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Posts tagged ‘Kathmandu Valley’

Introducing Max Matthews (Part 1)

From 1968: Return to Nepal… For the First Time by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

“Far from this ancient life of ordered study and esoteric wisdom, yet just around the corner, lay the very worldly pleasures of Kathmandu. On the last Thursday of November 1968 Zina set off with Clive Giboire for an all-American Thanksgiving Day party at an art gallery right next to the American Embassy. Max’s Gallery was the first commercial art gallery in Nepal.
Its owner, Max Mathews, an African-American woman, worked as a teacher in the American diplomatic service’s international schools division. The job at Kathmandu’s Lincoln School paid very well, and Max definitely had a taste for the high life. No hippie, she lived in a beautifully furnished apartment above the gallery. She had arrived in Nepal only four months earlier, following a posting in Russia where she had acquired the impressive collection of icons and fine modern paintings now hanging in her new gallery.

Max was dynamite and Zina was nervous about meeting her again. They had originally known each other on Mykonos, where Max had spent her summer vacations, first while she was teaching in Germany and then when she moved to a new teaching position in Athens. “Zina had been gorgeous beyond belief,” said Max. “Astoundingly, traffic-stoppingly beautiful, with platinum hair. She wore things like a full-length mink coat with nothing underneath. She also wore a lot of black because she’d gotten involved with this witchy coven stuff in Paris.”

Max was pretty gorgeous herself, a small woman with a wonderful figure, twinkling black eyes, and a vivaciousness that stood out in any crowd. Max draped herself in luxurious brocades and exotic jewels. She was more conservative than Zina, but no less noticeable.

Despite the difficult history between them, they enjoyed meeting again in Kathmandu. “Well hi! Will you look at you!” they said to each other and settled into a pleasant evening of eating, drinking and talking. It was all extremely friendly. Max found Zina still elegant, despite her dramatically changed appearance. “She had gotten huge, massive. I was kind of shocked to see her in nun’s robes. When I launched into a description of my latest disastrous love affair with yet another married man, Zina said to me, ‘Come and meet my lamas…they’ll give you some advice.’ I promised to get in touch,” said Max.

Zina took Max along to Samten Ling to meet “my lamas,” which is how she always referred to them. “They were sitting on the floor in a very bleak little room. Lama Yeshe folded his hands, bowed and smiled,” said Max. “The next thing I knew I was on the floor, sobbing. I just cried and cried. I cried for hours. Zina and Lama Zopa were both there and I didn’t even acknowledge them. It was just bang! Instantaneous! When I finally stopped crying, I felt incredibly relieved, with no problems, no pain or questions. I felt I had come home and that Lama Yeshe was my guru. He just opened me up completely. I felt balanced and whole, like I was walking on air. I also felt committed. There was no going back,” she said.”


Story of the Origin of Kathmandu Valley

From 1968: Return to Nepal… For the First Time by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

“From the Buddhist scriptures comes the story of the origin of the Kathmandu Valley and the holy stupa of Swayambhu. Previously, Manjudeva, an emanation of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, came to Nepal. He circumambulated the valley, striding along the surrounding mountaintops. At that time, the Kathmandu Valley was an enormous lake, in the center of which was a hill covered with lotus flowers. Manjudeva took his great sword and sliced a gash in the mountains to the south. The waters of the lake drained away, leaving only a small lake behind; thus was the Kathmandu Valley made habitable. The gash came to be known as Chhobar Gorge, and through Manjudeva’s magical powers, a lotus was transformed into the Swayambhu stupa on its hilltop, which is holy to both Hindus and Buddhists.

The mystical aura associated with Kathmandu lured many to take a bus or a plane to that legendary valley. Many world-travelers got as far Kathmandu and went no farther. There was also a small community of Western diplomats and aid workers—Peace Corps, embassy staff, workers with other NGOs—living in the Kathmandu Valley. With them they brought an influx of foreign currency, especially American dollars. Many of these Western visitors were the sons and daughters of affluent Western middle-class families, and the Tibetan refugees and Nepali merchants were happy to profit from their patronage.

In 1968 Kathmandu was like the proverbial Shangri-la, untouched, innocent. Small streets, rickshaws rather than cars, only a few tourists, breathtaking views of the Himalayas, Hindu and Buddhist temples on every corner, occasional mountain-climbing expeditions making ready to trek to higher altitudes. Crime was almost unheard of, no one locked their doors. And there was no electricity, except in the area around the King’s palace. In honor of the thousands of hippies who passed through, Jochhen Tole in downtown Kathmandu came to be known as ‘Freak Street.’ A small nondescript lane, it was lined with hash shops, cheap hostels, handicraft shops, and simple little restaurants serving pancakes, buffalo hamburgers, and other approximated Western foods as well as Tibetan momos and Indian chai.

Boudhanath Stupa  in the 1960s


Located about 7 miles (11 km.) by crowded minibus from Kathmandu, Boudhanath was a small village, just a circle of tall Nepalese houses clustered around a massive stupa, a gigantic white dome dating from the sixth century and topped with buddha eyes painted on all four sides. A hugely powerful sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site, the Boudhanath stupa was ringed at the base with a brick wall set with 147 niches, in which were inset 108 copper prayer wheels that revolved continuously under the hands of passing pilgrims. Around the stupa one could find all aspects of Kathmandu life: elderly Tibetan grandmothers, backs bent from a lifetime’s work; Sherpa and Nepali porters carrying huge loads on their backs, held by a jute sash strapped across their brow; Nepali and Tibetan merchants hawking their wares displayed on the walkway; small Tibetan carpet weaving enterprises; giggling toddlers playing with rocks in the street, no pants, no shoes, no diapers; smiling Tibetan nuns strolling around the stupa, arm in arm; meandering hippies dressed in Indian lunghis, Kashmiri shawls, and Afghani hats, rapt expressions on their faces. Little shops sold Tibetan antiques and cheap odds and ends from India. Devout Buddhists performed kora (circumambulations) around the stupa day and night, circling clockwise, clicking their rosaries, endlessly spinning the stupa prayer wheels. The atmosphere was full of muttered mantras and half-whispered prayers for the dead, for families left behind, for relief from all the unimaginable sufferings of the sentient beings who fill unimaginable universes.”

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