This time, my pilgrimage was not only a trip expressing my homage to the teachings and practices of a Buddhist saint. I was also connecting the sublime physical environment of
The rock formation at
The circumambulation of
While I was standing along the ridge taking a photo of it, my Tibetan student cautioned me not to stand right on the spine of the mountain too long because I could faint. He grew up in the area and told me a few cases of local residents who had fainted on the ridge. He shared his folk education with me that mountain ridges are the intersections where deities, spirits, and ghosts frequently pass. They are the places where the living need to stay low and be respectful toward lives and things that are not visible to our eyes. In fact, I was feeling slightly light headed; perhaps, I was intoxicated with the congregations of the assorted invisible beings.I felt much affinity with the north and the east sides. When I reached to the north side, it was around 5:30pm. The sun was tilting toward the west, shining on the north side of the mountain. Everything, i.e. rocks, grass and yaks, looked surreally uplifting. A nomad boy was singing on a rock while overseeing the herd of his family’s yaks. I caught a few verses of his song – “The sun is dropping to my height…my ama (mother) is beckoning me home…” I waved at him. He joined us for our walk on the north side. It was a long stretched slope with green grass on the foot of the mountain.
One tree decorated with layers of prayer flags caught my attention. It must be the “karmic scale” that I had read about prior to the pilgrimage. It’s a tall pine tree. Its uniqueness isn’t the prayer flags left on it by pilgrims. Of course, they certainly mark it as a special site. It is known as the “karmic scale” because a pilgrim can actually “weigh” how heavy his or her karmic retributions from wrong doings of past and present. The side of the tree facing
Besides Guru Rinpoche's cave, there are many other caves on the east side of Mt. Sedzong. Numerous monks, yogis, and yoginis followed the footsteps of Guru Rinpoche by taking residence in caves. These historical sites are marked with prayer flags and kadhas (honorific scarves).
These caves aren't quite historical in the conventional sense, as if they were only the relics of the Tibetan Buddhist past. There are current residents who have found new caves or have built cabins for their solitary practices. My yogi friend and I met four persons who currently live in cabins next to Guru Rinpoche's cave. One is a nun, one man is a cook for the other residents, and there is also a woman and her niece. The aunt has lived in her cabin for fifteen years. She hasn't left Mt. Sedzong since she arrived in 1997. She is the primary caretaker of Guru Rinpoche's cave, offering daily incense and water and cleaning the dust brought by the wind. Her niece joins her in the summer, before the family wheat wheat harvest. I took the aunt's long-term presence at Mt. Sedzong as a form of consecration and guardianship of the sacred.
The focal point of the sacredness is a Buddhist saint; however, what is consecrated has become a refuge for everyone who happens to reside here (besides the mountain itself). I particularly want to mention wild goats who freely roam the mountains. They walk fairly close to humans but keep enough distance to leap away. They resemble northern California's wild deer - brown, small and agile.
I feel very fortunate that I have a panoramic camera. For the last three years, I have got myself fixated on panoramic views of both interior and landscape photography. I considered being a freelance photographer, but it does not support our living. There’re tons of photos of sunsets, mountains, flowers, animals, that could be downloaded from the internet. I don’t know how attentive people are about landscapes and sacred sites. But I do believe awe-inspiring and sublime state of being is collectively felt.