone, and especially the following day or two, will reveal — still some loose ends to tie up.