Matepani Gumba: The Stairway to Heaven

On February 9, 2014 by Oren and Cassie

We had no idea what to expect when we went to check out our volunteering location in Pokhara, Nepal. As we climbed an endless flight of stairs, we were treated to Matepani Gumba, one of the best views in the city and one of the most beautiful buildings in the country.

MATEPANI GUMBA: A WORLD APART

Southeast of Pokhara, on top of a mountain overlooking the city, sits the beautiful Karma Dubgyud Chhoekhorling Manang Monastery, more commonly known as Matepani Gumba. If you’re willing to brave the 300 stairs to the top, you’ll see exactly why it is worth the exercise.

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The gateway to Matepani Gumba.

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The stairway to heaven.

The monastery is very popular and well-known throughout Nepal. Tourists are constantly visiting, taking photos of its amazing architecture, designs, and artwork. The monastery was established in 1960 by the Manang community. Today, it has about 90 monks. The monks practice Kagyu, which is a form of Tibetan Buddhism.

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Everyday, the monastery astounds us with its beauty.

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At any Buddhist monastery, you see many beautiful Buddhas.

Monks from all over the country come to this monastery to study. Their education consists of the main teachings of the Dharma, as well as Buddhist ceremonies and rituals. In addition, monks attend classes for Nepali, English, Tibetan, and math.

The monastery welcomes volunteers to teach English to the monks, which is what we’re doing for three weeks.

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A look inside Matepani Gumba.

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Oren is dying to ring this gong.

FROM TIBET TO NEPAL

Nepal is a predominantly Hindu country. About 81 percent of the population follows the Hindu faith. Only 9 percent of the population is Buddhist, and some of these are Tibetans, who relocated here from China.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 Tibetan refugees live in Nepal, a movement that began in 1950s. They not only brought their own culture and language with them, they also brought their religion.

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Another look inside.

THROUGH A MONK’S EYES

When we asked the young monks that we teach to describe their monastery, these were our two favorite answers:

“The monastery is so beautiful and peaceful, like a palace.”

“It is important to learn about and share our Buddhist beliefs with others.”

Education, food and housing at the monastery run completely off of donations from sponsors throughout Nepal and the world. The monks pray at least twice a day, in the morning and the evening. During their holidays, they spend even more time in prayer or study.

At lunchtime, they generally sit together in one big room, eating Dal Baht – lentils, beans, and rice – with their hands. We sit off to the side, using what are probably some of the only spoons at the monastery, and enjoy our meal quietly.

It is a fascinating world we have stepped into, and it’s great that we get to see it as participants and not tourists. Hopefully, one day you’ll get a chance to visit Matepani Gumba, and maybe even volunteer!

-C.K.

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