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Life’s Desperation

(Tuesday, December 12, 2008)

I wonder what they are praying for. I know all of them have been through hardship and life certainly was not a bed of roses for them. But why didn’t they choose not to take the same path millions of people have?

I am here at the chorten, circumambulating like many others. I am praying but I cannot help notice the different people here with different stories written on their faces. I wonder what secrets they hold deep inside their mind. I wonder what hardship they bore all those long years in the younger age.

People here are usually old ones but we can see younger ones too. Old people stay the whole day at chorten whereas younger ones circumambulate for a short while and go back. For old people, chorten is a haven. The Thimphu Memorial Chorten is the only place where people from different walks of life gather and different stories are spoken and made friends. For them, it is the place where they really feel themselves: once again free, independent and at peace. All their lives they have worked hard and made way through life by toiling in the sun and rain. But now, all of a sudden when they have to stay with their children in Thimphu, eating what is prepared and doing what they are told to, they definitely find life very different.

But many find peace and consolation in telling themselves that they get time to chant mani here. They think they wouldn’t have this much of free time if they were in the village. They definitely won’t, but I guess inwardly they all yearn for home. They all want to cook food in the soot stained pots on the mud stove. They all want to once again be home and eat around the hearth. They definitely do not enjoy the cold weather in Thimphu at this time. They all yearn to be home once again and be listened to by their children.

But there is nothing very smooth in the later age of life. Their children see life differently. They cook food a different way. Their life is made easier. They can cook without having to see a clump of smoke. They can be at their friends’ place in a few minutes. They do not have to worry about having to walk. They do not have to worry about collecting firewood. But hasn’t all this come at some cost? No, their parents definitely don’t enjoy half cooked vegetables and idea of self serving the meals.

Many of them here have lost their loved ones. And for all the time they have grown to this age, they have seen death. They have seen impermanence. That is how they are here. I wonder why everyone has to follow the same path, knowing that this isn’t gonna get them any lasting peace. But no sooner have I asked this question to myself, than I think that they surely did not have an option. I’m sure some did not even know that something like better path existed. Some were set on this path before they knew the difference. I pity them in this sense. But I wonder if at any time in their life they regretted not knowing it. And as I take them all in, I pray so hard that I’m at the brink of tears.

And now as they circumambulate the chorten, they all merge with their past, no matter if the essence of Buddhist teaching is about taking just this moment in. And it is as they merge with their past, that a cool deep conviction sets on their mind of why they should pray fervently. Every time they reach the side of the chorten where there is a door, they bend low, put one of their hands on their forehead and close their eyes in deep prayer. I wonder what they are praying for. But aren’t we all always praying for something?

And then, I merge with them. And I feel pain. I hurt because all their lives they have worked hard only to see that life offers nothing but only and end. And I hurt because I have chosen the same path and if my death is not a few years from now, I see more heartaches: more partings and more deaths.

It is a disappointing human behavior. We know, we see, we want and yet, we don’t act towards achieving that end we want.

(Sunday, December 21, 2008: An old woman came to the chorten. It must be her son. He helped her. Her back was bent almost horizontally and she was barefoot. Oh the woman from the old precious time. She took rest when she reached the entrance to the chorten. An uncontrollable emotion caught in my heart and I broke down in tears.)

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