The Cathedral and the Cave


Sorry, but this will be brief – profound changes going on, and I have to give myself time, space and energy to process.  So, consider this a “hot tease” for what will follow.

I just spent 3 days in a cave on the Douk River, not eating, calling forward my revelation.  And, I found it.  And, I am extremely grateful.  And, I am still processing how to talk about it – stay tuned.  (It took the Buddha a week from his Enlightenment to begin to teach… it might take me a “little” longer!)

 The Cathedral…

I went back to Nubra Valley to stay in what I’ve called “The Cathedral”, a massive natural cave – the largest cave opening I’ve ever seen!  However, when Stanzin and I got there, we saw that, although majestic, it’s floor sloped at a precarious 45 degree angle, and consisted of bowling ball sized stones.  A great project for someone to convert to a massive temple – I started telling some of the monks around here at Mahabodhi about it…

[When I got back and took a look at the photos, I realized there was nothing in the shot to give PERSPECTIVE on the size of the cave. I added a red person-sized rectangle.  I could have asked Stanzin to stand in the shot, but I wasn’t thinking well at that time…]

The Cathedral of the Common Spirit

The Cathedral of the Common Spirit

The Temple of Tara…

Stanzin said she knew of more suitable caves.  We traveled a few kilometers further up the Douk River, and found VERY suitable caves — an ancient abandoned temple.  Only slight problem: over 100 feet straight up a sheer cliff wall!


The Temple of Tara

The Temple of Tara   


Stanzin and her friends scampered up like mountain goats.  I followed… like a person very comfortable with computers.

We (meaning they) got my food, water and equipment unloaded and carried up the cliff (borrowed sleeping bag and pad, 13 bottles of water, 30 boiled eggs, and “sam-path”, a barley flour that the Ladakhi herdsmen use as a staple.  (For the cave experience, I carried NO digital devices (except my camera).  Even took off my 24 time zone, global chronograph (others call it a “watch”)  Nor did I carry any reading material).  Then, I watched my friends return to the vehicle and drive away – The only 3 people in the world who knew my whereabouts… and two did not speak English. It was a very emotional moment.

It was impossible to tell how many years/decades/centuries the temple had been abandoned.  Over the years, people had climbed up, scratched their names into the walls, and left.

I started by cleaning the floors and altar space of accumulated grit, grime and debris.  Hands and knees work.  Felt good.

Then, I tried to repair some of the rock steps that graced the path.  Not so lucky.  I didn’t have the talent of placing the stones so they wouldn’t come loose the first time someone tried to use them as stairs (namely, me).

Then, I re-purposed and re-dedicated the temple to the Goddess Tara, the female Bodhisattva of Compassion.  (Not sure why… it was one of those “go with it” decisions that make themselves.)

Finally, I hung my first string of prayer flags.  Not an easy thing.  I had to crawl within 6 inches of the cliff drop, to attach the strings of flags (two hands, no holding on), then crawl back and find a way to anchor them.

Then, wait for sunset.

 [I’m going to skip the next two days… Too much detail right now as it is.  Suffice to say:

  • I did not eat, for some reason.
  • My sleeping and waking blended and blurred.
  • On the second night, I was “given” a revelation, a purpose and a new book(!)  The re-purposing is very subtle, but VERY profound. (More later…)

On the morning of the third day, with my “gifts” firmly in hand/mind/Heart, I bounded out of my sleeping bag… and promptly passed out, striking my head on the altar.  A good sign of the “spirit is willing, but the energy is weak”.

I was concerned about the climb down.  I had determined to do this on my own. (I could have waited for Stanzin, but needed to TRUST my own abilities.)  I actually ate two eggs for energy…

Going down the cliff took me 20 minutes… before, it had taken Stanzin 30 seconds, actually HOPPING from boulder to boulder, with a 100 foot drop just inches away.

Stanzin had given me permission to throw her sleeping bag over the side – it wouldn’t hurt it, and gave me one less thing to carry.   When I did it, I had no idea it would bounce that hard or go that far.  I was whooping and yelling “hole in one!” when I remembered – that’s exactly what I will look like, if I don’t pay attention and get my act together.

So, slowly, step by step, I came down the cliff.  At several points, my trekking poles sank into nothing but loose sand, which poured over the rocks in the direction I did NOT want to go.

Once I got down the cliff, I still had to negotiate the boulder field.  You would think that was easy… it’s not.  When they were depositing me, our driver fell twice – and it was the boulder field, not the cliff, that tripped him up.

But, I made it down, picked up the sleeping bag, carried it, my pack and my poles to the pick-up site, jammed my poles into the loose sand… and promptly passed out, the second time that day.  (When Stanzin found me an hour later, I had stretched out the mat and found some soft sand, but was otherwise in the same location and the same shape as my “involuntary resting”.)

So… it wasn’t Jesus’ 40 days and nights in the wilderness, but Jesus didn’t have a plane to catch next week.

Entrance to the Temple of Tara (left), with YOUR prayer flags flying!

Entrance to the Temple of Tara (left), with YOUR prayer flags flying!

And the revelations… will be the subject of another article.  (Also coming: a video tour of the insides of the cave.





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13 Responses to The Cathedral and the Cave

  1. wasantha says:

    soory,i didn,t got indian visa.
    your journey seems great.sabu oracle says you found shamanic roots .haleluaaaaaaaaaaaa.

  2. Tim Rouse says:

    Fascinating story. Sharif I envy you! Love, Tim

  3. Maria says:

    I feel like I’ve received a gift. You are generous in your sharing of such a personal experience. But that is one of the reasons you are here. I am profoundly touched. Thank you!

  4. John Brown says:

    You are well, you are secure, you are happy. Even out of breath you are these. These come through your river of words. Floating like a canoe in white water. The privilege of being on this end of your journey is also profound. There was a sense of release and relief when it was Tara whose arms you fell into. Many more blessings on your journey!

  5. Eisha says:

    Thank you for a glimpse of your journey. Yep, it’s inspirational as are you! What an experience–to experience yourself as FREE! To break free of all the excuses and justifications and “why you can’ts” and go for LIFE in the biggest way! I can hardly wait to hear more.

  6. My heart goes out to you, Sharif. I look forward to hearing more when you’ve had a chance to integrate your experience.

  7. Betsy Toll says:

    Jai Jai Sri Ma! Om Sri Tara! Metta metta metta to Sharif!

  8. stewart levine says:

    Looking forward to the revelation…

  9. Chuck Willis says:

    Well done, Sharif! Tara, or Quan Yin, – the Mother of Life – would surely have been my first choice, as well. Surrendering, allowing, devoted to Divine Will and offering up Self in response as Form, yet beyond both Will and Form. Pure Essence. Eternal. “Before” both Will and Form, which of necessity spring from Her simultaneously. That which remains when all else comes to the conclusion of Its sacred journey.

    We look forward to receiving you. Until then, be well.

    Peace Be With You,

    Chuck & Geri

  10. Shirlene says:

    Can’t wait for the sequel!
    Be well, be secure and be happy.

  11. sharon williams says:

    The Temple of Tara is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I know more is to come.

    • sharon williams says:

      I just remembered something else. If I could go back in time and talk to a younger Sharif in Camden, NJ – Would he believe all of the steps, twists, turns that have brought him to one of the highest points in the world? Would a younger sharif believe that he actually has followed a spiritual path most of us never achieve? Thank you with gratitude…

  12. Ellen Michals says:

    The Temple of Tara
    Goddess of compassion. How wonderful.
    I call that “Divine Inspiration” exactly right.
    Beautiful account of a life evolving event.
    Can’t wait for more.
    Be well, be secure and be happy.
    Much love sent your way as you continue on your quest.
    Ellen Michals

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