BHOLA BANSTOLA RETURNS TO TWIN CITIES
Bhola Nath Banstola, an indigenous Nepalese shaman, will soon make her third visit to the Twin Cities, conducting a seminar over the weekend of June 12 and 13. Banstola was born in l966 in the Bhojpur district of eastern Nepal. He was called by the spirits at an early age to become a shaman and was started by his grandfather, the shaman of his village. She is the 30th generation within her family to be chosen by spirits as a healer.
After earning degrees in cultural anthropology and naturopathy in Nepal and India, he practiced for a time as a naturopath and herbalist in the Kathmandu Valley. He has also conducted extensive research on shamanism within different ethnic groups and traditions in his native country, as well as in India.
For six months of the year, Banstola and his wife travel to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India. During these trips participants have a unique opportunity to deepen the culture and traditions of these countries, as well as to meet and do special sessions with shamans and healers. The trekking tours follow easy trails through the Himalayas that allow participants to experience not only the beauty of these mountains but also to admire sacred sites. Tours in Tibet are pilgrimages to some of the holiest temples and monasteries, both in Lhasa and in rural areas. There is also a climb to Mount Kalish, one of the holiest sites in the world.
I spoke to Banstola in preparation for his next visit to the United States.
Tell me about shamanism practiced in Nepal.
Bhola Banstola: Nepalese shamanism is based on an animistic belief that honors Mother Earth and respects the spirits that reside in all living beings. This worldview is the key to preserving the ecology of the earth and bringing harmony to all things. Regardless of their religion, most Nepalis turn to the shaman for their physical and emotional healing.
What role does the shaman play in Nepalese society?
Banstola: Shamans are a central figure in their communities, as they are not only healers, but also storytellers, matchmakers, diviners, herbalists, dancers, singers and musicians. The main role of the shaman is to work as a mediator between spirits and customers. They acquire their shamanic talents and spiritual power through their personal helper spirits, which can take the form of animals, birds, deities, and ancestors. The shaman works with these helpers by voluntarily going into an altered state of consciousness.
Like many shamans around the world, the Nepalese shaman believes in the existence of three worlds: higher, central and inferior. These are connected by a tree called Kalpa Vriksha (the tree of immorality), which has its roots in the sky and its branches and leaves in the lower world. The shaman, in an altered state, travels between these worlds to obtain information that will cure his clients. Shamans also have knowledge of the sacred places and the guardians of the spirit that reside there. Sacred places can be mountains, lakes or rivers. The hidden language of the place is felt in the form of rhythms, vibrations and warm and cold sensations. If a place is spiritually dead or unbalanced, the shaman must bring it back into harmony by invoking the spirits of the place.
What is the healing role of a Nepalese shaman?
Banstola: the concept of Nepalese health is quite different from what is found in the West. We believe that the disease is caused not only by imbalances in the body, but also by nutritional imbalances, loss of the soul, spiritual intrusion, witchcraft, domestic diseases, alignment of the planets and karma. It is the role of the shaman to discover the source of the disease and work with his spiritual helpers to cure it.
In Nepal it is believed that the soul never dies, but moves from one body to another in many cycles of death and rebirth. Because Nepalese feel they possess a part of all their ancestors, ancestral deities are a strong source of power and protection. Without the blessings and help of ancestors, shamanic healing sessions are difficult.
You will do individual healing sessions during your stay in the twin cities. Can you describe one of these sessions?
Banstola: A shamanic healing session must take place in a very safe and calm environment. Healing can be a long process for some, and for others it can happen during a session. The more open and collaborative we are, the faster the healing takes place. The shaman in his altered state of consciousness travels through landscapes, symbols, colors, shadows and lights. During this journey he tries to find the cause of the problems of the consultant and, through songs, metaphors and symbolic actions, brings him balance and harmony.
There are no words to describe a healing session. It's an individual feeling and you should experience personally how it feels by participating. Shamans are not really healers; they are facilitators and creators of the sacred space within which an individual can receive the healing energies brought by the spirits. Healing is not only intended to heal the affected parts of the body, but should also create a deep harmony between the spiritual, emotional, energetic and soul parts.
As Nepal modernizes, has the role of the shaman changed?
Banstola: In the last fifteen years there has been a decline in shamanic traditions in Nepal due to political and economic turmoil. Local healers have had difficulty practicing their healing art, and many Nepalis have had to leave their birthplace and migrate to cities or even India to look for work. Despite these difficulties, shamanism is still a widespread tradition in Nepal.