Gardening the Bhutanese Way

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Scene at the Memorial Chhorten

The white magnificent stupa lay in the heart of the town, accessible by all. People clad in varying hue and designs of attire reach there to offer their prayers and wishes. People from all walks of life swarm in and congregate around it. Many queue into an array of lines along the slightly raised wooden planks for a sweaty yet hearty prostration.

The Memorial Stupa adorned in a myriad of hues...

Yet some come with a seemingly different purpose. Some youngsters gallop at the fastest pace with perspiration almost dripping from their faces. For them, the purpose is not what the wrinkle-clad and grey haired group of adults comes for. They simply want the extra-waistline to shed, their bellies to assume a desiring shape and showcase the opulence reflected in the way they dressed for this is one place where you will get a huge magnitude of spectators.

The Mani Dungkor remains crammed with grey-haired and watery eyed elderly ones. The rosary bound to their fingers would suffer an innumerable pull, the shiny and worn-out beads indicative of the number of times they were being pulled. Each of their faces would assume a transcending smile as they receive a fruit each or any edible item offerings from the people passing by. For an instant, all of them would put their prayer beads aside and gobble down the offerings in sheer joy. Amid laughter, giggles, chatter and chanting, they would ensure that they don’t miss dragging the beads on the other side. 

Out of many that I have overheard, a conversation between two elderly women was something that caught my attention;

 ‘Oye… Aum Dema mae mena? When have you been here?’ remarked one of the women with a pat on the other’s back.

The other women tilted her head in the direction of the caller, halted for a moment in speculation and muttered, ‘Een wae Aum Sangay. I have been staying with my son and his family here for almost 3 years now. So when and what brings you here?’

‘I came to the capital a couple of months ago to do nothing but babysit my grandchild’, pronounced the rather painful response.

‘I am no better than you. It is my third year of doing the same thing. Besides, this is the only time I get to come out and circumbulate the chorten. I am grounded at the house babysitting until they return from office’.

‘I would rather prefer to live my life at the village. Here, I hardly get time to chant prayers. As you say, this lean hour is my only opportunity. Don’t you think it is quite tiring for us to work hard for the upbringing of our own children, and then follow the same trend for our grandchildren? The time that we should have allotted to spiritual practice do we land up being a babysitter!’

‘I know the fact is harsh but we have to accept the reality. It would be better for us to resort to chant a few prayers than to grunt over this thing. Dusk will sweep in soon’, said Aum Dema with her eyes tinged with a patch of gloominess.

The other nodded and both of their lips assumed the fastest swing in muttering prayers. Looking at the rapidity with which they moved their lips, I could sense their mounting desire to compensate for the lost count on the prayer beads. This is because nothing would define their contentment than a hefty count on their rosary beads at the end of the day.

After a satisfactory count of striding round and round the chorten, many make a clean exit. This would be marked by a momentary halt near the central path leading to the stupa or the gate. Many would clasp their hands into a lotus bud-like form and shut their eyelids in uttering their silent prayers. Others would not dare to do so in front of a crowd or are driven by time.

I often join the crowd and immerse myself in the euphony of religious chanting; the different modes of prayers assuming varying degrees of intonation. I get diffused in the crowd; overwhelmed by the serenity and tranquility prevailing within. 

I cling to the belief that the sole purpose of religion is to gain control over our mind; a path towards self-mastery and liberation.  I can vividly rewind the words of the Principal of Tango monastery at religious discourses during my school days. He reiterated time and again that the sole purpose of religion or the word ‘Choe’ is to gain control over oneself.

 And so have I read in the teachings of the Lord Buddha inscribed in books stating, ‘You cannot find freedom or attain liberation by praying to some gods or making offerings. Practicing awareness in daily life and looking deeply into your own mind lead to cessation of suffering and realization of peace and joy’. I believe that such practice has an inter-linking relationship with spiritual awakening. The serenity and calmness experienced is quite indicative of that. Yet it depends on individual perception which might vary greatly.

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