Thursday, August 27, 2009

THE GIFT OF DEVOTION

(Until the establishment of formal education system in Bhutan in later half of the twentieth century, education in Bhutan was limited to few privileged ones in the monasteries which was run by monks and few learned scholars. Since the disciples mostly lived with the master, they often had to work in their master’s field as they studied. )

…the spring had finally arrived and amidst the splendour of fragrance and colours, the lives began to renew itself. There was a hope clothed in dream and the dream bathed in unknown measure of life.

…leaving behind the uncertainties, life still had to be led even if it meant in odd measures of time for everyone. So it says that in a place called Ritsang Dung, some three hours journey from Tashigang Dzong, people were getting ready to live with the times.

The plantation of the paddies had already started in the village. The farm hands arrived from neighbors and relatives. They sang in tune with the rhythmic splashes of the mud under their feet and very often threw mud balls to each other exciting surprises and shrill cries. If this meant life, people were never old enough to play.

Happy times went by, and soon the rain announced the arrival of the summer. There were dreams of bountiful crops that would last them through the next harvest. Each drop of rain trickled happiness.

An old master who lived in a lone hermitage on the top of the hill with his twenty disciples also shared this dream. One day as they sat down to have dinner, he said to them, “ look children, we have to earn our lives again.”

So every evening after the day’s lesson, two disciples went down to their master’s paddy field, which was about half an hour walk down hill to course the stream into it. They would return to the hermitage after the work, close their day with prayer and then go to sleep.

Summer swelled the stream with bountiful rain and soon the paddy turned gold from green, and the plants bent low with its own weight. The melody of harvest could be here any moment because the breath of autumn was everywhere. The orchards smelled of ripe apples, and the ground was cushioned with falling leaves. Wind whistled silence and grandmother sang spontaneously as she prepared ara for the tired souls coming home after the work. But happy times are like our own shadows that scare us in the darkness and the heaven above, if not charmed like a snake can sour the milk and lives alike.

It was nearing dusk. Inside the hermitage, Kelsey and Jurme watched the heavy drop of rain fall outside as they muttered verses from the old sutra and tried to memorize it. As the vision blurred and the disciples began to strain the eyes trying to find words on the hand encrypted deysho paper, the priest dispersed the class for the day but Kelsey and Jurme had a duty to fulfil. It was their turn to course the stream to their master’s field.

Kelsey and Jurme, both aged twelve years looked like a raw cane shoot just blooming up because of their thin stature. Clad in monk’s robe, they had left home, parents and relatives in search of wisdom at a very tender age of four. At that age their friends still sat on their mother’s lap, while Kelsey and Jurme had started finding holes in the realities of life. They have been given the bare taste of reality and they have learnt to earn it a hard way.
That night they carried banana leaves in one hand and spade in another and ran past the grassy edge of the path trying to avoid the muddy patches, which caused an itch between the toes. When they reached the field, breath stole their soul away. The water in the terrace had escaped breaking the mud walls and the duty demanded that they repair the mud walls at the earliest to avoid more damage.

Kelsey and Jurme struggled without shade to replace the falling mud walls. There was the tempest of the God at its grandest peak and the efforts of the two frail disciples did not match it. By the midst of the night, fear took possession of their mind. Jurme stood between wrath and despair. The teardrops were lost amidst the raindrops on the small worn out cheeks.

Jurme picked up the spade and made up his mind to return to the hermitage while Kelsey simply stood mute refusing to go back. The shame that he might face in front of his master trying to explain of unfulfilled duty left him mute. Jurme in a fit of anger left without a word and Kelsey stood there watching him go.

Kelsey picked up the spade and started replacing the falling mud wall of the terrace but each time the strong gush of water washed away everything. When the energy inside him deserted too, he had one thing to offer and that was himself. He folded his small hands into a lotus and offered his last prayer and placed himself between the washed off mud wall and slept there blissfully.

When Jurme returned with his master and other mates, there was a perfect peace on Kelsey’s face. The angels had lifted him to the heaven where his little devotion had earned him a place there.

The next day, the pyre of sandalwood was set ablaze. The old master kissed Kelsey’s feet and declared that it was the best gift that any soul be it in heaven or mortal’s world would envy to receive. The rainbow cast its final tribute as the rain fell mild and humble even as the Sun stood strong against the jealousy of wind.

… another Spring had arrived and amidst the splendour of fragrance and colours, the lives began to renew itself. There was a hope clothed in dream and the dream bathed in unknown measure of life….