Monday, September 30, 2013

If you harm, you are harmed ~ Story from one of the Buddha’s past lives

The Buddha shared this story to the children several thousand of years ago. This story is an edited excerpt from Old Path, White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Buddha took birth or the form of earth, plants, humans, birds and many other animals for many thousand years prior to his present birth as human. 

It’s the story of heron, a crab, a plumeria tree, and many small shrimp and fish. Here, the heron was a wicked and deceitful creature who caused death and suffering to many other beings. The heron made suffering to the plumeria tree too, Buddha was the plumeria tree. He learned from the incidence – if you deceive and harm others, in turn, you will be deceived and harmed.

Buddha was the plumeria tree growing close to a fragrant, cool lotus pond. No fish dwelled in that pond but not far from that pond was a shallow and stagnant pond in which many fish and shrimp and a crab lived. A heron flying overhead upon seeing the crowded situation of the fish and shrimp devised a plan. Hence, he landed at the edge of their pond and stood there with a long, sad face.

The fish and shrimp asked “Mister Heron, what are you thinking about so seriously?” Heron replied “I’m thinking about your poor lot in life. Your pond is muddy and foul. You lack adequate food. I feel terrible pity for your hard lives.” The small creatures asked heron if he could be of any help. 

Heron said “Well, if you allow me to carry each one of you over to the lotus pond not so far from here, I could release you in the cool waters there. There is plenty to eat over there.”

“We would like to believe you Mister Heron, but we have never heard that herons care anything about the lot of fish or shrimp. Perhaps you only want to trick us in order to eat us up.”

“Why are you so suspicious? You should think of me as a kind uncle. I have no reason to deceive you. There really is a large lotus pond not far from here filled with plenty of fresh, cool water. If you don’t believe me, let me fly one of you over there to see for himself. Then I’ll fly him back to tell you whether or not I’m telling the truth.”

The shrimp and fish discussed the matter at some length before at last agreeing to allow one of the elder fish to go with the heron. The fish was tough and bristly, his scales as hard as stones. He was a swift swimmer who could also maneuver well on sand. The heron picked him up in his beak and flew him to the lotus pond. He released the old fish into the cool waters and let him explore every nook and cranny of the pond. The pond was indeed spacious, cool, refreshing, and a plentiful source of food. When the heron returned him to the old pond, the fish reported all he had seen.

Convinced of the heron’s good intentions, the shrimp and fish begged him to fly them to the pond one by one. The crafty heron agreed. He picked up a fish in his beak and flew off. But this time, instead of releasing the fish into the pond, he landed near the plumeria tree. He placed the fish in a fork of the tree and ripped off its flesh with his beak. He tossed its bones by the foot of the plumeria tree.

Buddha was that plumeria and he witnessed this entire taking place. He was enraged, but there was nothing he could do to stop the heron. A plumeria’s roots are firmly anchored in the earth. There was is nothing a plumeria can do but grow branches, leaves, and flowers. He cannot run anywhere. He could not call out and warn the shrimp and the fish about what was really happening. He could not even stretch his branches to prevent the heron from eating the helpless creatures. He could only witness the horrible scene. Every time the heron brought a fish in his beak and began to tear at its flesh, he was filled with pain. He felt as though his sap would dry up and his branches break. Drops of moisture like tears collected on his bark. The heron did not notice. Over a number of days, he continued to bring the fish over to devour them. When all the fish were gone, he began to eat the shrimp. The pile of bones and shells that piled up by his roots could have filled two large baskets.

He knew that as a plumeria tree his job was to beautify the forest with his fragrant flowers. But at that moment he suffered terribly from not being able to do anything to save the shrimp and fish. If he had been deer or a person he could have done something. But anchored by his roots to the ground, he could not move. He vowed that if he was reborn as an animal or a human in a future life, he would devote all his efforts to protect the weak and helpless from the strong and powerful.

When the heron had devoured all the shrimp and fish, only the crab remained. Still hungry, the heron said to the crab, “Nephew, I have carried all the fish and shrimp to the lotus pond where they now live happily. You are all alone here now. Let me take you to the new pond, too.”

“How will you carry me?” asked the crab.

“In my beak, just as I carried all the others.”

“What if I slipped out and fell? My shell would shatter into a hundred pieces.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll carry you with utmost care.”

The crab thought carefully. Perhaps the heron had kept his word and truly carried all the shrimp and fish to the lotus pond.  But what if he had deceived them and eaten them all? The crab devised a plan to insure his own safety. He said to the heron, “Uncle, I’m afraid your beak is not strong enough to hold me securely. Let me wrap my claws around your neck to hold on while you fly.”

The heron agreed. He waited for the crab to crawl onto his neck and then he spread his wings and flew into the air. But instead of carrying the crab to the lotus pond, he landed by the plumeria tree. 

“Uncle, why don’t you put me down by the lotus pond? Why did we land here instead?”

“What heron would be so stupid as to carry a bunch of fish to a lotus pond? I am no benefactor, nephew. Do you see all those fish bones and shrimp shells at the foot of the plumeria? This is where your life will end, as well.”

“Uncle, the fish and shrimp may have been easily fooled, but you can’t trick me so easily. Take me to the lotus pond at once or I will cut you off your head with my claws.”
The crab began to dig his sharp claws into the heron’s neck. Seized by sharp pain, the heron cried out, “Don’t squeeze so hard! I’ll take you to the lotus pond right this minute! I promise I won’t try to eat you!”

The heron flew to the lotus pond where it intended to let the crab down by the water’s edge. But the crab did not release its hold on the heron’s neck. Thinking about all the fish and shrimp so cruelly deceived by the heron, the crab dug his claw deeper and deeper into the heron’s neck until he cut right through it. The heron dropped down dead and the crab crawled into the pond.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pink and Purple


Gentiana urnula

Photographed at Jangothang, Jomolhari Base, Paro, Bhutan. August, 2013. (3500m to 4800m above sea level)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Nyungne: Buddhist Fasting Practice

I was intrigued, when I heard of Nyungne because I hardly had the knowledge about it although I was familiar with the name Nyungne. Shortly, I came to know about it, when I attended the Nyungne practice at Ramthangkha, Paro this September, 2013 coinciding Thimphu Tshechu (Mask Dance Festival). I vacillated over my participation in the Nyungne practice before I gathered some information on Nyungne from various sources.  Thus, I concluded that I need to attend the fasting practice eventually it’s a benevolent of the world and oneself.

Before I scribble about my experiences, I would be writing down a brief background on Nyungne practice.  Nyungne practice is so structured to purify our negative karma and accumulate merit or accomplish enlightened qualities. The practice is based on the practice of Thousand Armed Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara), Bodhisattva of Compassion. The practice has been originated from Gelongma Pelmo, one of the few female Buddhist lamas, who eventually attained enlightenment.

The Nyungne practice in Ramthangkha, Paro involved more than 35 hours of practice, which included strict keeping of vows. It involves 30 hours of fasting from food and drink, recitation of Buddhist mantras and prostrating frequently. (Vows: not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to lie, not to take intoxicants, not to take high or luxurious seats, not to sing, dance or wear ornaments and not to eat and additional vows of not eating, drinking and talking). It is also said that if we complete one Nyungne practice, the door closes for one’s rebirth in lower realms. It is a known fact that Gelongma Pelmo practiced Nyungne at Ramthangkha in Paro, hence the place is renowned for Nyungne practice.

Gelongma Pelmo was born to a Royal Family in India, she had chosen to follow the path of Buddhist practice which she practiced for 12 years, after abandoning the Royal palace and privileges. She overcame severe illness of leprosy and attained enlightenment. Thereafter, she passed down the practice of Nyungne, which still continues to be practiced these days.

Ramthangkha Lhakhang (Temple), Paro
I am sharing some brief experiences that I had during my participation in the Nyungne practice. We started off the practice at Ramthangkha Temple at 4 am; we were accompanied by other locals which consisted mostly of senile community. We altogether were around 50 of us. We took the Nyungne vows as mentioned above, in the first day and also we were briefed about the practice. We had some room for forgiveness, if we are unable to carry out or fulfill our vows.

We were fed lavishly at the first day till the noon, everyone had heavy lunch and thereafter, we had to skip our dinner but of course, we had the privilege to drink tea till 9 pm. The next day was our strict fasting period, where we should strictly undertake the vows. We got up the next day at 4 am; we are not allowed to talk nor eat but keep our vows. We recited mantras although we wanted to talk to each other, but instead we were looking at each other’s face.

We had been prostrating in front of altar and recited mantras the whole day without having any food or drinks led by a lama.  We were fine while depriving us from breakfast and lunch, but without dinner it was a difficult situation, even to have a sound sleep. I toured around kitchen but in vain, in fact it just titillated my starvation. In fact most of us slept for maximum of one hour but I slept for only for half an hour. That night I realized how the hell would be like. It was really an egregious situation for me; no food, no sleep, no talk, no music, nothing else, but I regret not. The situation has become an inveterate practice for the older participants; they showed no sign of malaise.  

It was also an unforgettable and interesting experience. Some of us happened to talk accidentally and thus we got to prostrate apologetically invoking for forgiveness. For some loquacious persons, it would have been a difficult task to remain quiet but just reciting some prayers. It wasn't so easy to keep the vows; most of us broke some trivial vows and had invoked for forgiveness a hundred times or more. It was really a hard task to communicate with one another without talking, I wondered for the first time how will it be, to lead a dumb life. It was also fun to watch others but difficult to keep it to oneself.

For someone like me who is a late sleeper, faced difficulty in sleeping as early as 7 pm and waking up at 1:30 am, unfortunately I got to sleep for about half an hour despite being enervated. I managed to get some nap in the temple though I had to invoke for forgiveness. Our fasting period came to an end at 5 am, where initially we were offered to drink a handful of holy water and thereafter a series of drinks and food. Hence, everyone seems to be convalescent and alive once again with a conspicuous smile on everyone’s face after the heavy meal. I realized how fortunate we are and even realized that life as such has nothing in it, it’s just a realm towards attaining enlightenment. Now, I have conceived that there is really a hell and heaven.

NB: Highlighted only few incidents. No Proof Read

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Che Guevara - A Latin Revolutionary Icon

Being a bio-science student then, I always wondered who Che Guevara was, since my college days. I thought that he was some kind of music rock star or some Hollywood celebrity. I noticed his images on almost everything, right starting from t-shirts to blotches and magazines. His images were mostly used for commercial purposes and even I was gifted with a blotch with his image on by my closest friend.   

(Photo courtesy:
Through his biography by Richard L. Harris, Ph. D (Professor of California State University) I came to know that Che Guevara is a renowned revolutionary leader in Latin American countries. He was named Ernesto Guevara de la Serna and was born to an Argentine family on June 14, 1928. He completed his medical studies in Argentina and he was politically interested especially in anti-imperialism and was a pro-Marxist. In the middle of his medical studies, he expedited on motor bike with his friend Alberto Granado almost all around the Latin American countries. Thereafter, he published his note ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ and the diary led to the production of a film.

His motorcycle expedition around Latin America caught his attention on the injustices of the miners and common people, since then he got to be the anti-imperialist, which he desired to be one. He too had a love story to which he got married thrice and had about five children.  
Che leading a prosaic lifestyle, had been successful in enforcing the famous Guerilla warfare with his friend Fidel Castro. Since then Che became an outstanding guerilla fighter and got promoted to a commandant, top ranked post in Guerilla warfare. The guerilla force has brought revolution in Cuba and Congo, where the force had gained some public support. Che had held some great posts such as president of Central bank of Cuba, Minister of Industry and the Head of Cuban Mission in Asia, Europe and South American countries. He even spoke at the United Nations General Assembly on the crisis in the Congo.

Che and his forces had a successful revolution in Congo and Cuba but his Guerilla forces failed in bringing the revolution in Bolivia. Later, while establishing his core camp in Bolivia, he was captured in 1967 and then executed by the Bolivian armies and authoritarians despite the US CIA protest against his execution. Bolivian government although had a tough time deciding the fate of Che, they somehow with some reasonable sense had Che shot in the prison. To the general public, the government revealed that Che died of the wounds that he acquired during the Guerilla warfare. So for around some decades, none knew about Che burial until the discovery of his burial remains in 1997 in Bolivia and thus the remains were returned to Cuba.

The Times Magazine included Che as the one of the most influential 100 people of the 20th century. Even to these days many leaders in Latin America and others pays homage and tribute to Che and some leaders has also adopted to follow Che’s anti-imperialist ideologies. Nowadays his images are found in almost all around the world with the impression on many surfaces. With his heroic looks and his historic actions, he still tends to be an inspiration to many younger generations around the world. He was an intrepid leader! Che is a great source of inspiration to me!

PS: No Proof Read

Friday, September 6, 2013

Escapades Awakenings ~ A Review

A 590 paged novel written by a first timer Bhutanese author Doji Dhratyul, Escapades Awakenings is a uniquely written book about the Bhutanese life styles in the remote village and the life styles in the present generation. The novel which spans over three generations portrays how the rural girls in a remote village of Zhemgang are exploited by the town/city dwellers or the civil servants (Dashos) in particular. The book surely disseminates the knowledge of women’s fate in rural villages, where most of the present Bhutanese urban generation hardly has the knowledge of it. 

Some of the common Bhutanese phrases for culture, tradition, religion and languages are also used frequently with the phrases explanation, which in fact gives truly a Bhutanese insight. The book revolves around the women’s rural lifestyle, tragedies, urban lifestyles, culture, religion and traditions and little thrill. It also emphasizes on how the rural people were used as porters for the visiting officials, where even young girls are burdened with heavy luggage.  

It gives the picture of how a rural girl was exploited by a high ranking government official, which eventually has led to the birth of a fatherless daughter; it was an unofficial kind of gesture to impress the high ranking visiting officials by fulfilling their needs. It’s always the women who had suffered in the end. 

The official never had the knowledge that he has a daughter but even if he knows perhaps there’s nothing he would have done. So in a case, after some years later, the same official visited their village again, where he was offered a young girl, Thruebab but the girl being a first timer in such cases managed to escape for good. She later learned from her mother that the visiting official was her father! 

Her mother was in complete bliss, when she learned that her daughter has escaped from an unlawful activity. Their family never had a man except a young baby boy, younger brother of Thuebab, born from a local Casanova with whom Thruebab’s mother had planned to marry. But unfortunately, he left the world soon. 

It has become a custom in their village that whenever any high ranking officials visit their village, the village head or representatives arranges some tolls to fulfill the official’s needs. So in fact, the village representative or head manages by hook or crook to get some young girls to entertain the officials, they carry a notion that if they fail to impress the officials, they wouldn’t bring in much development in their village.

Thruebab managed to reach Thimphu with her first love, but she got cheated too, since her lover was a married man with children. She gave birth to a daughter from her first love. After some years working in Thimphu, Thruebab becomes one of the richest persons in the country by owning a large company and she educated her daughter at the States. Which later Thruebab hands over the company to her MBA graduate daughter and thereafter Thruebab had planned to get into religious practice with her old primary teacher, Chencho at Aja Nye, Mongar. Thruebab studied till primary level at her village, where her teacher had fallen in love with her mother, but it was an unsuccessful story. Hence, the teacher got into Buddhist practice which was soon followed by his student Thruebab.

The book also touches some aspects of Bhutan’s transition to constitutional democracy from Monarchy and some references into the future. The author took around six years to complete this amazing fiction novel, which also has some facts in it. Some of the incidences mentioned in the book had gone lots of changes and some of the incidences or traditions are on the verge of endangerment. It is worth reading the book especially for those who are interested in knowing the happenings of the rural life in far-flung tiny village although some incidences/traditions continue to be practiced even in our present days. 
The book costs Nu. 600.00 only.

NB: It’s just my personal review/opinion. No Proof Read

Monday, September 2, 2013

Q & A on Blogging and Blogger’s Tag

Its is a sometimes good to know the bloggers behind their awesome blog posts and thanks to Rekha Monger for bringing up this innovative idea of creating a common forum for bloggers. Isolated bloggers finally can share at least some brief background of themselves on a common forum. Here's some of my Q & A;

1.Why did you start blogging in the first place? And what’s the story behind your blog title?

Blogging is something that I started when I felt that I needed some platform to remind me of the things/events of past. In fact my blog post usually keep track of the time of life, hence the title of my blog "Journey with Choki Gyeltshen". My blog is blend of writings and photographs, so that I vividly can record my journey towards the end.

2.How long have you been blogging? Where are you based? 

Its been two and a half years since I started blogging when I just completed my graduation. I am based in Thimphu, Bhutan.

3.How do you schedule your blog post? Daily or weekly? Or as and when inspiration strikes you? 

I try at least to post one in a month but if possible I try to post as much as possible. I usually post when I feel that I need to entail my life's events or incidences or my interests. In a way, I can look into my past and relate to it.

4.Does your family and friends know about your blog?

I guess most of my friends know about my blog but not my parents, because they are hardly on internet. Well, my sisters knows about it very well. Facebook played some great tolls in letting my friends know about my blog.

As an isolated blogger, I leave it for my readers to tag themselves. Best Wishes.


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