Thursday, April 8, 2010
It’s Called “Mountain”
For years I’d been intrigued by Manaslu, the world’s eighth tallest peak in central Nepal. I knew that some peaks in Nepal had Nepali names, others had Tibetan names, and some, like Mt. Everest had both, plus its more well-known English name. But from the name, I couldn’t tell if Manaslu was a Tibetan name or Nepali.
I arrived at Sama Gaon, location of Manaslu base camp on the north side of the peak, and took up residence in my sleeping bag on the floor of the Tibetan Buddhist monastery.
The next morning I had a conversation with the head lama. I thought to ask him what he called Manaslu, towering directly overhead us, assuming that whatever name he called it would be the Tibetan name, and that would solve my puzzle. When I asked him, he looked up at what to him had to be a very familiar daily sight, turned back to me and replied, “Himal.” Himal is the Nepali word for mountain. Somewhat confused, I then pointed to the peak across the valley, called Phungi on my map, and asked him what he called that mountain. Smiling wryly, without glancing up, he said, “That’s also Himal.” Slowly catching on, I pointed to another peak down valley and said, “I bet that one’s also called ‘Himal’.” The teacher in him now smiled broadly and he nodded as if to say, “Very good, you’re catching on now. And anyway, why do you foreigners have to know the name and exact height in feet and meters of every himal. Why can’t you just take it in and admire it for what it is?”
Above The Clouds