Akhu Nyima sat cross-legged on a white woolen cushion in the courtyard in front of his house, saying mani like always. He held a rosary made of sandalwood with a turquoise headstone between his middle and index fingers, pushing the beads with his thumb, counting. He uttered the six-syllable mantra clearly, saying " Om ma nipad me hum." Eventually, only the sound "Om om" could be heard coming from his nose, leaving the words unclear. Based on the way his thumb pushed beads along the rosary, however, one could see that each om sound contained all six syllables. Sometimes, closing both eyes, he folded his hands at is chest and prayed, saying "May the Triple Gem know!"
At that time, all the wrinkles of his face gathered together, and one could see the lines etched like a picture in his skin. The white teeth of youth, now gone, had given way to the white hair of old age. He was an honest man by nature, straight like an arrow, and considered as truth all anyone told him. When he was ten years old, he had entered a monastery to become a monk. Although he was not particularly intelligent, he never said or did anything that went against the lama's word. Indeed, because he was able to observe his vows properly, he was a special favorite of the lama.
Akhu Nyima's father fell ill and departed from the human world, leaving his mother alone in the house. She asked the lama for a leave of absence for her son. Akhu Nyima had to leave the monkhood and become a householder, but he took it lightly. His new wife Lhamo, moreover, was skilled in household management, and so though the family was by no means rich, there were no problems obtaining food to eat or clothes to wear. But, as the proverb goes, "No one knows when death will come." And before long, Akhu Nyima's mother suddenly fell seriously ill. No medicines or pujas could reverse the disease, and she died.
Although the suffering of losing both father and mother was great, Akhu Nyima was no longer a youth who needed to ask his father for advice or his mother for food. Lhamo bore two children: a son, Tsering, and a daughter, Dolma. When he reached adolescence, Tsering took a bride named Chamo Cham and assumed control of the family estate. As for Dolma, she was sent as a bride to another district according to worldly custom.
Thus the wishes of the parents were fulfilled. But there was still one source of concern: Tsering's new bride. Chamo Cham had crass words and a hostile mouth. Since she turned up at their door, although she showed great respect for her mother and father-in-law, she didn't listen to them or follow their advice. Still, both in her work in the community and management of family affairs, there was no one in the village who didn't acknowledge her competency.
Though Tsering and Chamo Cham's marriage was arranged by their parents, they got along well. Particularly after the birth of their son Dorje, they developed deep affection. Truly, they became one of those couples that, if one doesn't eat, the other doesn't drink. But Chamo Cham didn't know the difference between things to be told and things to be kept secret. Even with family matters, she exaggerated and spread rumors.
Akhu Nyima scolded her, saying, "You're clever enough, so why can't you just keep your mouth shut?" Tsering interrupted his lecturing, and said to Chamo Cham, "If you don't hold your long tongue, your round head is going to have a big problem." Akhu Nyima grew deeply angry at such harsh words, and, now supporting Chamo Cham, said, "If you raise your hand to my daughter-in-law, I'll ... !"
As for Ani Lhamo, she was naturally good-natured and received all people with a smile, whether high-ranking or lowly. There had never been an instance of her using harsh words or showing a nasty expression. When fighting broke out among her husband, son, and daughter-in-law, she laughed and went about her business. Sometimes, when Akhu Nyima scolded Chamo Cham, she said with a smile, "Old man, your mouth gets worse and worse every year. Who--other than you--scolds his daughter-in-law like this?" Saying this, she pointed out his fault. Akhu Nyima, thinking that this was perhaps true, would let it go for the time being. However, since Chamo Cham still couldn't control her mouth, Akhu Nyima grew desperate. "There's no cure for my big mouth and my daughter-in-law's long tongue!"
As Akhu Nyima sat in the sun on the porch and recited mani, his troubled mind began reflecting on the past. Ever since the day he had become to weak to work, whether it was summer or winter, spring or autumn--so long as the sun shone--he sat on the front porch and basked in the light. "The sun and mani are my closest friends," he would say. One day, all of a sudden, a multicolored bird landed on the wall, crying "chag chag chag." Akhu Nyima thought, "They say that when a bird caws, it's a sign of an approaching guest. It's late, though--who could be coming?" Then he realized, "Oh! Tsering left for Kumbum more than ten days ago, so it's probably him returning." He went to the gate to see.
In village's fields, the crops were green, blown by the winds of the three summer months. They moved like the blue waves of the ocean. The distant hills were filled with trees. The sun was about to fall asleep on the pillow of the western mountains. The evening landscape of the three summer months was beautiful to behold. But Akhu Nyima's vision had degenerated along with his body, so how could he see it? He saw only two dark shadows approaching on the village footpath. One shadow was Dorje coming home from school. He saw his father coming, and, holding his backpack askew, he shouted, "Apa is coming!" Flying andjumping, he ran to welcome his father.
When Akhu Nyima heard his grandson's cry, he stood, rubbing his eyes with his hands. He shaded his eyes and looked. "Tsering's really back!" Tsering was coming with another man in Chinese dress. Akhu Nyima went back into the house, saying "Lhamo! Make tea--a guest has come!"
Akhu Nyima was the kind of person who believed what other people told him, regardless of whether that person was of high or low status. But when propaganda proclaimed that there were no gods, he utterly rejected it. Whenever those people disinclined to blind faith advised him that there were no gods or demons, Akhu Nyima would point at them and say angrily, "You meritless heretic!" Each time children asked him if there were gods and demons, for instance, Akhu Nyima explained the existence of gods and that they didn't need to fear demons. He would, moreover, take out a small copper statue and say, "This is what is called god." If anyone proclaimed the doctrine of materialism to him, it was as if they were preaching the dharma to a wolf's ear. For more than sixty years, he meditated on the triple gem in his innermost heart, honored Tulkus and lamas by bowing his head, and didn't miss even one session of prayers and rituals.
Now, the traveller with Tsering seemed to be some lama, he didn't know who. But when Akhu Nyima heard that the man was a Tulku, his whole heart filled with faith. This arrival of a lama Tulku to our home is a sign of my good karma and the great merit of our family! As he thought this, a tear of devotion welled up in his eye and the hair on his body stood up with delight.
Normally, there wasn't anyone in the family who would sit ahead of Akhu Nyima. That night, however, there's hardly a need to say that the head of the line went to the newly arrived Tulku. Guessing from the look of his Chinese clothes, the Tulku had the appearance of being about twenty-five or twenty-six, but according to his own explanation, he was over thirty. The guest was fat, with a round face, pointy nose, and big eyes, so who could say he didn't have a fortunate body?
Unless--perhaps because he was a little too fat, or because of some information I don't know, he did seem unaccustomed to sitting cross-legged. Although he sat that way, he moved and shifted his feet again and again. Sometimes, if you looked at him, he looked like he was biting his lip, and you could tell his knee joints ached.
After drinking evening tea, the Tulku and Akhu Nyima sat at the hearth, and Chamo Cham served each another cup of milk tea. As they drank, they discussed topics far and wide. Akhu Nyima and his family learned things they had never heard before. Still, they didn't know anything particular about the Tulku's situation, and even where he was going, and why he was staying with them was unclear. So Akhu Nyima asked, "Precious one, where are you going? Where do you plan to stay? What is your native region?"
This momentarily startled the Tulku, but he soon recovered an appearance of calm and peace. In that manner, he undid the first two buttons, revealing a yellow undershirt, collar, and protection thread. Then he said, "I have seen that the world of samsara is like a prison, and because it nauseates me, there's no saying where I go or stay. Particularly in this degenerate time, when dharma practitioners are deprived of opportunity and even lamas don't have freedom. So I am happy to wander without direction around the land and make dharma connections with fortunate people. My previous incarnations, also, were just ascetics wandering about the country, and so if I am able to emulate the lives of those noble antecedents, that is the happiness of my whole life. It ripens the fruit of the hope of my mind."
Continuing, he discoursed at length on how many monasteries had been destroyed and how many religious texts had been burned in the Cultural Revolution. Finally, the Tulku folded his hands, saying "There is no happiness on the tip of the needle that is samsara. How could that not be true? May the three jewels know!"
Akhu Nyima and his whole family were drawn in by those words of the Tulku, and were like statues in a monastery, unable to speak or move.
Although I don't know how much the Tulku understood religious subjects, there wasn't a thing he didn't know about affairs from U-Tsang to China. He demonstrated particular familiarity with the life stories of Kagyu lamas, such as Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, and Rechung Dorje Drag, judging by his tales of their unending variety of wonderful acts.
The Tulku was clearly widely knowledgeable and full of blessings. However, sometimes he made mistakes, such as mixing upthe order of events. He said that Marpa, having cultivated Milarepa as a teacher, studied the Madhyamika and the Paramitas and that Milarepa cultivated Je Tsongkhapa as a teacher and studied Lam Rim. Those three, he said, are the three victors, father and sons. At those words, a doubt arose in Akhu Nyima's mind, because he didn't know the life story of Naropa and the others. Even with Milarepa's life story, he didn't know anything more than the condensed version, and indeed even that was mostly hearsay. However, he did know who the three victors, fathers and sons were. When he thought that he needed to ask the Tulku about this, it was as if the Tulku knew Akhu Nyima's thoughts. "Oh! The three victors, father and sons that I said are according to the tradition of secret Tantra, he explained. It is widely known that the great Je Tsongkhapa is the second Buddha of this degenerate time, and that he and his disciples are the three.
Akhu Nyima nodded his head, as if giving a sign that he had understood. But internally, he thought, "If you live long enough, you'll see even the Buddha makes mistakes. Isn't that so? If it's not a little thing, he would have offered a correction. I don't know even a little bit about the system of secret tantra. How could there be a worse fault than such a wrong view?" He confessed and repented in his mind.
Normally, Akhu Nyima only set out one butter lamp as an offering each night. That night, because the Tulku had come, he set out seven. The almirah to the south of the hearth were illuminated with the light of the seven butter lamps. Behind the glittering butter lamps, there was a small wooden box. By now it was the middle of the night, and Dorje had fallen asleep in his mother's lap, where he lay snoring. The Tulku's face, as well, looked weary, and it was clear that it was time for bed. Then the Tulku took out a small book from his square bag.
He read out loud, "From the heart of the protector of the hundred Tushita gods, on the tip of a cloud that is like a heap of fresh white curd, there is Tsongkhapa, king of dharma, together with his disciples. I supplicate that you enter this place!"
Akhu Nyima said, "Daughter-in-law! Go and put down Dorje for bed. Tsering, let's make a bed for the Tulku. Wife, bring us a lantern."
The Tulku kept on reciting the prayer, saying "Om" as he turned each page. Although the lantern had been taken away, the seven butter lamps continued shining brightly, so the top of the hearth was still illuminated. The Tulku got up quickly. He looked here and there around the house, then approached the almirah on which the butter lamps had been set out and opened the small wooden box. He inserted his hand and quickly pulled out a yellow object. Immediately, he put his right hand into his shirt pocket. Suspiciously, he gave a sidelong glance to his bag, and the chant of "Om Om Om" again could be heard resounding.
Akhu Nyima, Tsering, and the others returned after setting up a bed for the Tulku. Chamo Cham, having put Dorje to bed, went to the door. On the veranda, she met Akhu Nyima, who said, "Tsering, keep your mouth shut." In Chamo Cham's mind, she was the object of Akhu Nyima's statement, like proverbs intended to affect the daughter-in-law. "Although he called Tsering's name, he strikes just me," she thought. She hung her head in worry and discomfort and left.
The next morning, Chamo Cham rose from her bed before the cocks crowed. She put a match to a dry, yellow piece of juniper and started a fire. She swept inside and outside the house, then took dough out of a pot and put it in a kneading pan. She added some wheat flour and began to knead. She laid it in the square wooden pan and put it before the hearth. Normally, the housework was never truly finished and completed, but today, it seemed to Chamo Cham like she had done all of it easily.
Although she was thirty years old, this was the first time a Tulku had come to her own home. "I am a fortunate person," she thought. "In coming here, I have found a good mother-in-law. How happy it is that I, a daughter-in-law, don't have a mother-in-law's hate and evil. Although father-in-law scolds me, he is honest and has good regard for me. Indeed, I myself am responsible for most of his scolding. Also, my husband is affectionate--he is a good, life-long, and steady companion. And I have a son! All of my wishes are fulfilled. What's more, there is now a Tulku living in our home. How could this be possible if I did not have good karma? Since father-in-law pays unlimited respect to the Tulku, I also must attend to him well." She did all of the housework well, then took a pot and went to fetch water.
The peaks of the eastern mountains blazed with dawn light, but the trees on the hillside were still dark. The morning wind gently swayed green sprouts by the roadside. From the blue smoke arose from the chimneys of village houses, it was clear that the women of those homes had risen early from their beds and were making morning tea. When Chamo Cham reached the main path to the well, she heard a young woman calling her name from behind her. "Oh!" she thought, "No need to guess who that is! It's my neighbor Druk Mo!"
Druk Mo and Chamo Cham were very close friends. Whatever path they stepped out on, they were together like a body and its shadow. Men and women of the village would say to them, "You two are twins--connected by arm and leg!"
"Why didn't you call me this morning?" Druk Mo demanded angrily when she was able to catch up with Chamo Cham.
"Last night, a holy guest arrived at our home, and so I forgot to call you. How is your mother's illness?"
"It hasn't gotten any worse." She shook her head and a morose expression came over her. Then, as if suddenly realizing, she asked, "Who's your holy guest?"
Chamo Cham completely forgot her father-in-law's scolding the night before. At they went along the path, she told Druk Mo that the guest was a Tulku, and related how extensive his knowledge was, how great his qualities were, and so forth, exaggerating broadly. As she went on explaining, her voice got louder and louder, and all of the other women fetching water could hear.
"If you do a ritual for your mother's illness, maybe it will get better," Chamo Cham suggested.
"That might help. Who knows, if I ask the Tulku, he might be able to come." At those words of Druk Mo, it was as if Chamo Cham suddenly remembered. Her father-in-law's admonition to hold her tongue swirled around her mind. But now it was too late, and so she made Druk Mo promise not to tell anyone so that no one else could find out.
Then, the women fetching water reached the well one after the other. As they drew water, they asked about Druk Mo's mother's health. After that, each spoke as she liked about their housework. Some others talked about how precious their sons or daughters were and so forth until there was no more time to talk. Chamo Cham and Druk Mo went together on the path back to the village. There were other women in front of them and behind them, so they couldn't talk about the Tulku.
Chamo Cham remembered that she still had much work to do. "I have to prepare the go-re bread. I have to milk the dzomo. (1) After I make the go-re and sweet milk tea, if I offer them to the Tulku, surely he will help me in the next life." Her mind filled with all sorts of thoughts. "Oh! That's not all! Tomorrow, Tsering has to go back to his roadwork. I still have to prepare food for the journey. Oh no! I forgot to light today's hearth fire! (2) Now it won't be ready until noon! Chamo Cham quickened her pace and reached her own home. When she arrived at the gate with her water, she saw that the Tulku was standing there.
"Lama, sir! Why are you up so early? I am a rotten lady who still doesn't have the tea ready."
The Tulku continued standing there, smiling and giving no other answer. His two eyes studied Chamo Cham carefully, from head to toe. "Ah! She's quite slender, maybe a little thin, and is wearing a cotton dress. Her face is not quite beautiful, but she certainly has attractive parts. Although she's carrying water on her back, she doesn't look tired at all--you can see she's hard-working. By the light in her eyes, you can also tell that she's an honest woman.
Chamo Cham saw that the Tulku was examining her closely, and began to feel a bit uneasy. She lowered her head, and saw that there was heap of grass, chaff, and husks to the right of the gate. Looking at it, she said, "Tomorrow Tsering has to return to roadwork." Hastily, she went into the house.
The Tulku continued staring after her. He thought, "They say 'Never trust a woman with three sons,' and how could that not be true? Today she gave me a secret indication that her husband will be going to roadwork tomorrow. Who is more deceitful than these women?" The Tulku laughed, and a smile came to his face. Who can know what meaning was hidden inside that smile?
Akhu Nyima's family's property was not very large, but it was surrounded by a well-made, medium-sized wall. The entire residence was made up of five large buildings, with slanting rooftops, but the main household comprised three buildings. The windows and doors of each building faced east. The window frames were set up like a four-sided die, and in the middle of them, they had attached a painting of an everlasting knot on a smooth white piece of paper. The windows were about two arm-lengths wide. On the ground, there was a wooden floor that was seven or eight arm lengths. There were also eaves and a large rectangular veranda. In the northern part of the enclosure, there was a rectangular wooden house with only one door. The Tulku had slept in that house the previous night.
The sun had moved some distance. Akhu Nyima sat like always on the veranda, basking in the sun. Today, however, you couldn't hear the sound of mani. You couldn't see him supplicating the three jewels with his hands folded at his breast. The Tulku sat cross-legged on a new woolen cushion, saying something along with hand gestures. Akhu Nyima was clearly listening with one-pointed attention, like a faithful monk taking instruction from a high lama.
Tsering had fixed a new handle on an iron spade, then, holding some old shirts, sat in a corner of the veranda, patching the shirts and listening to the Tulku.
Chamo Cham made a small grass fire near the gate and made bread for Tsering. She glanced again and again at the gate of their neighbor Druk Mo's house, as if she was waiting for someone. It wasn't more than ten paces from the gate to the veranda, so she could hear the Tulku's voice clearly.
"Is it true that the monks are returning to monasteries, now that they are being reconstructed?" Akhu Nyima asked. (3)
The Tulku replied, "It's not appropriate to believe whatever is said, just as the saying, 'it is not appropriate to eat whatever is given.' You shouldn't trust such high people."
"Father," Tsering said, "When I went to Kumbum, the monastery there was completely renovated. There were more than twenty monks, and even lots of pilgrims! All of the pilgrims said that the party policy is good and that they're happy. A few years before, the policy was that Tibetans weren't allowed to enter monasteries and do prostrations. Even doing pilgrimages provoked hostility and scolding. But now it's not like it was then. If you buy a ticket for three fourths of a yuan, then you can see whatever holy object you want and no one meddles. Truly, the policy of religious freedom is good."
Whether it was because Tsering's words were true or whether it was because the Tulku had different aims, it is not clear. Regardless, their conversation came to a halt. After some time, the Tulku said, "If such things are happening now, then there's nothing wrong. However, I don't trust it. There's no need to say those things now. What's important for us dharma practitioners is the dharma that is for the next life."
"May the three jewels know!" Akhu Nyima said.
Right then, Druk Mo arrived. She and Chamo Cham whispered in each other's ears. If you looked at them, it would seem like they were telling secrets. After a bit, Chamo Cham went into the house. Druk Mo remained at the gate, pacing back and forth.
"Akhu Nyima! Is sister Chamo in the house?"
The three people on the veranda were startled by Druk Mo's call. Tsering realized it was Druk Mo, and called back, "She's here, she's here! Come in!"
"Young woman, is your mother any better?" Akhu Nyima asked. Druk Mo shook her head a little sadly.
"She's not any worse," she explained sorrowfully, in a low voice. The Tulku sat looking at Druk Mo without saying anything.
Although Druk Mo knew about the Tulku from Chamo Cham, she said as if she did not know, "Is this a Chinese?"
"What are you saying? How would you know that he's Chinese? He's a lama."
Trying to pacify Akhu Nyima, Druk Mo said, "Ah! Really, don't listen to what I said before. It's my fault for not knowing you were a lama."
The Tulku laughed. "No problem, no problem! There's a saying that if you don't know, there's no fault, isn't that so?" Then he said, with concern, "What illness does your mother have? Did you consult a doctor? Did you do a ritual?"
Druk Mo answered, "I can't explain what sort of illness Mother has. It's been more than a month since she fell ill. In the beginning, it seemed like indigestion. But there's no one in the village that knows medicine. There's a hospital in the district, but we can't go because of the distance. Mother also doesn't want to go. Even though the old people have been saying mani, there's been no improvement." She added respectfully, "May you know, sir."
The Tulku gave a gesture indicating his concern for her. Again, Akhu Nyima looked at the Tulku with wide eyes, as if asking his opinion.
Those who were going to do roadwork at Zhan Thog left early in the morning. It had been two days since the Tulku arrived in the village. During those two days, he stayed in Akhu Nyima's house. Other than Druk Mo, he had no contact with other people of the village. However, everyone in the small village, young and old, male and female, were talking about how a Tulku had come to their village. As soon as such talk reached Akhu Nyima's ears, he looked at his daughter-in-law with accusing eyes. This gave Chamo Cham unbearable pain in her chest, like an arrow piercing her heart and lungs.
She thought, "I didn't tell anyone besides Druk Mo, and she took an oath that she wouldn't tell anyone else." She didn't know how the people of the village found out. "Druk Mo is the type of person who can keep a secret, so I can't blame her. Also, yesterday father-in-law himself said that the guest was a Tulku and not Chinese, and he said that to Druk Mo directly, which is a sign that he trusts her. There's no reason for father-in-law to be blaming me." She thought this, but didn't do or say anything.
Not long after morning tea, a group of old people gathered outside Akhu Nyima's family's compound. By the look of their faces and the shine of their eyes, you could tell that most of the old people came with faith and respect. A few, however, scrutinized the Tulku, looking at him closely with half-closed eyes. You could tell their minds still harbored doubts.
Akhu Geleg was one among the crowd who still had suspicion. The previous morning, he heard that there was a Tulku at Akhu Nyima's house, when his own daughter-in-law had returned from fetching water. Even then, he didn't believe at all. "Our village is in an empty valley," he thought, "and so no one like a lama or great teacher has ever come before. We've never even had a yogi. In this new society, to say that a Tulku has come is laughable, really." The point of his coming to Akhu Nyima's today was not to pay homage--it was to decide whether the Tulku was truth or fraud.
Akhu Guru Dorje, for his part, didn't have any faith in those who were called Tulkus because he was a Bonpo tantrika. (4) He didn't believe in them at all. He and Akhu Nyima held opposing views on Buddhism and Bon, and so the two of them had debated many times during their younger years. But since they didn't know any more than a fraction of the views and tenants of their respective traditions, they were never able to settle on a winner or loser. Quite the opposite--they-just confused themselves. Today, although Akhu Guru Dorje hadn't come to debate, he felt the need to test the Tulku.
"Precious lama! Where did you come from?"
"Where were you born?"
A smile grew on the Tulku's mouth. He looked closely at Akhu Guru Dorje's face but didn't give an answer.
Akhu Nyima remembered that Guru Dorje liked to debate. Fearing that he would anger the Tulku, he said, "Guru Dorje! What are you doing asking about roots and branches, and not necessary questions of dharma?"
"If great lamas and siddhas have birthplaces and homelands to tell, what's wrong with me asking about the Tulku's birthplace?"
"Don't argue, you two." Since Akhu Geleg knew the situation between Akhu Nyima and Guru Dorje, he knew if that the two of them kept on arguing today, they would inevitably become red-faced and torment one another. "We're fed up with you two arguing. Lama! The lapsed monk Nyima and the old tantrika Guru Dorje are not to be listened to. But we also want to know where you were born, so by all means, tell us!"
Then the Tulku said, "Generally, it's of no importance at all if a person like me tells their birthplace. Now, if you insist, I will give an answer to your question." He sang the melody of a song that expressed his own greatness.
"O authentic precious lama! I respectfully supplicate with the three doors. (5) You elderly men and women gathered here, Listen to my song without letting your ears wander-- Of course I have a fatherland! Though there is very little need to say it, the elderly men and women gathered here ask insistently again and again. Really, it is settled--I will meet them with an answering song! Whether people know me and my face or not, If they do not know me and my face, I am the son of Garuda, king of birds! The wings of Garuda are fully developed in the egg. They emerge from their homes in the Red Rock, (6) They rest at the summit of the three high mountains, They soar in circles in the lofty blue sky, They fly, scattering the layers of clouds! I am like a lion in the high snows The six powers of the lion are fully developed in the mother's womb, Their turquoise hair bloomsin the middle of the rGya Dzong forest, Their claws extend at the border between meadows and rocky slopes, Their bravery multiplies at the summit of the high snow mountains, They journey alone among the snowy mountains. I am that sort of precious Tulku! My umbilical cord was cut at Tashi Kyil (7), I did my studies at Khyung Thil monastery at the feet of a qualified lama. I took on the ethical vows, I became completely nauseated at the prison of the samsaric world, and so became a monk! Although I am deprived of my share of dharma in this degenerate present time, I have studied the five volumes, Even though it was difficult, I reached meditative stabilization. Because I have cut the doubts of my own mind, I wander without direction among the mountains! O elderly men and women gathered here! Supplicate so that you do not have wrong views Supplicate and there will be great blessings!"
Since the Tulku's answering song was so skilled, the elderly men and women gathered there were touched, and even Akhu Geleg was moved to faith. Akhu Guru Dorje, too, listened carefully. It seemed from his expression that he had developed faith in the Tulku, however, it is difficult for anyone to guess what secrets there were in the collection of deep wrinkles on his forehead. Akhu Nyima saw the expression of Guru Dorje, and he laughed delightedly at the total victory of his own side. The Tulku's face shone with the radiance of splendor.
All of a sudden, Guru Dorje raised an important matter. "Precious Tulku! Your song is very elegant and meaningful. In Buddhism, there seem to be the four seals of view. Please give us a discourse on them, your excellency, your wisdom!"
The gathered men and women looked at one another with wide eyes. Confidently, the Tulku closed both his eyes. Shining drops of sweat trickled down his forehead. It may have been that the issue raised by Akhu Guru Dorje created a difficulty for the Tulku or simply the great heat of summer sun, but at any rate, the Tulku's face was full of sweat. Judging from far away, the Tulku's face was oily like a cat-eye gem.
The Tulku responded, "How is it possible that I, who have mastered the study of the five texts, could not know about the four seals of view? However, you old people are the sun on the mountain top, the shadow below the mountain pass. Your next life will come tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, so say mani and attain good merit. How could these seals help you?" Although a smile filled his face, the tone of his voice revealed that he was a little bit upset.
Although there were only Druk Mo and her mother, Druk Mo's house was very large. In her ancestors' time, the family was rich, but the family gradually declined during her parents' lives. Her father liked doing business, but as he didn't have a head for it, the family lost its wealth. The year of liberation, (8) Druk Mo's father served as a guide for the People's Liberation Army, but he was struck by a bandit group's arrow and died. Since he had sacrificed his own life for the revolution, the party and the people's government looked after them very well. Druk Mo's mother was skilled in managing the household, and so mother and daughter had a comfortable existence.
Druk Mo had some close friends, but they all had lots of children and so weren't able to help much. Generally in their area, even if the family lived comfortably, if there was no male head of household, other villagers disregarded it. There was now the new society, and so the powerful were not allowed to do anything like mistreat the weak. Because of ancient customs, however, sometimes difficulties arose for mother and daughter.
Druk Mo didn't rely on anyone besides her mother, and so she was very affectionate to her. Her mother, not having any children besides Druk Mo, considered her daughter better than a hundred sons and cherished her like her own heart and eyes. Druk Mo was beautiful, and so from the day she turned fifteen on, many suitors came. But her mother had only one child on which to depend, and so she did not give Druk Mo away in marriage. She did consider taking a mag pa, and even made inquiries all around. (9) Young men, however, feared that if they became a mag pa, they would lose prestige, and so they didn't listen. And so in this way, the beauty of age twenty gradually faded. Druk Mo's mother worried about her daughter, whose suffering was beyond words.
On top of that, Druk Mo's mother had taken ill one month before and was confined to her bed. And Druk Mo's suffering doubled. The previous morning, after Chamo Cham told Druk Mo about the Tulku, she went to Akhu Nyima's house to see the Tulku, who showed great concern for her mother's illness. Druk Mo told her mother, and the two of them invited the Tulku and consulted with him about doing a ritual. If the mother's illness was cured, her daughter would have someone to rely on, and they could even search for a mag pa. Who wouldn't like that? Now, since the Tulku had come to her house, there was a wide smile on Druk Mo's face, and their cold house took on a warm, soft appearance.
Just above the hearth, there was a double-folded white woolen cushion that was spread wide. A few butter lamps shone on top of the almirah, and red flames burned in the hearth, making an u ruru sound. Tasty milk tea was boiling in a copper pot.
The Tulku sat cross-legged on the double folded woolen cushion. As he recited verses to reverse disease, his two hands were folded, sometimes raised at the crown of his head, occasionally clasped at his chest, and, at least once, rubbing his knees. Since he had drunk his evening tea, the Tulku recited prayers without resting his mouth, even though his throat was about to close up. Although Druk Mo watched to memorize some of the words he said, the Tulku was saying "Lama ... Buddha.... Jewel ..." Everything he recited, except for one or two clear syllables, condensed into the sound "Om." Druk Mo didn't understand a single complete word. Now, since the Tulku was tired and his throat was about to give way, Druk Mo couldn't bear it and instructed him to take rest.
The Tulku had been waiting and wishing for a while for something like those words, since his legs had become completely numb. Right when he heard Druk Mo's words, he stretched out his crossed legs and started to rub his hands together involuntarily.
"After one week," he said, "Your mother's illness will surely be cleared away." "Precious lama, sir!" said Druk Mo's mother, even though she couldn't even raise her head.
Druk Mo offered tea in a cup with a dragon on it. "Lama, sir, please take some tea," she said.
After the Tulku quenched his thirst, he said, "Now I am going to sleep."
Druk Mo's mother said, "Lama, sir, it's too late at night! Akhu Nyima's family is probably already asleep. We also have a small wooden house, so if you don't have any doubts, precious lama, by all means, please stay tonight at our house. In my family of mother and daughter, this is the only time a lama such as yourself has come."
The Tulku was looking at Druk Mo with an expression of delight, and said, "Grandmother, you don't need to insist. I am a beggar wandering the country--wherever I stay, it's the same to me."
"Thank you, thank you!" wheezed Druk Mo's mother.
Druk Mo offered another cup of milk tea. Although her hands were rough and dirty, her face was handsome and attractive. As for the Tulku, he was like a bleating lamb. It was like the saying, "Even if you haven't eaten a Nepali pomegranate, you know the taste from just the color." From the look on the Tulku's face, you could know the secrets of his mind. Druk Mo didn't know the whether birds in the sky were male or female, but from whatever wisdom or age she had, she knew people's expressions.
The Tulku took his tea firmly and calmly, and in the same motion, took hold of Druk Mo's hand. Druk Mo, seeing this, became frightened and turned completely pale. She tried to pull back, but he didn't let go. If she didn't pull back ... oh my! She was like a hawk caught in a trap. The Tulku was perplexed, but he had an idea. In a low voice, he said, "Don't think anything, young lady. The cause of your mother's illness is this hand, and so I am about to tame it. If you obstruct me with your dishonest mind, then you can do as you like."Druk Mo was in a dilemma.
Right then, the Tulku blew on Druk Mo's hand, then slowly closed his eyes and stayed like that for a while.
Druk Mo's mother spoke up from her bed. "Druk Mo, now go make a bed for the Tulku."
It had been a week since the Tulku came to the village. The people of the village, who were honest by nature and gentle by disposition, presented him with many offerings. The faith with which the old people regarded him grew greater and greater. Among the young women, however, there were all sorts of opinions about him. There was a lot of talk and gossip about the relationship between Druk Mo and the Tulku in particular. On the way as they were fetching water, it seemed like Chamo Cham was telling Druk Mo a secret.
"If a lama breaks his vows, he will certainly fall to a hell realm"
"Don't tell lies. Where did you hear such things?"
"Haven't you heard that the public mouth holds a wisdom eye?"
"At any rate, it's too late now. It's like the saying, 'Even the Buddha can't control the public mouth.' Let them say whatever they say. If it doesn't hurt their mouths, there's no point in it burning my ear."
"Is it true what they're saying--that the Tulku is going to be your husband?"
Druk Mo nodded her head to indicate that it was true. Her face turned completely red, as if it was painted with skags. (10) The Tulku's exact words from that morning swirled in her ears.
"Dearest Druk Mo, although I am generally disgusted with this samsaric world, in modern society, one has to be a householder. Now, even important lamas and Tulkus are taking consorts. What's more, my previous incarnations also took consorts. A few days ago in my dreams, my excellent lama appeared in the sky. I dreamed that he told me that tomorrow, I would meet a good sort of dakini, and the next day, at Akhu Nyima's house, I knew it referred to you. How could a lama's prophecy be wrong? Even our meeting today is karma. You had good karmic traces, and so you invited me into your house. You attended on me well. There's no reversing the power of karma. How is it possible to erase the lines on one's forehead?
"If I'm being honest, my parents told me they had a wife for me. The woman was not beautiful at all. In my dream, there was a prophecy: 'Abandon this unsuitable wife quickly. Your karmic life partner is somewhere else.' So I abandoned that woman according to the lama's prophecy, and came here and found my karmic life partner. If you would have me, I can be your mag pa."
After Chamo Cham listened to Druk Mo repeat the Tulku's words, she said, "Oh. All's well and good if it's really like that. But--" Just then, Chamo Cham cut herself off, remembering the women's gossip about the Tulku mistreating another woman--teasing her, playing with her, and joking with her.
"Sister Chamo, if you have a problem, then tell me honestly. Why are you hesitating like that?"
"Oh, no no."
"Well then, please give this to him." Druk Mo took off her coral necklace and put it in Chamo Cham's hands.
"Give it to him. He'll know what I mean. Take care, ha ha ha!" Then, since Chamo Cham and Druk Mo had reached the gate of Druk Mo's house, Druk Mo opened the gate with a laugh and went inside.
Chamo Cham couldn't sleep all night. At first, she had faith in the Tulku. Later on, in the middle of the night, she had doubts. Now, she was angry at him. The situation of the previous evening was beyond anything imaginable.
The previous evening, Akhu Nyima and the Tulku happily discussed many things until it was late. The Tulku was about to go to sleep in the wooden house. Chamo Cham, remembering that she had to give the Tulku Druk Mo's necklace, went off after him. She reached the door and offered him the necklace. Although the Tulku saw her, he pretended that he didn't and opened the door. He lit a lantern and signaled to Chamo Cham to come inside. She went up to the door and said, "Tulku, sir. Druk Mo offers you this necklace. Tonight ..."
The Tulku took the necklace. In the same motion, he grabbed hold of Chamo Cham's hand and tried to pull her into the wooden house.
Chamo Cham cried, "A ma!" Quickly, she pulled her hand back with all her strength. Fortunately, the Tulku was not prepared for this, and so she was able to escape.
Now that she had witnessed the degenerate behavior of the Tulku, great anger arose in her mind. She felt disgusted and despairing, and so couldn't sleep the whole night. After a long while, she heard the sound of the door of the wooden house where the Tulku was sleeping open, and she couldn't think of anything besides fear.
The first cock crowed. Normally, Chamo Cham got up from her bed at the first rooster's cry. She would wash her face and hands, light a fire, clean the house, and do her various other chores. This morning, she didn't want to get up from her bed. She was filled with terror.
The second cock crowed.
"Chamo!" Mother-in-law Lhamo suspected that her daughter-in-law had fallen asleep. Even after she called twice, however, she didn't hear a response. Lhamo thought that perhaps her daughter-in-law had fallen ill, so she got up and knocked at Chamo Cham's door.
"Oh! Mother-in-law!" Chamo Cham got up as though she was recovering from a faint. She opened the door and said to Lhamo, "I fell asleep."
Ani Lhamo saw that the door of the wooden house was open. "It seems like the Tulku forgot to close the door last night," she thought. When she went over to look, she saw that the Tulku and all of his things were gone.
"Tulku!" Lhamo saw that Chamo Cham was coming, so she questioned her in a low voice.
Chamo Cham thought, "Wherever that demon went, let him go." But she also became afraid, and pointed to Druk Mo's house.
Ani Lhamo was astonished at first, but then a smile appeared on her face. "You foolish girls," she said softly, with a light tap of her fist on Chamo Cham's shoulder. "Now go make the fire."
One after the other, the women were going out to weed the fields. Chamo Cham saw Druk Mo and a few girls going in front of her. She called Druk Mo two or three times, but got no response. One of the girls in the group turned back, rubbed her cheek with her index finger in a gesture of shame and continued on her way. That girl was known in the village as a sharp tongued woman, so all the men and women didn't call her by her name, but rather "Big Mouth." Normally, Druk Mo didn't hang around with Big Mouth since they didn't get along well. Chamo Cham started to have a strange feeling. Now, seeing that Big Mouth was shaming her, Chamo Cham was angry.
"Druk Mo!" She called. "Stay there! I have something to tell you!"
"Huh! You may not be ashamed to tell me, but I'm ashamed to listen." Right as Druk Mo said this, the women all turned back and shamed Chamo Cham.
"Druk Mo! Think about your words and then say them. Chew your tsampa and then swallow it. Don't play around with people."
"A person who doesn't have shame is a dog. A dog that doesn't have a tail is a demon, really! You deceived me like a dog, and what's more ... my necklace! Huh! You thief!"
"Aren't you the one who should be ashamed? If you need the necklace, ask the Tulku yourself. Don't put a hat on someone else's head!"
"Mr. Wolf ate the delicious meat, but he blamed Mrs. Fox--that's the proverb for you! Having eaten the tsampa yourself, don't put the bag on someone else's head!"
"If you feed a stallion in the morning, in the evening, the kindness is repaid with a kick. That proverb explains you just right. It's better not to repay beer with water and tea with urine."
"The tea you've given me is more bitter than poison, you shameless one! Give me my necklace!"
"Brazen woman! Go! Go ask your Tulku to his face!"
"The Tulku is mine--whether you like it or not, whether you die miserably or not. Who can meet face to face with someone who is gone? Don't be hasty. When your husband Tsering comes back, I'll meet you face to face. And then when I expose you, we'll be able to see whether you can boast like this. The Tulku will return tomorrow or the day after. Who did you give Tsering's sheepskin coat to, eh? Hah!"
Then all of the women shamed Chamo Cham.
Chamo Cham was infuriated--her heart was about to come up into her throat. Crying, she returned home. When she went into the wooden house to look, she saw that Tsering's sheepskin coat was indeed not there. Seeing that the lock of the red box wasn't closed properly, she opened it quickly. And when she looked ... Oh no! The previous year's allotment of over three hundred yuan was also missing. She looked and looked and thought and thought--how could she explain to Tsering that something like this had happened? "Tulku, you thief! Even if I bite the top of your heart, it would be difficult to clear the pain of mine." Right then, Chamo Cham fainted away.
A month is a fairly short period of time, but for Chamo Cham, it felt as long as a year. For that month, the topic of conversation of every person in the village was Chamo Cham. The rumors pierced her ears and the public gossip squeezed her heart. It was as if a poisoned sword sliced though all of her organs. "She had an affair with the Tulku!" "She stole Druk Mo's necklace!" "She gave away Tsering's coat as a lover's token!" Such gossip and unearned blame grew and grew, spreading like wind through the village.
"Daughter-in-law, don't be upset. We two old folks don't pay attention to those rumors. We don't know how they could say you are that kind of person. Even when Tsering hears the rumors, we're sure he won't believe them. Don't be sad."
These words of her father and mother-in-law were deeply consoling to Chamo Cham, but the gossip of the village outside tortured her mind immeasurably. During that month, whenever she went to fetch water, she didn't have the confidence to walk with her head held high. When she did community work, also, she couldn't raise her head. Every time the rumors reached her ears, she thought terrible thoughts. "There would be nothing better than to die right now." She had more affection for her father and mother-in-law than ever, and cherished her son Dorje. The completion of her hopes rested on him. If, when her husband returned and she explained the situation to him honestly, he didn't believe her, she would figure out what to do, she thought.
"Mother! Father is here!"
Chamo Cham rose with a mixture of joy and sorrow and ran to the gate. She saw the loving smile on his face and the reflection of trust shining from his eyes and was deeply moved. Undeterred by the presence of her father and mother-in-law, she jumped into Tsering's arms.
The men and women of the village had gathered at Akhu Nyima's family's gate.
Druk Mo held Tsering's sheepskin coat in her hand as she stood to the side. There was a smile on her face. Akhu Nyima's hands, however, held the halter rope of a donkey. Druk Mo, knowing that it was her own family's donkey hired twenty days previously by the Tulku to carry his luggage, thought, "Why is that?" The men who had been working on the road were looking at her with eyes of hatred. And then she understood.
Tsering went up to Druk Mo without saying anything, snatched his sheepskin coat from her hands, and carried it away. He gave Chamo Cham a wink and handed the coat to her. The assembled people grew silent. Druk Mo's family's donkey brayed, and Akhu Nyima put down its halter rope. The donkey, waggling its ears, ran towards its master--Druk Mo--then ran off directly to Druk Mo's family's house.
"The copper statue?" Tsering asked, with a mixture of anger and pity.
"Uh ... what copper statue?" Druk Mo asked desperately, as though she were repeating him.
Then the police chief, who had also come, spoke up, trying hard to be delicate. "Oh, Druk Mo. The Tulku you were hoping for is now in custody at the county police station. He is definitely not a real Tulku. He travels around and deceives people--he is a bad man who does every kind of evil. He puts on the outer clothing of dharma, then violates both law and tradition. As he is accustomed to evil action, you all suffered under his deceit. It's sad, really."
Looking at Akhu Nyima, the policeman continued to explain.
"When we implement the party's policy of religious freedom, you must distinguish well between friends and enemies. That evil man stole Akhu Nyima's copper statue and gave it to Druk Mo as a souvenir. He carried off Druk Mo's necklace and gave it to some girl in another village. The policeman pulled out the coral necklace. "You foolish woman! Why would you give away a necklace worth more than five hundred yuan? The young men of the village are angry with you." He tossed the necklace to Druk Mo.
The young men of the village began to laugh. It was not an insulting or sarcastic laugh, but rather a laugh born of concern and faith.
Druk Mo's face turned completely red. She covered it with her hands and ran towards her house.
"Druk Mo! Bring back my copper statue!" Akhu Nyima called playfully.
"The money, still, the money ..."
Tsering understood the meaning of Druk Mo's words, and said, "Oh, here it is. Everything is fine." He patted a pocket on his waist.
All of a sudden, Akhu Guru Dorje said, "Lapsed monk! I am a Bonpo tantrika (11)--am I not better than your Tulku?"
"Shut your mouth, you old tantrika. Didn't you hear the policeman say he wasn't really a Tulku? And if he was a Tulku, it seems like he'd be a part of your tantrika lineage."
The gathered crowd laughed at this debate--even the policeman. "Enough, enough! Lapsed monk, old tantrika, you two are like the meeting of a dog and a goat. According to party policy, partisans of different religious traditions must respect one another and are not allowed to condemn each other. If you have faith, have faith in your own tradition." When he reached this point in the speech, the policeman assumed a serious expression and said a proverb to emphasize the most important point. "But the sad lesson of this instance should not be forgotten by anyone."
The gathered crowed accepted the advice, nodding their heads. There was a tearcoming down from Chamo Cham's eye.
(1.) Cow-yak hybrid.
(2.) Lit. grass fire (rtswa sreg). A footnote in the original story explains that the grass fire is for making go-re.
(3.) The story takes place after the Cultural Revolution, when restrictions to religious freedom are slowly being lifted.
(4.) sngags pa. This paragraph doesn't explicitly identify him as a Bonpo, but this is made clear later in the story.
(5.) Body, speech, and mind.
(6.) Mountain behind Samye.
(7.) bkrashis 'khyil, in Amdo.
(9.) Normally, a bride moves in with her husband's family, but if a family has no sons, they can try to get a bridegroom who will move into the wife's family home, known as a mag pa. This is usually a later-born son who wouldn't otherwise be able to inherit much. While this was perfectly acceptable, it seems to have been seen as somewhat emasculating.
(10.) A red paste used to protect the face from the sun.
(11.) Lit. says rnying ma pa, referring to the rNying ma school of Tibetan Buddhism, but the story has established that he is a Bonpo. rNying mas and Bonpos are both often associated with older tantric methods and opposed to Gelukpa scholasticism.
Translated by Kate Hartmann and SangyeTendar Naga
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|Publication:||The Tibet Journal|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2013|
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