A much needed blessing

It has been a week since the bridge was fixed and finally things are getting back to normal — we started to get the help and supplies we needed; soon enough we will be able to give back that help to our neighbouring village. Other than the physical damage to our crops and homes, the only thing that was damaged was our spirits, diminished in thoughts of having to rebuild our lives and regrow our crops. However, there is a new hope coming our way, creating a shift in our spirits, from this negative outlook of having to rebuild to a optimistic one of having a fresh start. Word has reached our house that a Tibetan Lama will be coming to our region to give his blessings and spread his teaching and empowerments to all those who have suffered at the hand of nature’s wrath. As we speak, the scholars are formulating a letter of invitation to be sent to the administrative counsel of the great Lama. The Lama’s organization will then notify the Lama and based on his availability will arrange a date for him to visit, sending us a formal letter of acceptance. I could not be more excited as this is just the kick the village will need. The Lama’s timing could not have been more perfect, we will not only be able to receive new strength for the tragedy we have endured, but also, as the baby is only about three months away, we would like to receive blessings for a smooth birth and a healthy child. The Lama’s coming is really quite an inspiring event that has the hole village excited. Everyone is joyfully stepping up to do their part in preparation for his visit. It is not like the Lama to refuse an invitation, especially from a village in need, so we will have to begin the preparations immediately if we are to be ready in time for his arrival. Much is to be done.

I am going to help out with the preparation of the temple itself, where the Lama will sit on his throne and all the village people will line up with gifts to offer him in exchange for blessings. Others will help to prepare the musical texts and instruments, prepare the throne with comfy cushions, prepare ritual offerings, and will being to purify the temple’s environment. I have encouraged my wife to stay home and rest as she is getting quite big as our child grows within her. However, she is restless to help me at the temple, since she felt she could not do much to help during the aftermath of the storm. This will be how she can contribute to the rehabilitation of the village. But for the sake of the baby she has agreed to help passively by cleaning. She helps clean the offering bowls by washing them with water, and replenishing them with drinking water, incense, flowers, fragrant water or food. She does the same to the offering bowls in the Lama’s private quarters, where bowls of fresh fruit and fresh flowers will be brought closer to the Lama’s arrival. My wife told me she often lingers in the Lama’s private quarters a moment when other helpers are busy running about and she gets a moment to herself. She claims that here she feels closest to the Lama, because this is where he will rest during breaks in the ceremony, where he will recline and relax drinking tea and soup, a place where he is the most human. But as there is much hustle and bustle in the temple in such a time, her alone time is interrupted and so she continues to the main temple to clean the butter lamps, still clogged up with hardened butter from the last ceremony. With a smile on her face, and a sense of importance, she fills them with wicks and newly melted butter.

As for my part, I am very excited. Yes, there are a lot of duties to be done, however, I feel as though my part is of the utmost importance in that I will be outlining the drawing of the eight auspicious offerings or symbols (bkra shis rtags brgyad) in white chalk, that lie at the entrance to the temple. On the day before the Lama comes, I will arrive early to draw the basic outline and circles for the painting. Within hours, five other painters (totalling six including myself) will arrive to start painting the borders, traditionally starting from the outside and working their way inside. We will spend the entire day, almost without break, mixing pigments in oder to create beautiful colours for the painting. I have been asked specifically to design the central lotus that will act as a welcoming text for the Lama to see upon his arrival. This flower shaped diagram will take me weeks to prepare and will have eight pedals, each bearing its own fortune symbol and a grid pattern to represent that symbol. Along with my lotus design the painting will be comprised of the other seven auspicious symbols: the white conch shells, the golden dharma wheel, the endless knot, the offering vase, the umbrella, the gold fish and the victory banner. The final product will look like a huge, five meter, colourful, mandala — the beauty of which we will preserve for the Lama’s eyes on the following day by covering it with protective plastic, in the case of a rainy downpour. In a climate like this it is better safe than sorry. I can see it now, as the Lama approaches the temple’s entrance short horns will be played and the crowd will throw silk scarves and flowers as he passes. Before he is helped with his shoes and begins to mount the steps to his throne, the Lama will firstly hold the auspicious umbrella (rin chen gdugs) over his head and walk over the symbols I have designed and helped paint. This will officially signify his entrance to our holy temple and the beginning of the ceremony. Surely as he walks over them, the Lama will look down apon the eight symbols with reverence as a reminder of his faith and will bless the artists who were able to capture them so purely. Because he will have had seen so many by the time he visits our village, It would warm my heart to even see him glance at them.

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