n the outskirts of the city of Kathmandu and cradled against the mountains that make up the Kathmandu valley is Kopan Hill. On clear days, one can see across the entire valley from atop Kopan Hill, down upon the city and upwards toward the great Himalayan peaks. It's a vista that causes tourists and locals alike to make the long and arduous trek from the suburb of Boudha. (We visited Boudha and its giant stupa on Day 2 of our trip.)
But Kopan Hill is now probably better known for its residents than for its view. Built at the top of Kopan Hill is Kopan Monastery, a Tibetan Buddhist home to over 300 monks from Nepal and Tibet. Kopan Monastery also exists as a spiritual retreat for hundreds of visitors yearly from around the world -- including me, in April 2000. The experience I had at Kopan will remain in my heart for the rest of my days.
Before I describe my stay at the monastery, though, I should probably give you a little background on how I learned about it. During the planning stages of our trip back home, our travel coordinator, Joanne Erickson of Erickson Travel, mentioned that one of her previous clients had stayed at a monastery near Kathmandu. I did some research about Kopan on the Internet -- and lo and behold, it turned out that I could contact the monastery via email and make a reservation to stay there! (Technology is amazing, isn't it?) Although I wasn't totally convinced that the reservation was confirmed, I held out the hope that the monks had received my email and were expecting me.
Kopan Monastery regularly holds 10-day retreats for westerners interested in Tibetan Buddhism. For a small fee ($80 in 2000), retreatants stay in dormitory-style accommodations on the monastery grounds while receiving basic instruction in Tibetan Buddhism from a western nun from the nearby Khachoe Ghakyi Ling Nunnery. Three delicious vegetarian meals are also part of the monastery's daily offering to its visitors.
After parting with my friends in Pokhara and flying back to Kathmandu, I caught a cab to Kopan Monastery on the afternoon of April 20. For the next 10 days, Kopan was to be my home, my shelter and my place of spiritual serenity.