Swayambunath is so precious. You will never find anything like this in the whole of the rest of the world. A long time ago, like Westerners, I used to go around the top. Many people circumambulate around the bottom and we see them, and this is supposed to raise the question of why they do that; still it is hard for this question to come.
There are two pilgrimage stories in relation to Swayambunath. One is a few pages long, in Tibetan, available from the stupa keeper and the other is a new story that is not exactly the same. It is mentioned in Zungdu [a collection of dharanis found in the Kangyur], where mantra meanings are explained.
The Buddha came onto Langri Ruden, a mountain near Swayambunath, and made a prediction. At that time the whole valley was a lake surrounded by mountains. A natural stupa appeared in the lake, which slowly became covered by dust and this became the mountain. The trees in Swayambu arose from where Nagarjuna sprinkled his hair. (Reting trees are very unusual shapes. These are manifestations, as lamas and yogis see them in different ways.)
The whole Swayambu mountain is very mystical. Common karma sees it like that. One time Khadro-la came and she saw the mountain as a pile of texts, where the steps go up. She told me this. Also, once the Thirteenth or Seventh Dalai Lama, when going to Rajgir, saw the mountain as a pile of texts from the path going up, so he didn’t go up himself. The entire Swayambu mountain is a Heruka mandala.
Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s past life saw Vajrayogini dance, with her anklet bell making a sound, at the Vajrayogini temple below Swayambu on the Kathmandu side. At that time he was just a simple monk. In the old times, I used to go to that temple with a monk from Kopan. Outside the temple there’s a square cement courtyard and straight above that, there’s Dagpa Kacho. Another Dagpa Khacho, a small one, is straight up in the sky.
For many thousands of years Swayambunath has been precious, precious, precious. Kathmandu is so precious. It’s incredible.
The mountain, Swayambunath, is very, very, very holy and special. Whether people know this or not, the reason to go around the mountain is that.
Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen did 100,000 full prostrations around the mountain. There is some cement place there where he rested. Je Drajongpa [?],1 whose hermitage is above Sera, also did 100,000 prostrations around the mountain. Recently I told a nun to do full prostrations around the mountain. The Tibetan mothers liked that so much they offered the nun hundreds of rupees out of devotion, not because they thought she was a beggar in need. The number of circumambulations that need to be done for purification is 113. For Mount Kailash it is thirteen. One Tibetan lady said she did that.
Without having knowledge of the holy places, why go and spend time there? Then what? The most important activity in relation to holy places is to pray. Especially praying at the Boudha stupa is so essential. You should recite the best prayers—lamrim prayers, Bodhicaryavatara (dedication), the Maitreya prayer, the Eight Prayers, Lama Tsongkhapa’s Prayer for the Beginning, Middle and End of Practice. You should recite any of the best prayers, especially if it is your first time there. Then all the prayers will succeed!
The whole of Kathmandu is full of holy places but slowly it’s getting degenerated and in doing so, the holy places become sites for Hindu worship.
1 Possibly Drubkhang Gelek Gyatso (1641–1713), who founded Sera Utse, a small hermitage near Sera Monastery in Tibet. [Return to text]