As I sat sipping hot tea on a clearing atop Lhakhang Drakarpo above Shaba in Paro, my horse contractor by my side, I saw an old lady of about 85 wobble up the steep incline; her back was bent with age and burdens unknown; her weather-beaten face was creased with lines of hardship and toil. Surprisingly for her age, she had a head full of hair which was pure gray.
I had been hiking for the past 5 hours - first on a straight line from Boemri to Dongkala and then straight downhill on my way to Shaba where I would end my 2-weeks long Druk Path Trek. I should have ended my trek at Taa Dzong had I taken the traditional route. However, I had heard such glowing reports about Boemri (Altitude: 3,831 Mtrs.) that I decided to veer off from Jele Dzong towards Boemri.
I spent one night at Boemri, which, by the way, I am told should be pronounced Boed-Mo-Richen; meaning Mighty Mountain of the Tibetan Lady. The hermit I spoke to at the Ngephug Drupkhang tells me that the Tibentan lady in question was named Ekazathri. Now, I am not sure if he is mispronouncing the name Ekajati - a powerful goddess in the Tibetan mythology.
The old lady invited us to her hermitage for a cup of tea. She said that she was under Tsam (meditation) for the past many years. I declined the offer since I told her that I am already having tea, as she could see, whereupon the following conversation ensued:
“So, where are you gentlemen coming from? Are you here to visit the Lhakhang?”
“No, we are coming down from Dongkala Lhakhang”
"Ahh … so, karmi phuewa iina?”
“No, I went there to take photos of the Lhakhang and the surrounding areas”
“Ahh … so how many monks did you see there at Dongkala?"
“About 5 of them”
“Ahh … the rest must have gone to the Bjangsa to take a head count of their heard of yaks”
“Herd of Yaks? They have yaks?”
“Yes they do and quiet a large number of them”
“So how did monks end up owning yaks?”
“There is a practice of devout people offering land and animals to Lhakhangs. This way, the Dratsangs can generate some bit of income to support themselves while the devotees can earn huge merit for their after life”
“Wai iina, that is a dang good idea. Why didn’t I think of this before? I think I too will come and give Wang & Choe to the people of Paro and they can offer me plenty of yaks and land. You think that is a good idea, Aangey?
That did it! The old lady flew into a rage. She demanded to know whether I was made of the stuff that Lamas are made of. She wanted to know about my lineage, my upbringing and whether I knew the scriptures enough to perform Choe and give Wang. Frothing at the mouth, she cursed me that I was a shameless, faithless person. She waved her frail fingers at my face and accused me of being a Sodey Soenam kamkambi gii mii.
She wobbled off in a huff, leaving me flummoxed and speechless. God Almighty! it was intended as a light hearted joke to give her a few laughs. Where was the need for her to fly off her handle? Isn’t she a person of religion? Doesn’t meditation teach her to be calm and collected; to subdue her anger and her greed and her attachment to material things? Isn’t the conquest and suppression of a person’s Ngajey and Thradong at the core of the practice of meditation?
As the old lady disappeared from view, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of sadness. She may have spent years in a hermitage, but it was obvious that her journey towards enlightenment hadn’t even begun yet. Eighty five years of life lived in ignorance and misconception and yet, she will pass into oblivion - a misguided soul to the end - unable and unwilling to see the light of day.