“Our battlefield is not outside, but inside us”
This fragile girl wears a formal suit every morning. And looking at her, it’s hard to even imagine how she, in heavy climbing equipment, makes her way through the ice ax, clinging to her ledges and recesses at another astounding height, how she sleeps in a sleeping bag at twenty degrees below zero and plunges into ice water without fear. She turned her cherished dream into a goal marked "done": Rena Gasimova in the Himalayas went all the Sacred Way to the harsh Mount Kailash, revered as the spiritual center of the Universe. It is there, she believes, that all the knowledge of the world, the answers to all questions, are stored...
SACRAMENTS OF AN UNKNOWN COUNTRY
I adore height and speed, they give me strength, brilliance and taste of life, release internal resources. My life is constant flights, travels, ascents, striving for new things, searching for answers to eternal questions... Perhaps the whole thing lies in my family tree: it originates from Hazrati Hamza – the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad.
I dreamed of following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo and Sathya Sai Baba, and I succeeded. But my secret dream was the desire to see the mysterious Mount Kailash, or Sumeru, the center of the Universe, the abode and kingdom of Great Wisdom. Its four ribs almost exactly correspond to the main cardinal points, and the cracks on the south side resemble a swastika in shape, a symbol of spiritual strength. It is believed that it was here that Kalapa was the capital of the legendary Shambhala, the kingdom of the enlightened and wise.
A long-standing dream to unravel the secrets of Tibet was coming true. We prepared equipment, stocked up provisions and medicines. Departure tomorrow. “Only mountains can be better than mountains!” I fell asleep with these thoughts, and when I woke up, I clung to the porthole, amazed at the power of the gigantic mountains. The huge ranges of the Himalayas cut through my mind with their colossal dimensions... The flight attendant's voice brought me back to reality: we landed in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. Two days to gather and visit Nepalese shrines: Stupa Swayambhunatha, the ancient capital Bhaktapur and Patan, the place of cremation Pashupatinatha, Stupa Bodnath... There I learned that the domed shape of the white stupas is called “gumbaz”, like five thousand years ago, and here I remembered: the feast of my great-great-grandfather Sophie Hamid Baba in Azerbaijan is called "Ag Gumbaz", "White Dome". I must say, I was extremely surprised by the Nepalese guides with the news of the existence of almost the same Muslim shrines.
And the similarity of the two religions is not limited to this. Like Muslims during prayer, Buddhists during their prayers first kneel and stand, then making a complete prostration on the earth. Just like Muslims, Buddhists go around their shrines.
PLACES OF UNKNOWN FORCE
Two more flights – and we are in the village of Semikot, at an altitude of 3500 meters above sea level. Height immediately made itself felt by numbness of the feet and tingling in the fingers. The wind pierced through, had to be insulated. Here we met groups from Australia, Germany, France, England. They were headed by a man with a white beard and ponytail hair, poured by Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings! Everything here seemed magical, as if we really got into another dimension...
We had to deal with Gandalf more than once, and it turned out that he had been walking in Tibet for 19 years. To my question, what has he been doing here for so many years, he replied: "I am looking for the entrance to Shambhala."
Days were replaced by days, and we all walked and walked. The whole way, according to my calculations, took a month. The heat choked from noon, but as soon as the sun set behind the nearest mountain, it was cold. Fascinating landscapes, each of them more beautiful than the other. The green foliage around, the noise of the river rushing along our path, in the azure waters of which we had to take ice baths more than once... The road seemed endless – through the forest, along the rocks, where our path from a meter in width sometimes narrowed to half a meter, and below – a sheer wall in a kilometer. Horses there have a strange habit of walking along the very edge: no matter how hard I try to get my horse to go along the wall, he preferred to walk along the very edge of the abyss.
THE PATH AT THE COST OF LIFE
Passed by small alpine villages, talked to children who daily have to wave ten kilometers to the school and back. The children helpfully offered us a "plant that gives joy", which we culturally refused. The loaded yaks with goods from China nearly shoved us off the narrow path into the cliff. Rough rivers crossed, and at night they looked at clusters of stars in the sky, guessing the familiar constellations... It is hard to imagine that this area of the planet, now the highest mountain, was under water millions of years ago, but saligrams found everywhere in the Himalayas testify to this irrefutably.
Time ceased to exist, and we continued our unknown path – more precisely, guided by a higher power – the path: the feeling that we were being guarded did not leave all the way.
The beautiful ranges of the goddess Parvati, also called severe glaciers, were honored with their attention. Like Kailash, they remained unconquered. According to legend, the god Shiva himself sits on Kailash – from there comes a mysterious electromagnetic field that surrounds the summit and is able to turn off all electrical appliances around. Kailash can be called an anomalous zone or a place of power; it is the oldest sacred place on earth. According to legend, ladies who intend to climb the mountain must first obtain permission from the goddess Parvati to visit her husband, otherwise she may not be allowed to visit him. But the goddess, apparently, approved of our ascent. We reached the border, without delay passed the Chinese border control and plunged into the world of Tibet...
The “dead” lake Rakshas-Tal met us with cloudy weather, which is natural for a lake populated by demons – Rakshasas. In contrast, the "living" Lake Manasarovar greeted us with the sun and a brightened sky. I recalled Russian tales of living and dead water... We decided not to tempt fate at sub-zero temperatures and indulged in hot sulfur baths, grabbing a bottle of water directly from the sacred lake on the road.
The last refuge before the holy campaign is the village of Darchen, an altitude of 5 thousand. Pretty cold and snowy. Here we were told that Kailash was not accepting anyone this year – it had been snowing for a month without a break, all roads were visible. Several thousand people from all over the world gathered in Darchen, most of the groups turned back. Demons play with our consciousness: the higher the goal, the more doubt they give us. But to the question whether we will continue the path, I unequivocally answered: yes. We initially knew that this might be a one-way ticket, that our lives are at stake. But our whole life has been the preparation of physical and, most importantly, spiritual forces for this campaign, and now, when we come to the very Gate, we are announced: no further! Well, how to believe in this?!
We settled in a hotel where there was neither heating nor hot water, but we were not used to it. We went to the Chiu-Gompa monastery, asked the monks for blessings for the fulfillment of the Bark, and, having received it, crawled under the scrolls of knowledge. They took flags with prayers, so that, following the Tibetan tradition, hang them in a sacred place.
The ritual tour of Mount Kailash takes three days. Having completed one full circle, you can be cleansed of all the sins of your life, and bypassing Kailash 108 times, you can achieve nirvana, which means complete liberation.
My pulse began to alarm me. A Chinese military doctor checked the pressure – it was twice as high as my usual one, gave me medication and strongly recommended stopping.
Morning. Weather forecasters warned of snowfall, but higher forces were on our side – the weather was fine. We had breakfast and parting words: “Crazy!”. Set off.
A lot of people went, there were also representatives of different television channels. Inspired, everyone rushed along the rocky canyon. But the clouds slowly gathered, snow began, a blizzard began and the people began to turn back. The most desperate continued to move forward, but when the blizzard began, only we were left with the guides. Horses were useful to us – without them we could not have done. They walked with almost nothing to see. Something flashed ahead – it was a tent. Inside, many Tibetans were discovered. For their part, they were extremely surprised by the appearance of a handful of Europeans.
Having rested an hour, we went on. We were taken for the night in the monastery of Dirapuk-Gompa, at an altitude of 5200 meters. The blizzard calmed down only by night, the temperature dropped to minus 20 degrees. In the evening, we went out to admire the stunning view of the unconquered Kailash, at the foot of which stubborn climbers always fall asleep forever every year. When we saw his North face, he showed us a miracle – we suddenly saw his South side, with the Vertical of time. Not having time to realize what it would mean, I grabbed the camera, but the giant hid from us in the mist.
ON THE THRESHOLD OF A DREAM
The room, of course, is not heated. The heart does not calm down. It took another batch of tablets. Friends fell asleep, and I scratch on the sacred flags with Tibetan prayers: Azerbaijan, the names of the president and first lady, my family and relatives. My fingers are numb, the pen is frozen, you have to warm it with your breath.
My heart, like a motor, beats a thousand beats per minute, it seems that eyes are about to burst. Before that, we opened oxygen cans, but they did not work, and the tablets did not help. An alarming thought flashed: if only not for a hemorrhage! Mountain sickness stepped on his heels all the way, and then came close to me. Failed to fall asleep...
It came out, as always, with the sunrise, it was very fresh. Passing between two rocks, they noticed a milky fog descending – he blocked the road behind us with a curtain. There is nothing worse than fog in the mountains! This meant one thing: for some, Kailash is completely closed, no one else will pass.
The road to our goal – the most difficult pass Drolma-La (height 5700) lies through the Death Valley, the territory of the death god Yamaraja. The world with its hustle and bustle remained somewhere below, and we rise higher and higher, and the feeling of infinite freedom grows stronger. Here it is, the last frontier between us and the top point – the Mirrors of Time. I no longer feel a heart, no shortness of breath, no legs... Fatigue vanished. Rather upstairs! A wave of emotions swept over me!
We have reached the climax of our campaign for the unknown. I set the Azerbaijani flag and hung the flags so that prayers could be offered as long as possible for people dear to my heart. So that peace reigns in Azerbaijan, people find peace, refugees return to their homes... The feeling of happiness granted from above overwhelmed me. It was boundless and penetrated into all the cells of my being... Tears of joy poured. I was reborn.
Inspired, we descended past Garikund Lake. Behind the Drolma-La pass, an overhang of the Karma Ax hung overhang – it cut off the past burdened with sins from the present.
Released, with a sense of accomplishment, we went down to the Valley of Stones and further to the Milarepa Monastery – Zultrupuk-Gompa to the service. A terrible frost hit at night, and could not fall asleep. I am wearing thermal underwear, a winter sleeping bag that can withstand minus 30 degrees, but I feel: I’ll freeze anyway. Made myself fall asleep. In a dream, she conducted philosophical conversations with my beloved grandfather Arabhan about the meaning of life. He asked to convey: "For love, there are no distances and spaces, we are always with you." And then he loudly ordered: “Get up!” – and I woke up. My body was numb, but his voice sounded in my ears. He brought me back to the world of the living.
In blooming Lhasa, we met friends who gave us a delicious welcome. The premonition of another miracle did not leave me, and it happened: we had a meeting with one of the spiritual leaders of Tibet, who in turn promised to introduce me to another abbot, who has been in a state of meditation for seven years now. As soon as he leaves this state, we will definitely meet!
Where attention is directed, energy flows there. Think good, plan, rejoice, exercise. The meaning of life is in life itself.
Text by Arzu Jaeed, Rena Gasimova
Photo from personal archive