Death…Buddhists believe, is not the end of life. It is the beginning of another journey whose path is designated by the way you have led your past life. I shelved the message somewhere at the back of my mind.
When the face of death is lined with years of life, people say, “it was time”. When the face of death has no trace of time, people say, “it was fate”. At such time, I came empty handed wherever I looked for a recess because somewhere along the way, I had lost the precious gift of faith.
There were always plenty of excuses in mundane significances. No efforts made at taking pause. The temples on the top of the hills were retreating. Personal connections made in a moment of prayer were lost. Values starting to get over-ridden with borrowed opinions. I started to look for refuge in the shelved message for something to desperately believe in. Anything that would give a semblance of reason to why a handsome young man…full of dreams, loving and loved…should stop living. Anything that would say that the dusts floating with the river down the valley would come back again. Anything but a full stop.
The wheel of life is a circle. Not a corridor. Where you are born inside the circle is determined by how you have lived. The circle has an exit into the abode of the enlightened. Till then, you live inside the loop, born and reborn. The tortoise had, in another time, turned away a person in need of shelter. A dead moth on a butter lamp had, in another time, indulged in gluttony. In essence, be a good human being.
And while this law of cause and effect cannot be proved in a test tube, it has given my mother the strength to deal with a parent’s ultimate test in endurance. A strength that can only be had by a person with faith to believe that life goes on after death. And that in another place, her son would be born again to bring as much happiness as he had brought us.
Then there is another beautiful belief that my mother holds on to, and that has brought her glimmer of solace.
It is believed that there exists a sphere for the ‘lesser’ Gods in the circle of rebirth. While these gods are blessed with happiness beyond what one experiences in the animal sphere, they have not attained enlightenment. In that way, they have not broken away from the cycle of life and death, but their accumulated karma assures them a happier place for a long, long time. The span of day and night in the sphere of these gods are believed to be counted in years. They lie awake for 25 years, and sleep for the same number of years.
Sometimes, while asleep, these gods come into animal sphere. It is a short dream. In that dream, they are born here, they grow up here, and they live to be 25. At 25, their time is up. They wake up to another life. A more beautiful life.
2004 is the year of the Wood Male Monkey. A handsome young man turned 25 on the Bhutanese New Year, 21st February. One and half months later, he woke up in the realm of the gods.
Faith in this belief is powerful enough to give strength to the grieving. My shelved message has for too long gathered dust because I was too busy going through life accumulating totally forgettable facts and figures.
(Tashi Pem works for HELVETAS in Thimphu. She is not only a very accomplished writer but also a well known singer. Her song " Hey Love" sung with Sonam Dorji is one of the favourites of many young people)