On the Right Side
Everywhere along the mountain trails and high on the steep slopes in the Sherpa region of the Khumbu in Nepal you will see great stone monuments and fluttering flags that signify the deeply spiritual nature of the people. The Sherpa people, only a minority of the people of Nepal, enjoy seclusion and devotion to the Tibetan Buddhist faith in the more remote eastern mountainous areas. Hiking along the trails it is bewildering to see all of the reminders of the religious philosophy. You will see stones the size of a house that is engraved and painted with prayers written in the Tibetan script, many small stone tablets (mani stones) that are inscribed with the payers, stupas made of stone and painted with the eyes of Buddha on the side, prayer wheels etched or imprinted with Tibetan mantras, and prayer flags unfurled to catch the wind and send out the blessings of the prayers scribed on each one.
Seeing each of these calls the faithful to remember their teachings and to
think of serving others. There is a fundamental rule for walking past these
religious markers. Always pass them to the left side, with your right should
closest to them. When you see a bank of mani stones or a wooden pole lined
with prayer flags in the ground or come to a long row of prayer wheels, let
your right had guide you along the way. The left hand is considered unclean,
so passing with your right hand shows respect and purity. Passing on the opposite
does not bring condemnation, but it does not bring you forward in your spiritual
journey. All of these things were meant to be uplifting and inspiring for the
people of the Sherpa villages. In their daily toil to work and support their
families they draw strength and cheer from always seeing the reassuring words,
and seeing the colorful flags dancing in the wind.