It was Wednesday and an off day, just like a Sunday everywhere else. There were no teaching classes, no dance practice sessions, and no lavish prayers to be held. Few older monks were just sitting idly in the veranda, bathing in mild sunshine and chatting, while the younger ones were running around and playing with big fluffy rabbits. I took this opportunity to interrupt the comradeship of two monks and have a short conversation with them myself. We talked about their daily routine and mine, about the old custom of the second son of a family becoming a monk no longer being followed, and about why it is imperative for a monk to have a clean and kind heart instead of just a red robe. I soon bid them goodbye to enter the monastery.
Rumtek Dhyan Chakra Centre, or simply the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim is the place that was chosen by the 16th Karmapa to be his seat after fleeing from Tibet. It houses a community of monks, a golden stupa containing the relics of the 16th Karmapa and the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies.
The main hall was permeated with a thick aroma of butter lamps and contained more than a thousand holy scriptures. While rambling around the monastery, my friend and I seated ourselves on the wooden floor in one of the rooms where a senior monk was offering prayers inside a glass cubicle. We were chatting when my friend cajoled me into showing him the full prostration that is performed in a monastery. I was almost done with my third round when the monk got out from the cubicle, gave me a thumbs up and went out. The ensuing event is what I am not likely to forget in near future.
The monk came back in, sat next to us and we had a small conversation.
The monk: Where are you from?
Myself: Delhi. Where are you from? For how long have you been here?
The monk: I am from Himachal Pradesh and here for more than ten years. So, do you meditate?
Myself: No, I have tried it but I am not able to focus.
The monk: Yes, it takes practice, but you should meditate daily. Just like body needs food, our mind needs nourishment too. Every day we do hundreds of things and just five minutes of silence and meditation is all our mind needs to calm down. Fold your legs, rest your hands on your knees and close your eyes. (I did as told) Now try to focus on your breath and imagine – the fresh air is filling up your lungs and the energy derived from it is what your blood is taking up to your brain. Now breathe out slowly and breathe in again. (After two minutes) This much is enough for you today. (laughs)
Myself: I have heard there’s a meditation centre nearby in which monks stay and meditate for three years and nobody can come in or go out during that, have you been there?
The monk: Yes, I have been there.
Myself: Whoa! How is it like?
The monk: We learn to control our thoughts and focus on what we are doing. When you eat food, focus on each bite that you are swallowing; when you take a shower, focus on the drops of water falling on you. That is what meditation is all about. There’s no need to go to the Himalayas to meditate, you can do it anytime, anywhere. Now, do you do Yoga?
Myself: Umm, sometimes, but I am not very regular.
The monk: You must do it daily. (Holds my hand) This is my gift to you. You must learn to take care of your mind and body. Everything else will start falling in place you will see.
Then he took me and my friend to light a butter lamp in front of the idol he was worshiping a few moments back.
His face has blurred out in my memory and even his words have been rewritten by my brain, but the message he imparted is intact and I’ll try to honour his gift at all moments when it is possible for me. While my friend jokes that I was the ‘chosen one’ and we laugh about it, being a believer of Buddhism I silently just feel happy to have had such an encounter. 🙂