The Axis Mundi and Temenos

presented by James Eyerman, MD, at our APC-SF Library, 2411 Octavia St., #1, SF

James Eyerman MD. Jim practices Integrative Psychiatry in Mill Valley, CA,  and is Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at UCSF and Adjunct Associate Professor at Touro University. He utilizes multiple models in Psychopharmacology and Psychotherapy. He is certified in Adult Psychiatry, Adolescent Psychiatry, Transpersonal Psychology, Holotropic Breathwork, Ayurvedic Medicine, Pulse Diagnosis, and Vedic Astrology. He has published articles on meditation and on Holotropic Breathwork.

Jim had recently gone to Nepal for several weeks in order to make a trek around Mt. Kailash, also known as the “crystal” mountain, and Lake Manasarovar [the “mind mirror”]. For the Indian subcontinent and for China, this pilgrimage, or yatra, is considered to be a journey around the world axis [as lingam] and its feminine consort, the mind lake [as yoni]. It is the mythic home of Shiva and Parvati. Buddha is said to have foot prints here, from when he held the sacred mountain down to prevent the demons from removing this portal to the upper worlds, or the portal to heaven or liberation.

Analytical Psychology Club of San Francisco Newsletter November 2012 Page 2 of 16

It was unfortunate that the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu denied visas to the Americans in the yatra group. It turned out that Jim did a different pilgrimage to another axis mundi, known as Muktinath, high in the Himalayan mountain range of the Annapurnas. Muktinath is a different kind of axis mundi. It is a jyotir lingam—an “infinite light” pilgrimage or Kailash yatra. There is an eternal flame at Muktinath in the middle of a spring at 14,000 feet, so it has been sacred for thousands of years for its harmony of the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. It is a shaktipeeth (sacred to the Goddess), and shrine [nath] of liberation [Mukti]. The Mahabharata has a story of Rama and Sita visiting there during their forest exile, which is thought to have been around 9000 BC.

Jim recounted several adventures along the trail, including a true and literal cliffhanger, which was perhaps even life changing, bringing him face-to-face with his mortality, and with Grace. He flew off the trail at a high bend, 200 meters over the Kali Ghandaki Gorge. He was able to break his horizontal flight into the gorge by stabbing the trail with his trekking pole. He fell upon the cliffside. A horizontal trekking pole gripped a large swatch of reeds and helped break his slide into 200 meters of thin air and the rocks in the gorge directly below. The foliage was too thin on which to get a firm grip, and he hung there. 

With serendipity, just at that moment on the deserted trail, two very young Nepali primary school girls, or kumaris, were chattering as they were returning from school. He called out, “Help!” They looked over the cliff, screamed, and ran to get two slightly older schoolboys. The four of them formed a chain from a root on the mountainside across the trail. One girl held the root; the other was on the trail holding a boy at the cliff edge, who held a boy down the cliff. The boy grabbed Jim's upper arm and the four of them slowly pulled him back onto the trail. The two young girls were obviously straining, and afraid of losing all the boys and Jim into the gorge. They were quite relieved when the two boys and Jim were back on the trail. All four children then laughed, turned and marched off, as if this happened all the time. 

Jim and an American monk from the TM (Transcendental Meditation) Ashram in the Himalayas spent the next two weeks at several Tibetan Buddhist and Bon temples. They spent time doing astrological yagyas [fire ceremonies] and meditating at some of the spots where Tibetan Buddhism began.
Jim also told of a consult he had “after the fall” with a Bon doctor [Amci Nyima Gurung, amci_nyima@yahoo.com] from the Traditional Tibetan Medicine Institute in Jharkhot. The institute is a project of the University of Vienna. The doctor took Jim's pulse and read his palm. He spoke of disturbed sleep (Jim had been awakening in the middle of each night gripping the mattress) and a mild heart condition (his heart was palpitating furiously when he awoke). He correctly diagnosed Jim's PTSD symptoms from the fall, and gave Jim a mix of 35 different herbs that relieved the symptoms in three days. The fee was two dollars and thirty-five cents.
The Bon claim an 18,000-year-old tradition and their temples, mantras, and rituals are almost identical to the Tibetan Buddhist's. Jim ended the talk with a Tibetan Kailashpati [Lord of Mount Kailash] guided meditation.