Disclaimer: These writings are my personal views and opinions. Any resemblance is mere coincidence, therefore I disclaim any offence whatsoever.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lotus birth of Padmasambhawa: Unverifiable Myth or romanticized fact, Swat valley or Paghman?

For instance, had the death of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel not been revealed by Je Kuenga Gyeltshen, Bhutanese people would  believe he is still alive and over 400 years old meditating behind the curtains. With just another twist, say Zhabdrung left for one mystical kingdom to turn the king and his subjects to Dharma. It will be hard to dispute today in a conservative cultural context like ours. With our blind faith the belief could only be consolidated.

By virtue of being born into a culture deeply influenced by this mystical sage called Guru Rinpoche, I never questioned this phenomena of his lotus birth and death-less state until recently. 

During my childhood I believed it was true like all other fabled stories of the time. In my teenage, it was a bit uncomfortable to accept as a fact. Only in my adulthood, I seriously started questioning. 

After all the reading and listening so far, the only probable assumption I have drawn are; He could have been a human being like Sidhartha. But he could have avowed his disciples to advocate this principle in future. In most likelihood  this phenomena of lotus birth and no-death is the best description of the nature of our own mind. 
I deeply revere his teachings but I am an agnostic when it comes to leveraging Guru Rinpoche like god. May be my mind hard-wired with logic is the barrier.

My friend Selandia ventured to study about the birth place of Guru Rinpoche. Presented hereunder is her work reproduced with her permission. If Budhist philosophy is all about truth, her venture compliments it. Happy reading!

Report on My Research into the Actual Location of Birthplace of Padmasambhava.

By Elizabeth Selandia, MLIS, MAIA, MAMS, OMD, CA 
Adnan Dheri Stupa, with writing found there indicate this marks the site of his birthplace in Swat.
















This is the stupa built to commemorate the birthplace of Padmasambhava in Uddiyana, (known as Swat Valley these days).  The stupa was erected in the 8th century and has writing to explain why it was built; the location is that of a monastery built in the 2nd-3rd centuries, called Adnan Dheri monastery, located near Uchh (now written “Ouch,” pronounced like “you” without the “y”, not like “now” without the “n”), which is about 8 km from Chakdara, (an important town located on the Swat River, where the road begins, leading first to Dir and, from there, then to the passes leading into Afghanistan).

Mingora, top right, was the ancient capital; it sits along the Swat River.  Uddi is about 10 miles north from there and is now a very small town; but back then, it gave the region its name, Uddiyana.  There is a bridge crossing the Swat River to reach Chakdara, which is known for its museum and the golf course.  The Adnan Dheri Stupa lies northeast, in the direction of Nimogram Stupa, just before Uchh.
Nimogram Stupa and monastery, in ruins
 Ariel view of Adnan Dheri Stupa, located on Laram Qilla Road, at the corner of College Road, in Uchh.
This is an aerial view of the location of the stupa marking the birthplace of Padmasambhava.

My research at University of California at Berkeley libraries into ten botany books has verified that the only lotuses growing in Pakistan are way in the south, in the Sindh region.  Further, none are found growing in Swat Valley or the greater region surrounding it, which is cited as the place of the lake where the so-called lotus birth is referenced.
In fact, the lakes in the region are all too high in altitude for lotuses to grow; and the altitude at the location of the stupa being just slightly over 700 m. precludes lotuses growing there, because lotuses do not grow at higher than 700 m. in Pakistan, according to the research done (Nasir and Rafiq, 1995: 12).  (The altitude at Chakdara is 697 m., and the stupa is at a higher elevation than Chakdara.)

I advance a theory that the physical birth—marked by the stupa at Adnan Dheri monastery—was accompanied by a VISION, one beheld by the then King of Uddiyana, while visiting the valley of Kabul, at the Qargha Lake in Paghman, then in Uddiyana, seen in the pictures below. 

Qargha Lake at Paghman, seen from the north, looking south into the city of Kabul, Afghanistan.    
    
View from adjacent hill overlooking Qargha Lake, Paghman, Afghanistan.

My reason for suggesting this location is derived from the writings by Alexandra David-Neel, whose translations of texts she encountered while in Tibet and her conversations with lamas there led her to assert forthright that the birth occurred at Paghman, Afghanistan.  My version only serves to confirm how this could have happened.

Alexandria David-Neel, with Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche, in Sikkim, 1914-16.

Ariel view of Qargha Lake, Paghman, with Kabul City in the background underneath the Hindu Kush Mountains; the lake is larger now due to a dam built in the 1950s-60s

I suggest that the visiting King of Uddiyana saw the description so fondly cherished by the Tibetans of the lotus birth.  But there was not an actual physical lotus, rather a vision of one, and you can fill in all the rest, with lights, music, singing dakinis, all you want, which may or may not match what the King of Uddiyana saw that day, which was cloudy; but light filtered through the clouds as sunbeams, as only it can do in the valley of Kabul. (I know this from having lived in Kabul Valley for over two-years of my life.)
                The king fell to his knees in awe and wonder, and saw the source of the light beams, that streamed in from the east—that appeared to him to be attached to the upper shoulders, neck, and head of Padmasambhava—appeared to originate back in his home, in Swat Valley.
 Just as the Three Kings followed the star to find the birth of the Christ child, so, too, did the King of Uddiyana follow the beam of light back to its origin, in prayer the entire journey, of around fifteen-days.  When he arrived from transiting the passes and traveling the road through Dir, he arrived at the banks of the Swat River at Chakdara, and this is what he saw:
View of the Swat River from Chakdara
Inquiries into the recent births in the region led him to the place where once a natural spring arose—located near Uchh, which is located above Chakdara—to a family whose infant son had curious markings on his body, many of which resembled the marks found on the Historical Buddhas: But the child was not blue, as are the Historical Buddhas, but rather more golden in color, thus matching the vision he had seen at Paghman.  Further, the golden boy had been born fifteen-days prior!  Rejoicing, the King immediately realized he had located the infant he would name Padmasambhava, since he had first seen him on the lotus in the Qargha Lake at Paghman!

Typical portrait of the birth of Padmasambhava;

compare to the view above of Qargha Lake, Paghman.

Further, this would help explain why the 10th day is tallied as the birthday of Padmasambhava—which would be the day the King of Uddiyana saw the child bathed in golden light seated on a VISION of the lotus—and the 25th day would be later celebrated as dakini day, since that was the day on which the King of Uddiyana located the physical birth in Swat Valley.
Thus, we have the 10th and 25th day feasts to celebrate these two events: the VISION of the birth of Guru Rinpoche on the 10th day of the lunar month, which occurred in Kabul Valley at the site of the Qargha Lake there in Paghman, and the later discovery of the physical being, in Uchh, near Chakdara, nearby the Swat River, minus any lake or lotuses, on the 15th  day later, so the 25th day of the lunar month, and the parents confirming the birth was two-weeks prior.
In my version, both stories hold true: There is the historical marking of a stupa that heralds the actual birthplace of the physical body of Guru Rinpoche; and there is the vision of the lotus birth beheld by the King and his men while at the lake in Paghman.
In my version, there are NO contradictions, both accounts are valid, and no fairy tales are involved this way.  Whether or not I've gotten it all right, the fact remains that if he was born ONLY on a lotus, then it would not have been where history states the birth occurred, given lotuses are not growing there in Uddiyana!
Given the climates and altitudes in both locations—Paghman, which is higher than the city of Kabul, is located at Lat. 34N59, Long. 68E96, at an altitude of 2,307 m or 7,569 ft., while Chakdara, in Swat Valley, comes in at Lat. 34N66, Long. 72E03, at an altitude of 697 m, 2,287 ft., and the location of the Adnan Dheri stupa would be higher than Chakdara—lotuses (Nelumbo nucifera) are unlikely, and as already mentioned, those lakes that can be found in Swat Valley region are way too high in altitude to allow for lotuses blooming; thus, "the lotus birth" did not occur in Swat Valley, but perhaps an actual birth did.  Here is a typical lake in the high altitudes of the greater region of Swat:
Spin Khwar Lake, Swat Valley, formed by the white stream from the mountains to the East,
and so named in Urdu. (photo by Isruma).

There have been some who want to believe in Santa Claus, the virgin birth of the Christ child, and, too, the birth as an eight-year old child on the stamen of a lotus.  There are two kinds of lotuses, those which have leaves resting on the water, and those with leaves standing above the waters, as illustrated below:
Lotus with leaves resting on the water (left); lotus with leaves raising above the water (right).


Either way, much more than an insect would have squashed to lotus; so, the story is fantastical.  Then, why, some have asked me, is it that terma recite this tale as though it were fact.
                I have a reply for this.  But let’s first take a look at what the early visitors to the site in Swat Valley had to say about it.  I note that there are variations in the spelling, so that Adnan Dheri, Andan Dheri, and Alladun Dheri are found interchangeably.  The Chinese traveler Faxian (337 – c. 424 CE) visited the monastery, who cited it as being of the Theravada school, and, too, Xuanzang (596 or 602 – 664) records the location, along with a story of Lord Shakyamuni Buddha, who, in seeing famine there, changed his body into a long, dead serpent upon which for the villagers feasted.  The following are the few and various quotes about the monastery near Uchh:
Journeying from Chakdara towards Dir, a route turns to the old village of Uchh.  It is around 8 to 10 kilometers from Chakdara.  One suddenly finds the glimpses of a Buddhist stupa of Andan Dheri welcoming visitors just before they step into Uchh.   http://monastic-asia.wikidot.com/andan-dheri
Alladun Dheri an important Buddhist site is located 7 km north of Chakdara Bridge near village Uchh.  According to the Buddhist pilgrim Xuan Zang this site was connected with a legend about Buddha.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakdara
Adnan Dheri an important Buddhist site is located 7 km north of Chakdara Bridge near village Uchh.   According to Buddhist pilgrim Xuan Zang this site was attached to a famous legend about Buddha.  According to this legend, in order to save people from famine Buddha changed himself into a great serpent lying dead in the valley.  The starved people cut pieces from the body and fed themselves.  […] Archaeologists have found the stupa [near the monastery] […] Over 500 pieces of Gandhara sculpture were recovered [from the site].  Three kilometers from Adnan Dheri Stupa, a Hindu Shahi fort of Kamal Khan China is located.  It is now in ruins.  From this fort, a track leads to Nimogram Buddhist Monastery and Stupa.  http://monastic-asia.wikidot.com/andan-dheri

However, neither of these Chinese Buddhist travelers were there to record the stupa built to commemorate the birthplace of Padmasambhava, who was born about 300-years after Faxian’s visit to the region, and about 100-years after Xuanzang’s visit.
It should always be recalled that Padmasambhava was not Tibetan, nor were Lord Shakyamuni Buddha, Vimalamitra, Tilopa, Naropa, Saraha, and the other mahasiddhas, etc., none of whom were Tibetan.  Further, it should be recalled that high in the Himalayas, divorced from both Uddiyana and India, much can get lost in the translations in Tibet.
For instance, in what would likely have been a mixed language, one comprised of his original Swati language with that which he learned traveling through India, Sikkim, and Bhutan (before arriving in Tibet), when Padmasambhava spoke about his birth, for instance:
While I was born, many saw a lotus in the middle of the lake in Paghman with a young boy on it, but I was born near Adnan Dheri, in Uchh, in Swat Valley, in Uddiyana.  The King, who died when I was eight, came back to find me; and he named me ‘Padmasambhava’, because he had seen the vision of the lotus in the lake. 
This would likely have been translated as the current story goes, of the lotus birth of an eight-year old boy, who was raised by the King of Uddiyana.  Thus, the story told by Yeshe Tsogyal and the other tertons in reading the terma have included in them the preconditioned mistranslation of Padmasambhava’s actual words.  As a linguist, I can attest that, when translations happen, right or wrong, what is first heard, even if wrong, becomes the most repeated version of what was being said in another tongue.
This insight based upon my research is a much easier version with which to deal and to accept than the impossibilities of an actual birth on a lotus stamen.  Further, the main result from this research has strengthened my faith in Guru Rinpoche, as Padmasambhava is affectionately known in Tibet, whose developed powers seem too Hollywood to be true, often.
With the explanation I've come up with, I can see him clearly as the continuation of Lord Shakyamuni Buddha, and, therefore, correctly named "the second Buddha," (and not some sort of "virgin birth" competition, or fairy tale).  Not that his later escapades do not also require some far reaching twists with reality to accept, but knowing he started out seemingly human in Uddiyana, with his birth informed by the dakinis to the King, who just happened to be near the lake in Paghman, in the vision that he later used to name the child, this gives a much better platform to begin to fathom the remarkable maturity into the powerhouse Padmasambhava became.
                Thus, this is my current working theory, and it does not call for "a this or that" response, but allows both versions—the visionary birth beheld by the King of Uddiyana at Qargha Lake, Paghman, and the actual physical birth, marked by the stupa outside of Uchh, Swat Valley, to be true.
                Whatever karma, good or bad, that allowed me to live in Kabul over two-years of my life—starting in 1966 through 1975, with the longest stint 13-months (1971-72), and to visit Swat Valley eleven-times in 1974-1975—this exposure has given me the opportunity to know the way the sky changes so dramatically in Kabul Valley, and to see in my mind what the King must have seen that day.  It also allows me to fathom the environment in which Padmasambhava grew up in Swat Valley.
                In the meantime, while the vision at the Qargha Lake at Paghman, Uddiyana, has long ago disappeared, there is still an odd sense of spirituality connected with this lake.  I remarked upon it in 1966, when taken there for the traditional Afghan picnic by the lake’s edge.  There was an eerie light and an unusual vibration there, so much so I recall asking my hosts “if this was how it was always?,” to which they replied it was.  But, the stupa marking the physical birth still exists! 
In the next series of photos, which were taken from the top of the ruins by a visitor there from Malaysia, Victor Dare, on 29 Aug. 2016, after his spending two-months visiting the various lakes in the region, and his finding not one lotus.
These are arranged in a kora, going clockwise, in which the first photo was shot from the top of the stupa towards the ruins still there, which are seen in the photos at the beginning and the end of the kora.  There is reference to there being fourteen smaller stupas surrounding the stupa marking the site of the birthplace, and these are likely their remains or that of the older monastery.

We commence the kora looking to the West, moving to the North:







We have reached North with this shot, and now move towards the East:






We have reached the view to the East in this shot, and now begin to move to the South:

We have reached the view to the South in this shot, with the density of civilization along the river viewable in the distance, and now begin to return to the West:

Congratulations, you have just made a visual kora around the Adnan Dheri Stupa outside of Uchh, in Swat Valley, Uddiyana, having arrived back to the view to the West.  This is what those in the making of the stupa would have seen from the increasing height as they worked.
                Archaeology has determined the Adnan Dheri stood 80 feet high (24 metres), surrounded by 14 votive stupas, (which are most likely now missing from the foundational bases seen in the photos to the West of the stupa that are still extant today).  To give you an idea of how high that might have been, consider this stupa, also located in Swat Valley, the Amluk Dara Stupa.

Or this one, the Shingerdar Stupa, reportedly built by King Uttarasena, and said to have contained the relics of Lord Shakyamuni Buddha.  Some believe they are still there, sequestered inside it.


Well, I hope you have enjoyed this brief visit to Swat Valley and to the Qargha Lake at Paghman, both once part of the greater kingdom of Uddiyana.  As for what went on there, while it is true the monasteries were recorded by Fuxian as being entirely of the Theravada school, there is ample evidence in the biographies of many great teacher, among them that of Tilopa, Niguma, Garab Dorje, Khungpo Naljor, among many others—who either were born and raised there, or who visited there—that vajrayana was practiced in the manner in which it was being practiced then, namely teacher-to-student, only, and that it was not taught in the monasteries.  It is said that there were 1,400 monasteries in the valley, which were scattered along the Subhavastu (now called the Swat) river, when Hiuen Tsiang, a renowned Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, visited there in the year 630 A.D.  Below is a map showing locations visited further to the west by these heroic Chinese pilgrims, having passed first through Uddiyana.


This is a map showing the greater region of Uddiyana:


And yet another map, also attempting to define the region known as Uddiyana, with the sites of several stupas in the region indicated:

The stupa built outside of the walls of Peshawar, known as the Kanishka Stupa, which was built in the 2nd century, by the Kushan king Kanishka, was credited as being the tallest stupa in the whole of the Buddhist world, standing some 600–700 Chinese units, or 591–689 feet.  The site still exists today, and is located outside the Gunj Gate, in an area called Akhunabad, as seen below:

When the stupa was discovered and excavated by a British archaeological mission, in 1908–1909, in the base was found the famous Kanishka casket (seen below), which held inside a rock crystal reliquary (with a six-sided design), in which three small bone fragments of Lord Shakaymuni Buddha were found; (these were transferred to Mandalay, Burma, for safekeeping and may be found there still to this day).  Additionally, therein was a dedication, written in Kharoshthi, referencing King Kanishka.  This is a picture of the Kanishka casket, which is housed currently at the Peshawar Museum:

The Kanishka casket, (in the Peshewar Museum collection.)

As to Tibetans in the region, around 500-years after Padmasambhava was born there, the famous Tibetan traveler, Orgyan Rinchendpal (1229/30-1308/09), visited in 1261, which would have been in the period long after Makmoud of Ghazni had come to destroy the region.   However, there were sufficient ruins for him to identify Swat Valley and the greater region as being that of Uddiyana.  His account varies, however, with the 17th century account by Buddhaguptanatha (16th-17th century), who locates the region of Uddiyana with that of Ghazni, which is located about 80 km or 50 miles south of Kabul.  Indeed, there was a large buddhist settlement at Ghazni, with a reclining buddha, a monastery, and several other evidences of buddhist activities there.
Site of the Tapa ye Sardar Stupa, located in Ghazni, Uddiyana.

According to his accounts, at the time the area was forested, with lakes at some distance in three directions, (east, south and west); when he was there, the populace was by now Moslem, although he cites the women there still practicing mantra recitation as charms.  However, having been to Ghazni five-times in my travels, and to Swat Valley eleven-times, I see no serious reason to presume, based on his description, anything that would counter the assignment of the birth of Padmasambhava to that of the location of the Adnan Dheri Stupa outside of Uchh, in Swat Valley.  Below is a picture of the location of Ghazni as it is seen today, which is at the base of the Hindu Kush mountains, which rise in increasing magnificence as one drives north from Kandahar to Kabul.

However, were it the case that Orgyan Rinchendpal, who is one of the lineage holders of the Karma Kagyu lineage, is incorrect, and that Buddhaguptanatha, in his circa 1580 AD account is correct, then Qargha Lake at Paghman still is the most likely candidate for the vision of the lotus in the middle of the lake, since it is only 90 km or 68 miles to the north.
I conclude this account with some recent research being carried out at the site of a copper mine that will destroy the evidence of the site of Mes Aynak, where it has been discovered that oil painting was used in the creation of murals painted there.
The site of excavation of Mes Aynak, a Gandharan monastery site located over a copper field.

The earliest ever example of oil painting was confirmed by the research of an international team under the direction of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, at Bamiyan, and have been dated to the late 7th century (Bonn-Muller, 2009).  However, Mes Aynak, which was built between the 3rd to 8th centuries AD, predates this, suggesting that the earliest oil paintings are those found at Mes Aynak.  This is an example of oil painting found recently at Mes Aynak:

The statuary found at the site is exquisite in typical Gandhara workmanship, as this example of a portable statue of a prince, thought possibly to be the founder of buddhism in the region, and a monk indicates:

And the example of an insitu buddha also demonstrates:


In a land where most buddhas were defaced by Moslems, this find is rare.  Even the architecture of their stupas is unique, with architectural elements incorporated into the design of the base:

This site deserves being saved and while the archeologists are working against the clock to save what they can, there is also a move afoot to prevent the destruction of such an invaluable remnant of the Gandhara art characterizing the Uddiyana culture and civilization.  I leave you with the statue of Maitreya Buddha, found at Mes Aynak:

If anything, what must be accepted is that there is much that will forever remain an unknown about the Kingdom of Uddiyana.  While Tibetans have long been fascinated with this remote to them location, they are not the resource to be relied upon as to anything accurate stemming from the region, other than the teachings that survive from Garab Dorje (as Dzogchen) and from Niguma (as the six-yogas of Niguma) that teach a complimentary mahamudra to that of Tilopa, who also lived and practices in the Swat region.  (Today, thanks to the efforts of Tibetans to preserve buddhadharma and vajrayana, dzogchen is the main teaching of the Nyingma lineage, the six-yogas of Niguma are perpetuated by the Shangpa Kagyu lineage, and the six-yogas of Tilopa are practiced in the Kagyu lineages.)  A lot was lost in translation, though, by Tibetans struggling to understand the powerhouse magician and seeming madman they came to call Guru Rinpoche, who had been summoned to save Tibet from the forces that were attempting to sabotage the implementation of buddhism in Tibet. 
When King Trisong Detsen of Tibet sought to revive the declining buddhism introduced in the 7th century by King Songtsan Gampo, and he was finding obstructions in erecting the Samye monastery, he is said to have invited Padmasambhava to assist him in overcoming the spirits there that were opposing any progress in the building.  Padmasambhava prevailed against the opposing forces; and that Samye monastery was completed, around 780 AD, is evidence of his accomplishments in practice for nearly 75-years before arriving in Tibet, at the age of 84, having been born on the 10th day of the seventh (monkey) month, in the Fire Monkey year of 696 AD.  In arriving at this date—which contradicts some Tibetan estimates that give him either a Earth Monkey or a Wood Monkey birth year, both more recent than 696 AD—I looked at the charts for all possible monkey year births. 
Only the Fire Monkey year chart of 696 AD has all the elements necessary to read from the horoscope his life’s details, thus confirming this earlier than previously cited date of birth. 
Thus, when Padmasambhava left Tibet to go conquer the rakshasa cannibal demons, known to inhabit the south-western continent of Chamara—as is reported to have occurred in the Wood Monkey year of 864 AD—he would have been 168-years old, or according to Tibetan tradition of counting a year for the pregnancy, 169-years young.  He is thought to have moved beyond the limits of death at a very early age in his perpetual practices, and still to be active in establishing the buddhadharma.  His home is known as the copper-colored mountain, or Zandok Palri, as pictured below:

Zandok Palri, according to the vision of Chokgyur Lingpa. 
(In the Shechen Archive collection.)

One has to question, given the fact that Mes Aynak sits on top of one of the largest deposits of copper in the region (Block, 2015), whether Mes Aynak is not that referenced when Zandok Palri is referenced.  But, in my determining not only his birthdate with accuracy, and in my having determined the most plausible explanation for the two stories of his birthplace—the stupa outside of Uchh, Swat Valley, and the legend of the lotus birth in the middle of a lake—I will rest content with these discoveries, and not pack my bags to go see Mes Aynak for myself.

View from Mes Aynak of the area about to be mined for copper, with the ancient stupas above it.

But, I do pray that the world gets involved in stopping the destruction of this site; and I reference that efforts are afoot to save it.  Those wishing to get involved should access the site on Facebook, called Saving Mes Aynak; and for each of you caring enough about Uddiyana to preserve its legacies and its monumental treasures, I thank you.

Elizabeth Selandia

 Resources:

Bamber, C. J.  1910.  Plants of the Punjab: A Descriptive Key to the Flora of the Punjab, Northwest Frontier Providence, and Kashmir.  Lahore: Superintendent Government Printing, Punjab, pg. 629-30.
Bloch, Hannah.  2015.  Mega Copper Deal in Afghanistan Fuels Rush to Save Ancient Treasures: Under threat of Taliban attack, archaeologists are excavating a spectacular Buddhist complex before it’s obliterated by a huge mining operation.  In National Geographic, http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/mes-aynak/bloch-text, accessed 16 Sept. 2016.
Bonn-Muller, Eti.  2009.  Oldest Oil Paintings: Bamiyan, Afghanistan.  In Archaeology, 62(1), http://archive.archaeology.org/0901/topten/oldest_oil_paintings.html, accessed 16 Sept. 2016.
Gardner, Christopher Martin, and Basak Guner Gardner.  2014.  Flora of the Silk Road: An Illustrated Guide.  London: I. B. Tauris & Co., Ltd.  (This has not references to lotuses along the Silk Road.)
Nasir, E., Yasin J. Nasir, and Rubina Akhter.  1987.  Wild Flowers of Rawalpindi-Islamabad Districts.  Karachi: National Herbarium Islamabad, pg. 48.
Nasir, Yasin J., and Rubina A. Rafiq.  1995.  Wild Flowers of Pakistan.  Karachi: Oxford University Press, pgs. 12-13.
Saving Mes Aynak.  Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/savingmesaynak/, accessed 2010-2016.
Stewart, R. R. (Ralph Randles, 1890-1993).   1972.  An Annotated Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of West Pakistan and Kashmir.  E. Nasir and S. I. Ali, Editors.  Karachi: Fakhri Print. Press, pg. 256.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Inspirational Anecdotes

picture courtesy:www.commapost.com
As human beings all of us are same. We have the same faculties and features. But what set us all apart are our actions.

Over the course of history numerous men lived but not all of them are remembered. Those that we remember had either done impossible feats themselves or had been an inspiration for their followers who did the rest.  

Basically some men wrote things worth remembering and some men did things worth writing. Thus legacies lived on.

To put things into perspective, Bhutan is a small dot on the world map. Many don’t even know that Bhutan exists but we do and do it in style. Having read so far on turbulence of imperialism and force of geopolitics, with our army and economy we could not have stood a chance of survival but we did.

We have not just survived but thrived so far, thanks to our leadership, our majesties. Our monarchy is relatively young but dynamic. We have such other leaders of men whom we entrust our faith, love and respect. Not because we have to but because we feel it from within.

How does this feeling from within happen? It is called the “virtuous cycle of inspiration.”

Economically we may not boast of abundance but inspiration we are not poor. K4 is an epitome of inspiration. Generations from now, people will hardly believe, such a king walked the face of earth in flesh and blood. A king who left the grandiose of the palace to lead his armies on the leech infested frontlines. Only historical Ashoka performed this feat in the recent history. Thousands were sent into musing.

K5 the fifth dragon king is no less. During my convocation we were five thousand or more graduates remotely hoping for a regal photograph with the king. The university officials only planned for a group photograph and rightly so. But king being king, handing over the first honors called for the photographer. The crowd broke into a frenzy applaud. King wanted to grant each graduate an opportunity to get photographed alongside him.

This was the critical moment in the lives of these graduates. No grander icing on the cake of lifetime achievement than the king posing for you. As is said, “five thousand of us” and the king is still doing the honors. It started at around 10 AM and continued till 5 PM without even lunch, save few breathers. At the end K5 proclaimed “Do you think I am tired, I’m not, and in fact I am happy for your achievements”. My skin bristled, I got goose bumps. Not on earth, standing for seven or more hours, shaking five thousand hands, posing for so many clicks and still not tired. More inspiring were his final words, “You work hard and I will work ten times harder”. This he already proved it. I came back with nothing but INSPIRATION.

Here is another anecdote from my recent encounter with My Dasho. We put up in our office transit camp and had the fortune to dine together. One day I was late for lunch attending official duties. I got a call from my friend back at the transit camp that Dasho would not eat before I reached. I said I would be late and the team to go ahead with lunch. I again got a call saying that they were waiting for me. For a moment I was baffled. Then I told the driver to accelerate. When we reached the camp, AG and senior officials were seriously waiting for me, the junior most officer in the group. I was awestruck. I did not believe my eyes. There on the dining table I said to myself, “anything for you my DASHO”.

Inspirations such as these keep you alive and give you a sense of direction. These divine forces are etched forever in the heart of the humanity. We need inspiration to do better and not settle for mediocrity.   


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

An Analogy of life

Once upon a time, there was a man called Milue in a hamlet called Jigten. He was a humble man blessed with good health, adequate fortune and a happy family. One auspicious day he decided to go on a pilgrimage to a sacred place called Shamzur which is perched on a cliff. He started to hitch a hike. Mid way through the journey, he stumbled on a piece of rock and fell. He fell off the cliff.

As he fell he shouted Lama Kheno (oh my lama, similar to oh my god)! Thinking that was the end. But miraculously his frantic hands caught hold of a bunch of grass. That was the critical juncture in his life. In that moment a lot of emotions and thoughts exploded in his head. Most prominent feeling was despair and helplessness. All he could see below was a huge ravine with razor sharp rocks. If he fell, he could be ripped apart. Fearing for his life he tightened his grip on the bunch of grass.

As he gleaned around, he saw a huge abandoned bee hive dripping with honey, right under his nose. Instinctually he started licking and for a moment he forgot the fact that he is still hanging on a bunch of grass. Taste of honey was too sweet to let go. He began to suckle like a baby on mothers’ breast. His grip loosened but enough to keep him hanging.

Meanwhile, two field mice were nibbling at the bunch of grass, one white and other black. They were cutting out one blade of grass at a time and ferrying away playfully. Milue saw them but he could not shoo them as he was busy suckling honey.

He also saw people moving up and down the path. Mostly monks clad in maroon going up and lay people coming down. He could not call them for help either. He could not let go of his clinging of honey.

At sun down, Milue again heard the field mice squeaking and screeching. This time he saw them munching at the last few blades of grass left. In another frantic attempt to strengthen his hold, handful of grass gave way and Milue fell off. His body splattered into pieces and Milue died. Leaving his wish unfulfilled despite having health, family, fortune, human body and help when he was hanging on that bunch of grass.

Decoding;
This is the story of our life. Milue is the personification of human body. ‘Lue’ basically means left behind, when consciousness moves out only body is left. Hamlet Jigten is our ephemeral world which is also slowly going to disintegrate. Milue’s having good health,family and fortune is the embodiment of the infallible law of karma. The sacred Shamzur is the existence of light of Buddha dharma.

Milue falling down accidentally is human birth, which is more or less a rare accident. Bunch of grass is the human life span. Sweetness of honey is the human desire, the more you eat the more you want to eat. The white and black field mice are day and night. Bunch of grass is the total life span, spent day and night, as nibbled one at a time by the black and white mice. The monks going up the path is existence of sangha and lay people going down is the existence of ignorant sentient beings.

Leaving the temptation of the sweet honey and calling monks for help, you can walk the path to the sacred place where there is no need to worry about the bunch of grass and the mouse. Letting go of the sweetness of the honey is the most difficult feat.

Attaining human body in this opportune time when Dharma Chakra is still being turned is rare. Having got it, walking the path along with Sangha and becoming one with Budha is the main objective. Realizing the indestructible nature of mind is the ultimate purpose.
But letting go of this clinging to sweetness of honey is as herculean as ever.


I heard this from my brother in-law. He in turn was told this analogy by one scholar from the Tango College of Budhist Studies. Hats off this beautiful analogy.