Today the stupa here in Boudhanath was lit up with one hundred thousand butter lamps in honor of World Peace Day. A powerful prayer for peace, and I can't think of a better thing to pray for.
Have I ever told you about the stupa? Stupas are mounds of rock marking a holy site. Or maybe the site is holy because the Stupa is there. Often they have inside a relic of a bodhisattva (holy person) or some Buddhist scripture. People reverence the stupa in some sense as you would the Buddha, because the stupa makes the Buddha present.
It is part of people's daily spiritual practice to come and walk around the stupa, always keeping their right side towards the stupa (the right side is the side of honor). People also make pilgrimage to this particular stupa. It is quite famous. If you click on the first picture to blow it up, you can just make out the people walking on the stupa. That will give you a sense of its size.
Today's butter lamps were paid for by a group on pilgrimage from Sri Lanka. One days such as this, when there is something special going on, thousands gather at the stupa to walk around it. Though there are thousands tonight, it is very quiet. People naturally speak in hushed tones to the light of butter lamps. Everyone senses that we are together praying for peace, and the peace here at this moment is palpably real.
Later in the evening, a woman is refilling the lamps as a child tries to revive the candles that have waned. Children are good at noticing every little candle, and at caring for each one as well. They are my icon of God for today.