Chapter One: The Lesson of Attention
He was tall of height and slim of waist , his legs lean and long , his strides assured and steady as he paced around on the courtyard as if looking for something on the floor . He had beads , a Mala in his hands , as he twisted and turned his figures doing his morning Jaapa . I had waited long for the Dalai Lama , three days in Dharamshala it was he I was most eager to meet . As I kept my camera close to me , to take pictures of the many monks who resided in this monastery . But my eyes came back again and again to witness this rather tall and lean monk , who seems to be in. A bit of a hurry . He took three circles around the courtyard often mumbling to himself as if he was reciting some great Buddhist Shloka . The cemented corridors where a bit empty today , I was told the the great man was a bit of wether and will not be able to give his daily sermon today , the ceremony was postponed for another day. I felt at ease now , the tension of seeing the great man had evaporated . I kept my camera bag on a ledge and sat down on a wooden bench that faced the massive courtyard , by back was now facing the mountains of maclaud ganj as the sun came up from the eastern sky.
Its as still cold and the air was fresh and breezy . I gazed back again at the monk of the courtyard as he kept taking his rounds , his strides long yet steady as he mumbled the mart’s to himself . His shloka’s vibrated in the air as he moved from one edge of the monastery to the other edge , his eyes lowered as if staring at the floor , his gaze was not on his surroundings , but turned inwards with in himself . It’s as if he was not searching for anything outside but looking for answers from within . I was fascinated by him , he wore the traditional maroon robe with a yellow and orange shawl raped around himself . He wore black leather shoes which helped him too walk briskly around the courtyard .
One , two , three he kept talking his rounds at times he would stop abruptly and step towards the giant wishing wheel which adorned the entrance of the courtyard . All of a sudden with a sudden jerk of the head he would look at the wishing well and then smile , and even laugh as if to say , that he had found what he was looking for . He would then violently move his hands around the metal cylinder and twist and turn it with all his might , with all the power that came from his shoulders . The wheel was red in colour with yellow and green marking , it was littered with Buddhist text , sone ancient mart’s and sutra’s where inscribed on it .These were chants of good luck and of happiness , anyone who twisted the wheel will be blessed by the heavens . The Monk wanted his share of the blessings it seemed . So he pushed and pushed the wheel till it went round and round and round on it’s merry way . The monk had to keep pace with the wheel and his long stride’s turned into a rhythmic dance . He was ecstatic and screamed with joy as the wheel whizzed passed his ears , his hands running and rotating it with great haste .He had more then made up for the wishes he could collect in a life time .
Then with sheer exhaustion he stopped to take a breath . I started at him and then my eyes ran to the other end of the courtyard , where two teenage bhikshus sat with bald heads staring at the sky . The sun was out and some folks sleeping on mate’s and old quilts got up steadily to usher the morning . Again the routine would start , the route of life . The mad monk by now had sat down on the floor , as he pressed his feet , he was tired for sure . So many rounds he had taken in the morning , his mediation and kappa’s where complete . He had made all his wishes and now he was ready to face the day . I sat on the bench and stared at the play in-front of me , at times taking pictures and at times contemplating the fate of the monks and the people who lived in the monastery . The office block was still shut and would remain so , their was no task today from the Lama , and no chance of seeing Richard Gear . But for me it was the madness of the monk that got my attentions , as a slowly plodded word the exit gate of the monastery , i was no doubt frisked by the two police men at the exit . The security is tight here , the Lama is a known figure and a potential target , he needs security at all times .
My Mad Monk as if on cue mad his way behind me , as I walked down the steep slope out side the monastery which was littered with tea shops ,selling bread , bun and thupka .” You seem to be new here , are you from the city .” The mad monk inquired as I stared across at one of the tea stall , he tapped me on the shoulder and extended his hand as if to shake and greet me . I responded in kind and we formed a connection of mutual trust and understanding .” I am Tenzing from Tibet now I live here in the monastery with the Holiness .”he smiled and he said this , he had established that he was a local Monk and knew the place well .” I am a teacher and I teach the ancient religion go Bon , it is very old very very old .” He said gleefully as if trying his best to get my attention .My eyes constantly aired at the horizon overlooking the valley and the mountains .People had started coming out of their houses and shop owners Bagan trekking torsos their shops , some selling artefacts , some robes and the others book’s . Their was a bakery and continental breakfast joint on the left , some Americans seems to be enjoying eggs and sausages their .” You have been here two days , looking for the holiness , but o luck today . No problem you meet me , I will teach you all about Bon and how unlike you we do not burn our dead .” He said with a set augured look , but how did he know my religion , I could be a muslim or a Christian or a Jew or a Zoroastrian , hell people could take me as an Egyptian also . He no bout saw the Mala of Rudraksha warped around my neck , he would have known that I was Shiva’s child .The Rudraksha had given it away , he knew I was a Hindu . “ Great how did you guess that we burn our dead , how did you know i was a Hindu .” I tried to entice him into telling me more .” Well the Mala , it is the rudrakhsha beads , you worship Shiva . He is as ancient as Bon , the Adi yogi the greatest Monk .” He knew what he was talking about and almost transported me to a time beyond time .
“ No ! In Bon we just leave our dead around the mountain side to be eaten by dog’s and birds , the bodies go back to dust the way they should , you see many wild dogs around the mountains they have all teated blood .” Hw posted his fingers towers the distant mountain peaks . To me he looked more lie a Shaman , he wore a blue woollen cap on his head and had two cheerful dimples on either cheeks .” We also et our dead , you know the aghodi’s eat dead bodies to purify their should , in-fact they live near the dead inside the cremation ground , they survive on the ghats and the alms given to them by the relatives of the dead .’ I tried to form a connection .” Then Bon is not so much different then the ancient Hindu Vedic Practices .Do you guys believe in an afterlife or do believe in re brith .” I wanted his two bit now .The Monk tired to steady himself and then took out his Mala from a deep pocket buried inside his robe , which was almost falling from his waist .” We believe in samsara , brith death and then rebirth the cycle continues . What did you think I was doing going round and round the courtyard , the wishing wheel it is the symbol of the samsara the cosmic reality that just goes round and round .” He moved his hands elaborately to form circles , and then moved them anti clock wise as if to make sure I got the point of the circular nature of existence .
The sun had been beating down fora while and the market place was abuzz with tourists and locals alike .” I am hungry , and I need to charge my camera . Come we have some tea and noodles .’ I asked Tenzing to follow me to the near by tea stall . We sat on a narrow wooden bench , Tehri were plastic chairs and a few worn out tables . A old Tibetan women was making tea while her young sun filled water into a metal pot , no doubt it would be used for making noodles later.Their Tibetan flag plastered on the wall’s with ancient buddhist scripts transcribed on the roof of the tea stall . I sat comfortably with Tenzin at times watching the TV , they were playing some old footage , where a sermon was being given by Karmapa Lama , he is second in like of the thrown .I felt distracted almost wanting my smooch to stop it’s rumble , I mean we could wait to discuss religious philosophy , before that I need my food .” You are very impatient , you see in life only good things come to those who wait , you need to wait for results , for fruits of your efforts , it’s like making fine wine or whisky , you neat a raging process , slow maturing process and then the delicate tastes and juices will appear .” He said as he picked up his cup of tea to take the first sip .” I know my mind is like a monkey keeps jumping up and down and round and round from one tree branch to another . I do deep breathing to stay my self and to calm things down .” I explained to Tenzing the deep breathing technique . He stood up and gazed at me as I huffed and puffed and turned my stomach first filling it with air and then deflating .” You are an expert , a Shiva Bhakta no doubt you have control on your breath .” He then clapped his hand and said “ You are as mad as me , your deep breathing technique very funny , I like it .” Tenzing looked at times to please me , I could not figure out who was entertains who . My eyes moved toward the the edge of the stall the old Tibetan lady came up and offered me a plate of biscuits which I gladly had , dipping it into my cup of tea .” Tenzing what a famous name it was the great Nepali Sherpa who took Edmond Hillary right on top of mount Everest .
I also meet you on top of this mountain , you have greatness in your name my friend .” I again tried to form some sort of connection between me and the mad Buddhist monk who specialised in Bon religion .” You see God is not some one sitting up their , he is all around us , the plant , the bird the dongs the humans all living beings are his manifestation . But we do not see this reality as we are restricted with in our humans form which has boundaries , the reality is boundless .” It seems that my Bon master Tenzing was just warming up for a lecture ,” Oh! Yes once you realise that you are limitless and not lim tied by the body , that is when real freedom enters your soul , that is when you can really feel free and full of existence itself .” He wanted to go on and waited to see weather I showed any interest in his words .” I know that feeling I use to get that feeling while doing the laughing meditation . But one has to eat and live , one has to work and thus one has to come back to the boundaries of the human body . “ I tried to explain a bit exasperated , as I realised the limitedness of the human form . Some how we humans have always wanted to be limitless , boundless and be more then what we perceive to be .” Here I give you this book , it is the scripts of Bon , you will get great philosophical knowledge through it .” Tenzing tried to peddle his book to me , I had already spent Rs 50 on his tea and biscuits and now he wanted me to spend Rs 100 on the book .” Yes even a Monk has to eat , all living creatures have to eat .” He looked at me as if wanting my sympathy .I took out a note and stuffed it in his hand , he looked at me with joy and took my hand ,” Come I take you back to the wishing wheel , make your wish with my blessings it will come true .” We stormed out of the tea stall and slowly tried up the narrow by lanes of the hill back in to the monastery courtyard , by now it was well past noon .The wishing wheel sacred at us as Tenzing moved his Hands around it and then slowly pushed it so as to generate a steady rotation .” Come come oh! Shiva Bhakta as what your hearts desire and it will be done .” He was eager that I make a wish .” I wish to meet his holiness before I leave this ancient valley .” It was as if the energies whirling around the wheel would make my wish come true .
I looked around to see the Monk , but he had vanished , I turned to the court yard and walked up a flight of stairs , their was a bit of Panic in my hear as I lost site of my ancient Bon friend , but soon I found him . “ Tenzing show me the golden Buddha , I am told it’s one of a kind .” Tenzing turned around and looked behind my head m he pointed to the stature which almost stared at me from the adjacent . Yes this was the golden Buddha , I at once prostrated in-front of it and did it almost a dozen times to give my respect in the traditional Buddhist way . I was almost panting but as I gained my senses after the prayer , I lost site of Tenzing again .
I walke down the same flight of steps and walked on the edges of the court yard the two teenage Bhikhu’s sat by the side , now they seem to be engrossed reading from pages of some ancient text . They kept chanting and moving their hands up and down lining forwards and then backwards in a rhythmic movement , muttering their shloka’s that they red out from the text . The buzz reversed in the air as I came closer to them the sound are clearer and sharper . They took no notice of me , they were consecrating their energies on their breath and on the words that came out of their mouth . I almost lost myself seeing these tender beings so engrossed in there daily rituals and practices . It’s as if I had lost time , I felt no need to look for Tenzing , I assure he is here somewhere , my panic had subsided as I stood mesmerised by the two bald teenage Bhikshu’s , who still had not noticed me .
‘ Hey ! Shankara , shhh. Shhh. Here I am here .” A sound awoke me from my trance as looked down my shoulder it was my mate Tenzing smiling away “ See see even I have Shiva now with me .’ He waved a Mala full of Rudraksha beads , it looked familiar to me , I looked closer , yes I had seen this Mala some where , it was Paanch Mukhi the Mala with the five hated Rudrakhsa beads . I realised that it was mine , yes it was my Mala .
Immediately my hand went around my neck as I looked down to see if I was wearing mine still , to my amazement it was gone , yes my Mala had disappeared from my neck . Hell Tenzing had whisked it off me , jus taken it from around my neck .” This is the magic of Bon , this is natures magic , you Mala is here in my had .” He dangled the holy Mala in-front of my face .Tenzing had stolen it while we were engrossed in conversation , but when , how ,where man this guy was a smooth criminal .” I have many tricks my friend this is just the being , see you did not even know that it was gone , taken from you unaware , you had no clue I had whisked it off you .” He pored and laughed at his slight of hand , this man was not only a Bon monk he was a magician of sorts and he had tucked me of my Mala .
“ But when did you take it , I was clueless , you are smooth and so are your bag of tricks .’ I wanted an answer an explanation .” Easy while I was pushing the wheel and you are making your wish , you were so engrossed in prayer , you did not realise it was gone , I had removed it from your neck , it’s and ancient Bon trick only comes with hard practice .” He smiled , this man kew his craft .” You are a Mad monk first you run around in circles , then. You circle around wishing wheels , then you disappear and reappear with my Mala .You seems more like a ghost then a Bon Monk ’ I said intrigued by Tenzing’s mannerisms.
‘“Well I have a great man’s name and I can do great magic tricks this is just the being , in-fact this was my first lesson to you about The ancient faith of Bon . The lesson is attention , you lost attention and therefore lost sight of your Mala . Attention is of paramount importance , whatever you give attention will grow and what ever you take attain lion away from will fall out of your world , by given attention you can create and recreate your own world over and over again as and how you please .” Tenzing thus explained the First and Primary concept of Bon it’s First lesson the lesson of attention.