Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Lay Nun At Drakarpo

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.


  1. Sigh*** You alone will be able to think twice.

    I wish to agree at certain points of your story, if and only if we knew what best it is to hold onto our beliefs and faith. But you seem to be hoarding on to your own axis of rationality and sensibility.

    I like the old woman!

  2. Hi Hiding My Heart With A Smile,
    I am not sure anymore --- I get the feeling that religion has a tendency to rob the very best of people of their rationality and sensibility :)

  3. The old woman was just being sentimental. The whole drama wasn't conclusive of her character, forgive her- but at 85 we would hardly have rationality or sensibility let alone sense of humor. So next time you should make better choice...lol

  4. May be the old lady was testing you! You should have run after her you know. On a serious note, sometimes I think it is the religious ones who have more stronger Ngajey's and whatever. Sometimes someone becomes too "learned" and ego creeps in and along with it all kinds of problems. Again, seriously, you should have run after the old lady. Sonam

  5. haha how true most of us we prayer, meditate and at the end we come out as self same ole person. Are the prayers and years of meditation for pomp and popularity? Interestingly narrated. And really liked the last paragraph. In fact this article should be in kuensel(print media).


  6. Hi PaSsu and Sonam

    Seriously, I am not a religious person in the conventional sense. But I do agree that religion and its practice has a vital role in human development. What science cannot convince, religion can! It is a medium that, if exploited in a proper way, can be a very effective vehicle for propagating ideas and concepts.

    Yet, a large number of people - very smart and intelligent people at that - do very stupid things in the name of religion. People seem to loose their objectivity when it comes to religion.

    Look at our very, very religious act of banning meat during the first month of the Bhutanese calendar. It does not achieve anything useful - in fact, what it does achieve is the hastening of the slaughter process. As a result of the month long ban, animals are slaughtered one month ahead of their time because the meat vendors increase the stock many fold just before the start of the ban period. They know from experience that the meat eaters are going to stock up for the entire period of the ban.

    Is there a religious explanation to this? How is it meritorious to bring about the slaughter of animals one month ahead of their time? On the other hand, aren’t we causing health problems to people who are forced to consume meat that is not hygienically stored?

    I think there is a need to rationalize our beliefs.

  7. Hi Epoch
    Immey se - it is like putting your garment in the washing machine for cleaning - and finding that it came out all stained and discolored :)

  8. Yeshey, agree with you totally regarding the meat ban. It's so hypocritical. Must be the idea of those who wanted to appear supporting meat ban but cannot do without meat!

  9. With due respect sir, the old woman is totally right in what she has said to you (if you can open up from 'your own axis of rationality and sensibility' as SMILE has rightly pointed.) I am just being direct. No offense is intended pls. : )

  10. Hi Annon
    Rite ... I think the butchers and the meat eaters are committing higher level of sin by cutting short the lives of the animals :) :)

  11. Hi Linchen
    Ofcourse the old woman is right - but only if I was serious. I was joking and I have no intension of giving Wangs or Choe to earn land and yaks. In any event, the Parops are not so stupid to come and receive Wang and Choe from me.

  12. I was UWICE who commented on Gongyul lhakhang. I thought i signed in even during my second post, but looks like i didn't.....

    I would totally agree with you. "Religion", instead of making people calm and developing more resistance to hurting words, tends to make people more conservative and egoistic. I think, you were not wrong in trying to bring some smile in old woman's face (afterall it was "humanly" gesture from your end), it was her fault for not understanding the inside meaning of your words despite her long meditation...SAD. Such situation leads one to wonder, doesn't practicing religion makes people simple and broad minded.
    I would like to make myself clear here that, I believe in religion but not a big fan, believing in anything and who believes in "CHILD WORSHIP"....i don't believe in LAMA'S who always hunts for greener areas be it, women, wealth etc. But, i think, people who spend time meditating but possessing wild characters makes one to reconsider the belief.

    I reiterate you were not wrong.

  13. Hi Sangay

    OK ... now I got you. When you sign in as Sangay, I recognize you - UWICE is someone I did not connect with. I tried to view details of UWICE, but it showed nothing.

    I totally agree. People’s logic beats me! You know one time, I saw a bunch of people stoning a gang of wolves or foxes - I do not know what. It was above Ura in Bumthang. The wolves or foxes or wild dogs had cornered a deer and was just about getting their teeth into it. These people were trying to chase away the predators so that they could save the deer.

    So I stopped my car and told them to stop their idiocy. They stared at me in disbelief. They said that the deer was about to be eaten up by the predators. So what I said. They said, how can we watch when the deer is about to be eaten up?

    That is the logic of the religious people. They forget that the deer is the natural food of the wolves and foxes and the wild dogs. The deer is essential for their nourishment and survival. They forget that they have a birth right to eat the deer. In their twisted logic, it is OK for them to deprive these predators of their natural food - but they think that they have earned great merit by sparing the life of the deer. Is that correct - to derive one so that the other may live? Why is human intervention necessary? Why can’t we allow natural order of things to run their course? Human beings cannot upset the natural order of things. It is when we attempt to do so, we have problems.

  14. Yeah! you are right.

    Our religious minded people believe to accrue "DEU KARP" from Lhakarpo when ever they save creatures from the mouth of dead. People don't remember the simultaneous accrual of DEU NAP by depriving some body from their deserved food. I personally feel that such topic should be open to debate.
    Human interventions has always disturbed the smooth functioning of food chain, resulting in "Human wildlife conflict" over time.

  15. Yeshey, if only everyone had the sanity to be as rational as you! I think we are by nature paradoxica; either torn between the necessary and the not so necessary, good and evil, right and wrong or not recognizing one over the other, something like that...lol