My second week here in Nepal has been filled with the unexpected.
HINDUISM. What I have experienced and seen in Nepali Hindu culture has been much different than I expected. In my spring quarter at Fuller, I got the chance to take a class in Hinduism , which was very interesting and enjoyable. However, I am learning that text book Hinduism is quite different from organic Hinduism. As I’ve pondered this, I am realizing that my class mostly studied the philosophical aspects of the beliefs in Hinduism as well as its origins. But here in Nepal, I am observing the practices that reflect these philosophical ideas and being in the midst of it has generated completely different feelings within me than my class did. During my class, although I did not accept any of the Hindu beliefs as truth, I was able to understand how and why such beliefs made sense to those who are devoted followers of the Hindu gods. But now that I am here, so much of it makes no sense to me whatsoever. I feel as though the more I learn about it, the more complex it becomes - no wonder Hindus don’t even bother to understand it all. This became more apparent to me as I had the opportunity to visit three different famous Hindu Temples here in Kathmandu this weekend. The history was quite interesting and I really do enjoy learning about culture through live experience rather than simply reading about it, but there was spiritual heaviness that hung in my heart during such visits. The pictures below are at the different Temples I visited.
DASHAIN. The day of sacrificing I attended was also different than I expected. It was actually much less gruesome than I assumed it would be. As non-Hindus, the group I was with and myself were not allowed to go inside the main Temple to view the sacrificing, so we had to attend a smaller scale ritual in Durbar Square. I was actually quite relieved at this unexpected part of our journey that day, because of the sheer volume of sacrificed animals inside Hanuman Dhoka - the main Temple. It customary for 108 of each type of animal - buffalo, goat, chicken and duck - to be sacrificed to this Temple, as well as the animal each Hindu family brings to the Temple. The ceremony we attended only sacrificed six animals - 2 bulls and 4 goats. I watched the ritual in its entirety for one animal, which included the worship of two Hindu priests, the blessing of the animal slaughterers as well as the blessing of the animals themselves. Following these rituals, the animal is beheaded and then its headless body is drug around the ceremony area creating a circle of blood, which is believed to be an act of consecration. After I had observed the first goat sacrifice, I chose to move toward the outside of the crowd so as not to allow my nausea to worsen. For the remaining five sacrifices, I stood toward the outside of the crowd and frequently looked back in on the rituals.
As I watched the rituals, instead of focusing on the inherently evil strongholds that were present in such rituals, I kept thinking about how we, the people of God, were at one time (in the Old Testament) required to also perform animal sacrifices. The sacrifices Israel made were for the purpose of atoning for sin, while the Hindu animal sacrifices made today are for the commemoration of a mythical tale which also honors their goddess Durga. Although these purposes vary, the concept of sacrificing is similar as both groups sought/seek to work toward pleasing the God/gods they serve. This further led me to thank my Savior that we do not have to do such a thing anymore. My wise professor encouraged me to allow these sacrifices to lead me to a deeper understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and I really believe that per her suggestion, this experience has indeed done so. I remembered that the sacrifice Jesus made for us was actually much more gruesome than what I witnessed, not to mention the fact that it was a human sacrifice, not just an animal sacrifice. After this experience, I am left with the emotion of extreme gratitude - I am so incredibly thankful, that as Hebrews says, Jesus was a one time sacrifice for all sin! I no longer sense the fear I first did before attending these Hindu rituals, yet I still have a deep sadness and empathy for them. They still very much need our prayers! Lord God, I pray that they might find freedom in knowing that Christ willing sacrificed Himself for those who choose to follow Him and that they, these Hindus, have the opportunity to be freed from the obligation of sacrifice also. Thank you to all who prayed for me during these days - they were truly felt as the Lord protected my heart.
WESTERN MUSIC. This week I have heard more Western music than indigenously Nepali music. This is mostly in relation to Nepali Christian worship music. This is one of the anomalies I am here to study - Why is this? How do Nepalis feel about it? Should more indigenous Nepali music be incorporated into Christian worship? Luckily I have uncovered some of the answers this week through conversations with worship leaders and congregants of Nepali churches, as well through attending different Nepali Christian gatherings. Saturday morning I got to worship with a congregation of Nepali Christians and my heart was uplifted and filled during this time. I love experiencing the global church of God - hearing them pray, speak and worship in their own language and culture. It is so beautiful to my ears as it is the partial fulfillment of God’s promise to preserve a remnant of people for Himself from every tribe, tongue and nation!
OUTSIDE THE CITY. I got the chance to go to the Kathmandu YWAM base with the missionaries I have been staying with. It is located in a near by village with beautiful scenery - here are some pictures of the area! I loved getting the chance to see this aspect of Nepal, since I’ve mostly been in the city.
As I process through all of my unexpected experiences and reactions this week, please pray that I am able to glean and learn from it in the way God desires me to. I find myself naturally comparing this trip to other overseas trips I have been on, which has shed some light on the ways that I am feeling. Although this is helpful, I do not want to allow such comparisons to lead me to disappointment. Pray that I would remember my purpose as a student and that in this role, I am also participating in the mission of God.