AHYMSIN newsletter, Issue - November 2011  

The Parikrama

Circumambulation of Mt. Kailash

by Yoong

The parikrama as it turned out was an unusual experience. Of the three days that we took to circumambulate the 52km around Mt Kailash, the second and third stages were extraordinary. 

After episodes of diarrhea at the end of the 1st stage on Full-moon night and at the start of the 2nd stage (Drirapuk, 4920m), Swami Ritavan reasonably thought I would be returned to Darchen, the start point.

I was the last to set out the next morning at about 6:30am. My porter did not show, and Tinyu persuaded her porter to take my daypack.

With the body without nourishment and the prospect of the most difficult part of the parikrama ahead that would take about 9 hours we were told, so what to do?

So Mind was tasked to look after the body. Mind was unusually invigourated in its response, I noticed. With mindfulness of breath and spinal breathing I walked and walked and walked. The Mind seemed to have set the body on auto. Without food or water, sunglass or broad-rimmed sunhat that were all in the daypack. Mind was aware of it but did not seem concerned. Thus I set out.

My porter did show up late, took my daypack, but did not catch up.

There was very little thinking, thought process, but there was a lot of focus and awareness. The path sloped up, climbing steadily upwards to Dolma La, some say, 5600m. Walking past the other members of the group and the many Indian pilgrims on the trail. Aware of the mountain, the trail, the light-walking Tibetans.

A kind Indian lady on a horse offered me a piece of ginger washed down with a mouthful of water. Mien Cheng, laying out the prayer flag at the top of Dolma La gave me a little sandwich and a wonderfully delicious and juicy apple, part of our packed breakfast. People were nice to this walker alone amidst the crowd.

Laden yaks passed and descended. I pressed on and did not stop from then on. I had no interest in the local rest and food tents that were without any vegetarian items and the butter tea was a taste I had not quite acquired.

The sun was now at its height, the UV blistering. The head cover, so good at keeping the head warm in the morning cold was no longer appropriate. The vents of the outer jacket and the pants were unzipped .

After the descend from Dolma La, I had the company of Tibetans only, many passing me, with the younger ones giggling at the sight of this one pushing on with the pair of trekking poles while they walked on unencumbered and so at home.

Though the mind was still in the “zone” it was aware that body needed some water. So it paused twice to drink from streams flowing from the mountain. 

At some point, I thought of the destination for the night. That was when I began to feel the effects of the brisk hike to that point. The mind descended to having concerns for the body. The unprotected nose and face were already burned. I then became well aware of the exertions and the tiredness.

A young man I asked about the whereabouts of Milarepa’s gompa (monastery) said it was an hour away. Then qualified himself, with gestures, that it was an hour for him, but for me it would take 2 hours.

Finally arriving, staggering, at the lodging in front of Milarepa's gompa to be greeted by Wendy and Leo and a pleasantly surprised Swami Ritavan.

Knowing that the body at that point was not able to generate any heat, I asked Swami Ritavan to help lay out the sleeping bag and I got into it.

Nursed later by Tinyu, and the next day was another fine walking day.

The best time of the entire trip was when walking around Mt Kailash. So much so the guide and others concluded I was a strong walker. I knew I was not. But they did not know of the infusion of a very special charge of energy.

A wonderful contrast to the physical state from the start of the train journey and throughout as I did not feel quite well. On the concluding night at Darchen, start and end point of the parikrama, Tinyu thought I looked awful.

A few nights later, returning to the airport, in one of the hotel stops, I tried to meditate. Suddenly, the mind was still. Just briefly, no awareness of body, of breath, just awareness.

I would say that I did not walk the mountain. Kailash walked me. I was moved by Kailash.


Editor’s Note:

Yoong is a mantra initiator and a member of the AHYMSIN Adhyatma Samiti, or Spiritual Committee. He is center leader of the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Centre of Singapore.