Revelations in Indian air.....
Life is like a book. If you don't travel, you are always on the same page(St. Augustine). I believe travel is one great way to see how people struggle on a daily basis, quelling the belief that you are a sorry being. Travels also reveal insignificance of you and your achievements, because out there, you see colossal monuments built and riches accumulated well beyond your imagination. This for me was an antidote to a false pride in your wealth and winnings. This way it always keeps me humble in both my thoughts and deeds.
It was afternoon of September the 27 at gate 19 IGI Airport New Delhi, where passengers of Bagdogra bound Indigo flight queue. Amongst fellow Indians I found a familiar face. It was always a comforting feeling to see familiar faces on the same travel in a foreign land.
Once inside the plane, a family got separate rows and was trying to negotiate for a seat on the same row. There I saw the familiar face willing to shift places so that family could seat in one row. He came to the seat next to me. The man with whom he swapped seats handed him a book written in choekey "བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་པའི་སྤྱོད་འཇུག།". This was a confirmation that he is a Budhist, if not a Bhutanese.
As we took off, I started to talk to him. He said he was a French to my surprise. For a while I was awestruck, how on earth a young French on an Indian flight read “practices of bodhisattvas” in Tibetan script. At least for me he was a pleasant surprise. This stirred a sense of embarrassment in me being a Buddhist myself, because, I for one have never read Bodhicharya avatara in choekey.
For my second surprise he said he is Ngawang Thrinle. It was hard reconciling with reality in an Indian sky. He was in India for almost 10 years working on various projects in preserving and taking budhist resources online. Mammoth task of Kagyur & Tengyur translation was another feather in his cap. Ngawang was on his way to meet a khenpo in Darjeeling.
Inter-alia, we also discussed the relevance of Buddhist values in today's world and way of living. Ngawang confirmed that old people in France try to suicide daily from the hospice windows. He said today one would see hospice windows tightly nailed just for this reason. This according to him was absence of basic values. Retirement from job is seen as an end to life in France. For them sense of right and wrong made no sense at that age. There is no hope of better next-lives because they don't have traditions to believe in next-lives.
On the contrary, what he saw in Dharamsala comforted his feelings. In Dharamsala he saw old people peacefully engaged in chanting mantras and circumambulating. More so with a strong hope of better next-lives.
We also talked about the links between Hindu Vedas and Buddhist teachings. He thinks that they have a lot in common, although he didn’t give a definite answer in terms of yes or no. Since Hinduism preceded Buddhism, Buddhist teachings borrowed a lot of concepts from Vedas.
He also enlightened me with argumentative tradition in India being instrumental in advancement of budhist philosophy. Ngawang takes a portion of script and says that Panditta Dipankara switched between Hindu and budhist about twenty times in his life time (hope I am correct Ngawang!). In ancient India debate was the basis for various schools of faith to exist. Whoever loses the debate had to change his faith to the winning faith. I also unlearnt the fact that ( ཕྱི་པ། ) means Hinduism. I was taught that it was Christianity.
It was my good karma that we bumped into each other. Hitting onto you, I realized how less I know about the treasure trove I was born on. Dzongsar Jamyang khentse was right when he said “in future Bhutanese and Tibetans will learn Buddhism from some John from the west”. The future he said is now for me.
This brings me nostalgia but it is also a reality. Tibetans and Bhutanese folks light butter lamps, throw cash and make offerings in front of Buddha’s statue but we never contemplate seriously on what he really taught.
|Ngawang and me at the Bagdora Airport; trying to throw some smile at the camera|
But with people like Ngawang and great beings we have hope. This hope was a result of my two hour pep talk with Ngawang on Indigo flight. Two hours was fleeting especially when we could talk some sense. I still remember us waiting for my baggage and waving hands at Bagdora airport parking, before we departed. This post is my promise to you Ngawang. Hope our Karmas will re-mature in future.